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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:13 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of David Miliband David Miliband Foreign Secretary 4:13 pm, 30th March 2009

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. Of course, the fact that we are off track to achieve the millennium development goals was the reason for the call to action that the Prime Minister issued in 2007, and for the special emergency meeting of the UN General Assembly last September. One of the goals on which the world is off track is that relating to maternal mortality. It is invidious in some ways to pick out one organisation rather than another, but I know that the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood is an organisation that has support right across the political spectrum. In this country, it is sponsored by the Prime Minister's wife, who plays a very important role in it. It is trying both to raise consciousness about the issues, and to make practical changes on the ground.

Before we plunge into the difficulties that Africa faces, it is important to recognise that between 1999 and 2006 Africa had made significant progress. The number of armed conflicts was down; economic growth was up; the number of children in school was up by about 30 million; immunisation rates were also up; and more than 3 million Africans are now on life-saving antiretrovirals, which were mentioned earlier. Today, it is right to recognise that Africa faces a new set of pressures, in addition to the historical burdens that it brings forward. Less investment, lower commodity prices, lower demand for African exports and, importantly, reduced remittances from Africans living abroad all mean that Africa and its people face a new set of pressures.

The impact will vary, but right hon. and hon. Members will have seen some of the estimates. Cuts in growth rates will be widespread, but some of the numbers are very stark indeed. GDP growth in Angola has already fallen from 15 per cent. to minus 7 per cent. Botswana is feeling the effects of a 90 per cent. cut in demand for exports, as they account for 50 per cent. of Government revenue. Zambia is suffering from copper prices falling by a third. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, export earnings are projected to be 27 per cent. lower this year than last year, and there is a cash-flow crisis projected for the DRC Government; that crisis is probably felt not only in that country.

The wrong response is clear—to scale back our commitments on development, to abandon the Doha trade round, or to reduce our ambition on climate change. Each will harm Africa more than any other continent. That is why the London summit is dedicated to taking concrete actions to protect the poor and vulnerable: to support free trade, promote investment and reform the international financial institutions. The United Kingdom will support the creation of a vulnerable financing facility managed by the World Bank and a global vulnerability monitor led by the UN to manage the impact of the crisis and increase international accountability to the poorest people in the poorest countries.

It is important to recognise that in addition to the economic and environmental imbalances that lie at the heart of the crisis, there is a political imbalance, which is represented in all the major international institutions whose representation is skewed towards the old powers. That is why I hope there is support right across the House for the Prime Minister's drive to include the whole world in the debate in London this week. There are 20 countries representing 85 per cent. of global gross domestic product, but, significantly, there was outreach to African leaders in the meeting two weeks ago with representatives from 10 African countries, so that their issues and needs are fully on the agenda.

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