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Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 5:49 pm, 13th October 2008

It is all there, it is all there. I could list all its failures—fraudulent elections, preventing candidates from contesting elections, what it has done to non-governmental organisations, the unfortunate disappearance of heads of NGOs and journalists and so forth, without even mentioning what it is doing in relation to foreign affairs and defence. I only hope that the declaration issued half an hour ago that Russia was, if not repenting—that would be the wrong word—reconsidering is correct. At this point in time, however, Russia is becoming rather more obstreperous, and we need to be more and more careful.

I have mentioned the important role of international organisations, but national Governments also have an important role. We know what is being done by the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office, and, in the United States, by the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, but the same can be said of almost every country. I spent a good deal of time conducting a survey of 30 countries, 25 of which responded. I have just sent off a reminder to the others. I examined the way in which national Governments fund their own NGOs as well as international organisations such as the UN and the OSCE, and what international NGOs are doing. It is rather ironic that the United States, which has a rather low reputation at the moment, has such an incredible number of first-rate NGOs. We know of most of them, including the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House, the Eurasia Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Let me issue a plea for excellent NGOs in democratisation and human rights that are desperately in need of funding. Oh yes, we fund them initially, but subsequently we rely on the private sector to do so. Some countries are hanging on to democracy by their fingertips. Civil society and NGOs are the essential link between foreign countries that seek a greater expansion of democracy. In whatever capacity I can do so, I plead with our own Government to fund more and better organisations. That does not just mean giving four million quid to the Westminster Foundation, chaired by my hon. Friend Hugh Bayley, excellent though that organisation is; there is more to be done, even by the Foreign Office and DFID, to help to sustain countries that seek to be democratic.