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Africa

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:50 pm on 30th March 2009.

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Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development 9:50 pm, 30th March 2009

This has been an excellent debate that has demonstrated the deep passion and knowledge about Africa in all parts of this House; in that respect, I agree with Alistair Burt. The debate takes place against the background of a global recession that will affect the poorest most and undermine the remittances, markets and growth which together have fuelled much of the progress that many African countries have made in recent years.

Once again, the awesome dual responsibility of being both the conscience and leader of the international community in relation to the rights and needs of developing countries falls to Britain as we host the G20 in London this week. In 2005, at Gleneagles, Tony Blair and the then Chancellor persuaded world leaders that Make Poverty History, a mass movement for change, had to become the political mission of a 21st-century fair and prosperous world. Now, once again, it is our Prime Minister who is insisting that the voices of Africa and of the poor are heard by those around the top table in London at the G20. He invited African leaders and Finance Ministers to London a fortnight ago so that he could meet them face to face, hear first hand about the impact of the recession, and understand the decisions that are necessary to protect the poor and maintain the growth that is so essential not just to poverty reduction but to political credibility and social stability. It is he who urged the World Bank to create a vulnerability fund that will protect the poorest in the short term; he who will seek to ensure that IMF and World Bank reform reflect the needs of the developing world; and he who will seek agreement to ensure that we begin the process to complete Doha so that fair trade, not protectionism, is our response to the current economic crisis.

It is right that today and every day we reiterate our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent. of gross national income on aid. As the Prime Minister has said, now is not the time to retreat from our commitment to achieving the millennium development goals. Now is the time for every developed country to step up to the mark, fulfil its responsibilities, and keep its promises on aid. We should do so because social justice is not just about the life chances of kids in London, Manchester and Birmingham —it is about the dreams and aspirations of the children I have met recently in a Kampala youth centre, in the refugee camps around Goma, and among the AIDS orphans of South Africa.

To believe in social justice in Britain is to believe in global social justice. But we should also learn from the economic shock of the past six months that global interdependency is not a question of ideology or of the future—it is today, here and now, a reality. A fairer world is not just some idealistic pipe dream—it is also about our self-interest. Our growth and our security are affected by the political, economic, social and security environment in Africa. We can win the war against climate change only if we work in partnership with Africa and the developing world. In these difficult times, we must demonstrate leadership in our dialogue with the British people, and alongside strengthening pride in our national identity and helping people and businesses through, explain why investing in Africa is ultimately good for Britain too.

We should be frank about both the achievements and the challenges. Africa, with our support, has made real progress, but there remain serious concerns: recent political developments in Zimbabwe, Kenya and Madagascar; appalling violence in places such as eastern DRC and Somalia; still too much corruption in countries where political and social elites steal resources for the few that are meant for the benefit of the many; and, for too long, denial in South Africa about the scale and nature of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which has killed so many so unnecessarily.

I want to turn to the contributions made during the debate. Mr. Simpson is clearly born to rule, and he has not been attending the modernisation conference that has been put on by the Leader of the Opposition in recent times. It is important that the hon. Gentleman makes it clear whether the Opposition would retain an independent Department for development, run by a Secretary of State, in the Cabinet. [Hon. Members: "He did!"] I do not believe that he cleared that up during the course of this debate. [ Interruption. ] I agree with the hon. Gentleman— [ Interruption. ]

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