Sub-Saharan Africa

– in the House of Lords at 6:09 pm on 30th January 2002.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat 6:09 pm, 30th January 2002

rose to call attention to the case for concerted international action, particularly among European Union member states, to promote democracy and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa; and to move for Papers.

My Lords, I start by welcoming the Minister to the debate. I gather that she has just got off a plane. I cannot remember from which continent. I recognise that Foreign and Commonwealth Office Ministers have relatively short shelf lives, partly because exhaustion sets in after the first 255 trans-continental flights. She has been doing extremely well on Zimbabwe, as we all recognise. We on these Benches do not intend that this debate should focus on Zimbabwe, as the House has had many other opportunities to discuss that and, sadly, will no doubt wish to have more. We want to focus on the broader issue of sub-Saharan Africa and what needs to be the British, European and developed world's response.

In recent months, especially since September 11th, we have spent a lot of time talking about states of concern—weak states, failed states or what the Americans call "rogue" states. There has been great focus on Afghanistan, in the past on Libya, on Iraq and on North Korea. In Africa, there has been a greater focus on Somalia and—on what many of us feel to be unjustified grounds—on Sudan.

But there is a far larger number of weak states across sub-Saharan Africa and a sadly small number of competent states with sound administrations and growing economies. Of the more than 40 states in sub-Saharan Africa, we can point to a few moderate success stories. There is progress in Senegal, for example, where the government have changed through democratic processes at least once and, with luck, will do so again. In spite of everything, Mozambique appears to be beginning to grow.

Thanks to intelligent and well-measured intervention by the British Government, Sierra Leone appears so far to be a major success in conflict resolution, although one must say of the Sierra Leone intervention that it was not entirely about Sierra Leone but involved the question of Liberia and the Ivory Coast—the spill-over of conflict across the region was part of the problem. The conduct of some UN forces from other African states in the inefficient UN intervention also proved to be part of the problem.

Having said that, however, many more states in Africa share the combination of problems that contribute to state collapse and internal conflict. Many of us remember that in 1960 the average income in Africa was estimated to be of the same order as that of south-east Asia. While south-east Asia has, on the whole, gone through extremely rapid growth, Africa has gone backwards. The population has doubled; poverty has doubled with it.

We may read, for example, of the widespread and deep corruption in Kenya, of accusations of vote-rigging in the recent elections in Zambia and of the deep problems in Congo—where the recent volcanic eruption comes on top of sustained civil war, with foreign armies intervening partly to exploit Congo's resources for foreign public and private ends. Rwanda and Burundi have still not entirely recovered from the dreadful massacres and conflicts there. There have been recent riots in Nigeria and, of course, the dreadful explosions in Lagos. Nigeria suffers from a widespread popular mistrust of the state and of the army. An unnecessary border war has again broken out between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

There are many common features to all of those problems. There is the exploitation of resources for private gain rather than for economic development. Those resources may be oil, as in Nigeria, Angola and some parts of the Sudan, diamonds—conflict diamonds, as they are called—or tropical wood, which, it is alleged, some companies with concessions in Congo are taking out of the country through neighbouring countries for private gain. Those countries share corrupt governments exploiting their own people. Even some governments who have been democratically elected hesitate to follow democratic rules or basic standards of good governance once in office.

There are many cross-border conflicts. The spill-over across the artificial borders with which the European powers left Africa of criminal networks, private armies, state armies pursuing private profits, refugees and migrants compounds the problems that Africa faces. Cheap weapons are traded for illegal exports. All of that contributes to social collapse, which includes the spread of disease. The World Health Organisation estimates that about 25 million people in Africa have AIDS. There are outbreaks of cholera and tuberculosis—and occasional diseases such as Ebola.

That is the pessimistic picture. When I read the World Bank group report, Can Africa Claim the 21st Century?, I noted that it attempts to be much more optimistic, with an emphasis on success stories. But even that report notes that the region needs to grow by at least 5 per cent a year to keep the number of poor from rising, given what is happening to the African population. If the percentage living in dire poverty is to be halved by 2015—to which the international community has committed itself—that means a huge effort to help Africa to develop. The report points out:

"Africa accounts for barely 1 percent of global GDP and only about 2 percent of world trade. Its share of global manufactured exports is almost zero".

If that is the best that one can do in terms of optimism, we clearly have many problems to face.

I remember Bob Geldof talking about the famine in Ethiopia some years ago and saying, in the wonderfully politically incorrect way that only someone like him could, that the underlying problem was that Ethiopia was a country with a 14th century government struggling to cope with 20th century weapons and technology. The noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, said to me a while ago, "I understand that Scotland was rather like that at one time". We should not be too colonialist in that respect. We should recognise that, after all, African countries are attempting in two generations to move through stages of economic and social growth and state-building that took European states several centuries to go through. Our states went through many disastrous wars and internal conflicts and massacres before we emerged from that period.

So it is not surprising that a continent that was in a pre-modern, tribal state—as with clanned Scotland not that long ago—should find it difficult to cope with that rapid transition. Of course, the issues are all interlinked. I note that the World Bank report has as one of its sub-headings,

"Improving Governance, Managing Conflict and Rebuilding States".

None of that is new. Many of your Lordships will remember the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, whom I regret is unable to be present today, when she was Minister for Overseas Development, talking about the need for good governance as the essential basis for any development programme, in Africa or elsewhere. Markets do not run themselves. The first essentials are order, government, a structure of law, roads and communications.

Conflict resolution is a painful process; nation-building takes a long time. In this debate, we want to address the question: what is the appropriate British and international response? Many of us are happy with the way in which the Department for International Development has tackled that during the past four years, including linking defence to development and its focus on Africa. But many of us were also rather taken by surprise by the tone of the Prime Minister's speech in Brighton last October, in which he started by saying:

"The state of Africa is a scar on the conscience of the world. But if the world as a community focused on it, we could heal it. And if we don't, it will become deeper and angrier".

He went on to talk about a partnership for Africa, and said:

"And I tell you if Rwanda happened again as it did in 1993, when a million people were slaughtered in cold blood, we would have a moral duty to act there also".

That is a pretty ambitious agenda.

One of the first questions that we must discuss in this debate is: does that pitch our ambitions too high? Is there any prospect that the British Government will find the resources—the money, the troops or the police and civilian officials to follow—to sustain the Prime Minister's claims? I should like to focus on two themes. First, that sort of ambition is far beyond the capability of Britain on our own. Any British government who declared such ambitions should spell out how exactly they propose to work with others to pursue them and through which multilateral frameworks. Secondly, we should be careful not to adopt too moral a tone or any sense in which it is our duty to bring the dark continent into the light, with all the echoes of Christian imperialism and the white man's burden that that will arouse among African leaders and in the sceptical and self-interested voters who take part in British elections.

Instead, we should make it clear that European governments have no alternative but to engage in the reconstruction of sub-Saharan Africa. It is a matter of self-interest, but enlightened self-interest. Globalisation—to use a word beloved of third way theorists—means that the spill-over of conflicts in Africa into Europe is almost immediate in terms of asylum seekers and refugees. There are 100,000 Somalis in London who were not here 12 years ago. Many of them got here illegally, and many of them are still here illegally. If Sierra Leone had collapsed, we would have had hundreds of thousands—tens of thousands, at least—of Sierra Leoneans.

There is a spill-over of disease. Tuberculosis has come back into this country from south Asia and Africa. There is a spill-over of criminal networks involved in drug smuggling and trafficking in women from west Africa. About once a week, I get an e-mail from someone in Sierra Leone, Nigeria or wherever, suggesting that I might just help in some fraudulent transaction or other. Europe is dependent on the resources of Africa—oil from Nigeria and Angola, tropical products of one sort or another. To make a light point, I must say that for those, like me, for whom chocolate is a necessity of life, Africa is extremely important.

We need a concerted multilateral response, engaging the United States, Japan and other developed countries as far as we can, while recognising that the main responsibilities and the costs will fall upon European Governments. Africa is central to a more effective European common foreign and security policy. The United States has made it clear that its priorities lie elsewhere; it tends to be concerned with the Middle East and central Asia, while Africa is a matter for the Europeans.

Africa is central to an effective European security and defence policy. When we discuss the Petersberg tasks, I hear European defence officials talk about matters ranging from flood relief in Mozambique all the way up to preventing conflict and social breakdown in an African state—the low end and the high end of the Petersberg tasks. We want the British Government to put the moral prime ministerial approach into a more specifically European context. I welcome the image of Jack Straw and Hubert Vedrine travelling through Africa together. That is far better than the old rivalry between France and Britain that we saw even during the last Congo conflict and the Great Lakes catastrophe. However, that is not yet enough; there must be a broader European response.

Her Majesty's Government should spell out to our European partners a broad agenda, as we raise our development budget to the European average and beyond, to encourage others to do likewise, when there are many other calls on EU and national budgets. Secondly, we should continue to press for reform and greater efficiency in the Commission's development assistance programme. It is getting a little less inefficient and corrupt, but there is still a long way to go. Thirdly, we should co-ordinate national programmes and efforts more effectively. Fourthly, as the Prime Minister said in his Brighton speech, we should open up access to European markets to exports from these countries. Many of us will remember with deep embarrassment the long time that it took to sort out the South African trade agreement. Southern EU member states did their best to block that, for self-interested reasons. Fifthly, we should pursue more explicitly a European security and defence policy that recognises that the African continent is part of where we need to send our forces. It means that we need long-range airlift, something about which the Italian and German Governments are still not entirely convinced. Sixthly, we should join up EU policy on immigration, asylum and refugees with the common foreign and security policy and with development aid. Lastly, we should as far as possible draw other governments outside Europe into partnership with the EU's efforts.

That is an ambitious agenda. I hope that people can be persuaded that it is a matter of enlightened self-interest. Nation building is a thankless and long-term task. Conflict resolution, as Britain has learnt in Northern Ireland and as we are all learning in former Yugoslavia, takes at least a generation. On the other hand, Sierra Leone has been a success. This morning, one of my colleagues quoted a French saying at me:

"Africa is the last place on earth where with a battalion you have the chance of changing history".

Let us make the effort—not for moral reasons so much as out of enlightened self-interest—a major plank of Britain's European engagement. I beg to move for Papers.

Photo of Baroness Whitaker Baroness Whitaker Labour 6:26 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, on securing a debate on such urgent problems for our time. It would be daunting to attempt to follow his magisterial sweep, so I shall confine myself to narrower areas that are significant barriers to democracy and sustainable development: corruption, which has eroded the democratic power of the voter and the citizen; short-sighted disregard on the part of trading partners that ignores sustainable development and has created trade barriers that are grossly inequitable; and a means of financing better development.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, that we should disaggregate sub-Saharan Africa. For some years, Botswana has taken its place as a democratic inhabitant of the upper income group. Mali and Senegal, which I visited last September, are poor but peaceable, not noticeably corrupt and perfectly at home with democracy. Cape Verde, to the west, has a parliamentary opposition whose loyalty would leave ours standing. Those countries need direct investment in keeping with sustainable development and more equitable terms of trade. The Government's International Development Bill will help, with its power to enable the Government to underwrite or take a share in the kind of direct investment that the traditional commercial companies, so devoted to capital-intensive projects and mineral extraction, will not undertake.

As a former bureaucrat, I am keen on the underpinning of democracy by proper tax collection, accurate national records, accountability and probity in public officials. Those are the elements of good governance, as the noble Lord said. I congratulate the Department for International Development on its programmes to enhance the capability of the state in all those areas. Those programmes should be replicated by the international community. They will greatly assist with rooting out corruption. I declare an interest, as a council member of Transparency International (UK). Thriving national chapters of TI have strengthened local anti-corruption institutions in many countries. The more support that such voluntary organisations of civil society have, the more citizens will have the confidence to tackle corruption at home.

We know that much large-scale corruption, although it must have local partners, does not come from home. It is the destructive accompanying export of some of the major contracting companies that build public utilities in many sub-Saharan countries. Only concerted international action will do. Unilateral action may not even affect the problem. A seamless structure of international obligations, implemented in all states, is required.

I applaud the Government's initial implementation of the OECD Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in the Anti-Terrorism Act. That is a very good start. But the OECD will evaluate our legislation and may well find that we have some way to go. So the Government's announcement of a general review of the whole tapestry of anti-corruption legislation is welcome. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend on the Front Bench when it will report.

The European Union has agreed a code, for which the UK was in the forefront of support, which lists sustainable development as one of the key criteria in licensing exports. And the UK Export Credit Guarantee Department has in its mission statement that it will ensure that its activities accord with sustainable development. It also said,

"we will continue to press for these criteria to be adopted internationally by all official lending and guarantee agencies".

I hope therefore that my noble friend can tell us that the criterion of sustainable development will be reinstated in the Export Control Bill.

Direct investment is the single most important influence on economic growth. For instance, Ethiopia, which I visited last September, is now, pace Bob Geldof, poised for economic take-off. Its war is over. The government have a sensible programme of economic liberalisation. It has a cohesive and active civil society with some expert NGOs to assist government capacity-building, staffed with high-calibre and dedicated Ethiopian expertise, like SoS Sahel, in which I declare an interest as a board member. But Ethiopia needs development investment like food processing industries near to the sites of agricultural production, so that people do not flock to the towns in search of jobs, and so that the whole locality can benefit from growth. It needs programmes to bring demobbed soldiers into food production.

If all those who are capable of being partners in foreign investment were to bind themselves to respect sustainable development, countries like Ethiopia would soon stop needing humanitarian aid.

Trade barriers are a negative concerted international action, if ever there was one. Following the World Bank's report on Global Economic Prospects 2002, I hope that we can move towards abolishing them.

Sub-Saharan countries themselves of course also have tariffs. But until their agricultural exports have fair global market access, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said, they cannot accumulate the resources for their own development. Subsidies to OECD agriculture are equal to the whole of Africa's gross domestic product. The European Union has a large task here. I hope that my noble friend can say what efforts the Government are making to propel European action in this direction.

Finally, is not the development of a tax on international currency transactions, to finance development assistance, an idea whose time is rapidly advancing? I suggest that the United Nations conference, Financing for Development, to be held in Monterrey in two months' time, would be an excellent forum for reaching agreement on the principles of this imaginative proposal.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative 6:34 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for introducing this important debate and to congratulate him on the enormous sweep of the subject he has chosen and, indeed, on the speech that he made. In many respects I wish that I could follow him, in particular in opening out the Prime Minister's policy, and in explaining to noble Lords and, I hope, persuading a few of my colleagues of the importance of realising that we have to achieve a fairer distribution and balance between resources and populations throughout the world if we are to achieve stability and democracy.

However, I cannot do that. That is because I once stood in a village in sub-Saharan Africa and watched a group of around 30 people waving placards as they held an impromptu dance in their street. It was a beautiful evening in a beautiful and prosperous country. The man standing next to me said with delight, "These people were throwing petrol bombs into each other's homes six weeks ago. Now they've swapped placards to celebrate the peace". The year was 1979; the date was 16th April; I was in the country we now call Zimbabwe; and it was eve of poll for the first round of independence elections. The placards were election placards, which were being swapped among supporters of the opposing parties. I have no other authority than that to speak to noble Lords, except for the reason why I was there, which I shall come to in a moment. Furthermore, I have no other interest to declare than my delight in, affection and esteem for those dancing people, along with the rest of the population of their then really beautiful and prosperous country.

What a contrast is the state of their country today, as well as the approach to the impending election. I venture to speak because I was privileged to be one of the five commissioners, headed by my noble friend the late Viscount Boyd of Merton, who reported on that election to my then right honourable friend and now noble friend Lady Thatcher, immediately after she became Prime Minister. The only threat we discovered to the fairness of that election was that Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo refused to take part, and that their Zanla and Zipra guerrillas respectively sought unsuccessfully to disrupt and discredit it. It is ironic that the then government of that country had to use military power to secure a fair election against Robert Mugabe's efforts, and that Robert Mugabe's government now appears to be using every available force to enforce an unfair election, and that the head of his forces states that he will disregard the result if he does not like it.

Our report, which is deposited with the papers held in the Library of the House, shows that we travelled over 2,000 miles to destinations of our own choice. We visited 66 polling stations. My colleagues, who stayed on after I had to return to the United Kingdom because of our own general election, also visited 17 counting centres. To give noble Lords only one of many indications of the extent of our independence, it was such that I was able to visit the country's biggest prison, enter every wing, see all its inmates, select a dozen at random, appoint one as interpreter and have the warders leave me entirely alone with them while I questioned them.

Is that what Robert Mugabe is afraid of, that people with the ear of a free Parliament might see how the coming election is conducted, that they might witness what has been done to the citizens of that country—which he found in prosperity and which, after almost a quarter of a century of independence, is now on the edge of bankruptcy—and hear what he has done to those citizens and what they think of him? If he is not afraid, he should let in the international observers right now, guarantee their safety and let them go wherever they want to go, see what they want to see, and talk to whom they want to talk.

I believe that, in spite of the unsatisfactory approach to them, the elections should go ahead. I say that, but no doubt noble Lords will have seen, for instance, the report of Physicians for Human Rights/Denmark, whose representatives have just returned from Zimbabwe with photographs of actual victims of torture. Your Lordships will have seen the news releases from the Movement for Democratic Change and know that the Government of Zimbabwe have ruled that everyone must have an identity card and that people cannot vote without divulging their identity. The authorities allowed some MDC members to enter an arena for an election rally. Leaving aside what went on between the authorities and the unfortunate people in the arena, their identity cards were removed when they left and the rest of the rally was prevented from taking place. All that should be known and will be known to the observers.

The election should proceed because the impressive feature of the much more peaceful elections that I witnessed was the extraordinary robustness of people when faced with attempts to intimidate them. The size of the turn-out—quite irrespective of who voted for whom—was an enormous endorsement of democracy and faith in the country, which I hope may still be rescued from complete destruction.

What is the present President of Zimbabwe seeking to protect by his extraordinary behaviour, apart from his ambition—which has been clear from the first? At the centre of Zimbabwe has been a steadily shrinking core of prosperity, security and comfort for those gathered around President Mugabe. It is that he is defending—and those who benefit are supporting the president in his defence. I hope that every means will be taken to adopt the method known as smart sanctions, so that that wealthy, privileged and undemocratic core will be exposed to the same economic hardship as the rest of Zimbabwe, and that those at the centre of it will be named and their resources frozen. Then all of them will have an interest in a change of policy and in a country in which it will be possible to live safely and prosperously.

We cannot do too much because—in the view of the propaganda with which Zimbabwe is being fed—we are tainted by a history of colonialism. Our colleagues in Europe are not so tainted. The greatest and best pressure can come from South Africa. Nelson Mandela has already spoken out. Our friends in Germany and, to a lesser extent, in France may have interests in Zimbabwe that they wish to protect.

Let us do whatever we possibly can to secure peace and democracy in Zimbabwe.

Photo of Lord Joffe Lord Joffe Crossbench 6:42 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former chair of Oxfam and a trustee of a number of other development and human rights non-governmental organisations.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for introducing this debate and giving us the opportunity to discuss issues that are of critical importance not only to the people of sub-Saharan Africa but also to those fortunate enough to live in the developed world. As the Prime Minister has said, one illusion was shattered on 11th September—that we can have the good life of the West, irrespective of the state of the rest of the world.

Before discussing the actions needed to promote democracy and sustainable development, regard must be had to the present prospects of the 591 million inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke in some detail but I will risk repeating some of the statistics that he provided.

The prospects for those people are depressing—a dire present and a bleak future. Twenty seven million of them have HIV or AIDS; one third suffer from malnutrition; average life expectancy is 47 years, compared with an average of 77 years in OECD countries; and annual per capita GNP is only 530 dollars—barely one fortieth of the OECD average of 20,000 dollars, which is an astonishing and alarming difference.

The continent is wracked with war and conflict. In the Sudan, 2 million people have died in a civil war financed by government oil revenues. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 2.5 million have died in the past five years, as seven African countries have involved themselves in furthering or protecting their interests. In Angola, one child in three never reaches the age of five and 78 per cent of the rural inhabitants live in abject poverty as a result of 28 years of war. Civil conflict and war rage also in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, Burundi and other countries.

Against that background, it is immensely encouraging that the Prime Minister and fellow G8 leaders are taking historic steps in working with African governments to tackle the continent's problems. They have convened a G8 Africa task force to address the issues—about which the Minister is, I am sure, far better informed—with a view to reporting to the G8 summit in June. Simultaneously, African leaders are developing their own new partnership for African development. Those initiatives give real hope of concrete progress towards the millennium development goal. It is particularly welcome that the Prime Minister is visiting Africa to discuss the continent's development agenda.

Broad agreement has been reached by senior officials of African governments and EU officials on eight priority areas, with the intention of developing joint action in each of them. Those areas are conflict prevention and resolution, including anti-personnel mines; co-operation and regional integration; integration of Africa in the world economy and trade; environment, including the fight against drought and desertification; HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases; food security; human rights and democracy; the restitution of stolen or illegally exported cultural goods; and Africa's external debt.

Those are all priorities on which there is broad agreement by the United Nations, the World Bank and others. It is an impressive list but the challenge is to move from identifying areas to producing achievable plans, then to translating them into concrete action. It is essential that EU governments and the rest of the developed world work in concert. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace said, it is not possible for the United Kingdom alone to make a significant difference. Unless each nation honours its commitments, it will not be possible to make real progress.

That is well illustrated by past overseas development assistance. In 1970, it was agreed that 0.7 per cent of gross national product should be spent on ODA but that provided by the 22 members of the OECD's Development Assistance Committee in 2000 was, on average, only 0.22 per cent. If the DAC members had reached the 0.7 per cent target, aid would have increased by approximately 100 billion dollars per year. Estimates based on United Nations figures suggest that in the region of 25 billion dollars to 35 billion dollars per year would have been sufficient for Africa to achieve the targets set out in the 2015 development goals—which do not look as though they will be reached.

Working in concert requires a comprehensive and cohesive master plan, the constituent parts of which reinforce one another, rather than a series of one-off and sometimes contradictory activities. The Danish Government, which takes over the presidency of the EU in July, have in mind what they refer to as a "global deal", which is precisely such a plan. They also are believed to have agreed to treat sustainable development and the environment as a priority during their presidency.

There is no doubt about the good intentions expressed in the rhetoric of the developed countries. The challenge will be to match the rhetoric with action. A key part of that action will be the provision of much of the finance and resources that are required to implement the agreed action plans, and living with the consequences of opening their markets to exports from the developing countries.

Unless the developed countries are prepared to live with these consequences—which, in the short term, could have a negative impact on industries such as textiles and farming—they cannot expect the developing countries to open up their markets to the exports of the developed countries.

The eminent commentator, Martin Wolf, has pointed out in the Financial Times that the advanced countries insist that developing countries should adjust to market forces. Yet, notwithstanding their vastly greater ability to cushion the plight of the losers, the developed countries themselves have been unwilling to accept the same adjustments.

He also draws attention to the anti-dumping procedures that developed countries are determined to defend, even though it is clear that they are intrinsically protectionist and violate fundamental competition principles through, for example, the export subsidies which the EU provides on farm surpluses.

In summary, there is an exciting opportunity to transform the future of sub-Saharan Africa, but it comes at a cost in the short term to the developed nations of the world. Whether or not they will be willing to match their actions to their rhetoric and accept that cost will determine the outcome.

In conclusion, I should like to pay tribute to the Government for the lead they have given in addressing the issue of poverty, both in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere throughout the world, through the remarkable initiatives of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the work of the Secretary of State for DfID, supported by the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, and now through the lead taken by the Prime Minister. I should add that this tribute would have been even more fulsome if the Government had produced a timetable showing by when they aim to increase development aid assistance to the 0.7 per cent UN target, and if they had not inexplicably withdrawn sustainable development as a purpose for imposing export controls in the Export Control Bill. There is still time, though, to put it back.

Photo of Lord Grocott Lord Grocott Government Whip, Lord in Waiting (Whip)

My Lords, in 10 seconds, perhaps I may gently suggest to your Lordships that there are only five minutes allowed for the gap and there are a further 16 speakers. I do not refer to the previous speeches, which have all been extremely interesting, but if everyone exceeds the time allowed by 30 seconds we shall be in a real pickle at the end.

Photo of Lord Avebury Lord Avebury Liberal Democrat 6:53 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, among the major issues covered by my noble friend in his masterly speech was the connection between internal armed conflict in many states and the plundering of resources that belong to those people. I wish to talk about Angola and the Great Lakes region, both of which are potentially very rich but where war has displaced 6 million people, killed more than 5 million and destroyed vast amounts of property, leaving the survivors destitute in the midst of plenty. The international community has already done a great deal to find ways of stopping these conflicts, but more needs to be done.

In Angola, there is agreement that the UN should play a more proactive role in the peace process, and Mr Savimbi has at last shown some willingness to compromise, no doubt because the scales have turned against him in the conflict. There have been defections from UNITA and Savimbi is said to be cornered in the eastern province of Moxico, where his forces are surrounded by the Angolan army.

Sanctions have played an important role in bringing about the improvement in the situation in Angola, but have the leads to arms dealers and illicit diamond traders identified by the monitoring mechanism been followed? Mr Peter Hain called on the United Arab Emirates to shut down the air freight business of Victor Bout, a Russian accused of trafficking weapons to rebel movements in Africa. What did the international community do to bring pressure to bear on Mr Bout and other traffickers? Is it true that he has been given immunity by the international community because his aircraft have been helping to ferry goods to humanitarian programmes in Afghanistan?

Russia, Bulgaria, Romania and Ukraine were identified as states from which arms were shipped to UNITA. They all belong to the OSCE, which has a good code of conduct on arms sales but one which is only politically rather than legally binding. Participating states agreed in 1993 that they would avoid arms transfers which would be likely to,

"prolong or aggravate an existing armed conflict".

How could this be more effectively enforced? One possibility may be to establish an independent OAU institution to monitor end user certificates, with a view to preventing the use of forgery and ensuring that no state allows itself to be used as a conduit for the transfer of weapons to non-state armed forces. Eastern European states ought to be reminded of the obligations they have undertaken and invited to tighten up the criteria they use for awarding licences in the light of evidence that weapons and ammunition originating in their territory have been illegally transferred to UNITA.

In Angola, it is estimated that 40 per cent of the state's revenues goes on defence, compared with only 5 per cent for education and 3 per cent for health. But 3 billion US dollars in annual oil taxes and royalties do not appear in the national accounts. It is widely believed that President Dos Santos and his cronies are siphoning off huge sums for their own enrichment. As far as we are able to do so, we should lean on Angola to end the corruption, which, according to the Washington Post, is,

"so malignant that it has metastasized to virtually every level of the public sector".

We and the EU should follow the Dutch example and insist that all disbursements of aid should be handled through NGOs. We should demand transparency in the use of oil revenues and we should encourage and help to pay for research to find out independently where the money is going. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, and her Transparency International can assist in this process.

In the DRC, neighbouring states have been themselves involved in military operations, in association with various armed groups, and are plundering the nation's wealth, Zimbabwe most actively. The panel of experts on the illegal exploitation of natural resources and other forms of wealth of DR Congo describes the widespread looting of timber, diamonds, gold and Coltan, a mineral from which the rare metals niobium and tantalum are extracted.

Zimbabwe is involved in the looting through the defence forces-owned company, OSLEG, of which the armed forces commander, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, is personally an important shareholder, and there is a joint venture between OSLEG and the DRC company, COMIEX, which,

"acts as the Government's main platform for commercial deals and is reportedly linked to the President and senior Ministers".

This joint venture between the Zimbabweans and the Congolese, COSLEG, formed a subsidiary for the exploitation of timber in the DRC and teamed up with an Isle of Man company, Western Hemisphere Capital Management, which provided the capital and technical resources in return for 60 per cent of the equity. The panel reports that the Zimbabwean forces have already carried out intensive logging operations in Katanga, and your Lordships will have seen the article in the Observer on Sunday reporting that the hardwood is to be sold through a company called African Hardwood Marketing, owned by Mr Elkin Pianim, who is apparently the sole shareholder also of WHCM. He may also have something to do with Western Hemisphere Resources, which has a joint venture with COSLEG to exploit DRC diamonds, according to the Observer.

With regard to diamonds, gems produced by the Société Minière de Bakwanga, MIBA, were systematically embezzled by company personnel and the profits from industrial grades have been skimmed by the authorities to the tune of millions of dollars. MIBA entered into an agreement with the Zimbabwean Defence Forces to exploit the most valuable of that company's holdings with an estimated production value of several billion dollars. The outside technical expertise and financial resources were provided in this case by Oryx Natural Resources, a company based in the Cayman Islands but with a London-based director, which is said to own 49 per cent of the concession. It employs 750 people at the 25-year concession in Mbuji Mayi, and it claims that it will produce 10 per cent of the total supply of the world's diamonds by 2004.

I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the UN investigation of the illegal exploitation of resources in the DRC, of which these are examples, will continue indefinitely, and that it will have the full co-operation of the Government, particularly when it comes to unearthing the facts about companies registered under the murky systems of British dependencies.

I agree with the statement of the European parliamentarians that we should aim to achieve an EU common position on the Great Lakes region as a whole. I join my noble friend in welcoming the visit last week by Mr Straw and M Védrine to the region, even if they did return empty-handed.

The parliamentarians listed areas in which they suggested that there should be harmonisation of European policies. It would be useful to know whether the Government intend to let them have a written answer, as they would have done had the recommendations come from a Select Committee.

Europe, acting together, has the resources to make a difference to the future of the Great Lakes, helping all the peoples of the region towards a new start, free of corruption and oppression.

Photo of Lord Blaker Lord Blaker Conservative 7:01 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I, too, want to talk about Zimbabwe, one of the countries of greatest importance in southern Africa.

The murder of Zimbabwe by Mr Mugabe has been going on for two years. But until now, western governments, including this Government, have limited themselves to expressions of concern. I cannot understand why no action has been taken until now. Why was not action taken two years ago—in the form of sanctions or Zimbabwe's proposed suspension from the Commonwealth—when the parliamentary elections were condemned by teams of international observers of great repute? All the factors that have led to the current action were present then. If sanctions and suspension will work now, why would they not have worked then? A report in 2001 by an important delegation from the International Bar Association said that the rule of law was breaking down and democracy was at risk. Nothing was done about the report.

The reign of terror is moving on. It is now being legitimised by authoritarian laws. The countryside is being militarised by the creation of command centres at every level—at central government level, at regional level and in every one of the 120 constituencies. These command centres are to consist of elements of the army, the police, the ZANU-PF party, the paramilitaries, the central intelligence agency and, not least, the ZANU-PF youth. By election day, 2,000 members of the youth militia will be present in each constituency. These people will have received 10 days' training. Anyone who understands training knows what that means. It indicates what they are there for. In addition, 10,000 troops will be deployed in civilian clothes all over the country. All of this is to make sure that Mr Mugabe "wins". Other methods too are being adopted. A new law bans election monitors and agents from travelling with the ballot boxes—to allow, of course, stuffing or changing of the boxes.

My first political recollection is of Germany in the late 1930s. It resembled what is happening in Zimbabwe today. That is where that country is heading. The media are being put increasingly under control. There is no independent radio or television. There is no access to the television for the opposition parties except with the permission of the government. Mr Moyo, the Information Minister, said some time ago that he would "deal with" the independent press. The following day, the premises of one of the principal independent papers were blown up. The Public Order and Security Act makes it a crime to criticise the president or other leaders, and the penalty for conviction under the Act is a maximum of five years in prison or 100,000 Zimbabwe dollars. Independent journalists are taken to court on the flimsiest of accusations, thus incurring high legal costs. The police can ban rallies for up to 90 days.

Mr Eddison Zvobgo, a member of Mr Mugabe's cabinet for a very long time and a ZANU-PF member for 20 years, described the original access to information Bill (which I believe has been slightly changed) as:

"the most calculated and determined assault on the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution".

Will the Minister say whether it is true that the BBC has been banned by the Zimbabwe Government from taking part in the election coverage?

I have had the pleasure and the honour of meeting in the past few days two remarkable and brave Zimbabweans, Professor Eliphas Mukonoweshuro and Mr Mark Chavanduka. The professor is an expert on elections and teaches at the university of Harare, and Mr. Chavanduka is the editor of the Zimbabwe Standard. He was tortured in 1999, but he still carries on editing his paper. These gentlemen have, I am glad to say, made many appearances on TV—although I have not had the pleasure of seeing any of them—during their brief time in this country. They have briefed quite a large number of Conservative Members of Parliament, and I understand that they have briefed the Liberal Democrats. However, according to my information, not a single Labour Member of Parliament has taken the opportunity, although it was offered to them, of meeting the two men.

A request was made to meet the noble Baroness the Minister, who I understand was abroad. They asked whether they could see Mr Bradshaw, who speaks in the Commons for the Foreign Office on African matters. But the explanation was given that they could not see him as it would be against protocol. I was a member of the Foreign Service for 11 years and a Minister at the Foreign Office for a number of years. I have never heard of any such rule of protocol. Their request to meet members of the No. 10 political unit was conveyed in a fax message on 24th January. They received no reply.

Those gentlemen are now in the United States, where they will be received by Mr Walter Kansteiner, who is Assistant Secretary in the State Department and ranks as a Minister. What impression does the Minister believe will have been given to those two important Zimbabweans about the British Government? What impression will they convey to their friends when they return to Zimbabwe?

I believe that the failure to receive these two gentlemen mirrors the lack of action and the lack of government policy in the past two years. This Government are in favour of an "ethical foreign policy". The Prime Minister made an impassioned speech, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, at the last Labour Party conference in which he called for a partnership with Africa whose emphasis would be on democracy and human rights. The Prime Minister said recently that this country would play "a pivotal role" on the international scene. If these are the aims of this Government, how do they relate their policy on Zimbabwe to them?

Photo of Lord Bhatia Lord Bhatia Crossbench 7:08 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I declare my interest in sub-Saharan Africa as I was born in the region and lived there until 1970. I therefore know the region and the problems that face many of its countries.

The population of the sub-Saharan region is about 590 million, of whom many were formerly under British rule. We in Britain have close ties and moral responsibilities towards them. Therefore, sustainable development in these countries should be of importance to us.

With an average life expectancy of 48.8 years and a per capita GNP of 530 US dollars for sub-Saharan people, compared with figures for the OECD countries of 76.6 years and 20,000 US dollars, we can all agree that much needs to be done.

It is heartening to hear that our Prime Minister and fellow G8 leaders are taking steps to tackle the problems of Africa. I applaud that, but over the years, I have seen many failed initiatives by Britain, Europe, the USA, the World Bank, the IMF, the UNDP, the UN and other agencies, so I urge caution and good planning. The sustainable development definition implies a programme of development in the long term. We in the West have to make a similar long-term commitment of sustainable support. Too often such initiatives from the West are short term, or a flavour of the year phenomenon, so the problems are never resolved but become bigger and more complex.

My plea to the G8 leaders is, "Please, this is a good idea, but go for it only if you have the desire and will to stay with it over a sustained period". Short-termism is costly for the West and devastating for the African countries.

How do we participate in the process? I use the word "participate" advisedly. We cannot deliver a programme of sustainable development; we can only be participants. The lead must be given to the people of Africa. Unless we empower them and give them control of their destinies, the noble concept of sustainable development will end up in the dustbin of failed programmes of the West.

I pray that the G8 nations will bring together a consortium of participants to deliver sustainable development. The participants should be G8 nations, NGOs such as Oxfam, WaterAid, International Alert and many others. I declare an interest as an ex-trustee of two of those NGOs, and as a current trustee of WaterAid, along with some local NGOs and world bodies. However, we must make the countries themselves the lead members to achieve sustainable development.

Too often it is forgotten that the local people on the ground know the solutions to the problems. Although well meaning, we often deliver solutions from the West without a full understanding of the culture, capacities and real concern of those communities. In my lifetime, I have seen huge programmes go to waste because the programmes and the technologies were inappropriate to the needs of the countries. What is best and works for the West may often not work in African countries.

A major block in sustainable development is capacity building. To ensure that the countries concerned can sustain development work, investment has to be made in education at all levels, but specifically and urgently in training a cadre of civil servants in the sub-Saharan region of Africa who can run the development programmes professionally. The British Civil Service is in many places the envy of the world and we need to impart the culture of dedicated "Civil Service" to the sub-Saharan African countries.

There are many other issues that need to be mentioned, but I should like to emphasise two more. First, I refer to the reduction of conflict, which has two parts. Initially, a strong programme of conflict resolution must be built up and, secondly, the arms trade must be stopped. Difficult or impossible though that may sound, unless the West and the G8 leaders decide to address those issues, the resources of the poorest of poor countries, both in money and human terms, will consume all the aid and resources that we provide. The arms trade, which fuels conflicts and brings poverty and distress, has to be stopped. I believe that it is within our powers to do that.

Secondly, I refer to corruption which can take place only when there is someone ready to bribe and someone ready to receive the bribe. Both parties are guilty, but I believe that those who bribe are more guilty. I am talking not about the petty corruption that goes on everywhere but about the bribes and back-handers provided by western suppliers of goods, arms and services to the African countries. I was once told reliably that only 44 per cent of NGO funds reached the people and that the rest was skimmed off by the bureaucracies in a third world country. Unless we in the West are willing to crack down heavily on those who give bribes and back-handers, all our sustainable development work will be severely damaged or negated.

Over many years I have become cynical, but I have somehow managed to remain optimistic. There is always hope. The problems that we see today in sub-Saharan Africa are the problems that we saw in the 1970s and 1980s. They are only bigger, more complex and more difficult. We must examine why things went wrong and suggest new solutions. We need to empower the local people, build their capacities to solve their problems and extend the helping hand where needed without imposing ourselves.

Africa has its history, culture and traditions, but perhaps the West in the past 150 years has ignored those important elements. We need to bring back respect and pride to the sub-Saharan countries and help them to help themselves on the road to sustainable development. I conclude by quoting Jack Straw, who said recently:

"Britain's responsibility for Africa is a moral one. In terms of Europe's colonial legacy, we exploited Africa more unambiguously than we did anywhere else in the world. Now we can't let a great continent go down".

If we accept that profound statement, we need to commit ourselves to helping to make Africa a great continent in years to come.

Photo of Baroness Park of Monmouth Baroness Park of Monmouth Conservative 7:15 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Blaker, I, too, have met two deeply impressive citizens of Zimbabwe—an academic and a journalist, Mark Chavanduka from the Standard, who is well known for his principled and brave criticisms of the regime, and who was tortured in 1999. They spoke in the presence of an aggressive Zimbabwean High Commissioner whose method of debate was to bellow and hector, but who did state categorically when pressed that, just as Mugabe said in Malawi, Zimbabwe would accept observers, though not monitors and journalists. I hope that his bluff will be called.

It is good that the EU has now stipulated that observers must go in by next week. Today the Foreign Secretary, the Australians and Canadians are to urge the Commonwealth to take action against Mugabe, but fear that the African and Asian members may not support them. Will Uganda, Sierra Leone and Nigeria—grossly deceived over the Abuja Agreement—really not speak out for Africa and condemn the man who is destroying not only his own country but several others? Have the Scandinavians, who are widely respected by the third world, been asked to work on the Commonwealth countries and in the UN? Could not Nelson Mandela, who has seen for himself the devastation in the Great Lakes caused by war, be asked to use his influence?

Did Mr Straw and Mr Vedrine urge President Kabila, in the context of the troubled situation in the Congo, to send the Zimbabwean army home and, incidentally, stop the pillage of the forests? Its senior officers have been bought by Mugabe, but when the troops see what has been happening to their families at home, they are likely to be far less supportive than their officers and will vote accordingly.

The Commonwealth Secretariat holds copies of the Danish report on the terrible and widespread torture in Zimbabwe, to which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred, and which was published this week. Since when has the Commonwealth accepted torture in a Commonwealth country and refused to act? It is not reassuring that the Secretary-General's African adviser two years ago proved to be a director of Oryx, the diamond firm.

The two brave Zimbabweans reported on the latest developments in a crisis that has now lasted for four years. In that time thousands of Africans have been made refugees and the country is about to starve, not least because the object of the so-called veterans' attacks on farms is primarily to loot and terrorise. Burning the maize crop is part of that.

In the past few years Mugabe has systematically disenfranchised urban voters who would vote against him, terrorised rural voters, abandoned the rule of law, armed large numbers of young men trained to beat and kill, abolished normal procedure for the protection of the ballot box and excluded observers and monitors. Above all, by excluding all journalists and making it unlawful even to criticise Mugabe, he has effectively sealed the country, neutralised the opposition and prevented the truth from being known. Even if, with immense bravery, the people were to vote against him, their votes would be destroyed. If we do not send in observers and monitors now, we shall have connived in the murder of a free people. Black and white citizens are sharing a common suffering and are longing for the restoration of law.

Why are we not reminding the world of the offers made by the UK, along with many other countries, at the donors' conference of 1998—as well as at Abuja—together with UN and World Bank help, and their flagrant rejection by Mugabe? We should renew that offer publicly, making it conditional on free elections. Mugabe has been given chance after chance. As deadlines have passed there has been no action.

The events of September last have overshadowed even this terrible threat to an innocent people. It is not only in Afghanistan that a bloody civil war born of despair could come if Mugabe wins. Win or lose, there will be many thousands of unemployed young men with guns in their hands and the habit of killing.

The two Zimbabweans brought vital news from a closed country. They left yesterday for Washington, where they are to see the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, visit the Africa Bureau in the White House, Lorne Cramer, Colin Powell's special adviser on human rights, the top man in the National Security Council, as well as Congressmen and Senators on the powerful Foreign Affairs Committee. They saw senior members of the EU last week, notably the Spaniards and the French. This morning Monsieur Vedrine, Mr Straw's recent travelling companion, and the French Foreign Minister asked for a briefing on their mission from the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, which arranged their visit.

Who saw them from the British Government at this critical time? I make, without apology, the point made by my noble friend Lord Blaker: no one saw them, no one. Mr Straw could not see them, for the good reason that he was at the EU. The noble Baroness, Lady Amos, was due to be in New York at the UN—unfortunate, but unavoidable. I am sure that she was doing vital work there. It is a tragedy that she was not here. But what about Peter Hain? He had other engagements. What about Mr Bradshaw? As my noble friend told the House, his office explained that, although he spoke for the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, in the other place, it would be against protocol for him to see them.

So the two Zimbabweans saw two desk officers in the FCO—no Labour MPs, no Ministers. What of No. 10? The trust spoke to those in the Policy Unit who deal with Africa. A fax was requested, after which the trust was told that everyone was too busy. The trust then sent a second fax urging the current importance of the issue and detailing the programme in Washington. No reply was received. So, at this critical moment when the fate of Zimbabwe is in the balance, no Minister, no representative of the Government—in the unfortunate absence of the noble Baroness—has had time to listen. The French have, the Americans will. The people of Zimbabwe, especially when they also remember our policy on asylum until last week, will draw their own conclusions. They will not be to the credit of this country, or advance our future relations. I hate to think what conclusions the Americans will draw. I find it very hard to believe that the Prime Minister is not concerned, given his recent declared interest in Africa.

Perhaps I may urge most strongly that we should insist on: a British presence among the observers; entry for all journalists, and, above all, the BBC—for the World Service is widely respected; a clear promise that there should be a free and fair election with an end to violence, an instant package of food and medical aid, help for the thousands of refugees on the borders and in the country, and a long-term development programme to be coupled with action on the land issue, with UN supervision. I have considerable faith in the capacity of the noble Baroness's ministry to do this both fast and well as part of an international effort. Such action could solve half the refugee problem. It is the Africans on the farms who have been driven out. The farmers themselves have many constructive proposals in this area. It could also give the opposition something to offer the people and thereby stop the destabilisation. Moreover, Zimbabwe has the infrastructure.

Meanwhile, I hope that the press and the media will provide the fullest possible coverage of events in Zimbabwe, and on its borders. Why do we see no photographs of refugees who have been flooding across the South African border for months now? The Government must end the quiet diplomacy that has allowed Mugabe to get away with, literally, murder; they must come out openly as the champion of the rule of law and of the people.

Photo of Lord Holme of Cheltenham Lord Holme of Cheltenham Liberal Democrat 7:23 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend Lord Wallace for giving us the opportunity for this debate, I should like to concentrate my remarks solely on the subject of the World Summit on Sustainable Development that is due to be held in Johannesburg during the last week of August and the first week of September this year. In talking about the Earth Summit—sometimes known as, "Rio + 10"—some of the issues that we have been discussing will come into focus.

The summit is a highly significant occasion, and the location is even more significant because the global agenda that will be discussed has moved on subtly from Rio 10 years ago, which was primarily about the environment, to being about both the poverty agenda and the environment. Therefore, it is particularly appropriate that the summit should be held in the developing world; and especially appropriate that it should be held in South Africa on the African continent. Sub-Saharan Africa has that uniquely deadly combination that makes up world poverty—the 1.5 billion people who we find are excluded from the world's table—both poor countries and poor populations are to be found in the area.

The International Red Cross estimates that 50 per cent of its staff and 34 per cent of its expenditure for the whole world is now concentrated in Africa. However, there are some bright spots, many of which have already been mentioned in this debate. Looking at Mozambique, Mali or Uganda 10 years ago, I believe that all of us would be astounded by the progress that has been made. Some very fine achievements can also be seen in Namibia and Botswana. But, above all, our hopes rest on the success of South Africa. It is almost impossible to exaggerate how important it is not just to Africa but also to the world that South Africa should succeed—yet South Africa still has a fragile economy and society, with millions of poor and excluded people within its population.

As much of this evening's discussion has been about Zimbabwe, perhaps I may tell the Minister parenthetically that it seems obvious that the serious secondary significance of that deadly combination in that country of incompetence, corruption and tyranny is its roll-on effect on South Africa, together with the threat that it poses to the last and best hope for freedom, democracy and prosperity on the African continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa really needs a "hand up". I am not saying that it does not need a "hand out", because it does. Indeed, through DfID, the British Government have been admirable in what they have done and are seeking to achieve in the area. However, we need, as does the rest of the world, to promote economic activity and growth—the 5 per cent from the World Bank figures referred to by my noble friend. We also need direct foreign investment, working synergistically as far as possible with overseas development assistance; in other words, with the two working together to try to produce some sort of economic improvement. That means the involvement of business on a much larger scale in Africa, which, for some fairly obvious reasons, has been too much of a "no-go area" for international companies considering investment. But business is needed: making investments, creating capacity and jobs always—it is to be hoped—in a responsible way in terms of the environment and of social effects.

Here I should declare an interest as vice-chairman of the Global Business Coalition, which has formed the "Business Action for Sustainable Development" to ensure that world business is present in Johannesburg as a constructive partner for sustainable development, which is so much needed. The aim is to make of Johannesburg not just another meeting of heads of government, but what in South Africa is called, an Indaba—an Indaba of the world's stakeholders—to address some of these grievous problems of poverty, disease, migration, environmental depredation, clean water and sustainable energy, and to do so together.

One of the more encouraging initiatives in recent weeks has been the formation—I hope I pronounce it correctly—of NePAD, which stands for the New Partnership for Africa's Development. This is an African initiative that links the issues of good governance to economic development. Indeed, Thabo Mbeki has played a leading role in the process. I should pay a tribute here to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for International Development, and the noble Baroness, all of whom have played an outstanding leadership role and demonstrated a commitment to Africa, not least in respect of this initiative in which several British companies are also involved. When she responds to the debate, perhaps the Minister could tell the House a little more about NePAD, and how its exclusion of corrupt and unaccountable governments bears on the regime in Zimbabwe.

I shall refer briefly to two other aspects of the world summit. One wholly admirable aspiration is that when the captains and the kings depart in September—the great men come in and leave—a tangible legacy should be left behind in South Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. The local branch of "Business Action for Sustainable Action" (the business co-ordinating forum) is working with the South African Government to produce a menu of projects both large and small from very large FDI projects, Agenda 21 projects, carbon-dioxide and clean water projects, as well as micro credit projects, which are especially important in Africa for empowering women. I simply tell your Lordships that it is important for everyone who engages in the summit not to think that it is just a talk-shop; it is a way of leaving tangible benefits behind in an area of the world that desperately needs them. I hope that what I have said applies to governments, NGOs, universities and the media, as well as to those businesses going to Johannesburg.

I have one ticklish subject to raise. The South African Government are having a lot of trouble funding the summit. I am well aware that, unlike some other governments, Her Majesty's Government have made some proper pledges to support the summit, but the South African Government are facing a serious deficit in funding the occasion, which is so much in the world's interests. I hope that our Government, together with other European Union countries and other friendly countries who want the summit to succeed, will ensure that the South African Government, who can ill afford it, are not left holding the baby for this important occasion.

Following September 11th, we cannot overestimate the importance of a successful summit for sustainable development. We have had a coalition against something—against global terrorism. Now is the chance to have a coalition for something—for a more cohesive world and for sustainable development. That could happen at Johannesburg. The omens are not all good and the prospects are somewhat precarious, but Her Majesty's Government have made a major contribution. I simply ask the Minister to say what more they can do to ensure the success of that very important occasion.

Photo of The Earl of Sandwich The Earl of Sandwich Crossbench 7:31 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on securing prime time for Africa. We have entered one of those periods of African euphoria, in which European politicians on their travels make all sorts of promises that they cannot or will not fulfil. However, Africa must make the best of it, because, apart from Cotonou, which has merely updated Lomé, sub-Saharan Africa has not benefited from major new initiatives for a considerable time.

There is no point in rehearsing the suffering in Africa, because the media already do that, feasting on disaster and telling us little of the positive changes, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme, has just said. After visits to Sudan, Kenya and Uganda, I remain optimistic, although I do not measure progress as I know that statisticians and evaluators are taught to do. As my noble friend Lord Bhatia said, there have been so many failed European ventures in Africa that it is hard, even now with debt relief and poverty reduction strategies replacing structural adjustment programmes, to assess truly indigenous development policies.

I start from the premise that the World Bank and multilateral agencies are beginning to get it right, although that is still highly contentious given the way in which they have applied conditionality. We are told that there is a new multilateralism in the air in the wake of September 11th. Democracy, good governance, justice and human rights—whatever they mean—are fine principles that we can all agree on, and it is encouraging that so many countries pay lip service to them, because there is at least a common language.

However, I am cautious, because I do not believe that democracy works very well anywhere, including in this Palace of Westminster. Officially we have dropped the Westminster model, but there is still a wide and quite false perception in our country that we are right and others are wrong. The Athenians probably had the same misconception. Every society operates a hybrid pattern of government and we are not entitled, even through the Commonwealth, to preach the gospel of citizenship. As it happens, for various reasons, countries such as Uganda still apply some Westminster principles, but they have all been fortunately adapted to their own particular case.

I am more concerned with the impact of democratic institutions on the local population, which is usually very marginal. Civil society is the buzz phrase, but decisions are still taken by multinational companies, the United Nations, the larger aid organisations and local entrepreneurs. That is why I am suspicious of business in Africa; it often makes central government irrelevant. Here I declare a prejudice, having represented some of the smaller aid agencies in Africa. The best kind of democracy that I have seen is through the more accountable smaller aid agencies. It has very little to do with central government. Typically, the local NGO works alongside local government and traditional leadership. Naturally, that is why external governments like to support small-scale development. However, they are also obliged to support governments and national bodies that—they hope—can end conflicts, promote democracy and reduce corruption.

Non-governmental organisations can do that at the national level in only a few countries, of which Uganda is one. It is an interesting example of a country that has eschewed conventional multi-party democracy, although that has also been a disguise for a fairly ruthless national political movement. Human rights are certainly not universal.

On the other hand, having attended the Ugandan Parliament, I was impressed by the maturity and high standard of debate, which can genuinely reflect local concerns. Whatever the propriety of the model, Ugandans are thriving on political stability and a traditional emphasis on education, which has ensured on the whole that the rural areas, although desperately poor, are not neglected.

South Africa is a more familiar model. I well remember standing in line in a Johannesburg suburb on that historic day in April 1994 when millions turned out to vote. The vote is still regarded as the universal form of democracy, yet it is also the occasion when mandates are handed over to demagogues and tyrants, often for years—not forgetting our own MPs, who deceive voters or change sides to suit their own purposes and purses. Elections are also the time when the people are cheated, as they are being defrauded in Zimbabwe today. The poorest countries are the most vulnerable to fraud and corruption. Electoral commissions in the most deprived countries, such as Sierra Leone, have difficulty even financing the process of registration. In South Africa, the NGOs played an active part in voter education to ensure a successful election; very few other countries have attracted the same support. Will the noble Baroness tell us how DfID is contributing to political education in Africa and election-holding in countries such as Sierra Leone?

The other important strand of the debate is sustainable development. Here, paradoxically, I shall concentrate on countries in conflict. Hardly any country in Africa is free of conflict. Within the often artificial national borders, people have to get used to the coexistence of war and peace. A new school of political theory has sprung up around the idea of conflict resolution and the role of development programmes and human rights in the search for peace and stable government.

Eighteen months ago I was in Sudan. There can hardly be a country in Africa more torn apart, except perhaps Angola or Sierra Leone. Our perception is that whole tracts of Sudan have been taken over by local militia and proxy armies operating outside the rule of law, yet a sophisticated and settled population is to be found in most of the country, with many examples of democracy at work. Again, my prejudice is for the NGOs and Church-backed groups seeking reconciliation in both North and South. I believe that in the North the courts uphold the law through pressure from below as well as from above. That is a strong sign of democratic health, despite what is often said about breaches of human rights in Sudan.

The same can be said of the South, where again there is faction fighting over vast areas, but in many of those areas of the country the legal system has broken down and education is all but destroyed for lack of infrastructure. I am now speaking at a more local political level, mindful of the recent return of the Secretary of State after her first visit. I contend that even in the most helpless societies, such as Rwanda, modest contributions to local government, legal and democratic institutions can restore order and stability and prepare the country for a true return to normality and, by that route, to what is called sustainable development. It can bring confidence back to a community that has suffered for a generation or more. SOS Sahel, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, is one of the practitioners of the skills of rural development and conflict resolution.

I hope that DfID will think seriously about its role alongside a reformed European Development Fund in fostering peace through sustainable development in the whole of Africa. In Sudan, several NGOs are active in reviving the legal system and education in parts of the community still regarded by DfID as no-go areas. Peace talks are taking place in lush Nairobi hotels, contrasting with the poverty of Sudan. We hope that the IGAD process will now yield results.

The Department for International Development is already supporting some initiatives such as reconciliation between ethnic groups. Could the Government not move one step further and support grassroots development and civic education to bring encouragement to those already engaged in those projects? Women who have watched their husbands and sons die in conflict are often the most active partners in development. However, as in neighbouring Uganda, many community groups are seriously under-funded. I look forward to the Minister's reaction.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Chesterton Lord Hunt of Chesterton Labour 7:40 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for introducing a most important debate that I am sure will help to inform the Government's immediate policies and the ones that they will present at the end of August, at the world summit on sustainable development. However, as the Prime Minister so eloquently reminded us, many of the issues that we are discussing have such global consequences that they truly are the responsibility of governments, industry and individuals around the world.

Many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, from Nigeria to South Africa and from Mozambique to Angola, have had dreadful recent experiences of poverty, conflict, environmental degradation, natural disasters and threats to democracy. However, there are encouraging signs of profound changes in attitude and the beginning of action programmes both by governments and by the international governmental and business community. There is evidence that those of Africa's more far-sighted leaders in open, participatory societies are moving to decelerate the recent downward spiral into poverty and violence. They and the international institutions, as well as the proposers of this debate, have recognised that the only way of progressing the well-being of people everywhere is to proceed on a broad front with democracy, socio-economic development and security on the one hand, and, on the other, a healthy population with a sustainable economy and environment over—as the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, reminded us—the long term.

There is now—if there was not before—a great consensus on those interconnected goals, especially that of sustainability, which was the great idea that emerged from the 1992 United Nations environmental conference at Rio. I should like to describe the encouraging organisational and practical steps that certain African countries are taking in those directions.

The Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme was established in early 2001 by Presidents Mbeki of South Africa, Bouteflika of Algeria and Obasanjo of Nigeria. This intergovernmental initiative emerged from an earlier African Renaissance process but underwent several changes in the course of the past year, eventually emerging by the end of the year as the New Partnership for Africa's Development—NePAD—which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham.

NePAD carries forward the spirit of the document issued for the Organisation of African Unity summit held in July 2001. The document states:

"This new African initiative is a pledge by African leaders, based on a common vision and a firm and shared conviction, that they have a pressing duty to eradicate poverty and to place their countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, and at the same time to participate actively in the world economy and body politic. The Programme is anchored on the determination of Africans to extricate themselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment and exclusion in a globalising world".

As President Mbeki has asserted, NePAD and the African Union are "the ways and means" chosen for carrying Africa forward into the 21st century. As the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, reminded us, these strategic initiatives need to be built on specific actions and involve Africans and the external community. One initiative, termed the African Process, was adopted by Ministers at the Cape Town conference on development and protection of the marine environment in sub-Saharan Africa, held in 1998 as a result of an initiative by a non-governmental organisation called ACOPS—the Advisory Committee for Protection of the Sea—which was founded 50 years ago by the noble Lord Lord Callaghan, and which I now have the honour to chair. I declare that as my interest.

That initiative has led on to projects to safeguard and remediate the environment in the marine and coastal regions that are of such strategic importance to these countries. National teams of experts building upon information and databases are making a comprehensive assessment of, for example, threatened sensitive habitats and the currently inadequate levels of regulatory frameworks. Scientists and socio-economic experts participate in that process. That work also leads to project proposals and prospective business partners.

Sadly, this process has had almost no coverage in the international media, which tend to focus exclusively on Africa's difficulties. This initiative is very much African driven and African led and involves both local and national concerns of Africans, the donor communities and the private sector. The proposals will be tabled at the upcoming partnership conference. It was decided at the July OAU summit in Lusaka that the conference should be held in conjunction with the world summit on sustainable development. It is the type of practical project to which the noble Lord, Lord Holme, referred. It will also be held at the level of heads of state. Interestingly, the development was spearheaded by Minister Okopido of Nigeria, last year, when he gave an address in the House of Lords at the James Callaghan Lecture.

Surely that encouraging development should be supported by all those interested in Africa's welfare. I am hopeful that the Government will assist in every way they can.

Some of the factors that militate against sustainable development are the result of natural causes, especially natural disasters and desertification, as we have seen in Africa with the Mozambique floods, droughts in Sudan and Ethiopia, and recently the volcano in the Congo. However, their damaging effects can be considerably reduced by organisation, funding and the application of science, technology and agriculture. The critical effect of natural disasters on international development was properly recognised in the International Development Bill which we recently considered. So it is essential that that element is emphasised in the work of the world summit. Regrettably, it is not in any of the documentation that I have seen so far.

Perhaps as part of that summit, even with quite limited resources, the Government could do a great deal more to make improvements through more training, provision of technical assistance, working to ensure that environmental data are exchanged and providing resources to enable communities to monitor and care for their environment. Your Lordships might be intrigued to know that, after the wars in Rwanda, many of the rain gauges were used as cooking pots and all the other equipment disappeared. Consequently, when the meteorologists came to work at Kigali airport, there was little that they could do. That is a common occurrence in Africa.

Equally, in the Mozambique floods, information on river levels upstream in Zambia and Zimbabwe was not communicated. Indeed, there is still no standard international arrangement for the exchange of such data. Getting such environmental arrangements right is as important as anything else in creating sustainable communities.

Another point is the role of the business community. The insurance industry in the developed world is increasingly taking a role in helping the poorest countries insure themselves against the worst natural disasters. The recently formed Commonwealth Management Disaster Agency should be able to contribute the insurance resources of the City of London to help. As I said, that is an example of the business contribution, and it is a totally new approach.

Desertification remains a great scourge in Africa. DfID is certainly working hard to focus on the problem, providing technical assistance and focusing on the poorest communities. Nevertheless, one must ask where is the financial assistance to these countries from Saudi Arabia and the other oil-rich countries that urged the creation of the desertification convention in 1992, in part because they said that they did not want to contribute to the international climate change activities. I believe that the Government should be pressing them strongly on that point.

Photo of Baroness Gardner of Parkes Baroness Gardner of Parkes Conservative 7:48 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for bringing this topic to the House for debate today.

The EU is one of the world's biggest aid donors. The annual aid disbursement of about £5 billion per annum is enough to bring quality education to children in much of sub-Saharan Africa. A programme focused on such a clear target could make the EU the best aid donor in the world. Sadly, the politics and self-interest of EU members mean that it is one of the least timely and effective donors. More than one third of the EU's external development aid budget goes not to the poorest, but to mid-level countries. According to the report, The Reality of Aid 2000, billions of euros—4 billion ecu of the amount committed for aid between 1990 and 1994—remain unspent.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, rightly broadens this debate to include not only Brussels but each and every one of the EU member states. If each of them met the targets agreed at the world summit for social development in 1995 for contributions to basic social services, well over £1.5 billion would be released in development aid for access to health, education and water. In justice, sub-Saharan Africa, as the region with the world's lowest GNP, would surely benefit most. I ask your Lordships to think of the numbers of children whose lives could be saved, futures secured and potential realised by the wise disbursement of that level of development aid.

I must declare an interest here as chairman of Plan International UK. Plan is a child focused development agency receiving and using contributions from over 100,000 people in the UK and three-quarters of a million in Europe to help the world's poorest families make a real difference to the lives of their children. Since the charity started 60 years ago to help children orphaned in the Spanish Civil War, Plan has learnt a lot about sustainable development and promoting democracy. We work, through local staff, with poor communities in 43 developing countries including sub-Saharan Africa.

We work at grassroots level in villages with poor communities. We have learnt that sustainable development is based on participation, education and collaboration. A fundamental principle of our work is real and meaningful participation of the poor in the activities that are meant to assist them.

The poor and marginalised traditionally have no voice, no information, no say in what happens to them. Yet visiting poor communities with Plan, I have seen women who appear to have nothing saving a few shillings at a time in a credit scheme . Eventually they are able to take out a loan for the cow, the sewing machine, the market stall which makes the difference between their children eating or going hungry.

Women learn the skills of managing a village bank or credit union and start to control their future. We have learnt from these women that encouraging long-term sustainable financial institutions in poor areas is one way to help families to pull themselves out of poverty. Throughout the world we see participation in action; for example, the Msingi Bora project in Kenya is engaging young teenage girls, their parents and teachers, in breaking down gender stereotyping and opening new careers for girls.

In my field visits I have also seen a hunger for education, evidenced by the sacrifices that families make to pay for school uniform, fees and a few books to put a child through school. Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that every child has a right to primary education, in sub-Saharan Africa four out of 10 currently do not go to school; their families are too poor, or school is not available. UNICEF 2001 statistics show that world-wide only 2 per cent of development aid is spent on basic education. Ensuring that every child gets an education is not difficult, it just requires money and, most importantly, political will to make the most effective and targeted use of resources.

In Sierra Leone our priority, (because it is the priority of the communities with which we work), is education. Plan is providing the raw materials so communities can rebuild their schools. In those schools, side by side with normal lessons, the local pikine to pikine (pikine means child) organisation is teaching children about health and sanitation and our partners in the Federation of African Women Educators are counselling children who have been traumatised and abused during the war. Education can flourish even among the traumatised and terrified children of a civil war. We know that educating and informing today's children in Sierra Leone is essential to the economic growth and development of the country in the future.

Achieving lasting change requires the full co-operation of everyone in a country—government, civil society, faith groups, the private sector and for us most importantly the children, women and men in grassroots communities.

Over the past 15 years we have seen the progress that many communities in sub-Saharan Africa have made eroded by HIV/AIDS. There are now 8 million AIDS orphans in the region. The Hope for African Children Initiative helps communities to care for their orphans. It harnesses the effort of several international NGOs, women's groups, the private sector (the pilot scheme was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), religious leaders and professionals such as doctors and nurses. Parents are encouraged to go for voluntary testing; their lives are prolonged through treatment for opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia and they and their families are counselled and encouraged to make wills to provide for the children. After the parents' death, the children receive not only counselling from community volunteers but their carers receive practical help with school fees and vocational training is available so that the children can earn a living.

There are many examples of successful sustainable development. The noble Lord also asks about democracy. A key plank of a democracy is fostering open dialogue. In Plan we start with the children and throughout Africa there are children's radio programmes which bring the concerns of youth to the attention of adults and politicians. So in West Africa children in a village will work with a production team for one week to produce a lively radio programme on an issue that matters to them—why teachers do not turn up for school, or why adults hit children, or whether teenagers should have confidential visits to the health worker. The programme is then broadcast throughout the area.

I have given just a few small examples of how the money from private citizens in EU member states is making a real difference to the lives of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Sustainable development is not rocket science. We know that it can be achieved. We have seen it. We have all also seen the effect of the failure of democracy and development, the disintegration of the state and with it the hope for the children's future.

I ask the Minister here today what the UK Government are doing to make the EU and member states a more effective champion of democracy and development and a more effective aid donor. I know through Plan supporters that among citizens of the EU there is strong support for the EU becoming the best and most effective aid donor in the world.

Photo of Lord Phillips of Sudbury Lord Phillips of Sudbury Liberal Democrat 7:56 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire for introducing the debate as he did. By this time of the evening most of the thunder has been stolen, and extremely well stolen, by some fine speeches from noble Lords who know a great deal about the subject in hand.

Therefore, I should like to confine myself to two or three issues. The first is a slightly tentative one, because one of the themes that we have heard repeatedly urged tonight is the need for co-operation, cohesion and common programmes, particularly within the European Union. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, talked of a coherent and cohesive master plan. His was a masterly speech, but I hope that I may question whether a coherent and cohesive master plan is in fact what is needed.

It is a question of fine judgment as to precisely how far one tries to co-ordinate or cohere policies, whether within the EU or elsewhere. Co-ordination can easily become inflexibility and coherence can be prescriptive. Common objectives can too easily become narrow and exclusive and harmonisation can lead to a lack of diversity and experimentation. I raise these points not in any way to take away from the need for more focus, more co-operation and more sharing of experiences to ensure that there is no unnecessary overlap or black holes in the provision that we bring to this enormous continent, with its stupendous problems.

I should like to take up a point that the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, made, I thought very effectively, which concerns the importance of self-help in all this. It is a truism and yet it is easily forgotten. It is worth remembering that self-help is no less important here in the policies that we bring to our own problems of poverty and exclusion. I remind the House that the one theme above all others that comes out of the 18 members of the policy action team set up by the present Government to look at social exclusion is the need to inculcate self-help. Of course, that is frustrating if you want to leap in and help, because so often we think that we can do things for others and that we can provide this and that. We consider that we can provide expertise, plant, equipment and money, but in the medium to long term that is useless unless those whom we seek to help learn to do things for themselves.

The development of civil society and democracy in parts of the world which have never known those things, at least in the way we conceive them, is intensely difficult. I suggest that what we have done hitherto has in many ways been almost a problem for such evolution. It is not as if the countries themselves do not have their own traditions. I refer to tribalism, with powerful chiefs and a general culture that does not sit easily with the new culture of democracy.

I commend the Government, as many other noble Lords have done, and in particular Clare Short, the Secretary of State. Hers has been a particularly vigorous and committed espousal of the needs of development in that continent and everywhere else. I am very impressed by much of DfID's work. It does that in partnership with the NGOs, both great and small, of which there are very many. We will not forget that the partnership between government and NGOs is extensive because it has to take into account many other bodies, including international bodies and the EU and its various organisms. It also has to take into account the states in which we are seeking to render assistance, groups within the state, many of which are against the state concerned, donor constituencies and others. I am sure that the issue of self-help is predominant and should remain so in all our attempts to alleviate the woes of the third world.

I commend an exemplar project; namely, the Amani project, which is funded by DfID and run by the charity International Alert, with which I must admit professional connections. That project has run for only two years but it is already making real headway. One way in which it does that is through its absolute determination to eliminate all western personnel within a relatively short period; that involves 100 per cent Africanisation. Its approach is broadly about encouraging mutual support between and emulation of the parliamentarians in and between six countries. Those countries are Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya.

The peace-building and confidence-raising that the Amani project is designed to assist extend to working within and between Parliaments and their groups of MPs. That involves best practice and networking and the development of common themes and concerns. The practical fruit of what has already been done is the creation of national chapters in those six countries and the development of an executive committee across them.

I turn to the example of the Tanzanian elections, which caused uproar in Zanzibar and Pemba. A joint team of parliamentarians was produced from the six members of the Amani project. Its negotiations with the Tanzanian Government led to the return of most of those who became refugees in the wake of the violence at the beginning of last year. I commend that project, which I am sure represents the way in which we all want to encourage the Government and the NGOs.

Finally, I want to quote an e-mail that I received yesterday from somebody who is working in one of the most difficult situations in Africa. He said that the UK was,

"supporting generously Rwanda and Uganda in economic and defence terms, even if the latter is poorly documented. These two countries are between them occupying half of neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and plundering the immense wealth of this country while exploiting the local labour forces and promoting war and divisions. This issue is highly sensitive and few NGOs . . . dare raise it for fear of losing sources of funding from the British government".

I close on that note, not to be pessimistic but to point out that there is a high degree of sensitivity among NGOs in some of the other work that the British Government undertake—or do not undertake.

Photo of Lord St John of Bletso Lord St John of Bletso Crossbench 8:04 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for introducing this debate at a particularly opportune time—ahead of the presidential elections in Zimbabwe and the Earth Summit in Johannesburg in August.

Last year, I initiated a similar debate on the political, social and economic challenges facing Southern Africa. For that reason, I was particularly pleased that this debate focuses more on "concerted international action", which is aimed in particular at EU member states, to promote democracy and sustainable development in the region.

I want to focus my remarks, as many noble Lords have done, on current developments in Zimbabwe and South Africa, and to make brief reference to what has been happening in Angola and Mozambique. I do not want to regurgitate the speech that I made during our debate on Zimbabwe which was initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth. I want to give my personal view—I stress that it is personal—of how events will unfold in Zimbabwe over the next few months.

It is generally accepted that despite the international calls for free and fair presidential elections in Zimbabwe in March, as well as for international monitors and respect for the rule of law, the elections on 9th and 10th March will be a non-event. I use that phrase because when I spoke to the editor of the Sunday Independent in South Africa today, he used it. The elections will certainly not be free or fair, and President Mugabe will be re-elected. Moreover, there is no doubt that the Abuja Agreement is totally dead. I am also highly sceptical as to the likelihood of the Commonwealth Action Group, which is meeting today, getting any agreement to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. Had CHOGM been able to meet, as was originally planned, in October of last year, the Commonwealth would possibly have had more muscle to suspend Zimbabwe if there were not free and fair elections. Due to the events of September 11th last year, CHOGM will be reconvening on only 2nd and 3rd March, which gives little time to take decisive action against Zimbabwe.

So, quo vadis Zimbabwe post 10th March, when Robert Mugabe will be re-elected? It seems inevitable that the country will collapse into a state of civil war. That might be a draconian view, but there is a very real risk that the peaceful stance of the MDF and the patience of the Zimbabwean people will come to breaking point.

I have always contended that there should be African solutions to African problems. To that end, the only real chance of a breakthrough in the deteriorating situation in that country is for South Africa and SADC to exert more pressure for change with firm timetables and deadlines. I hope furthermore that the international community will press ahead with smart sanctions against Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF. That point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton.

Last night, President Thabo Mbeki, who I understand is in daily contact with Robert Mugabe, called an emergency meeting with business leaders, trade union leaders and church leaders in South Africa to discuss a united approach to bring pressure to bear on Mr Mugabe. Clearly, South Africa is concerned not just with the consequential impact over the entire region of the political and economic instability of Zimbabwe, but also with the burgeoning numbers of migrant labourers who are flooding through the borders into South Africa. It may be too late, but there is no doubt that President Thabo Mbeki has taken a far more pro-active stance over the past few months both in his capacity as President of South Africa and through SADC.

Among the ongoing revelations of human rights violations and the increasingly dire economic downward spiral in Zimbabwe, I was heartened to hear the speech of Eddison Zvogbo—it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Blaker—who heads the Zimbabwean Government's legal committee when he openly challenged the proposed media Bill, and I believe that it is worth reiterating the words that he used. He said:

"This is the most calculated and determined assault on the nation's constitutional right to free expression since independence 22 years ago".

He also went on to say that the Bill was in breach of 20 clauses of the Zimbabwean constitution. That is a very positive development.

I now want to turn briefly to the current situation in South Africa and elaborate on some of the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. When Thabo Mbeki took over from President Nelson Mandela, expectations were high that he would expedite the reform programme outlined in the reconstruction and development programme. While he has, to a large degree, achieved his targets of improved water distribution and greater access to education and electricity, as well as improved healthcare and the provision of more housing for the less privileged population, his greatest challenges and problems remain the stagnant economic growth rate and the AIDS pandemic, which is not only a health crisis but also a development crisis.

With unemployment at over 30 per cent and a serious poverty crisis, particularly in rural areas, compounded by the lack of affordable AIDS treatment drugs, the country is increasingly dependent on foreign inward investment as well as the provision of more affordable anti-retroviral drugs. NGOs have certainly played a pivotal role in alleviating that crisis. Can the Minister elaborate on the new Africa trade and poverty initiative in sub-Saharan Africa and on how effective it has been in strengthening the ability of African countries to negotiate effectively with international bodies such as the European Union and the World Trade Organisation? In particular, I want to give credit to the DfID report of March last year which outlined the department's international development targets for sub-Saharan Africa, including the reduction and prevention of conflict in the region.

Finally, I am very concerned by the apparent stalemate in Angola, which is, by all accounts, teetering back into civil war with Jonas Savimbi regrouping and President dos Santos showing little interest in the promotion of multi-party democracy. In replying, can the Minister elaborate on what progress Her Majesty's Government are making in promoting multi-party democracy in Angola, as well as saying what action has been taken to remove the many millions of landmines in the region?

My time is almost up. While I reiterate my belief that African solutions need to be found for African problems, the international community has a pivotal role to play in the region. I support wholeheartedly the call by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, when he said that European Union member states should have no alternative but to engage in the region.

Photo of Viscount Goschen Viscount Goschen Conservative 8:13 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, has set the House a challenging task in putting forward such a broad-based title for the debate. There is a huge number of subjects to talk about in terms of democracy and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa, and we have heard a very great spread. However, I make no apologies whatever for concentrating, as other noble Lords have done, on the issue of Zimbabwe. This debate is being held at an extraordinarily timely moment. There are powerful reasons why we should continue to apply all the pressure that we can in this House and in other fora to bring this issue to the forefront of international consciousness.

Zimbabwe is a very important country in the sub-Saharan region. It should be a great and prosperous country. It has been that in the past and I am sure that it will become so again. But it has been held back deliberately by one very small interested party for its own personal gain. We, the international community, can certainly make a difference. Zimbabwe is not beyond hope by any means. My personal belief is optimistic that before long we shall see Zimbabwe return to the great country that it once was.

However, we are faced with an extraordinarily dangerous time ahead. In the debate that we held in December, we heard a great deal of detailed information from noble Lords about the horrors that have been committed by the ZANU-PF regime. Like the noble Lord, Lord St John, I have no wish to go over those once more. They have been well documented, not least in the Physicians for Human Rights document, to which my noble friend Lord Elton referred.

Reference has also been made to a recent meeting of the Zimbabwe Democracy Trust, with leading speakers travelling from Zimbabwe to address parliamentarians and other interested parties about the news straight from the heart of that country. We were told very clearly that a low-intensity conflict is already under way. There is now the startling realisation that ordinary, law-abiding people are bracing themselves for an outbreak of mass violence if the will of the people to determine their leader is frustrated by illegal action at the election. The noble Lord, Lord St John, said that he believed that the country was on the brink of civil war. I find it difficult to argue against that proposition. To have heard from the head of the armed forces in that country that his forces would not recognise any victor other than ZANU-PF is a chilling indication of what lies ahead.

My firm belief is that at this very late stage only stark choices are left. We know that there has been reluctance in some quarters overtly to criticise the leadership of Zimbabwe, which has been so closely associated with the African independence struggle. We know that some western developed countries have also steered shy of criticism of the ZANU regime, fearing being branded as meddling in internal African affairs.

But surely all right-minded parties now realise that this issue is not about white farmers, land redistribution, African self-determination or former colonial powers; it is about the terrifying lengths to which one party will go to risk the very destruction of its country in order to retain power. We cannot stand by helplessly.

The Commonwealth is clearly an important organisation in binding countries together with a common thread. But at the centre of that organisation must lie respect for human rights and democracy. Surely the Commonwealth must now take firm action to indicate that it will not tolerate a member which flagrantly violates those very basic freedoms. If it is not adherence to those common values which binds together the Commonwealth, what is the point of that organisation?

It is my belief that if the Commonwealth fails at this hurdle there could not be a clearer-cut example of flagrant disregard for democracy and human rights, and, to my mind, that organisation would be severely weakened. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, will be able to update us as to what happened at today's meeting. My initial understanding is that no decisive action was taken but that there were merely indications of some potential action in the future. That action was not specified.

I certainly welcome the recent action taken by the European Union and, indeed, the role which the UK has taken in that body to impose a deadline for the acceptance of international monitors. I, too, caution against watering down that requirement. We must also bear in mind that very many people would say that it would now be impossible for free and fair elections to take place in Zimbabwe, whatever international action was to take place. While there would be a very powerful argument for saying that, I continue to believe that we should take whatever action we can on an international basis to ensure as far as possible the best chance of the elections being as free as they might be.

To my mind, there is no doubt that historic empty threats have devalued the currency. If there is one point that I wish to leave with your Lordships it is that the focus must now be on making it absolutely clear and beyond any doubt that the international community will not recognise as legitimate, nor will it tolerate, any government who seize their mandate by force. Furthermore, punitive action will certainly be taken in the form of targeted sanctions, and the target would be ZANU-PF leaders.

Surely experience has shown us that the ZANU regime is not overly concerned with its international reputation, nor with the health and prosperity of its subjects. However, it does understand restrictions on personal freedoms and it has plenty of experience in that field.

If we fail to stand firm, we shall be guilty of complicity with the outrageous attacks on human rights which are now being perpetrated. Surely we must give a sense of support to every Zimbabwean in the bush, villages, towns and cities that they have not been abandoned.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench 8:21 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for initiating tonight's debate. I declare an interest in that I visited Angola last September. That visit was organised by UNICEF.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, drew attention to the fact that 30 per cent of Angolan children die before the age of five. I would add that 55 per cent of five year-olds grow to only 70 per cent of their normal size. They have been stunted due to malnourishment. Armed conflict within that country has continued almost unabated for 40 years. The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, referred to the fact that many of the roads are so heavily mined that food and other supplies to much of the interior have to be transported by air at vast expense.

Angola is a petro-diamond state. It is the largest supplier of oil to the United States. Its reserves of diamonds rival those of Botswana, and may well exceed them. Yet hitherto that mineral wealth has been largely used to fund civil strife. In such a context, it is imperative that the international community works in concert to promote democracy and sustainable development in Angola. There are foundations upon which we can build. Some areas—the City of Lubango in Huila Province and the whole of Namib Province, for example— relatively are prospering. The governor of the Central Bank has brought down inflation from triple to double figures. It is hoped to reduce the figure to below 10 per cent this year. International financial institutions have an important role in promoting that economic success.

The United States has made considerable efforts to cultivate its relationship with Angola. President dos Santos was due to meet with President Bush last September. That meeting was postponed following that month's terrible events. Angolans are resilient. Their civil society is strong and growing stronger. The churches reach out into rebel-held areas to which even the NGOs cannot gain access. Fresh voices are making themselves heard. New perspectives are forcing themselves into mainstream public discourse. The Government of Angola are increasingly not having it all their own way. President dos Santos is due to stand down this year. That may be an opportunity for positive change. While democratic elections have not been held since the early nineties, some commentators believe that the prospects for peace and elections are improving. Outside investors in Angola put continual pressure on the government to become more transparent and, in particular, to make plain the final destination of their oil revenues.

There are hard questions to put to the Government of Angola. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, enumerated several. Why does much of the population of the capital, Luanda, pay 40 per cent of its income for clean water? But hard questions cannot be expected to reach receptive ears unless the international community is prepared to prove its long-term commitment to Angola. Therefore, it is welcome that Her Majesty's Government are in continuing dialogue with the Government of Angola. Visits from Ministers and senior parliamentarians seem to be fairly regular in the UK. Recently, Dr Sozo, majority leader of the Angolan Parliament, visited the UK Parliament and spoke of his country's work on producing a new constitution. The Angolan Government are interested in our success in Northern Ireland and in what they may learn from that to help resolve their internal conflict.

They wish to develop special trading relationships with the UK and appear interested in membership of the Commonwealth. That is the kind of foundation on which the international community and the UK may be able to build. Development assistance is a fundamental part of the rebuilding process and should be added to the current humanitarian aid. The situation in Angola is one of continuing crisis, but past and present ambassadors from the UK in Luanda have strongly urged investment in areas of stability within Angola, such as Lubango in Huila Province, and Namib Province. Those areas in the south and south-west of the country are some of the best watered in Africa. They have the potential to provide a thriving agricultural and fishing industry. They could provide a model for the people and government of Angola and demonstrate that there is a workable and attractive alternative to civil war and to extremes of wealth and poverty.

Development assistance to such regions would be immensely valuable. Such assistance could be channelled to church organisations and NGOs to ensure its effectiveness. I would ask the Minister whether such proposals are under consideration in this country and whether they are likely to be forthcoming from the European Union. The Government are already taking steps to nurture good relations with the progressive elements within Angola. However, the Government's resources are limited. Most especially, the time of Ministers is a scarce commodity. Therefore, might back-bench parliamentarians across the European Union have a greater role to play in developing the essential long-term relationships with the progressive elements in Angola?

On my visit I was most struck by the sense of isolation and, on occasions, abandonment that the people within Angola experience. I hope that your Lordships may contemplate visiting Angola, if you have not already done so, perhaps under the aegis of the Inter-Parliamentary Union or the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and perhaps think of encouraging our colleagues in this country and across Europe to undertake such visits. There is much good work being done there which deserves and needs encouragement. The churches and NGOs, in particular, do phenomenal work with street children. They are helped, for instance, to build their own homes, which they then take possession of. We can learn a great deal from the resilience and resourcefulness of the Angolan people. I look forward to the Minister's reply.

Photo of Lord Redesdale Lord Redesdale Liberal Democrat 8:27 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, this has been an extremely wide-ranging debate. Indeed, when we drafted the topic for debate it was intended to be as wide-ranging as possible. However, I apologise to the Minister as this debate will perhaps tax her encyclopaedic knowledge of the African continent in the extreme. I shall not give the Minister 100 questions to answer, as I usually do. I have just three questions with which I shall end. I realise that she may not be able to answer them tonight. However, I would be grateful if she could write to me.

I should like to focus on three issues: good governance, problems of conflict, and international aid. In debates such as this, it is our tendency to count DfID as almost omnipotent in its ability to deal with intractable problems. However, having seen the process of development of DfID's policies over the years, one aspect which I believe will lead to sustainable development in Africa is the concept of good governance. Good governance is the cornerstone on which stable democracies can be based. However, one of the problems in Africa is that an association between democracy and government is too closely made.

An issue which I have often raised in your Lordships' House is that government is not the only aspect of democracy. Indeed, one of the reasons that e-mail addresses to the House of Commons and the House of Lords include the word "parliament" and not "dot.gov" is because Parliament includes opposition and the Government.

An interesting piece of graffiti that was spray-canned on to the road during the May Day disturbances a couple of years ago stated that, "It doesn't matter who you vote for, the Government always gets in". That is one of the problems which has faced many African countries. Therefore, one of the aims of DfID—it has been undertaken in many of the policies and also in the excellent work by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy—is to build the capacity of opposition parties, not just to fight elections, but to fulfil their important function of being government in waiting. I know that we on these Benches take very seriously our role as government in waiting.

The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, laughed. But I seem to remember that it was not that long ago that he stood at the Dispatch Box and the Labour Party was the government in waiting.

That is what makes stable government and is the basis of democracy. Too many problems have been based on the liberation elections that took place after independence, which led to governments which did not leave power. Indeed the "winner take all" mentality is still exhibited in some of the elections that I have monitored and in many countries that have suffered from one-party rule.

The second matter is the issue of conflict—which many noble Lords have discussed—between states, but more commonly, civil war in the countries of Mozambique, Angola and Sierra Leone. The Government handled the recent crisis in Sierra Leone with a great deal of courage and fortitude. The way that the British Army was seen to act in Sierra Leone is a matter of pride throughout the House. It gave resolve to the UN forces in such a way that their credibility was sustained. The RUF have unfortunately not been able to move into the role of constructive democratic opposition. But its guerrilla tactics have largely—although not totally—been brought to an end. However, Sierra Leone is an interesting example of a country that is in the transition to democracy. Great perils still await it. Just changing to having elections will not solve a lot of the problems there.

The major issue that is causing so many difficulties in Africa is the collapse into civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I remember the debate that took place in this House when Zaire looked on the point of collapse. Some of the worse nightmare scenarios have come to pass.

The vacuum has sucked in other countries. Africa is unusual in that its countries rarely take part in conflicts outside their own borders. But the great wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, has drawn in so many other countries. My noble friend Lord Avebury—who is not in his place but is on the other side of the Chamber at the moment—made an extremely educated and informed contribution to the debate tonight. I know that the Minister will heed many of the comments he made.

One issue that should be raised is that, if sanctions are undertaken, those, especially in the Zimbabwean Government, who are directly benefiting from the pillage of Congo's resources should have their bank accounts frozen. Companies that are involved in this should be tracked down and have the full weight of the law moved against them.

Under the issue of conflict, I want to add the issue of HIV and AIDS. In researching the issue of Africa, I came across the International Crisis Group's website. I can recommend the site to noble Lords; it is under crisisweb. Some lines caught my attention. They are:

"HIV/AIDS must be viewed as a security crisis with the potential to affect peoples, states and the international community in a similar fashion to more traditional forms of conflict . . . HIV/AIDS is profoundly destabilising in several important ways. When prevalent in epidemic proportions, HIV/AIDS can destroy, like war, the fundamental elements of a nation: individuals, families and communities; economic and social institutions; military and police forces. In this sense, HIV/AIDS undercuts human security, harming economic and social stability and breaking down governance and social cohesion".

I very much agree with that view. One statistic that sent chills down my spine was that by 2005 it is envisaged that there will be 100 million victims of this terrible scourge, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

The other issue that I wanted to dwell on was that of aid. I very much support the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, in his call for a movement towards the 0.7 per cent target. We have had many debates about reaching the 0.7 per cent target. I applaud the Government's attempt to raise the aid budget. However, I was struck by a recurrent theme that we should be aiming not for the 0.7 per cent but for the actual amount of money that is spent. That has been put forward in a number of debates. I believe that we should be aiming for the 0.7 per cent because, as pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, if the international community went for that, vast amounts of money could be made available. That could be used specifically to deal with the problem of unsustainable debt.

Many noble Lords have dwelt on the subject of Zimbabwe. It is an extremely sensitive subject at the moment. However, I want to put forward a point that has not been raised as strongly as it should. It is the opposition party in Zimbabwe which wants the elections to take place. It believes that it can win the election. It is important that the people of Zimbabwe are given the opportunity, which might conceivably happen, to resolve the difficulties that they have through free and fair elections. Whether the elections are free and fair, and whether we should ever use the expression free and fair is debatable. However, the international community is moving extremely slowly. I believe that the Commonwealth and the EU have a role to move strongly to bring about targeted sanctions.

I finish on the three questions that I said that I would ask the Minister. Two of them concern Zambia. It has recently gone through the election process. There was little mention of it in the press. First, have the Government received the final report of the EU observation mission on the Zambian elections? I believe that the EU mission thinks that the interim report that it has presented is its final report. Secondly, what action do the Government intend to take regarding the accusations of irregularities in the recent presidential elections?

The third question concerns Côte d'Ivoire where the leader of our sister party, Dr Alassane Ouattara, the former Prime Minister was banned from standing in the elections on accusations regarding the nationality of his parents and therefore himself. Can the Minister give us any indication of what action they have taken over that banning order?

Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Conservative 8:40 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, on initiating this important debate. In my limited time, I cannot follow his wide-ranging and thought-provoking speech on southern Africa. I will concentrate, inevitably, on Zimbabwe, as the situation there is poisoning the whole region and undermining efforts to promote democracy, stability and sustainable development in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zimbabwe is a subject about which many noble Lords, rightly, feel strongly. Like other noble Lords, I have received some distressing letters and e-mails from Zimbabwe. The year 2001 was a tough one for most Zimbabweans. The past few months have been the toughest. Rampant inflation, increased violence, politically motivated detentions, selective application of the law and the passing of unjust new laws have combined to plunge many into the depths of depression. I hope that tonight's proceedings will go some way to persuade Zimbabweans of all ages and the courageous opposition that they have our support and encouragement. Many Zimbabweans feel let down and betrayed by the international community.

I am sorry that the Foreign Secretary has been rebuffed late in the day by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which decided today not to suspend Zimbabwe from the Commonwealth. That sends out the wrong message to Mugabe. The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, said that incompetence, corruption and tyranny were leading to South Africa being particularly threatened. The South African Government have been slow to realise the danger. Perhaps the sinking rand, which has lost a third of its value in the past year, with the resulting drop in inward investment, coupled with the influx of Zimbabwean refugees, may be better at getting a warning through to Mr Mbeki than the British Government have been.

The noble Lord, Lord St John of Bletso, rightly said that African solutions were needed for African problems. The solution for Zimbabwe rests in regional action by Zimbabwe's neighbours, supported by an international coalition, demonstrating our support. In that context, what help are the Government giving to Botswana and other neighbouring countries to help cope with the hundreds of refugees fleeing from Zimbabwe each week?

One's first reaction to the recent statements on Zimbabwe by Her Majesty's Government and the European Union is to say, "At last". What has been blindingly obvious to many of us for months—that dialogue with Mugabe is a waste of time and that he reacts to appeasement like any other dictator, by pushing his aims still harder against what he takes, rightly so far, as weakness—finally seems to have dawned in Government policy circles. Constructive engagement with the Mugabe regime has demonstrably failed and is failing. The Government's response has been—if I recall the phrase correctly—quiet diplomacy. Meanwhile, the chief justice was terrorised into resigning, and other independent judges have been ousted; newspaper editors have been arrested and tortured; criticism of Mugabe has been criminalised; and evidence mounts daily of harassment, assault, torture and murder conducted by the Mugabe regime. My noble friend Lord Elton mentioned the report by Physicians for Human Rights/Denmark. It makes for chilling reading.

The wave of political violence has been so brutal that there is virtually no law and order in the country. My noble friends Lord Elton, Lord Blaker, Lord Goschen and Lady Park of Monmouth gave the House examples of the tyranny. I must congratulate my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth on taking on the high commissioner the other night and winning their public debate by a mile.

The chances of free and fair elections are already extremely poor. If—I repeat—if monitors are allowed in from the EU or other international bodies, it will be essential for them to report before the voting takes place on whether they believe that the conditions for free and fair elections exist. It would be pointless, after an election has been rigged and after Mugabe has proclaimed a victory—whatever the real result—for us to wring our hands and say that the elections were not fair. By then, it will be too late. If the Government here—and the EU more widely—are to have any credibility on the issue, we must act now.

The immediate priority is to ensure that we get the monitors into Zimbabwe, although it is already almost too late. I have two specific questions for the Minister, and I hope for answers tonight. First, can she give a clear and categoric assurance that, in the absence of monitors being in place on 3rd February, targeted sanctions will immediately be imposed? It is essential that President Mugabe be left in no doubt about that and that there be no question of any further prevarication. As my noble friend Lady Park of Monmouth said, British observers must be part of any EU delegation. Secondly, what about the role of the BBC—as my noble friend Lord Blaker asked—and other British media? Has there been some agreement to exclude the BBC from election coverage? If so, that is shameful. How can that be squared with the requirement that international media be allowed to operate freely? Nothing could send a worse signal about the feebleness of the EU approach, particularly to other unacceptable regimes. I look forward to the Minister's response to those vital questions.

If there are to be targeted sanctions, the House has a right to know how they will work, how they will be enforced and whether they will truly meet their objectives. How will the United States be involved? How will the sanctions be co-ordinated between the EU countries, the United States and, I hope, the Commonwealth? It is essential that the Mugabe regime be targeted and that any sanctions do not merely add to the misery and poverty already suffered by the long-suffering people of Zimbabwe.

The deterioration of Zimbabwe has been allowed to proceed unchecked for too long. If Britain is meaningfully to involve itself in sub-Saharan Africa, we must do all that we can to promote democracy and long-term economic stability, as essential safeguards against tyranny, poverty and the abuse of human rights. Zimbabweans are desperately looking to the world community to do something positive that will stop the state-sponsored terrorism. We welcome the Government's recent concern over Zimbabwe, but we urge them to translate their good intentions into action.

Photo of Baroness Amos Baroness Amos Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 8:48 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, for opening this important debate and for making a wide-ranging speech that set out the main challenges and opportunities.

The promotion of democracy and sustainable development in Africa is a key element of the Government's policy in sub-Saharan Africa. In the time available, I am unable to do justice to the breadth of the issues raised in the debate, but I should like to address the specific issues that have been raised in the context of the Government's overall strategy of working in partnership with African countries to bring about long-term sustainable change. I should also like to take the opportunity to thank noble Lords who have made positive comments about the role of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Secretary of State for International Development, and myself in the process.

There is no doubt that the development challenges facing Africa are daunting. Many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Wallace of Saltaire and Lord Joffe, have referred to them this evening. I shall not repeat them. However, on current trends, the region is unlikely to meet any of the millennium development goals, as the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, said.

But as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, pointed out, despite the challenges, there has been significant progress in many areas. In Sierra Leone, the government have reasserted control over the whole territory, and elections are on course for May of this year. The ceasefire in the Democratic Republic of Congo has held for nearly a year, and a start has been made in the peace process. More than 20 African countries achieved a growth rate of 4 per cent in 2001. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, is of course quite right to say that we need to see growth rates of 5 per cent and over, but I think that it is encouraging that so many countries have managed to achieve 4 per cent.

There were successful elections in seven African countries in 2001, with peaceful changes of government in three. As President Mbeki of South Africa has said:

"There are already signs of hope and progress. Democratic regimes that are committed to the protection of human rights, people-centred development and market-oriented economies are on the increase. African people have begun to demonstrate their refusal to accept poor economic and political leadership. These developments are, however, uneven and inadequate and need to be expedited further".

Seeing Africa's success stories "expedited further" is at the heart of UK policy towards Africa, whether in the field of democracy, or of sustainable development more widely. We are keen to work with a range of partners to achieve this. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, will be pleased to hear that what we are seeking is a partnership. The noble Lord spoke specifically about the need for self-help.

The nature of our partnership with African leaders and their people is fundamental. The emergence of the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NePAD, opens up fresh possibilities. NePAD is designed to place African countries on a path to sustainable growth and development. I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Bhatia, who spoke of the need for leadership to come from within Africa, that one of the important themes of NePAD is that it is clearly an African-led process, with a strong sense of African responsibility in responding to the continent's challenges.

Other important features are that it concerns sound political and economic governance. That is recognised as central to Africa's development. African leaders are seeking a new type of partnership with Africa's international friends, based on shared responsibility and mutual interest.

It is clear from many of the speeches that have been made in our debate that noble Lords think that much can be achieved if the political will is there. There is a new political will emerging among a number of African leaders at present. They are ready to engage more vigorously with the full range of Africa's problems—from conflict prevention to corruption. They want Africa to take its proper place in the international community and to access the benefits of globalisation. They want a new, more genuine partnership with us, one where Africans take primary responsibility for meeting Africa's challenges. We want to build on that new political will.

My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has pledged to make Africa a priority for this Government. It was in that spirit that he took the lead, with other G8 leaders, at the Genoa summit last June, in welcoming what was then the New African Initiative and is now the New Partnership for Africa's Development. In the same spirit, he has emphasised, most recently in his Mansion House speech in November last year, that the anti-terrorist agenda has not deflected us. Indeed, it has reinforced our determination.

This is an ambitious agenda, which I believe echoes the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, but we have an opportunity, and that opportunity exists now. That is because an important part of our response to NePAD is the development of the G8 Action Plan for Africa. I am closely involved in this process as the Prime Minister's personal representative, working with other G8 personal representatives and in regular dialogue with NePAD counterparts.

The objective of the G8 Action Plan for Africa is to help to define a new way of co-operating with Africa. Its aim is to articulate on behalf of G8 countries a willingness to work together in a framework of partnership and mutual accountability to address the policy constraints that inhibit Africa's development.

We are looking at a range of issues, such as economic growth, trade and investment. The Department for International Development has been engaged in capacity building to assist developing countries to negotiate in key fora. We have begun to see the fruits of that in, for example, the recent discussions at Doha. We are looking at peace and security, governance, health, education and knowledge; and of course we want to look at the quantity and quality of aid, and the issue of aid effectiveness.

The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, mentioned in particular the need to endorse the 0.7 per cent target. This Government have always said that moving towards 0.7 per cent is an aim. We recognise that, given the low base from which we started in 1997, this will take some time. However, I think that it is important to recognise that UK bilateral aid for sub-Saharan Africa increased from £434 million in 1997-98 to £757 million in 2000-01. Over the same period, the proportion of DfID bilateral resources allocated to the region increased from 32 per cent to 45 per cent. We are also working hard to increase the effectiveness of what we spend.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, asked what we are doing specifically in the area of democratisation and election support. The Department for International Development has programmes in many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Given the time available, I shall write to the noble Earl outlining in detail some of those programmes. I should like also to assure the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the process of working with parliamentarians remains important, not only for the work of the Department for International Development, but also for the work of the British Council, which I have seen in many of the countries that I have recently visited.

Our approach is multilateral. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, mentioned in particular work with our EU partners and the importance of us working in partnership. The European Union, with the UK as an active member, has a vital role to play in promoting democracy and sustainable development in Africa. The central objective of the EU's Partnership Agreement with the 77 countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) is to reduce and eventually to eradicate poverty, while contributing to sustainable development and to the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

The partnership, under the Cotonou agreement, has a strong political foundation. It is underpinned by a set of core values or "essential elements": respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, whose violation can lead to the suspension of aid. Good governance is considered to be a "fundamental element" of the Cotonou agreement. The EU will make its own response to the NePAD proposals.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, asked specifically about EU aid effectiveness. Noble Lords will know that we have been at the forefront of discussions to reform the EU aid programme, to focus its efforts on poverty elimination and to make the programme more effective. I share the aspiration of the noble Baroness to make the EU the best and most effective aid donor, second, of course, only to ourselves.

Let me turn to conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, an issue mentioned by many noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Bhatia and Lord Avebury, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. Not only is conflict one of the main obstacles to reducing poverty, upholding human rights and achieving sustainable development in Africa, it is also a threat to global security.

I have just returned from New York. Yesterday, the UN Security Council devoted its debate to conflict in Africa. We also received a briefing from the Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Armed conflicts in Angola, Sudan and Somalia, where numerous peacekeeping efforts have failed, are now all but ignored. In those war-ravaged nations, millions have been condemned to despair and misery. In the Great Lakes region, a dozen African nations have, one way or another, been sucked into a series of interlocking conflicts since the mid-1990s. Many other countries are affected by or are at risk of violent conflict.

There are some positive signs. I mentioned Sierre Leone. Hostilities between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which claimed the lives of many thousands, have also been brought to a close. Serious efforts are under way involving regional states and the United Nations to tackle the biggest challenge of all—the conflicts in the DRC and Burundi.

We need new approaches to deal with the changing and diverse nature of violent conflict in Africa. The challenge to the international system is not just to prevent or end hostilities in conflict zones but something far greater. It needs to help to transform regional and national political economies that are conditioned by violent conflicts into healthy systems based on political participation, social and economic inclusion, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The noble Baroness, Lady Park, the noble Lords, Lord St John of Bletso, Lord Astor of Hever, Lord Elton and Lord Blaker, and the noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, all spoke powerfully about Zimbabwe. It is significant that the action called for is always action in which the British Government are already engaged. The noble Lord, Lord Blaker, said that no action has been taken until now, but I must take issue with that statement. I have tried hard to ensure that noble Lords understand the Government's approach. We have made our views clear. We have had a regular dialogue with the people of Zimbabwe—including civil society and opposition groups. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Park, to whom I have spoken about this issue on many occasions and whose advice I have welcomed, that we have been in discussion with all the key influences.

Noble Lords find it difficult to accept, as do I, that we are dealing with a government who are not interested in upholding rights or in the international community's concerns. The Zimbabwean Government do not put the interests of their own people at the top of the agenda, which is why the approach we took has limits. However, we have taken a number of measures in response to the situation in Zimbabwe. There is a complete embargo on arms sales to Zimbabwe, a cut in non-humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of our military training team. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that we have been trying to secure peace and democracy—and we have been working consistently not only with the people of Zimbabwe but with the country's partners in the region, with the European Union, the Commonwealth and the United States to achieve both.

The multilateral approach to Zimbabwe is the most effective. International concern is reflected in four initiatives from the European Union, the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community and the United States that are complementary and mutually reinforcing. At the General Affairs Council on Monday, European Union foreign ministers decided to close the Article 96 consultation and to implement targeted sanctions if the government of Zimbabwe prevent the deployment of an EU observation mission starting by 3rd February 2002 or later prevent the mission from operating effectively—I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Astor, understands that point—likewise, if the government of Zimbabwe deny the international media free access to cover the election; or if there is a serious deterioration in terms of a worsening of the human rights situation or attacks on the opposition; or if the election is assessed as not being free and fair.

As I understand it, the government of Zimbabwe do not want the BBC to cover the election and it has, to all intents and purposes, been banned. We deplore that position.

Today, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group met, reviewed the situation in Zimbabwe, and expressed deep concern at the continued violence, political intimidation and actions against the freedom and independence of the media. I have asked for that statement to be made available in the Printed Paper Office because I am unable to read more from it now.

My noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Lord, Lord Joffe, asked about Export Control Bill. That measure does not undermine the Government's ability to take account of sustainable development in the export licensing process, but enhances the state of all consolidated EU and national arms export licensing criteria—including those relating to sustainable development.

The noble Lords, Lord Avebury and Lord St. John of Bletso, and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about Angola. We operate a two-track policy to support the existing sanctions regime against Unita as a means of pressing it towards dialogue while working on the Angolan Government to improve their humanitarian performance, tackle corruption and create genuine democratic space for possible dialogue.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked about the exploitation of the DRC's natural resources. We fully supported the creation of the UN panel to investigate, and an extension of the panel's mandate so that it can continue to monitor exploitation and its links with the continuation of conflict. If the noble Lord will permit, I shall write to him about Victor Bout.

The noble Lord, Lord Holme, asked about the World Summit on Sustainable Development and my noble friend Lord Hunt spoke about a range of environmental initiatives that have received little media attention. Environmental issues are critical and our priorities for the WSSD encapsulate all three pillars of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on Zambia.

Time is against me. This debate has highlighted some of the serious challenges faced by Africa, but it has indicated also the level of commitment that exists in the UK and among Africa's partners more widely, to help to meet those challenges. It is a long task but Africa's leaders are showing a fresh determination to tackle it. We have rightly been among the first to welcome the new partnership and shall continue to do all that we can to build on it.

Photo of Lord Wallace of Saltaire Lord Wallace of Saltaire Liberal Democrat 9:07 pm, 30th January 2002

My Lords, we are tight up against our three-hour limit. Very briefly, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I remind the House that we in the West are implicated in the development of Africa by our share in its corruption through off-shore tax havens. That makes the whole question of action against tax havens—many of which are under British sovereignty— extremely important.

Finally, we should remember that Zimbabwe is not the only country of concern in Africa. Many speakers have stressed that the future of the Congo, Nigeria and so on is also very important. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers almost exactly three hours after we started.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.