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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:38 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Andrew Stunell Andrew Stunell Liberal Democrat, Hazel Grove 5:38 pm, 30th March 2009

I thank the hon. Lady; it is helpful to have the opportunity to explain what I mean. It is absolutely right that we should continue to give a high priority to emergency aid and to peacekeeping initiatives and operations, and I hope that I have already said so. However, I also want it to be recognised that in a country such as Ghana, the level of poverty, the shortage of clean drinking water and the shortage of sanitation are as acute as they are in some of the headline nations where aid is focused. Looking across the whole of Africa, it is absolutely right, if we want the millennium development goals to be reached, that we do not just pick up on the headline countries and forget those that are not on the radar of our newspaper front pages.

I want to turn to the peacekeeping initiatives and the matters mentioned by the Secretary of State in that regard. It is absolutely right that we should offer training and support, and that we should be paying our subscriptions and seeing that that money is put to good use in ensuring that peacekeeping forces are effective and fully staffed. He will know that those forces are undermanned and underperforming in the DRC and in Darfur. I am sure that he would want to say that other nations need to understand the importance of supporting such operations, but I would like to believe that the UK will extend the help and support that it is giving to those operations, ensuring that everything is done to make them effective. We can all think of plenty of places where further peacekeeping efforts might be needed and larger forces might be appropriate, but if we cannot even staff and make effective the ones that we have now, we will not have the opportunity to do any of these things in an imaginative way.

I want to hear that the Minister and the Government as a whole take arms control and arms sales seriously. I hope that they were as dismayed as I was to hear about the huge success of the IDEX arms export fair in Abu Dhabi, bearing in mind that that is where many of the arms used in the conflicts that we have discussed are bought. Some 5 million people have been killed in the great lakes region, and 1 million in Darfur—more people have been killed in Africa in the past decade than in the whole of world war two. It is essential that the Government put principle before profit and make sure that we are not putting highly explosive fuel on to any of those fires.

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