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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

If the House will allow me, I am happy to give my hon. Friend's question the detailed response that it requires. First, it is not actually just our budget; it is a joint budget of the FCO, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development. Secondly, he is right that the budget for stabilisation and conflict prevention is under huge pressure. That is partly because of exchange rates, but more significantly—I think that this will interest the House—because of the big rise in the amount of UN and EU peacekeeping around the world, notably in Africa. Many Members will say that that is a good thing, but the UK ends up having to pay a significant share of the bill. That means that we have less money in the pot for discretionary interventions for conflict prevention.

The rise in our assessed contributions—our compulsory contributions to UN and EU missions—will be greater than the fall in our discretionary contributions to Africa, but my hon. Friend is none the less right that there is significant pressure on that part of the Government budget. He uses the term "international subscriptions", which makes it sound as though we were subscribing to a set of journals or magazines, but we are paying for troops on the ground. He is nevertheless right that those contributions to international peacekeeping efforts drain money from a limited pot. The rise in our compulsory contributions to Africa, however, will outstrip the unfortunate fall in our discretionary contributions.

Before speaking about trade, I want to say something about Somalia, which has suffered conflict and ineffective government for nearly 20 years. Significant changes have occurred there, even since I attended the UN Security Council in December, where the issue was debated. Since President Sharif's election, his effort to establish a more inclusive Government offers the best chance for many years to address the country's problems. In support of the political process, we are underpinning the African Union Mission in SomaliaAMISOM. This year, we have pledged a further £4.9 million directly to the AU and £10 million to the UN trust fund. Political progress is important in Somalia, because although AMISOM, which focuses on three parts of Mogadishu, can do some good, a political process is ultimately needed. President Sharif's start is therefore significant. Following the departure of Ethiopian troops in January, the country did not descend into chaos. President Sharif has made an impressive start.

I was asked earlier about trade and I am happy to continue to reassert the Government's commitment to open trade as a basis for sustained progress for some of the poorest countries. Those seeking the dignity of making their own way through selling their produce should get our support. The UK is working to ensure that the economic partnership agreements reflect the development needs of African states and provide new trading opportunities, with Europe and regionally. Through infrastructure and policy development, aid for trade allows countries to build capacity and integrate regionally and globally. The UK is on track to exceed our pledge to increase aid for trade by 50 per cent. to $750 million by 2010. The recent pre-London summit Africa outreach meeting, which the Prime Minister hosted, agreed on the need for improved access to resources and markets for African nations, argued that protectionism should be resisted, and encouraged countries to sign up to the Doha round.

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