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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

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of a joined-up approach in the horn of Africa. He also raised an important issue when he talked about the strength of MONUC forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, although we should all welcome the change in the political dynamic that has led to Rwanda, DRC and Uganda working together politically and from a security point of view.

Andrew Stunell raised the question of our commitment to health services and the fight against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. We are making an unprecedented commitment of £1 billion to the global fund from 2008 to 2015, and we will make £6 billion available to fund the building of health systems, which are crucial if we are to have the front-line health services that people desperately need. The hon. Gentleman asked about the impact of the recession on our commitments. The Prime Minister has made it clear that our commitments to the 0.7 per cent. figure for the developing world remain as strong as ever.

My right hon. Friend Mr. Clarke and John Bercow raised the question of the situation in Darfur and Sudan, and their points were excellent and made passionately. The joint assessment of the humanitarian situation causes us great concern; now is the time for the international community to act. We call, of course, on the Government of Sudan to reverse their decision to expel the non-governmental organisations, which was totally unacceptable, and we stand firm in our commitment to support the comprehensive peace agreement process, which is the only hope for the future of Sudan and Darfur. Those expulsions were unhelpful, regrettable and totally unacceptable, and we call for them to be reversed. Simultaneously, we need to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided as a matter of urgency.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chris Mullin [ Laughter. ] I am trying to promote his book, like everybody else. My hon. Friend Mr. Mullin, no doubt speaking from the foothills, expressed concern about the commitment to African conflict resolution. The Foreign Secretary made the important point that the rise in assessed contribution for the UK is more than the reduction in discretionary contributions.

My hon. Friend Mrs. Curtis-Thomas raised the question of the effectiveness of aid, and she is absolutely right, whether we are talking about Sierra Leone or elsewhere. I will visit Sierra Leone in the next few days and I will take account of my hon. Friend's points when looking at the difference we are making there, but the UK's intervention and the subsequent aid that we have provided has made a tremendous difference to the progress made in that country from a very poor baseline.

Sir Nicholas Winterton rightly raised the question of Zimbabwe. He has been a consistent champion of the people of Zimbabwe, who have faced dire consequences on account of the behaviour of the Mugabe regime. We support the new Prime Minister. We hope that the new Government will be able to make progress on human rights and economic reform, and we stand ready to help. But it has to be demonstrated to us that the Government there are serious about changing the policies that have done so much damage to the people of Zimbabwe.

My right hon. Friend Mr. George talked, quite rightly, about the importance of good governance, democracy and transparency to the improvements that we seek in Africa. The distinguished Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, Malcolm Bruce, spoke about his recent visits and the lessons that he has learned, which he brought to this debate. It is important to make the point that those visits often inform our views in a far more powerful way than abstract discussions.

My hon. Friend Kate Hoey talked about the situation in Zimbabwe. Tony Baldry was right to draw attention to the importance of the right to protect. My hon. Friend Mike Gapes was right to raise concerns about the situation in Swaziland, and my hon. Friend Michael Jabez Foster was right to focus on the importance of twinning relationships between schools and fair trade organisations in making a difference.

Alistair Burt was right to point to the central role of faith in many African countries. We need to engage in a positive way with the contribution that faith has to make, both in this country and in those countries. My hon. Friend Christine Russell was right to say that the lack of progress that we have made on maternal mortality is scandalous, as is the impact that it has on African countries. We are working very closely with organisations such as the White Ribbon Alliance, and Sarah Brown has taken a leading role in that. We want to see the international health organisations—

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

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