Non-Governmental Organisations (Iraq)

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11th June 2008.

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Photo of David Anderson David Anderson PPS (Bill Rammell, Minister of State), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills 11:30 am, 11th June 2008

What support his Department is providing to non-governmental organisations in Iraq.

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Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Since 2004, the Department for International Development has provided £20.5 million to strengthen Iraqi civil society. Recipient organisations have included those working on minority and women's rights, as well as wider human rights. Current support includes a programme run by the BBC World Service Trust to foster an independent media in Iraq. DFID is also providing £17 million this year for humanitarian assistance, much of which is allocated, either directly or through the UN, to non-governmental organisations in Iraq.

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Photo of David Anderson David Anderson PPS (Bill Rammell, Minister of State), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I thank the Minister for that response. Is he aware that last year his Department withdrew funding from support for trade union development in Iraq because of the

"sectarian violence engulfing the country at the moment"?

Clearly, the security situation is better now. Will he agree to meet trade unions from Iraq and Britain to try to move the issue forward again?

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Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

Trade unions are a vital part of any democracy. That is why my hon. Friend is right to say that, between 2004 and 2007, DFID provided through Unison training for trade union leaders and helped to establish a trade union resource centre in Iraq. This programme came to a natural end in 2007, which coincided with a spike in violence preventing us from renewing the programme. Since then we have successfully focused on supporting the Iraqi Government to provide essential services to their own people and stimulating private sector investment. In April, I met Governor al-Waili, the governor of Basra, who expressed his optimism about the future of Iraq. I assure my hon. Friend that as security improves, we will continue to assess how we can best support increased prosperity and stability in Iraq, including opportunities to work with trade unions.

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Photo of Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Geoffrey Clifton-Brown Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

According to The Independent on 6 June, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds £25 billion worth of Iraqi oil reserves, so what are the British Government doing to facilitate the release of some of that money, in a planned programme, to the Iraqi Government and to the NGOs involved, in order to relieve suffering in a country where 2 million people have been displaced from their homes and millions more lack basic services? Would that not help to establish much greater stability in that country, where the people have suffered for far too long?

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Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the suffering of the people of Iraq. That is why, since 2003, the Department and the Government have provided £149 million in humanitarian assistance. With respect to the US Federal Reserve, it is not for us to comment on negotiations between the US military and the Iraqi Government. Needless to say, we are in close contact with the US and Iraq as they formulate their views on the detail and structure of their long-term relationship. I assure the House that we will ensure that future civilian assistance and any future military assistance to Iraq will be based on a sound legal and political footing.

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