– in the House of Lords at 10:06 am on 14th December 2018.
My Lords, I am grateful to the usual channels for permitting this debate; to the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, for responding on behalf of the Opposition; to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice; and to the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, for their time and contributions today. My noble kinsman Lord Williams of Elvel said when I came into the House some years ago, “The wonderful thing about the House of Lords is that whatever you say, there will be a world expert listening to you”. Looking down the list of those who will contribute today, I am conscious of the expertise in the House, including a Nobel laureate, and I am greatly looking forward to hearing from noble Lords whose combined expertise and experience is sure to provide us with much to reflect on.
This has been a week of deep division, and reconciliation will be something that, although applied to foreign policy in this debate, must become central to our future in this country as well. Earlier this year at a dinner with Foreign Office officials, I was told that a management consultant had told them that what was needed in foreign policy were “more variable crunchy buckets”. Neither I nor they have any idea what this means, but I hope that this debate might be the Archbishop’s Christmas variable crunchy bucket offering.
At the very heart of the doctrines of the Christian faith and Christian practice should be, and is, the doctrine of the reconciliation of humanity to God through Jesus Christ. As a result, the Church has historically, at its best, been involved in reconciliation, and that has been the most significant part of my own experience of ministry. We live with the expectation and hope of life transformed. We live in a world where hospitality to the stranger, peace without violence and even hope of life everlasting are promised within the terms of our faith and of other great world faiths. We also live in a very human world, a world that is often messy and never perfect, yet I hold firm to the belief that we can create a society where mutual flourishing is possible, disagreeing well—a key phrase that I will come back to—is central, and respect for difference is paramount. We can anticipate a world where, as Psalm 85 tells us, mercy and faithfulness will meet, and righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
I realise that these deeply Christian and indeed Jewish foundations might be alien to some—indeed, they might even turn some off altogether—but the concepts are central to reconciliation. Words such as “forgiveness”, “peace” and “grace” feature not only in the Christian faith but in other world faiths and in many of the philosophies around humanism, and their application can benefit all alike. It is worth noting too when I speak from a faith position in a debate on foreign policy, defence and development that 85% of the world’s population subscribe to some faith, and that figure is rising, not falling. Whether or not we believe in or subscribe to a particular faith, it is nevertheless something that sets the world-view for the overwhelming majority of our fellow human beings.
Peace does not mean the absence of conflict, nor simply putting a sticking plaster on wounds after conflict. Peace and reconciliation is the ability to deal with conflict by non-violent means. Reconciliation is the strategic end state of sustainable peace using every tool available to us to create a framework that can transform violent conflict into non-violent disagreement. Tactically, it incorporates mediation, arbitration and even the use of armed force in a quasi-policing capacity through the UN and similar agencies. Reconciliation is needed before, during and after conflict. Pre-emptive reconciliation is essential. I think it was Bill Shankly who said, “I teach my lads to get their retaliation in first”—I catch a nod or two. We need to get our reconciliation in first.
Reconciliation happens from the top of society down, from the bottom of society up and from the middle of society out. It must include women, youth and minorities. If any group is left out, peace is not sustainable. In our democratic tradition, going back to the 17th century, we can say that general elections are essentially reconciled civil war. The work we do in this Chamber, in this Parliament, is an example of successful reconciliation in process. Every day in this Parliament, we disagree, often forcefully and passionately, but almost invariably non-violently. A world at peace, furthermore, is in Britain’s interest. It enables trade, it facilitates development, it reduces migration, trafficking and refugee numbers, it inspires innovation and permits human flourishing.
Moreover, peace and reconciliation are always local. I have spoken of the strategic and tactical aspects, but there is also the operational aspect: the pre-emptive work of averting conflict which, incidentally, is itself a massive economy over the deployment of troops, or the post-conflict reconciliation to avoid repeated cycles of violence, which are typical of so many areas of conflict. Every conflict is distinct, so reconciliation must be locally led by local reconcilers, served from outside, not ruled from outside. Every conflict is different, as I know from my own experience.
How, then, do we replicate the examples of successful reconciliation in this country, across Europe and elsewhere, and what lessons can we learn from situations of failure when it comes to British foreign policy? Above all, I argue that we need a holistic approach. The Government’s conflict, stability and security fund and the Stabilisation Unit are steps in the right direction, but what is needed is a joined-up approach to reconciliation straddling humanitarian, economic, social, ethnic, cultural, political, spiritual and religious factors, in which different departments of government work together under the umbrella of a joint reconciliation unit. More than that, because all reconciliation is local and because it requires such a wide range of partners and expertise, government cannot and should not try to do it all. Thus, a joint reconciliation unit must work hand in glove with NGOs, civil society and faith-based organisations, including Churches, outside government, neither ignoring them nor co-opting them.
As your Lordships would expect, I think faith-based organisations are especially important. The case I know best is the Anglican Communion in its 165 countries with its 85 million people. I think I have said this here before, but it is worth remembering that the average Anglican is a woman in her 30s in sub-Saharan Africa on less than $4 a day. Faith-based organisations are there before, during and after conflict.
Before holding this role, I visited a colleague, now a bishop, in eastern DRC during a period of heavy fighting, when, like the boy who,
“stood on the burning deck.
Whence all but he had fled”,
most NGOs had gone, but this clergyman stayed on. I was working with him and learning from him as he went out to bring refugees through the battle lines to safety—before, during and after conflict.
Whitehall discussions lead me to believe that a joint reconciliation unit involving public and private groups and faith-based organisations in partnership is indeed possible. By supporting this Motion, noble Lords will also support this approach. I shall be very interested to hear what discussions the noble Earl has had in his department on the subject.
Earlier this year, noble Lords discussed the National Security Capability Review, in which the development of a joint approach to security, the fusion doctrine, was announced. This approach acknowledged the importance of economics, security and influence in our policy, but it does not say anything about religion in a religious world. In St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we read that we are many parts, but we form one body:
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’”.
Partnership must bring in all those who are capable of making a difference.
I offer just one of many examples which I could pick up in which faith leaders in their communities are contributing to the process of reconciliation in the midst of violent conflict. In May this year, the Anglican Archbishop in South Sudan—happily called Archbishop Justin; it helps me remember his name—facilitated dialogue between leaders of government and opposition groups at international peace talks that were said to make more progress in two days than international efforts over the previous four years. The Archbishop facilitated the leaders, many of whom had not sat at the same table since the start of the conflict, to go further than expressing their opinions and party positions to the deep, heartfelt pain and injustice they had experienced during an ongoing conflict that had sent 2 million people into exile and more than 100,000 to their deaths.
The South Sudanese have an expression for such conversation: they call it “vomiting truth”, and its palpable effect was noted by all sides. I know this area a very little, having visited several times in the past four years, including to a town taken and retaken, with more than 3,000 bodies unburied when we went there, and consecrated a mass grave with the bodies of the local clergy and their families at my feet. There is a lot of truth to vomit. Yet the courageous Archbishop has since addressed thousands of South Sudanese citizens, the president and the leader of the opposition at a celebration to mark the signing of a new peace agreement. He not only prayed for the leaders but called on them to make good on their promises and turn peace on paper into peace in practice.
Of course, the work the Archbishop is doing cannot be done without Governments coming in and supporting, without the willingness of the population—bottom-up, middle out, top-down, outsiders—serving and helping, but that combination is capable of turning an area of war into an area that begins the long, painful, stony path of reconciliation.
To follow up this kind of momentary burst of hope, which can so easily slip back into conflict, needs a joint approach of the sort I am seeking to propose. We know that there is still a long way to go. That Archbishop Justin is not alone in the contributions he is making towards peace in South Sudan. Faith leaders across all denominations are playing a role in the journey. The work of reconciliation is not only elite diplomacy. Faith leaders work across the country, with their unique networks of thousands of grass-roots communities, to mediate between different tribes and stand against the factors that fuel the conflict, from corruption to gender-based violence. Youth and women’s groups, including the Mothers’ Union—the oldest and largest women’s group in the world—reach across urban and rural areas, into refugee and IDP camps, to support trauma healing.
Of networks close to the United Kingdom, the reconciliation work of the Commonwealth deserves to be more widely known and understood. The very existence of so diverse a family of nations co-operating in a spirit of good will speaks eloquently of the reality of reconciliation. Pathways towards self-determination and independence were often painful. Yet the Commonwealth story shows relations of trust swiftly being established on the new basis of equal partnership. Determination to build on good that is shared opens the way to overcome the bitterness or divisions of history.
What are known as the ‘good offices’ of successive Commonwealth secretaries- general are a shining star in the Commonwealth constellation. This patient and delicate work of defusing crises and upholding the values of the Commonwealth charter—particularly as they relate to democracy, the rule of law and human rights—has been carried forward in ways which encourage continuing dialogue and engagement. That it is unpublicised, and therefore unsung, makes it more rather than less valuable. Above all, the Commonwealth approach of consensus means that its actions are grounded in a long tradition of uniting around agreement that all can own rather than of there being winners or losers. That is a vital component in lasting reconciliation. I know that many Members of this House have contributed to Commonwealth work on reconciliation, including the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, from whom the House will hear in a minute. He was a member of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding. He also contributed to the Commonwealth Roundtable on Reconciliation held here in London in 2013.
The cost of war and conflict is all-encompassing. Those affected by violence pay for it in ways that linger for generations. We pay for violence with our prosperity, with our humanity and with our lives. There is an unimaginable toll for those who suffer in conflict. There is also a toll on those who inflict suffering. Constant strife leads to global poverty, oppression and displacement. Our policy must have a strategy of reconciliation that aligns with our values as a nation to alleviate that burden, and we must be bold—although not brash—in deploying it.
The process of reconciliation is long—generations long, as we know from Northern Ireland, and as noble Lords may imagine from the story I told of South Sudan. It will require a quality of leadership at all levels, which this country is uniquely placed to offer, given our history and ties to nations around the world, not least through the Commonwealth and the Anglican Communion. President John F Kennedy reminded us that history shows that we need a peace where the weak are empowered and the strong are just. Reconciliation is not only about being the best that we are, but giving the space, platform and opportunity for others to be the best that they are.
The factors that motivate violence are always immensely complex, and our solutions must reflect that. That is why reconciliation, with its arsenal of tools, is so effective. It is a unique approach to each situation. It does not simplify, generalise or, indeed, idealise. Rather it empowers a community to find ways of living harmoniously, offering tools for disagreeing well—for peaceful disagreement. The formation of a joint reconciliation unit would be fundamental in making reconciliation an integral part of our international policy. It would save money, time and, ultimately, lives. The Book of Genesis takes us on a journey from violence to reconciliation through the stories of brothers. These are great iconic stories, from the fratricide of Cain and Abel to Joseph and his brothers, on the back of whose reconciliation the 12 tribes become no less than the nation of Israel. We must adopt foreign, defence and international development policies that enable societies to reconcile and flourish together to bring about the prosperous, diverse and joyful world that is within our grasp.
I am sure that many noble Lords here can sympathise, particularly at the moment, with Marcus Aurelius, who said:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly”.
Indeed, people can be much worse than that. Our societies are not perfect; we ourselves are not perfect. But, as he goes on to say, we can strive to recognise, even when dealing with our enemies,
“that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own … We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower”.
The international aid organisation Christian Aid has for its Christmas appeal this year the slogan, ‘Be a peacemaker’. It is the job of each and every one of us, wherever we are, from the local to the international, to be a peacemaker in our communities. This is the time of gift giving. Let us resolve to begin the process of offering the gift of peace, however that may look, this Christmas. I hope noble Lords will support Christian Aid in this campaign.
I also desire to see reconciliation and healing take root in our hearts, and manifest in our actions, so that our policies at home and abroad are motivated by faith and hope rather than fear. Let our foreign, defence and international development policy reflect our commitment to understanding our enemies, recognising their pain and resolving our differences in a manner that acknowledges and embraces their humanity and diversity. We need to find the balance of mercy and justice, forgiveness and reparation, of the kingdom of heaven and of our world today as we move on from divided pasts into shared futures.
I look forward to what I am sure will be a fascinating and hopeful debate, and I hope that noble Lords may join me, one way or another, when I pray:
“Give peace in our time, O Lord”.
My Lords, with a little bit of trepidation and surprise, it is my pleasure to speak after the most reverend Primate. I assure noble Lords that I will keep to a fairly short compass in the matters I am going to refer to. Three or four words that the most reverend Primate used remain with me: “local”, “inclusive” and “bottom up” are important elements in developing reconciliation. “Bottom up”, in particular, was a key element in the process that led to the Belfast agreement, also known as the Good Friday agreement, in 1998. Too many previous attempts to resolve the problems in Northern Ireland had come from the top down. They failed because they were not based in the local communities. That was essential to the process that did succeed. Even though it was rocky at times, and has been since, I can say quite confidently that the principles of the agreement we made in 1998 survive and that we have no doubt about the stability of our institutions. I know that in recent weeks and months, some people have suggested that the situation in Northern Ireland may not be as stable as I am representing it—but I think that I am correct on this matter.
With regard to being local, my comments today will be very local because of my own experience; I apologise in advance for that. The third term the most reverend Primate used was “inclusive”. A huge part of our process was that it was designed to be inclusive. That had caused difficulties from the onset of the Troubles right up until then, but the inclusive nature of that process has been important to the degree of reconciliation we have achieved in Northern Ireland. I know from my own supporters about the idea of finding ourselves sitting down beside Republicans, who in some cases had been guilty of violence and all the rest of it. Here I will add something in parenthesis. Only a few days ago we had a little ceremony in Queen’s University Belfast to mark the murder of Edgar Graham, a lecturer in law and an elected representative in the Stormont Assembly. It comes back that that murder was set up by another law lecturer at Queen’s University who was responsible for facilitating several attempts at violent actions by Republicans, including the attack which was designed to murder the Lord Chief Justice.
To come back to the concept of being inclusive, the Administration we formed held within it all the major political elements in Northern Ireland, and during the time that I was First Minister we worked together successfully. That system continues today. Unfortunately, the Assembly and the Administration are not functioning because the two major parties in Northern Ireland now, the DUP and Sinn Féin, have fallen out, and we have not yet got to a position where we can re-form that Administration. However, I do not doubt that it will happen, and I certainly hope that it may now happen fairly soon.
Again on the theme of reconciliation, I will dip into a couple of bits of history in Northern Ireland that are not terribly well known. The first involves James Craig, who was the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. In 1922, at the point where powers with regard to security, policing and criminal law were about to be devolved to Stormont, Craig made a significant decision. At that time, despite the difficulties they had—in 1922 there were about 500 fatalities; there was no safety or security at the time—he decided that there would be no recourse to capital punishment in the situation he was dealing with. For that to happen in 1922 was quite remarkable—and it was adhered to. Through all the Troubles in the 1920s—as I say, a significant number of people died as a result of them—there was no capital punishment at all. Indeed, for the whole of the existence of Stormont there has been only one execution, which was in the 1940s during the Second World War, when the circumstances were slightly different. Craig did not get any thanks from people for what he did—but that is not unusual in this sort of situation.
One of the keystones of the agreement was the question of early release of prisoners. Again, it was quite controversial, and I know that many of my supporters did not like it. I knew that we would have been on very weak ground had we tried to oppose that. We would then have been reminded that in 1956, towards the end of the Troubles known as the Border Campaign, when Viscount Brookeborough was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, he released prisoners early. However, because it was not done publicly and consequently did not go into the popular mind. But I knew that it was there, and that it would be appropriate for us to follow that.
I omitted to say that James Craig’s reason for not resorting to capital punishment was that, if he had done so, greater bitterness would be engendered by that, and it would be easier to bring people together again after peace had been restored if there had not been a resort to capital punishment. So in 1922, James Craig clearly had reconciliation in his mind.
I will get a bit more personal. Reference was made to the fact that John Hume and I received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998. We went to Oslo for that, and one of the significant things that happened then was that a significant number of Ulster Unionists were there, as well as members of the Democratic Unionist Party and the Social Democratic Party. I am not quite sure who proposed it, but we decided to party together; after the event we would go back to the hotel and, instead of each going into our own little area, we would all party together—over two nights, I think I am right in saying. I suppose it was a bit of an achievement to have a second night after the first—but we did, and I am glad to see that a noble Lord who was present there is nodding in approval of what I am saying. That was useful, because we knew that we would have to work together closely, and it was a significant help in forming good relationships along the way.
Another thing that happened there was that my wife and Pat Hume, John’s wife, got together and started thinking about what they could do to help advance the process. On returning to Belfast, they approached the Northern Ireland Office, and from those discussions, Pat and my wife Daphne were added to the board of the Northern Ireland Memorial Fund. The memorial fund was created to be a means of reconciliation, and after joining it, they were able to quickly advance its work. It was focused on trying to deal with the people, communities and families who had suffered in the Troubles, and the memorial fund made a significant contribution to that. Interestingly, the strapline it used was, “Peace, Reconciliation, Support”. That was offered to those who, as I say, had suffered from the Troubles in one way or another, and it was done on a fairly broad level. It excluded perpetrators, but not their families. Consequently, people were drawn from across the community as a whole to participate in the activities, particularly those of a more recreational kind, such as holidays and visits to various places. That was a beneficial aspect of it. The Administration who followed us changed the nature of the provision for victims. I will not comment on those changes: my wife and I have mixed feelings about them, but it is not appropriate to deal with that today.
I will make another couple of points. One of the things that developed from the Troubles in Northern Ireland is what are called heritage issues—dealing with the consequences of the violence—and there is a fair amount of controversy around this. Proposals have been made, but there is no consensus over what has been done, and part of the reason for the absence of consensus is that republicans are trying, in effect, to rewrite history by saying, “We might have done bad things, but the British Army and the police were just as bad; there is no difference between one and the other”. That proposition is not acceptable to the unionist community, or indeed to a broad sector of public opinion in Northern Ireland.
We have a problem hanging over that—which is ironic, because we did not have this sort of problem with regard to previous stages of the Troubles. The reason we did not have it in earlier times is that one of the main means that the authorities used to deal with the Troubles was to intern people, not to put them through the courts. That was a significant tool in dealing with terrorist organisations. It meant that they were in a special category in a sense, by virtue of having been interned—but when they go through the courts and are convicted they want to try to undermine that conclusion by rewriting history.
Another important factor in improving reconciliation in Northern Ireland comes from the work of Her Majesty the Queen. What she has done in Northern Ireland and in Ireland generally has helped us to change the atmosphere very significantly indeed. During the Jubilee celebrations there was a service in Enniskillen to mark the Jubilee on the same basis as elsewhere in the United Kingdom. A significant thing happened immediately after that service: the Queen left the Anglican cathedral in Enniskillen, crossed the road into a Catholic church and was met there by Archbishop Brady, then leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, with his fellow bishops and other members of that faith. I think that this was the first time the Queen had been in an Irish Catholic church.
Because of the security arrangements, we found ourselves having to wait for some time before we could get a car, but eventually the Queen left and people started to come away. I noticed a priest who had come out of the church and was standing outside. I crossed the road and asked him how things had gone. He was floating on air. You could see how he felt about what had happened: the symbolic recognition of the place of that church in the society of Northern Ireland. That helped to change the situation. Around that time, I remember hearing another Catholic priest in Northern Ireland make the observation that in the United Kingdom there is a recognition by the state of the position of the churches. He contrasted that with the position of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland, where its status within society has been diminished quite considerably. He compared that with the position we have in the United Kingdom. On that point, I will conclude.
My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord. He said he was rather trepidatious about participating in this debate. He had no reason for that, but I certainly do. I can only reassure the most reverend Primate that I am not an expert, and certainly not a world expert. However, the magnificent sweep of his speech has led me to reflect on what I was intending to say, to see whether I can pick up some of the things he talked about.
Something often seen as contextual to reconciliation but which I think has a much more immediate and practical impact is the role that cultural heritage can play, both by making reconciliation almost impossible when it is destroyed and yet enabling it when it is recognised as the sort of difference that we must respect. The most reverend Primate talked about the need for respecting difference. This is a prime example and belongs in the arsenal of tools for reconciliation about which he spoke.
The first challenge is to ensure that both cultural monuments and the intangible heritage of different cultures, which in their universal values belong to the whole world, are respected as such and that we prevent their destruction; which fuels a rage and bitterness that crosses not only generations but centuries The second is to restore and rebuild all forms of cultural heritage, not least as a work of reconciliation and resilience, as part of the holistic restoration of order and sustainable peace after conflict. Importantly, most of the innovative work in this field is now being led by the UK. It is an area of policy that faces its own challenges: not least how it can best be integrated as an effective arm of aid and development policy, as well as defence and foreign policy.
Noble Lords will know that the destruction of culture as a weapon of war goes back millennia. There has never been a more powerful act of propaganda than the way, throughout history, that culture and heritage have been targeted for destruction by those who hate others’ beliefs and way of life. From the reliefs of the enemy warriors cut deep into the temples of Karnak to the destruction of Mostar bridge, it is clear that what aggressors fear most is not military might but the survival of the values and heritage of those whom they are intent on subjugating. Grotius in the 17th century wrote about that in his great work, On the Law of War and Peace.
Those beliefs are reflected in monumental history but are not contained by those monuments. That is why they are such a threat to an enemy who aims, in the words of Irina Bokova, the director-general of UNESCO, to wipe out and cleanse all traces of a counter-culture. We also know from long experience that lasting peace cannot be built in a cultural desert. History, identity and memory cannot be erased, but when they are threatened with annihilation, the fear and rage that persist poison generation after generation. The 20th century is a narrative of that.
Cultural heritage is also vulnerable to ignorance and collateral damage, as the Chilcot report found. It reported that,
“by failing to provide for the protection of cultural property, Coalition planners made it considerably more difficult for troops on the ground to win hearts and minds”.
Despite instinctively knowing that, it still took us 50 years to ratify the Hague convention. But when the Cultural Property (Armed Conflicts) Bill was eventually passed, two years ago, supported by the work of the Blue Shield, there was universal rejoicing, not least because it was the signal for the MoD to move ahead on creating a new cultural property protection unit, which is now brilliantly led by Lieutenant Colonel Tim Purbrick. The work of this new unit in preventing the destruction of monuments and protecting art and archaeology will, I am sure, make a major contribution to the long processes of reconciliation by removing some of the most toxic elements of what inspires rage and fear.
I will focus the remainder of my speech on the work of the British Council—its proactive, local work—and the £30 million cultural protection fund, which is managed primarily by the British Council and DCMS. It is an inspired piece of policy-making and has a real role to play in reconciliation. The fund is, in essence, an agent for building peaceful and meaningful relationships with communities across 12 countries in the Middle East and North Africa: areas of great conflict. It does this through the promotion and protection of cultural heritage intrinsically linked to that place. It recognises in its work that there cannot be reconciliation without mutual respect for different cultures and beliefs, however they are expressed. Therefore, its priorities are to support the care and restoration of built heritage and intangible heritage, as well as museums, archives, archaeology and monuments. These are the storehouses of the world’s knowledge, as well as being of huge local significance.
The British Council says, quite rightly, that, through placing value on this heritage and enabling communities to play a pivotal role in its protection, we are contributing to the resilience of often extremely persecuted minority groups, including Syrian and Yazidi refugees. On the ground, it helps to train people to restore cultural monuments, and it helps to build local capacity to foster, safeguard and promote cultural heritage. Local partners on the ground can access grants of between £100,000 and £2 million for this work.
Many of the projects that are supported are for recording cultural heritage at risk of being lost for ever, for training local stonemasons or for embedding cultural protection in political structures. I am sure that noble Lords will have heard of the work being done by the British Museum and the World Monuments Fund to train Syrian stonemasons. There are other examples of projects where local groups are trained to document digitally the monuments that are at risk. In fact, they are funding archaeologists in eight different countries to use aerial detection techniques so that they can see from the air what they can no longer reach on the ground. Another project enables Yazidis to make films of their own culture. Others are rehabilitating heritage sites, such as the great Byzantine church in Jabalia in Gaza. The fund also supports the Turquoise Mountain Trust to ensure that the aims of the CDF are aligned with the objectives of the Afghan Government.
The fund is therefore about so much more than protecting or conserving culture and memory; it is about cultural resilience and capacity in fragile states, and about laying the foundations for sustainable peace. However, it also sits well within the wider dimensions of reconciliation, understanding that poverty and marginalisation breed despair and rage. It demonstrates how knowledge, skills, jobs and resources can build the elements of a sustainable peace. These ideas have now been developed by the British Council in its recent report on how cultural heritage can be a force for inclusive growth.
That links with our own country because it embeds our sense that what has made our past is also part of our future. It builds identity through an understanding of shared history and cultures. The Heritage Lottery Fund in this country, in which I should declare an interest, has played an important role in framing that work.
This is nothing but good news, but there could be better news. First, if the MoD leadership was picked up by the FCO and DfID, we could get the holistic approach to development through culture that is presently missing, and that would give enormous force and reach to this work. Secondly, the fund is running out just at the point when its impact is being recognised and demand is growing.
In conclusion, I have two questions for the Minister. Will he go back to his colleagues in those departments and insist that they work more closely with the DCMS to bring about that integrated role in development and aid in foreign and defence policy? That would really optimise the work being done through these cultural agencies so that we could build from the bottom up the sort of reconciliation that will remove generations from fear and hate and build something that will last. Will he also go to the DCMS and ask his colleagues there to consider, as a matter of urgency, extending the programme which has been so successful? Only then will we meet the message and imperatives set out by the most reverend Primate this morning.
My Lords, we should all be extremely grateful to the most reverend Primate—as I certainly am—for having chosen, as the theme for the annual debate on which he leads, a topic which looks outwards to the rest of the world and not inwards, as the national obsession with Brexit tempts us to do. He has done so at a time when the rules-based international order, to whose construction this country has devoted so much time, effort and resolve, is under fundamental challenge, not least from our closest ally, the United States. It is a time when wars between states are less frequent than wars within states, which are typically those that most urgently require reconciliation when they are over if they are not to recur. One has only to look at the successive killing orgies between the Hutu and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi for an example. It is a time too when tensions between those professing different religions, or even in some cases between different branches of the same religions, are on the rise in a manner not seen since Europe was convulsed by them in the 17th century and lost a considerable proportion of its population.
What can we in Britain hope to do in the face of those threats? First, we can work to strengthen the efforts of the United Nations to prevent conflict, to resolve conflicts and build peace where some peace has been achieved, and to promote human rights. An example of what the United Nations can do was yesterday’s events in Stockholm, when the appalling civil war in Yemen was brought to a very temporary halt by an agreement on exchange of prisoners and by the opening of the port of Hodeidah. Do not let us throw our hats in the air—this is the beginning of a very long road that will require a great deal of reconciliation as well as a great deal of statesmanship by all concerned, but it shows what the UN is capable of when it gets the support of its principal members.
Of those members, Britain, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has a duty to strengthen the UN. As a medium-ranking power with global interests, we have a major interest in doing so. Therefore, we should provide more resources to the UN’s role in conflict prevention. I believe that we should contribute more troops to UN peacekeeping missions, and we should make a reality of the responsibility to protect, not so much in terms of military intervention, which must always remain a last resort, but in using every diplomatic and economic tool in the international toolbox to prevent wars breaking out and to prevent gross breaches of international humanitarianism—war, massacres and genocide—which have often occurred.
Secondly, we need to put to the best possible use our commitment to devoting 0.7% of our gross national income to aid and development, and defend that commitment against those—there are plenty of them—who wish to reverse it. I applaud the Government’s decision to devote a substantial proportion of that commitment to fragile and failing states, where very often there can be no effective development until there is security and reconciliation. That commitment, too, ensures that we play a leading role in the effort to implement, by 2030, the UN’s sustainable development goals, which constitute the essential underpinning of reconciliation in fractured societies.
Thirdly, we need a bit of humility when approaching reconciliation. It cannot successfully be imposed from the outside; nor can it be successfully imposed from the top down. The most reverend Primate made that point very effectively. It has to come from the citizens of the countries concerned if it is to be durable. It requires that we do far more to nurture the growth of non-governmental organisations and other institutions of civil society in countries at risk. It requires too the nurturing in those countries of the rule of law, which is every bit as important as democracy. It requires us to strengthen the application of our own laws to ensure that we are in no way complicit in genocide, war crimes, bribery, money laundering or the payment of ransoms—whether openly criminal acts are involved or it is merely aid to oppressive Governments.
What can and should we do against the emergence of religious fundamentalism around the world? It is by no means confined to Muslim countries. There are plenty of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and Jewish fundamentalists who do not believe in the value of tolerance for other religious. The Church of which the most reverend Primate is leader does believe in those values, and that is admirable. It helps to promote reconciliation.
What can be done? Most importantly, we must avoid lumping any advocate of religions other than our own together into a single category, as if to be judged by the crimes committed by the small minority in their ranks. We must realise that there are many hundreds of millions of devout Muslims who bitterly condemn the crimes committed in the name of their religion by IS, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram. The manifestations of Islamophobia in this country—and, alas, occasionally even in this House—will only serve to strengthen the fringe movements to which I referred.
In this new epoch, in which—Brexit or no Brexit—this country will need to navigate and to shape its international policies, we will need more co-operation and joint effort with other countries. That is why I found the call to re-invent separate national identities in the speech by the US Secretary of State in Brussels last week, which fortunately did not get a lot of press coverage, completely aberrant. We Europeans tried that prescription in the first half of the 20th century and it was not a huge success. Let us not go there again but rather follow the precepts of reconciliation, support for a rules-based international order and tolerance, which are at the heart of the most reverend Primate’s own teaching and advocacy.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate. In doing so, I declare my interests as set out in the register. I thank the most reverend Primate for securing this debate at this time; it could barely be more prescient. I will speak about technology, international development and some of the programmes I am involved in.
The fourth industrial revolution, as it has been called, which includes all the technologies around artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, the internet of things and nanotechnology, offers huge possibilities for mankind in this country and internationally—to bring together, to collaborate, to connect. But there exists at its heart a piquant paradox. As a nation and a world, with smartphones in our hands and minute-by-minute media, we have never been more connected; and yet contrast that with the worrying rise of populism, protectionism, nationalism and retreatism.
There are such possibilities through 4IR to address some of the most intractable problems and to bring individuals, groups, organisations, institutions and nations closer together for an enduring good. It is a possibility but in no sense an inevitability. If we get it wrong, we may not only exacerbate division and increase exclusion, but at worst we could potentially wipe out civilisation and this planet through the use and deployment of autonomous weaponry. There is no room for reconciliation if we have all been reduced to ashes. Yet if we get it right and focus on what it is to be human—what we are when we come together in an inclusive environment—there are such possibilities right around the world.
One of the international development programmes I am involved in is the Global Disability Innovation Hub, which has this sense of innovation and possibility right at its heart. It was a legacy programme from the London 2012 Paralympic Games, one of the most inclusive events ever put together on planet earth, with 168 nations all coming together in east London in the most inclusive, diverse and accessible environment ever put together. Just under 5,000 athletes were brought together for the Games of the possible. Never mind the sport; there was that sense of possibility through creating an inclusive environment and an inclusive culture. That was the basis to roll it out and use the park as a blueprint for inclusive design and to take that to collaborate globally to see what is possible, not least in sub-Saharan Africa.
On many of these themes—assistive technology, computer design and, most importantly, as with all this stuff, participation and partnerships—no matter how much potential there is through innovation, the real magic always comes from the human. We know how to drive reconciliation, coming together and connection, and that comes through all those human qualities that we have and that we have known about for centuries.
Perhaps the greatest hope for real change at scale comes from the next generation, as it often does. This is clearly and fundamentally understood by the British Council in all the work it does around the world, putting dialogue in place of conflict—jaw-jaw instead of war-war. There are fabulous schemes, their intent so clear from their title, such as “Take a Child to School”. In Pakistan alone, almost a quarter of a million children who otherwise would not have had that experience have gone to school. We all know the devastating consequences—at an individual, national and global level—if that right to education is not guaranteed and assured for every young person right around the world.
There are extraordinary programmes happening, not least from our own Department for International Development. There could be no greater example of inclusion than our own Secretary of State launching the disability strategy from the Dispatch Box using British Sign Language for the first time in the Chamber. How inclusive is that?
There are great programmes happening and great possibilities, but we should never be naive about reconciliation. There is no purpose in pushing for reconciliation if we are still in the midst of trouble, no point pretending we are upon a host of daffodils if in reality we are closer to a much darker place. As Oasis put it:
“Some might say they don’t believe in heaven
Go and tell it to the man who lives in hell”.
Hell is the experience for so many people across the planet, right now, as we conduct this debate. It has not been the best week for British politics—it was an interminable Tuesday—but that was as nothing compared to the daily experience of millions of people around the world this very day.
We cannot be naive about that: reconciliation is nothing if we cannot tell the fundamental truth. Truth comes before reconciliation and enables reconciliation, no matter how hard, painful or uncomfortable those truths almost certainly will be. Unless we stand on that solid ground, in any situation, there can be no potential of coming together and reconciliation. It cannot be faked or glossed over if we want real, sustainable coming together and connection, and a commitment to a brighter and better future.
I do not like overly deconstructing the English language, but if we get it right in terms of a more inclusive approach—as is our aim with the Global Disability Innovation Hub—and if we can develop, foster and enable those inclusive cultures, perhaps we can do a little of what we might call pre-conciliation: mitigating, if not reducing, the need for reconciliation through avoiding, as far as possible, some of the most intractable and difficult situations in the first instance.
Alongside that, we should consider the central place of trust. From the truth, trust must emerge. That is how trust can come from the former aggressor or former oppressor and that is how the aggressed and oppressed can then trust those individuals, institutions and nations. And those individuals, institutions and nations can do this, not in a grandiose way but day by day, minute by minute, to demonstrate that going forward they are trustworthy.
Rather than merely wait for reconciliation, important, powerful and meaningful though it can be, we should all consider what role we could and must play, often in the midst of the mire and the madness. There is no more shocking or sickening example in recent history than what we saw in Nazi Germany—that eternal stain at the centre of Europe. I am reminded often of the Talmudic verse, “He who saves the life of one saves the world entire”. Oskar Schindler knew this, as did hundreds of others, whose names are unknown: to do the right thing, even against the prevailing military force and the most powerful propaganda machine we have ever seen in recent history. We must do the right thing even when no one is looking; do the right thing even though it may cost you your life, as it did for so many; do the right thing even on the darkest of days.
Perhaps it is time—perhaps it is even well over time—that we all put on our armour of light and engaged in the most practical of all pursuits: to do the right thing. We must see what we can do at that most practical level to help, support, enable, inspire, engage and include. We must put on our armour of light and get about uniting and knitting together. Even a single stitch can secure.
My Lords, I too am grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for securing this debate. We live in a time when the world’s politics are changing; new economic powers are emerging and new alliances are being formed. However, as one of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, the world’s sixth largest economy, head of the Commonwealth and an active member of the European Union—as it stands today—Britain has an important role in international politics. I believe that Britain could use its position to do more in conflict resolution through mediation.
There are many conflicts in the world that Britain is best placed to help resolve, particularly those in the Commonwealth, where Britain enjoys good relations with all member states. One conflict area that I would like to draw your Lordships’ attention to is that of India and Pakistan over the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is one of the oldest issues in the history of the United Nations: the Kashmiris are waiting for the implementation of the United Nations resolutions of 1948 and 1949. The United Nations Human Rights Commission report of August 2018 highlighted very serious human rights violations, including illegal detentions, torture, murder and rape, and injuries sustained by civilians at the hand of the Indian security forces. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people have been killed in Kashmir over the last couple of decades. It is important to remember that this conflict is a legacy of the British Empire and we have a moral duty to help resolve it.
The former state is divided largely between India and Pakistan, who have been at war with each other three times and have fought many battles. Now, both countries are nuclear powers, and any war between them could have a devastating effect on not only the region but the rest of the world. Both countries are spending huge amounts on defence, largely to man the difficult mountainous range around the line of control that divides Kashmir. This year, the defence budgets of both countries show Pakistan spending $9.2 billion and India spending $63 billion.
Yet according to the Wall Street Journal of
In the light of all this, I wonder whether Her Majesty’s Government or the Church will offer a ray of hope to the 1.5 billion people of India and Pakistan, including 13 million Kashmiris, by offering a mediation process between India and Pakistan to bring peace in that region by resolving the Kashmir issue through peaceful means and bring an end to the agony of the Kashmiri people.
My Lords, I warmly congratulate the most reverend Primate on the third of his excellent speeches which I have heard over the past weeks—first, in the Abbey on the plight of Christians in the Middle East; then at the start of our Brexit debate; and now on the good Christian theme of reconciliation. The Epistles talk of ambassadors for Christ with the gospel of reconciliation, and Christ himself spoke of peacemakers as blessed, so I gladly give a few random reflections on his theme.
First, it is absolutely right that he mentions the interlocking and complementary roles of the three departments—Foreign Office, Defence and International Development—in pursuit of reconciliation. Attempts by us to solve conflicts often require a combination of these three and others.
A good example is the western Balkans during and after the bloody wars of the 1990s. Think of the horror of the massacre of 7,000 or 8,000 Muslim men at Srebrenica. The three departments had been involved in seeking solutions to these conflicts, mostly in coalition with the European Union and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has said, with the United Nations. Now the FCO and the Ministry of Defence, with their substantial reduction in resources, must view with envy the fixed financial commitment available to DfID. There is surely a need for a debate on rebalancing and redefining the role of the three departments. For example, our military was used, properly, to combat the Ebola outbreak, a development crisis.
Often, early military intervention can save lives. I cite the Rwanda genocide in 1994 when, over three months, 800,000 people were killed. A simulation exercise by West Point concluded that 500 or so military at the outset might have prevented the carnage. I had the honour of chairing two reconciliation meetings of Hutu and Tutsi representatives at the Christian Centre at Ashburnham, near Battle in Sussex, at the time, and learned at first hand of the horrors.
Surely there is no lasting development without peace and stability. Well-judged military intervention and skilful diplomacy can lead to peace, as we saw with the excellent military intervention of our forces in Sierra Leone. We should also not forget the role of arbitration mentioned by the most reverend Primate—for example, the arbitration by the Pope over the Beagle Channel dispute between Argentina and Chile.
We should be encouraged by recent progress on conflicts which earlier appeared incapable of solution. I look forward to the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and listened with appreciation to the excellent speech of the noble Lord, Lord Trimble. After Sharpeville and Soweto, the South African problem appeared intractable, as did the problem in Northern Ireland, but Churches, the private sector and the civics—the community groups—played a key role in bridge-building at the time.
This raises the question of the role of Governments as against individuals and communities. Governments cannot forgive injustices—only the victims can. Governments can, however, provide encouragement and facilities for individuals and groups to promote reconciliation. Governments can also learn lessons from the past—lessons for good and for ill. Contrast post-war Germany and Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. In Germany after 1945, yes, the leaders of the Nazis were disposed of at Nuremberg, but the great majority of people, such as Konrad Adenauer, who played such a key role in democracy-building, were given the opportunity to build the structures of the very democratic Federal Republic of Germany. By contrast in Iraq, after 2004 the neocons in Washington overruled the State Department and Colin Powell and demobilised the Iraqi army, unpaid and keeping their arms, and destroyed the structures of the state, which led to the chaos that followed.
There are limits to the possibility of reconciliation, often not recognised by Church leaders. However worthy the cause, however strenuous the effort, some world problems may indeed be without solution and our best efforts must be directed at preventing the worst—or, in despair, redrawing national boundaries, as happened, for example, between Ethiopia and Eritrea and is now in prospect between Serbia and Kosovo.
Perhaps also the Arab-Israeli conflict may fall into this category. Much valuable work has been done at a micro level and I applaud the work of the noble Lord, Lord Stone, and bodies such as Tracks of Peace. The best efforts of President Clinton—and what US President has spent so much effort on a particular foreign problem as he—and the shuttle diplomacy of Secretary of State Kerry failed even though there is, among most people of good will, a broad consensus over the outlines of a solution. Bottom up, yes, and top down. Solomon would no doubt have found a solution but, even if the effort is worth while, alas, our diplomats cannot find one.
Similarly in Cyprus—on which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, played a significant and excellent role—the broad lines of an agreement are clear in the Annan plan, but this is the Mediterranean, with the all the passions of the Mediterranean, and even moderates such as President Anastasiades of the republic and Mr Akinci in the north, with strong personal chemistry, have failed to reach an agreement.
Further, it may be misplaced to seek reconciliation with some leaders. It would be impossible to seek reconciliation with a Hitler or a Pol Pot, however good one’s intentions. Think of the frozen conflicts around Europe, mostly the result of Russian adventurism in Georgia, Crimea, Transnistria or Nagorno-Karabakh, which defy the best international efforts at reconciliation.
There are, however, some signs of hope in the gloom, making a search for solutions worth while. I was co-founder and senior vice-president of a body called AWEPAA, the Association of West European Parliamentarians for Action against Apartheid, in which the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, of the Liberal Democrats, and my good and noble friend Lord Boateng played a significant part. For over a decade from 1984 I visited South Africa regularly, mostly under Church auspices. I recall in 1984 that whites were avidly reading Alistair Horne’s excellent work, A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-62, and fearing the worst. Horne had described how, after a number of terrorist outrages, the middle ground between the Muslim majority and the French minority collapsed, which led to a mass exodus to metropolitan France of the Pieds-Noirs as the infrastructure of Algeria was destroyed.
The whites in South Africa feared that this might also be their fate but, of course, as the white tribe, most of them had no homeland to return to. North of the Limpopo in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s policies of retribution led to economic collapse and political chaos, but in South Africa, south of the Limpopo, the middle ground largely stood firm. Christians such as Archbishop Tutu, Bishop Hurley, the South African Council of Churches and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference built bridges between black and white. Christians in this country such as Viscount Brentford of the Newick Park Initiative brought communities together.
Civic community organisations flourished, as my noble friend Lord Boateng knows very well personally. Individuals can make a difference for good or ill: a Mandela—Madiba—or a Mugabe. We should also remember that reconciliation can be dangerous. I recall the fate of the Afrikaner leader, Johan Heyns, the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church. He invited Nelson Mandela to speak to the congress of his Church and for his pains was assassinated shortly after. I think of the poisoning of Frank Chikane, the head of the South African Council of Churches, and other Christians such as Dean Farisani. I criticised government policy at the time. It was labelled as constructive engagement, but it was a very one-sided engagement that often protected the apartheid state from international pressure. Eventually the release of Nelson Mandela avoided the temptation of retribution by the black majority.
I will make two brief final comments. We in the UK are not Norway or Canada, essentially soft-power exponents. We have at our disposal many instruments across the range in the form of first-rate military and intelligence skills, an experienced Diplomatic Service and a major aid programme. Let us also not forget the diaspora communities in our own country, which in my judgment are not used sufficiently. We have Tamils in terms of Sri Lanka and we have Kurds in terms of Iraq and Kurdistan.
Of course, as colleagues have said, we should not overlook the work of the British Council in the Middle East and over many years in South Africa, educating under apartheid. I was invited by the trade unions of the British Council to debate with Father Huddleston of the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He was a great man, but he was an absolutist. He had closed the Church schools in 1954 and he wanted to withdraw the British Council from South Africa as if he expected new black leaders to arise like Chinese terracotta soldiers after liberation. Happily, the unions of the British Council decided against him. We won the debate and the British Council stayed on to play a significant role.
I recall the words of the Prophet Micah in chapter eight: yes, we should walk humbly with our God, but what does the Lord also require of us but to seek justice and love mercy? Let us think of Archbishop Tutu’s justice and reconciliation committees. By all means let our government departments across the board seek reconciliation, but we should recognise the limits. More importantly for us is that our Government should search for justice to underpin that reconciliation. Finally, I would submit that without justice, efforts at reconciliation will be built on sand.
My Lords, I too congratulate the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on securing this debate and I pay tribute to the esteemed contributors we have already heard from. Reconciliation in conflict zones in the most difficult situations at the heart of ethnic, geographic and cultural hostilities is clearly a necessary condition for lasting peace, stability and the prosperity that must follow. The UN has set ambitious targets through its sustainable development goals. If we are to meet them, we must deliver prosperity in frontier and emerging markets. Without reconciliation, it is difficult to see how we will do that in a lasting way. However, while this country, global in outlook as it is, will surely play a role in helping to meet the UN goals, the central point I want to make today is that the role is a narrow one and that reconciliation is unlikely to be part of it.
Indeed, it is apposite that today’s debate has been called by the most reverend Primate. He has spoken eloquently both here and outside this Chamber on how religious institutions are often the only functioning organisations left during and after a conflict. The rule of law may well have broken down, along with any semblance of democratic government it may have supported, and so one can see a role for faith-based organisations emerging in that context. I do not, however, see a similarly prominent role for the UK Government and their aid budget. This is for two related reasons.
The first is that it is impossible to justify the use of taxpayers’ money on such farflung conflicts where their impact or relevance to the UK is all but impossible to identify. The second is that whenever we take on such broad and ambitious tasks, our track record is poor and we risk doing more harm than good. Let us take as an example the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. It was set up to,
“tackle fragility in conflict affected countries and promote stability”.
The remit sounds important, of course, but even then it is vague and ill-defined. This was borne out when the Independent Commission for Aid Impact reviewed the programme and concluded that it suffered from,
“variable programme quality, weak results management and insufficient learning”.
I will not go into depth on the aid budget more generally; suffice it to say that when we are paying £50 billion a year in interest servicing our national debt and spending £14 billion a year on ill-thought-out and poorly executed aid policy in the name of an arbitrary spending target, I find that unjustifiable.
What should we be doing? In 2016, the Department for International Development published a building stability framework to look at how it makes decisions and, I suppose, how it prioritises resources. The report argued:
“The highest development returns lie in the long-term foundations for a future free of violence”.
That is hard to disagree with but it is also revealing. It implies that only when violence ends can prosperity begin. If we can end conflict, a failed state potentially becomes a prosperous one, which is a huge global dividend. It also begins, I believe, to define a narrower approach for what the UK’s role should be in such spaces; that is, to secure peace in those conflict zones. It is not about building infrastructure or supporting a path to democracy, although this needs to happen. It is simply about ending the violence once and for all, and this is better done through the Ministry of Defence than through international development.
Let us take the example of Iraq. It was exactly the failure to secure the peace that meant it could not flourish as a country. No amount of aid money can change the reality that when bombs targeting civilians are part of everyday life, prosperity will never come. This is not even about democracy. It is simply protecting civilians so that they can resume their lives, and as they do, the rule of law and associated institutions will begin to be established. After the rule of law comes infrastructure, commerce and, eventually, international trade, but until you have peace and the protection of all civilians, these things will not follow.
Where are the key opportunities to bring about peace? The UK Government should therefore act, but it is to our Armed Forces we should look, not the aid budget. Once peace is secure, multilateral development banks, infrastructure investors and NGOs expert in building institutions can engage and create the conditions for private sector investors. That is the correct hierarchy to events following a conflict and, what is more, it defines a clear role that the UK can play.
There has been much talk as to whether we could repurpose our defence spending to hit our 0.7% commitment on aid. I think that this is backwards. The 0.7% aid budget should be repurposed to help us deliver our 2% defence spending commitment under NATO. It may not burnish our so-called “soft power” credentials as much, but it will be much more effective in the long run both for us and for the conflict zones in question, and surely that is more important.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate for tabling this thought-provoking debate and I congratulate him on his wide and wise introduction. I also thank Chris Smith for his excellent Library briefing. The most reverend Primate has said that reconciliation is the greatest need in our world today, including as a general aim of our domestic policy. I could not agree more, along with his reference to the deep wounds in society which have been opened up by the Brexit debate, sadly manifest even on the Floor of this House. My noble friend Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, now sadly retired from the House, told me that the Scottish independence referendum had opened up many deep wounds that would not be healed for a very long time. I fear that it will be the same for Brexit. That is a very good reason for not holding referendums, but rather to rely on representative parliamentary democracy. Others have said that they now better understand what life must have been like during the Civil War. Looking round the world, as other noble Lords have done, I am struck by how many of the accepted norms of a civilised society, such as observance of the rule of law, are being wilfully defied.
Of reconciliation, the most reverend Primate has also said,
“You can’t impose it on people, but you can encourage, enable and take away obstacles to it”.
His words remind me of 1992 when, as Adjutant-General, I was responsible for arranging the celebrations marking the battle of El Alamein, the event chosen by the Army to signify 50 years since the end of World War II. I hoped to include services both in Westminster Abbey and the main Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Alamein. When I asked the then Dean, Michael Mayne, for permission to hold a service in the abbey, he stipulated that the theme must be reconciliation and that a German must take part. I told him that we already planned to meet his second condition, the lessons being read by the sons of the two opposing commanders, my noble friend Lord Montgomery and Manfred Rommel, then Mayor of Stuttgart. His first condition would be reflected in the order of service but served as a reminder of the importance of reconciliation between former enemies as soon as possible after the end of conflict, in the interests of peace between future generations.
With the leave of the House, I will continue to illustrate my support for the most reverend Primate’s Motion through personal experience, including “magnanimity”, which I have always thought went hand in hand with reconciliation. Having served there, I will not attempt to add anything to what was said about reconciliation in Northern Ireland by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble. My first experience of the need for the FCO, the MoD and DfID to work together came soon after the end of the Cold War, when the Army sent contingents to the UN, NATO and OSCE operations in the former Yugoslavia. Since then, I have had occasion to contrast the close co-operation that existed between the MoD and what was then the Overseas Development Agency under the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker. Based on the identification by her staff on the ground of a vital humanitarian requirement, she asked me to send Bailey bridges to Mostar, which we did. However, when I went to visit our troops in Afghanistan, I found not only that DfID staff lived in special huts but that they did not clear their projects with the military or our ambassador in Kabul. They went direct to DfID in London, in sharp contrast to the way the Americans operated, giving their military commanders sums of money that they could spend on projects, enabling them to respond immediately to locally identified needs.
While writing a report on how the management of future UK contributions to UN peacekeeping operations should be improved, I had the privilege of meeting and subsequently working with one of the most remarkable and magnanimous people I have ever come across: Kofi Annan, then Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping and, later, UN Secretary-General. He explained to me what he saw as the interaction between the three stages of peacekeeping: conflict prevention, peacekeeping operations and post-conflict reconstruction, namely that a peacekeeping operation somewhere might prevent conflict somewhere else, as might post-conflict reconstruction.
For two years after leaving the Army, I was closely involved in post-conflict reconstruction, working for a security firm that was heavily into demining, without which there could be no development. Rather than doing the work ourselves, we trained people in several countries to plan and manage demining operations in connection with wider reconstruction plans. For example, in Mozambique, after we had demined the main railway line from Maputo to Malawi, the Mozambique Government said that they wanted to revive the sugar industry. To do this, we trained former freedom fighters to demine the plantations and repair their infrastructure, and then to work in them. That seems an excellent example of practical reconciliation and disarmament because those who had carried arms against the state were now being employed by it.
My final witness is Kemal Atatürk. For many years, I have lectured on the battlefield of Gallipoli, during which I always take people to an obelisk just south of Anzac Beach. On it are the following words, uttered in 1934 by Atatürk, then President of Turkey; as Colonel Kemal, he influenced the campaign more than once. The words seem not only the epitome of magnanimity, but they sum up why reconciliation should be at the heart of all aspects of government policy:
“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us, where they lie, side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well”.
My Lords, I will speak in this most remarkable debate with far more timidity and humility than usual because the qualifications of others are far greater than mine. Outreaching all of us is the most reverend Primate, whom I congratulate and thank. He is uniquely qualified to speak with authority on this matter because of his background and experience. I offer only a few observations.
We are holding this debate at an appropriate juncture, in the shadow of our debates on the commemorations of the Armistice. Fresh in all our minds is the astonishing cost of world wars, including the damage they do to societies and the way in which they tend to replicate themselves. I draw noble Lords’ attention to what is going on in Egypt, where the Coptic Church is under constant assault. Let me give some examples. In 2017, churches in Alexandria and Tanta were bombed, killing 47 people. In the same year, 28 pilgrims were killed on a bus en route to a monastery in Minya and a Coptic priest was stabbed to death in a Cairo street. Only recently, last month, a family of 12—men, women and children—travelling in a bus to a christening were chased down and shot dead by attackers. In no case was there a spot of violent retaliation. On the contrary, the teachings of the Church and the practices of its members are always to act out of forgiveness.
In a sense, this a top-down exercise because it is led by the Church. Archbishop Angaelos said recently:
“People are indeed surprised when we speak of forgiveness at times like this, but we are called to forgive and we must continue to do so. Of course there is a call for justice but never for vengeance … reconciliation but never carelessness. In our unity as the Body of Christ, the family of faith, and the global family, we must continue to advocate for and safeguard the dignity and sanctity of every life”.
He has also said:
“Reconciliation must happen through pragmatic and intentional leadership; bringing people together. These efforts will then instil a sense of unity, cohesion and national identity so that people no longer focus on one’s religion, but see the Egyptian in the other … It is only then that we can begin to advocate for one another”.
That is the stage at which this becomes bottom-up. I merely want to draw to your Lordships’ attention the astonishing power available for reconciliation in faiths, particularly the Christian faith. What a splendid example that is.
I will very quickly remind your Lordships of the role of Norway in negotiations in a great many crises of this sort. It has extraordinary tenacity. It has been involved in Sri Lanka for 20 years, maintaining what peace there is. It is not for me to describe Norway’s methods, except, as your Lordships have already been told, that it is not in any way aligned to force because it does not act as a superpower. If your Lordships want a good example and have a computer you should listen to a speech by its then Foreign Minister, Børge Brende, at Brookings Institution in Washington in June 2014. It lasts an hour, so you need to have time on your hands, but there is no printed version, otherwise my task would have been easier because I would be reading large chunks of it. Instead, I suggest that those who have the time and inclination go and watch the play “Oslo”, which ran in London. It shows the about-to-retire ambassador from Norway to this country playing a key role at the Israeli-Palestinian conference held in Oslo some time ago.
I ask my noble friend who is to answer this debate to consider the roles of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and the Stabilisation Unit. I am always a bit worried when there are two powers within government tasked with overlapping—in fact, almost coinciding—areas; I hope that those units will be melded at some stage. Is there, and if not can there be, recognition that when they come to a conclusion on major policy issues, that should be adopted by the departments that have to administer the system so that any body going out from this country has clear directions as to the parameters within which and the conventions on which they should base their activity? That requires that the statement of the relevant criteria shall be not only embodied in guidance to the departments, but incorporated in the directions of those departments to their operatives overseas, whether they be military or civilian.
I am surprised that I am not saying that I echo the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in what I say now. I advocate, as he has often in the past, that when you have a vital chain of responsibility in any organisation, particularly in government and obviously in the Army, at each stage there needs to be a named individual responsible for seeing that something is done, otherwise it goes into a report that is shelved and the same mistake is made again and again. What I ask for from this Government is not merely responsibility in generosity, which I believe they are now displaying, but responsibility in this way so that the good things we can do are done in the best way possible and that we learn from our mistakes.
My Lords, I am grateful to follow the moving tribute from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, to the Coptic Orthodox Church. I join him in that. I join others in thanking the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for his ground-breaking speech. I pay tribute to his deep commitment to reconciliation on multiple levels.
Like the most reverend Primate, I have been shaped by the Coventry story, with its profound narrative of both the human propensity towards disruption of relationships, with the danger, destruction and death that ensues, and the power of hope to prevail over even the darkest forces—a hope built on the restorative capacity of reconciliation, a virtue that needs to be operative even during war, preparing the way for peace. I have learned much about the way reconciliation applies to not only the interpersonal but the intercommunal and international realms. I have been moved by the story of the cathedral’s contribution to peacemaking through intervention structures and networks of reconciliation in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and beyond—work in which the most reverend Primate has played a distinguished part. I greatly welcome the most reverend Primate’s vision for reconciliation to be placed at the centre of government policy and wholeheartedly support the proposals for a joint reconciliation unit located in the heart of government.
The ministry of reconciliation that rose from the ruins of Coventry Cathedral thinks in three dimensions: across, towards other people, communities and nations who have become enemies to each other; downwards into the earth, the environment on which we depend but which we have damaged; and upwards towards God. In Christian terms, reconciliation with God is transformative. It establishes justice, reconstitutes human relationships, reforms the person to fulfil their responsibilities in the world and reorients people away from a preoccupation with their own interests towards the interests of others, with the result that the common interest is upheld and everyone flourishes.
Of course, as the most reverend Primate says, this theological framework is by no means universally shared, but it lends wisdom to policy-making none the less. The success of reconciliation depends on the quality of the values held by stakeholders—values so evident in this debate—and on the virtues, such as integrity, trustworthiness and due regard for the other, that allow human beings, individually and institutionally, to enact their best and deepest values in virtuous practices that heal the past, establish stability in the present and build a shared, peaceful, safer future.
We can begin to heal the wounds of history by acknowledging that, where we have been involved in a conflict in some way, we bear a level of responsibility for the suffering that it brings. Regardless of judgments about the justification for our involvement in coalitions of conflict, the sheer fact of our participation brings with it a moral responsibility to join long-term coalitions of reconstruction that restore and repair the damage of war. In Iraq, for instance, and at some point in Syria, it is imperative to invest in the long-term rebuilding of infrastructure and the wider social fabric to prevent the return of Daesh or its successors and to promote victims’ long-term prospects and welfare, for their interest is our interest. It serves the common interest of peace.
How do we help to establish stability in the present? For the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, who is not in his seat, I single out one way that relates closely to the most reverend Primate’s emphasis on living peaceably with difference and proves that diversity is a friend of society and is to be celebrated: freedom of religion or belief. It is not difficult to evidence the virtuous cycles that develop out of a respect for religious difference, resulting in not only the everyday welfare of religious minorities, but greater political stability, community cohesion and economic opportunity. We can see the effects of its absence in Myanmar, Pakistan, Nigeria and so many other places where religious minorities become victims of the cycles of violence that tear countries apart. Syria and Iraq wrench at our hearts—they already have in this debate. The genocide of Yazidis and the displacement of Christians, as well as the destruction of monuments, threaten their survival throughout the region. Contrary to those who would eradicate their presence, the contribution of minorities to society in the Middle East is necessary for its cohesion. In the words of the Syrian Pastor Abdalla:
“The church’s role is to make the conversation”,
between different groups.
“When you solve the relationship you have a stable society and that’s what we are doing”.
Attention to past wounds and present relationships underpins commitment to creating cultures of peace. Again, foundational values and virtues are vital.
How can we promote peace between people if we give aid to fragile states with one hand but sell arms with the other, fuelling the fires of conflict that cause their suffering? For example, although it is to our nation’s credit that since 2015 we have led the world in providing more than £570 million in aid to Yemen, in that same period the UK sold an estimated £4.6 billion-worth of arms to Saudi Arabia—some eight times as much. Regardless of whether the Saudi-led coalition is right to be at war in Yemen, the manner in which the Saudis have conducted themselves in the conflict, with the help of our weaponry, has been awful. Cholera is at epidemic levels. According to the UNHCR, the coalition has committed acts that,
“may amount to international crimes”,
under international humanitarian law. As we have heard, there is a value-laden legal, economic and institutional basis on which to build a foreign policy based on reconciliation and peacebuilding, but only if we have the courage to pursue it.
Building cultures of peace requires reconciliation with the earth on which we depend. Without a healthy planet, all our efforts to protect the most vulnerable and create the conditions for peace are undermined. Increased variability in rainfall and desertification are exacerbating existing tensions between farmers and herders in Nigeria, Christians and Muslims alike, allowing extremists to escalate them with violent effect. Rising sea levels, drought, extreme heat and the poverty that they cause are threatening the existence of already vulnerable communities. Sir David Attenborough was right to warn that climate change, without urgent remedial action, has the potential to cause,
“the collapse of our civilisations”.
The earth and all its peoples no longer has time for country-first policies and the values that drive them. As we move into the future, will the UK rise to the challenge of promoting peacebuilding and championing action on climate change through virtuous policies that are preoccupied not only with protecting and promoting our own interests but with the world’s interests, knowing that the one serves the other? Because, as the most reverend Primate says, a world at peace is in Britain’s interest.
In present conditions I take the liberty of ending with a personal story from Coventry, which has a shade of resemblance to the story told by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. In June this year, standing in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral before a combined German and British congregation, my son made solemn vows to a wonderful German woman. As they declared the power of love to overcome all ills, I looked at their grandmothers, who had lost their childhoods during the war. As I thought of their grandfathers, who had fought for each other’s deaths during that war, I knew then that finally the war was over. My family, at least, had walked that long road to lasting reconciliation and we were healed. After we danced the night away, I prayed for the peace of Europe and the peace of the world.
My Lords, all of us in this House owe the most reverend Primate a debt of gratitude for initiating this debate. Many of us who live and work much of the time in Africa owe him an even greater debt of gratitude for the practical work he has done on the ground in that continent. And it is about the practice of reconciliation and the challenges that arise from it that I shall say a few words this afternoon.
In my experience, culture and language lie at the heart of the effective practice of reconciliation. I was christened and brought up in the eastern region of the Gold Coast—Ghana, as it became. We are Akan peoples and we set great store by symbols: we call them the adinkra symbols. The symbol of reconciliation is of the knot that binds people together after differences. The knot symbolises reconciliation, peacebuilding and forgiveness, and we call it the mpatapo. When one thinks of that symbol and of the knot that binds, it is a knot of common humanity, the humanity that we all share. That common bond exists in the South African principle, in and among the Xhosa and the Zulu peoples, of ubuntu: we are what we are because of others. It is for us too in our British tradition, is it not? It is what John Donne referred to when he said, “No man is an island”. We are interdependent.
Reconciliation in the African tradition is symbolised and represented in that way, but reconciliation, by virtue of its roots in culture and language, is not easy. Identity goes to the heart of so much of the human condition and identity, and a sense of identity lies at the heart of so much conflict. I do not think, frankly, that we in this country, at this time, are immune from that. The role of identity in the debates we are having round Brexit cannot be ignored.
So identity is very important, and as we look at the practice of reconciliation I want to share one particular conflict in Africa today, in Cameroon, where identity around language lies at the root of conflict between Anglophone and Francophone. In the past three months, not only have we faced a situation in which, according to the Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States at the Security Council just last Thursday, more than 400,000 people have been displaced, we also know from the UN High Representative, who spoke at that same session, that more than 10,000 have now been displaced to Nigeria. Many thousands have been killed. In the past three months, three Christian ministers have lost their lives in the conflict—the Reverend Attoh, the Reverend Wesco and the Reverend Ondari; a Ghanaian, an American and a Kenyan—all victims of a conflict based on linguistic discrimination and a flawed plebiscite and process of independence but all men of peace, actively promoting reconciliation. Reconciliation is a hard and tough business. It is not a soft option. We have to be prepared for it, and we have to apply the resources that are necessary to practise it meaningfully.
I will say a few words, if I may, about resources. When Archbishop Tutu inaugurated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, that was part of a process that had been ongoing for many years, including at the height of the conflict, in which many on both sides of your Lordships’ House and in the other place were actively engaged—my noble friend Lord Anderson referred to this. The current Minister of State at the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development, Alistair Burt, was very much part of the fellowship at the time that underpinned a discussion between people of faith—all faiths—in South Africa and in the UK. That process, which went back those many years, required people who spoke Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans to sit down at a table and not just speak in their own languages but listen to each other in their own languages. Effective communication, when it comes to reconciliation, demands that we do not just speak but that we listen. British diplomats were able to participate in that because at that time we gave real attention to linguistic skills when we trained our diplomats. It cost money but, because our diplomats based at that difficult time in Pretoria, Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town were able to speak Xhosa, Zulu and Afrikaans, they were able to make a real difference. If we do not invest today in the nuts and bolts, including language training in our foreign service, we will not be able to marshal the skills that will enable us effectively to promote reconciliation.
I put my hands up: I am a former Chief Secretary to the Treasury—I have the scars to show it—and I have the form: we have not always given the Foreign Office the money that it needs. But if we do not apply resources to this and we are not prepared to pool resources to underpin the work of the proposed joint reconciliation unit, it will not work. I make the case for pooled budgets. They are absolutely vital, for reasons that a number of noble Lords have touched on. Our Army and defence forces have a crucial role to play in the business of reconciliation in supporting the Kofi Annan school out in the field. It should be a cause of concern to noble Lords that the fastest-growing military and diplomatic presence in Africa today is that of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. It should be a cause of concern that we are not applying resources to enable our own military to contribute to reconciliation and peacekeeping. That will not happen unless we pool budgets. That is my experience of government, and I do not believe that the situation has changed. It is not just a question of DfID, the Foreign Office or the MoD spending the money, and each working within its own silo; we have to pool budgets in order to promote reconciliation effectively. I wholeheartedly support the most reverend Primate’s proposal, but I urge the Government in adopting it—as I hope they will—to ensure that the Treasury backs it by requiring pooled budgets upon which it is possible for all the departments, having made the case, to draw.
As I draw my remarks to a conclusion, I will make these final points. We have heard movingly of the Coventry experience. As a young man, I was often challenged and inspired—and sometimes irritated, I have to say—by Canon Paul Oestreicher of Coventry Cathedral, who was a remarkable man. He said something which has stayed with me always and is so profoundly true: reconciliation must be built on truth. It is not easy, but he was right to remind us of that. But I have also learned that reconciliation will not endure without justice. In 2014 Archbishop Tutu, the Nobel laureate who initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was reflecting, honestly, on its operations. He said one of the reasons why South Africa had suffered and was suffering—as it does today—in the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which achieved so much, was because it had not effectively addressed one of its central recommendations, which was for reparations and resources to address the hurt and damage that the process of reconciliation had uncovered, and that as a result of that, reconciliation itself was threatened. We need to underpin work on reconciliation with work to deliver economic and social justice. That is the answer to the conundrum that the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, touched on. We have to be able to deliver to the Army in its work on peacebuilding, but we also have to deliver a process of economic reform and distribution of resources that underpins social and economic justice because, without that, peace cannot and will not endure. It is not one or the other; it is all those things working together.
That is the extent of the challenge. In relation to Cameroon, I hope that the Minister will indicate in his reply how the UK Government intend to act to promote reconciliation there. As our own representative at the UN, Jonathan Allen, said in the Security Council just last Thursday,
“words alone will not improve things”.
We have had plenty of words about Cameroon. But when the bishops and the imams tried to come together on
We cannot continue just to rely on words and exhortation. Reconciliation demands activism on the part of civil society and government, and not words alone. When we have that, then perhaps we will have met the call that Martin Luther King reflected when he called for a world in which—and in this, he was of course reflecting Amos’s original call—justice rolls down like the waters and righteousness like an everlasting stream.
My Lords, in the few years that I have been a Member of this House, I have always found the Christmas debate chosen by the most reverend Primate to be a most welcome one. It is a moment to pause and reflect on some of the profound issues of our time, none more so than this year when we are surrounded by so much division at home and abroad. Every day we read of the old world order fraying, with rules broken and treaties abandoned, of liberal leaderships replaced by populists and free trade rejected in favour of protectionism and trade wars. How do we create a new order from this disorder and what are the ingredients of lasting reconciliation?
Let us be clear about what it is not. It is not simply about accepting the status quo or never standing up and fighting for our values. It is about how we fight that fight and find resolution once the fight is done. It is my belief that there is a journey to enduring reconciliation, which starts with justice and ends with peace. For without justice, we will never allow the pain to heal and lay the past to rest; only then can we hope to move on to peace. But linger too long on justice and there is a danger that it turns to revenge, seeping through the generations while peace may remain beyond our reach. These themes are explored in Ishiguro’s beautiful book The Buried Giant, one of the works for which he won a Nobel prize. He asks:
“How can old wounds heal while maggots linger so richly? Or a peace hold for ever built on slaughter and magician’s trickery?”
The magic he alludes to here is that of political propaganda—deceit and fake news. In the book, peace is to be shattered as the erased memory of the atrocities between Saxons and Normans are reawakened, unleashing a vicious cycle of vengeance driven by a thirst for justice that has not been properly satisfied.
We see these conflicts and witness these journeys in real life, past and present. Many have been discussed this morning: in the royal pardons as part of the Irish peace process, in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa at the end of apartheid, and in efforts to integrate child soldiers back into their family and community life. We also see the attempted post-conflict reconciliation in Sri Lanka and look to the intractable problems in the Middle East. We see the challenge of forgive and forget, yet it is often the best chance for lasting peace.
My father’s generation were the Cold War warriors. They fought against the grey, faithless tyrannies of the communist world. As the countries of eastern and central Europe abandoned communism, we in the West opened our arms to them in the spirit of reconciliation. We helped them build their democracies and held out our strongest institutions—NATO and the European Union—as an alternative path to freedom and democracy. The USSR itself was the last to fall on Christmas Day 1991. After years of detente, an arms race, spying, proxy wars and propaganda—often all at once—Reagan and Thatcher together finally called it out. It is interesting that Yeltsin’s approach afterwards was to put the Communist Party on trial rather than to make individuals responsible for their actions. Some argue this meant that the process of trial and reconciliation of their communist past was never fulfilled, never allowing the process of justice to heal the wounds and never shaking off the old regime either. The West remains cautious of the Russian bear to this day. Perhaps there is a lesson for us here: that a country not at peace with itself is prone to instability abroad.
To me, the theme of reconciliation also comes closer to home. As we head off to Christmas, I wonder how many families across Britain will share Christmas with a relative who they disagree with, maybe on Brexit, or stare at their millennial children or grandchildren across the dinner table as they turn down turkey in favour of vegan nut roast. The path to reconciliation is not always an easy or straightforward one. Often, it is deeply personal. It is fashionable to be cynical about our leaders today, especially our elected ones. We often hear people say, “Why bother to vote—what difference does it make?” But looking round the somewhat fragile world today, I cannot help but think that leadership of all kinds matters. It does make a difference, not least in setting an example of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding. The world to me feels uglier, less safe and less kind because of the tone set by some. This plays out not just in politics but across the playgrounds and dinner tables this Christmas.
There are times for disorder and times for restoration of order; a place for confrontation and then for reconciliation; a moment to weigh up justice on the road to peace. It is the thread of our common humanity which transcends national, cultural and political differences and which must surely guide us on this journey. For it is, I hope, why we all want justice, but we should also strive for peace to bring lasting reconciliation at home and abroad.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Fall, with whose speech I agree and with whose father, whom she mentioned, I worked for many years. It is a great pleasure, too, to take part in this debate, which gives us an opportunity to consider some of the more difficult issues that face Governments and our societies. I want to focus mainly on conflict, in particular the need to think carefully about the prospect of peace and reconciliation after conflict before entering into it in the first place.
I do not want to get into the long-standing debate about what constitutes a just war, which goes back at least until ancient Egypt and later exercised the minds of some of Christianity’s greatest theologians. However, I agree that war can in certain circumstances be justified. The UN’s endorsement in 2005 of the principle of the responsibility to protect recognised this. Military intervention, as a last resort, can be the only way to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. But saying that is the easy bit; the hard bit for Ministers, the military and civil servants, as I know only too well, is how to be as satisfied as one can before intervening—one can never be certain—that the planned intervention is likely to make things better, not worse, and that the prospects for peace and reconciliation after conflict will be advanced and not put back.
If we look at recent conflicts in which this country has been involved, I think we will conclude that this was the case in Sierra Leone, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and just in Kosovo. With hindsight, the case for intervention in Rwanda looks strong. Well-planned military intervention could have prevented genocide and the international community was wrong not to intervene in Rwanda. The intervention in Iraq was by common consent a mistake. The atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein were appalling and should not be airbrushed out of history, as now sometimes seems to happen, but there was no hard-headed analysis of whether getting rid of him was going to make things better or of whether reconciliation within a divided community was likely to succeed.
Then there is Syria. I argued in this House against intervention in Syria in 2013, despite the use of chemical weapons by Assad, because I could not see how intervention would help resolve the conflict or advance the cause of reconciliation that would, and indeed will, be necessary after the conflict. None of this is easy, but the conclusion I reach is that before any military intervention there needs to be a hard-headed analysis about whether the chance that there will be genuine reconciliation afterwards will be enhanced. That requires, among other things, real Whitehall togetherness and a readiness to listen to others, not least the faith communities. The creation of the National Security Council—it has been mentioned a number of times in this debate—with representatives of all Whitehall departments, including DfID, is a positive development, but it needs to listen to these outside the Government, as the most reverend Primate said. Perhaps the Minister can confirm when summing up this debate that that is the case and that the National Security Council listens to those outside government as well as to those within it, and that there is—if I may quote the most reverend Primate—what management consultants might call a supervariable crunchy bucket at work here.
My final point is closer to home. It is of course possible to conduct a foreign policy purely on the grounds of perceived self-interest without any moral imperative behind it—at the moment, look at Russia in Syria or China’s detention of Canadian citizens—but if, as I think we should, we seek to incorporate moral values into our foreign and security policy, we need to follow, and be seen to follow, those values at home. That is especially challenging just now, but we need to remember that our authority and our influence abroad would be weakened by, for example, reports of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and lack of tolerance and generosity. The role of the faith communities will be crucial in showing that we are at least striving for real tolerance in our own society, which is why I welcome this debate.
My Lords, it is always a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Jay, who today was once again authoritative and perceptive. Those are qualities which necessarily apply to the most reverend Primate who opened the debate. I was interested to understand that he had addressed the United Nations Security Council on some of the issues we have been discussing. Perhaps on a more private occasion he might be willing to give us a personal report on just how well he thought his remarks were received, because I can think of some current members of the Security Council who might find some of the things he said a little uncomfortable.
Let me begin by saying how much I associate myself with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, about the fact that soft power and hard power are mutually reinforcing. That is set out in a report produced by your Lordships’ House in 2014, Persuasion and Power in the Modern World. That rather lines me up with the noble Lord and against the analysis provided by the noble Baroness who is no longer in her place.
I want to suggest, perhaps not on the same theme as the noble Lord, Lord Jay, some considerations with regard to the exercise of hard power. It might be thought that if soft power is successful, as it sometimes is initially, there will be no need for hard power—but if reconciliation were to break down, it may well need hard power in order to create an environment for a return to reconciliation. It is also the case that if reconciliation is proving impossible, hard power may be needed to create an environment for the discussion of reconciliation. One possible consequence is that the introduction of hard power may essentially have the effect of freezing events, so that what began as a ceasefire may well turn into a de facto long-term settlement. I have in mind the position in Cyprus, of which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has much more experience than I have and probably than almost all noble Lords in the House.
It is also worth reminding ourselves that hard power is not necessarily provided by coercion; the threat of coercion may be of considerable impact in considering the extent to which hard power makes a contribution. Even after successful reconciliation, parties who had previously been in disagreement may take some comfort from the regulating presence of hard power: for example, the continuing presence of a military mission of one kind or another.
In all these scenarios it seems to me that there are a number of principles that have to be applied, and I shall give some examples to suggest where that has not been the case. The hard power that is to be deployed must both be proportionate and have integrity. Reference has already been made in this debate to United Nations peacekeeping. The hard fact is that when it comes to peacekeeping missions, the United Nations has to take who or what it can get. The behaviour of some peacekeeping missions—I think particularly of the mission in which soldiers from Ukraine were involved—proved to be, to put it mildly, nothing less than catastrophic, involving abuse and worse. It is also the case that often when a request is made and an invitation given to offer troops for United Nations peacekeeping missions, impoverished countries apply, not necessarily those with a high degree of military acumen or ability. Often, those countries use the United Nations deployment to help to meet the cost of their military, sometimes to ensure that they obtain equipment which they would not otherwise possess and sometimes to pay their soldiers whom they would otherwise be unable to pay.
Of course, whenever a peacekeeping mission is commenced, the United Nations is entitled to expect that any countries which join will stay the course. Most of us may be aware of the rather dramatic events portrayed in the film “Black Hawk Down”. It portrays an event in Somalia which, not surprisingly, obtained a huge amount of publicity in the United States, and afterwards the United States mission was withdrawn, with what were inevitably damaging consequences. That argues very strongly for the fact that, if you are going to deploy your forces in circumstances where there is real risk, you need to be satisfied that you have public opinion firmly and courageously behind you.
Reference has also been made to Rwanda and, in a slightly different context, to the contribution of Kofi Annan, but it is generally recognised that his decision that the small United Nations force should be withdrawn may have contributed to subsequent events. I join the noble Lord, Lord Jay, in saying that I think it was a failure of what we rather broadly call the international community not to take steps to intervene in Rwanda, difficult though that might have been.
It is also said in this context that we have to pay due regard to the responsibility to protect. It began as the right of humanitarian intervention, as noble Lords will remember, contained in the speech made by Prime Minister Blair in Chicago. It is said—and I myself have enunciated this principle here, rather as the noble Lord, Lord Jay, did—that intervention should always be the last resort. However, I have to tell him, and remind myself, that the very distinguished civil servant the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence, Sir Michael Quinlan, took a rather different view, which was that often early military intervention may have a very beneficial effect by, as it were, squeezing off something that may develop to a much greater extent, whereupon military intervention becomes more difficult.
I think too of the credibility of intervention. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, which is not all that long ago in our recollection, it was only the deployment of NATO, with the United States of America in the forefront, that eventually created the circumstances for what we might call reconciliation, although current events hardly suggest that the position is by any means fixed. It was only because of good-quality, highly motivated and well-equipped intervention that there was a benevolent outcome.
As for Sierra Leone, it is interesting that the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Richards, who subsequently became Chief of the Defence Staff, was a brigadier at that time, and it is generally accepted, not least by himself, that he took his orders in perhaps a rather more elastic way than the Ministry of Defence had originally conceived. However, if he had not exercised that degree of individual judgment, events in that part of the world would have been very much less favourable than they turned out.
These are not necessarily all joined-up illustrations, but I think they allow me to reach the conclusion that hard power cannot be an end in itself. There is no more dangerous proposition in the discussion of foreign affairs than the sentence, “Something must be done”. There must always be clear political goals, both tactical and strategic—and, once it has been decided to exercise hard power, there must always be the political will to carry the hard power through to the achievement of those goals. Without these principles, hard power might become an obstacle to reconciliation.
My Lords, I join the many noble Lords who have thanked the most reverend Primate for introducing this debate on this subject, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, for his comments on hard power.
Reconciliation of course revolves around working with other people. One of the things we are about to do in leaving the EU is to remove some of our areas of political co-operation. We will no longer be part of the political co-operation that exists within the EU. They will come to joint statements and we will be invited to associate ourselves with them but we will not be in the room drafting them. We can give them our input in advance and it may or may not be taken into account but the fact is that, like Norway and Canada, we will only be invited to associate ourselves with them.
We could possibly learn a bit by adjusting our foreign policy to be a bit more like that of Norway and Canada, because one of the points that I would make to the noble Lords who have spoken, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, is that the illusion that we have much in the way of independent hard power is exactly that: an illusion. Since we joined the EU, our defence forces have moved from a size that could recapture the Falklands to one where we would be jolly lucky if we could recapture the Isle of Wight. We do not have any effective defence forces on a world basis. We have a fairly adequate force for defending ourselves, but that is about as far as it goes.
We will also notice the difference in our ability to conciliate at the United Nations. There is one country in the EU that is secretly quite happy to see Britain go, and that is France because it will become the only P5 member of the EU and will effectively become the undisputed champion co-ordinator of EU responses to UN initiatives. Again, we will be invited to comment, but we will not be in the room and we will not be shaping those comments. The French Quai d’Orsay is the only other really excellent diplomatic service in Europe, and it will move into the gap because it is capable of doing so.
There is another area where we will find it difficult to conciliate. We have lived for many years under the illusion that NATO defends Europe, almost as though the other members of the EU had nothing to do with it. To an extent, of course, they did not because they thought NATO was an Anglo-American club. They are not too keen on introducing a 2% contribution to a club where they do not see themselves having much influence. Britain has consistently blocked the development of a military capacity in Europe. That block is going to be removed. No one in Europe believes that President Trump is committed to the defence of Europe; they believe that, like most American Presidents, he is committed to the defence of the United States. So Europe sees itself as needing to develop its military capacity, not in the way that it has been developed until now but very much more in a defensive capacity, with the capacity to keep the peace within its own shores.
What should we aim for? The first thing that the forces for reconciliation—the FCO, the British Council and the World Service of the BBC—need is money. The idea that you can constantly cut back on your agents of soft power is totally counterproductive to carving Britain out a new place in the world. There is a need for us to nurture those three institutions, all of them widely respected. I think particularly of the British Council, which in many areas is little more than a business for running language schools. It needs far more input in promoting British values and Britain’s unique contribution.
We also need to reconcile our attitude to human rights on a broader plane than we have. I wonder what the reaction would have been if Mr Jamal Khashoggi had been murdered in the Iranian embassy or consulate in Istanbul. I think it would have been very different: not an embarrassed cover-up, pretending that it did not happen, which is going on at most levels—except, interestingly, in the United States Senate. There would have been outcry. There should be outcry. We must get away from what I think of as selective outcry and step a little away from the policies of Washington when we look at what is in our self-interest.
I met Bashar al-Assad on three occasions before the Syrian war started. It was not the nicest place in the world—no one is pretending it was—but the Christian and Jewish communities had a certain amount of stability there. I always believed that there was some prospect of nudging him forward—more so than in some other Arab states, incidentally. The heavy-handed way we dealt with it has destabilised the region and the border with Israel. It has brought an enormous influx of refugees into Turkey—another country we are prone to misunderstand when it suits us—and it will be with us for many years to come.
It is no good complaining about a refugee crisis when we have caused most of the refugees to exist. These people did not wish to blow up their homes in Aleppo so that they could come to Stuttgart; they wanted to live in Aleppo, but we in Britain and the United States promoted a war which has ended in the dreadful situation there is now.
Yes, we need reconciliation. One element on the way to getting it is to stop believing that we must always have an enemy. However much hard power we have, we are not going to march on Moscow. At some point, we must settle down and try to sort out the outstanding and large problems of Europe, many of which are connected not to Gorbachev or Putin but to the disastrous Yeltsin years, when the Soviet Union was in a state of virtual meltdown. When we talk about Russian billionaires in London, we seldom extend the sentence to say, “Russian people who are billionaires because they have appropriated the assets of their country”. Very few of them worked for their billionaire status. We need to help Russia to re-establish itself but make it clear that there are limits beyond which it cannot go. When I hear that Macron has been in Russia, or that others have been there five times this year, or that Chancellor Merkel—who speaks fluent Russian, as Putin speaks German—is on the phone once a fortnight, but we cannot manage to send even a junior Minister to the World Cup final in Moscow, I wonder if our concept of how to reconcile our relations with Russia is sound, sensible or even halfway thought out.
I conclude on this point about the UN peacekeeping forces. I was recently privileged to go on a delegation to Vietnam on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. While we were there, we met representatives of the defence ministry. They were about to send a peacekeeping mission to South Sudan as part of the UN force. It was obvious to me that they had not the faintest idea what they were doing. I am pleased to say that the British military attaché in Hanoi is advising the Vietnamese. I raised a simple problem. They said, “What problems do you think we might encounter?” I said, “You could well find that one of your soldiers has a serious family bereavement or illness. You need plans to bring him back”. They said, “Do we?” I said, “Of course you do. The morale of the whole force will collapse if it is seen that you have no plans to offer humanitarian assistance to your soldiers”. I very much take on board the point made about UN peacekeeping forces.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, but with nowhere near his experience, I have had much experience of Cyprus over the years, nearly all of it in the north. The UN peacekeeping force there is regarded as a fixed body. They think it will always be there. They do not need to solve the conflict because it will be there. President Trump occasionally does something sensible. He asked, “Why are we still funding it after all these years? Why is it not being sorted out?” To an extent, UN peacekeeping forces have been seen as an agent for reconciliation when, in reality, they have just been an element for control.
We have a lot of things to think about. I am grateful to the most reverend Primate for initiating this debate, which has enabled us to have a wide-ranging discussion over a whole area that we need to think about very carefully in these perilous foreign policy times, in what now appears to be a post-Brexit world.
My Lords, it feels strange to be speaking at the end of a week in this House that began as it did. The ironies are considerable. Perhaps I may resort to a biblical image in order to explain how I feel. What right do we have to observe so meticulously the speck in the eyes of foreign and distant peoples without noticing the plank in our own, at a time when reconciliation is so manifestly needed? Like other noble Lords, I am most grateful to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury for this opportunity. It might be judged that, in my case, it was to vent my spleen but, oh boy, we have had some magisterial input. This will be a debate worth reading in Hansard when it is all over.
I will take from this debate a number of things which focused on culture and heritage. I was not expecting these, but I am glad to have them. So much of all that we are, emotionally and psychologically, is tied into the ways we have expressed ourselves over the years. There are very powerful illustrations of that in Coventry Cathedral. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, has given us others from across the world and that was enlightening to me. I loved the moving, personal remarks by the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, who reminded the House of some special moments in the recent history of Northern Ireland. His story of the Queen in Enniskillen is another thing I will take away. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, reminded the House of the service in which the sons of Rommel and Montgomery were asked to read lessons. They embodied a hope that was the opposite of what we must have been able to think about when their fathers were engaged otherwise.
Turning to the speech of my noble friend Lord Boateng, I speak as an honorary Ghanaian chief. I am Osofu Nana Kwezi I, and he is one of my boys. The adinkra, which he mentioned, the mpatapo—he will help me pronounce that correctly later—and ubuntu from the rest of Africa remind us of what is tied up in language and culture. It helps us to shape our identities and bring the riches of our accumulated experience to the negotiating table and to our witness in public life. I have learned some terrific things which I will take away and think about further.
Some noble Lords have concentrated on the grand themes of international relations. I have neither the mind nor experience to contribute at that level. Others have focused on areas such as Kashmir, Syria, South Africa and, of course, Northern Ireland. So I hope that the House will indulge me if I focus on something altogether humbler and in the margins of normal consideration. It is nearly 50 years since I went to Haiti in the Caribbean and spent 10 years there. In the world of safeguarding—which we have become much more aware of, for all the wrong reasons, in recent times—there has been a process of historic cases: looking back over history to recognise that some things have never been buried or dealt with but need to be brought constantly to mind. I say that of the republic of Haiti, the first black republic in the world. I could expatiate for a long time if I thought that noble Lords had the patience for it—I see from their faces that they do not—about the asset stripping and political oppression of the United States of America and France. They have ripped the heart out of Haiti, taken its assets and used them for their own pleasure, then blamed Haiti for not having them or the resilience to stand up in a more robust way in the world in which it finds itself.
That is, indeed, historic abuse but it is not just then: what about now? The United States of America, because of its enmity and hostility to Venezuela, has applied sanctions, in an effort to make its case about what it considers to be the poor record and life of that South American republic. It has also demanded that its vassal states, of which Haiti is one, observe the sanctions too. Venezuela was supplying Haiti with heavily discounted oil to help it pay its way. Haiti has been obliged to stop that and to take oil from the United States of America at undiscounted and market prices. The result is that there are now people on the streets of Port au Prince, where the Government are likely to be toppled yet again. This is all because of somebody else’s policy, imposed willy-nilly on a fragile state.
I also point to the United Nations. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who is not in his place, mentioned the United Nations peacekeeping forces. In 2004, an escaped prisoner and murderer—I knew him well—and a gang of his fellow criminals came to the north of Haiti simply to overthrow the properly elected Government of Haiti at that time. I do not say that they were a perfect Government, but they were elected and legitimate. The United States gave covert and then increasingly open support to that body of people, which led to President Aristide having to flee from office for the second time. He is a good friend of mine, and I have followed him over the years. A Roman Catholic priest who became president, he is not a perfect man—he is a very mysterious man—but he is to my knowledge the only person in the history of Haiti who, at the click of a finger, could command the support of 90% of the illiterate and marginalised people of his country. He had an astonishing rapport with ordinary people. He was a liberation theologian of the first generation, and he knew his people to the core. He was ousted from office by gang of criminals, in the wake of which the United Nations sent in a peacekeeping force, to a land where there is no war, and kept it there for 12 years. When I went to the Foreign Office to ask, “Isn’t there anything you can do to help this poor, fragile country out there in the Caribbean?” I was told, again and again, “We put considerable resource in; we support the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping force”—which was a load of rubbish from the day it went in. It was not needed.
When I led a parliamentary delegation to Haiti with my noble friend Lord Foulkes—I wish he was here—I remember wanting to deviate by 50 yards from the plan that we had to agree the previous day with the United Nations, just to see the new Parliament building they were beginning to construct. I was not allowed to do so unless the United Nations cleared that 50 yards of deviation. I could have taken them down the street and talked to the merchants, engaged with the people and had fun on the roads, but I had to go in that wretched convoy to travel 50 yards. All those troops came, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, said, from places that do not have a clue where Haiti is, but whose budgets for their military exercises were subventioned by grants from the United Nations. But there it was—suddenly I was a foreigner in a country that I loved with all my heart.
My noble friend Lord Boateng mentioned linguistic ability. I dream in Haitian Creole, and I speak French. I can engage at will with the lowest and the highest of people, and I will tell your Lordships how much you can do when you do that. We used to have experts come in to work on irrigation programmes and community development. They were experts from around the world, with qualifications and diplomas—and salaries to match. What did they achieve? I could have achieved it with 100th of what they were spending on it, and I did—all the thousands of trees we planted, the wells we sank and the microfinance we organised. It was community development in its richest and widest sense: literacy, primary health—we did the lot, and on nothing, with Haitian people. I was able to get alongside them because I spoke their languages and had read about their culture, and I could sing their songs and tell their jokes. It is not difficult to know these facts, but we ignore them at our peril.
I will give one last personal illustration. I remember on that parliamentary visit sitting with the President of Haiti at that time, President Martelly. He had been a pop singer; you may think that Graham Greene’s The Comedians could now be updated and called The Pop Stars, but there you go. I was talking to him, there was a television camera in the room, and we were trying to make sense of things at that time.
Let us remember that Haiti suffered an earthquake in 2010; more people died in five minutes in Haiti than died in five years in Syria. That is a statistic. Let us remember also that the United Nations contingent from Uruguay introduced cholera to Haiti; we remember the effort we made against Ebola in West Africa, but more people have died of cholera in Haiti than ever died of Ebola in West Africa, and what has the world done? It has done nothing, absolutely nothing.
Haiti raises for our consideration very serious matters of principle, however marginal it is to our thinking. I return to President Martelly. I said to him, “They won’t give you any money, President, because they tell me you’re corrupt. How will you answer that allegation”? He replied, “I am not perfect and my Government is certainly not perfect. For every dollar I get, I’m not sure I could account for more than three-quarters of it. What happens to the rest? You will have to find out”. He continued, “I tell you that because every dollar I spend is matched by $99 that the international community spends in Haiti.”
With the massive number of NGOs that flooded in after the earthquake, Haiti was a republic of NGOs. A commission was set up to administer all those billions of dollars, but almost none of it went directly to the Haitian Government or its people. I have long been of the opinion—I take an opposite opinion to that of the noble Baroness who spoke from the other Benches earlier—that you need to have institutions through which a people can administer its own affairs, make its own decisions and prioritise its own policies. You must have that. There is no ministry of health; the earthquake wiped out many ministries of government.
We tried to get interest in building capacity in the legislature. I am talking to the Law Society to see whether it can do something about the judiciary and the crime system. There is so much to do and, until people have any kind of competence to handle these complicated matters themselves, the rest will be charity; it will be nothing more than a vassal state, and its poverty will continue for a long time yet.
My Lords, I thank the most reverend Primate most warmly for giving us the opportunity to discuss a subject of the utmost importance today: reconciliation in conflict. I speak purely as a politician; I make no sermons and have no moral prominence in any shape or form. But I have had the opportunity of serving our nation in many places and I have grown particularly to admire and respect the work of our Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I therefore speak purely on our foreign policy goals within the context of reconciliation, which the most reverend Primate has identified as the core topic of his debate.
The road ahead now is clear, and reconciliation skills will be needed more than ever before; certainly more than ever in the last 50 years. For particular reasons, the exceptional reconciliation skills of our Foreign and Commonwealth Office will be needed; we must support it as much as we can, from this House and in every way we know.
I serve as a trade envoy to four nations. I see our delegations in those countries striving their best to uphold our nation’s values and managing wonderfully well. I have served in observation roles in 34 nations— through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the UN, the European Union and the Council of Europe—and have led a few of the teams myself. In all those nations, who has been prominent in promoting ethics, values and standards for free and fair elections in whatever context they happen to be? The answer is our Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I had the honour of serving as the first vice-president of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy. I thank my colleagues on the Opposition Benches for allowing that to happen. I also served in the Council of Europe—again, on foreign policy.
All through my time as a Member of Parliament, a Member of the European Parliament and a member of the British delegation of the Council of Europe, and through my work with the various United Nations agencies, I have been more impressed by our Foreign and Commonwealth Office than one can imagine. I suggest that we are now giving it the biggest post-war task that it has ever had.
The establishment of the European Union and its extension to the south and east of Europe is surely the greatest achievement of stabilisation and peacebuilding in the 20th century. For all the EU’s flaws and weaknesses, it is a unique grouping that has kept the peace within its ever-growing borders since its formation in the early 1950s. I ask noble Lords to remember that the British contribution to this organisation, both as a member and earlier as a non-member, has been most significant. Indeed, I do not think that the European Union would be as strong as it is today had Britain not become a member and not involved herself. We originally established the Treaty of Brussels, and from that moment on, as well as making a major contribution to the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and helping to form the Council of Europe, where we still maintain a very high position, we have been tremendous contributors to the peace of this continent and beyond.
Now that the United Kingdom is bound to leave the European Union, it will be essential to establish ways of supporting the EU’s integration and extension. I refer to the remaining Balkan states but not now to Turkey. Indeed, without the enlargement of the European Union, where would we be today? Somehow Russia has become an enemy, Turkey is stepping away from the human rights agenda of the Council of Europe that she originally adopted, and we have difficulties with other perimeter zones of the continent of Europe, but the wider borders and deeper integration of the European Union are the strength that gives the continent the possibility of not lurching back into major war. That comes from the human rights of a wider Europe—from the Council of Europe, of which the UK is, as I said, a founder member.
I suggest that Britain’s departure from the EU could in fact become an essential part of the European Union’s finding of its proper self and of its true capabilities by finishing her partly achieved integration process. It is not finished yet by any means. As we have said in recent debates on our departure from the EU, and as I noted myself in my only comment on this topic in your Lordships’ House, the collapse of the potential constitution that led to the highly faulty Lisbon treaty has not provided the stable base on which the European Union can genuinely expand. Indeed, as a rapporteur in the European Parliament—my country was Romania—I found, as did my colleagues on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Common Security and Defence Policy, that there was no rulebook when members entered. We worked very hard to get them to adopt the acquis communautaire and implement the common human rights agenda, which was outlined in the acquis communautaire and fell from the Copenhagen criteria, which gave the parameters. We worked hard to get the nations that we were nursing to follow that agenda, but when they entered the European Union they were able to tear it up and throw it away as they stepped over the threshold of the front door. The lack of a constitutional settlement is currently one big gap in the EU’s armoury.
Why do we mind about the European Union? Why carry on? Why not just do what some of our colleagues in the other place have said, which is to throw the whole thing aside, run completely independently and forget about it totally? I remind myself that the European Union is far stronger than the United Kingdom and far more vital and powerful in its statements on the fight against corruption. It is much stronger in its statements on the foundation stones of democracy, the fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. Those are our goals, but we have allowed ourselves to fight for them as a team with and under the leadership of the European Union in the last two decades. Now we will have to do that alone. I believe that as well as independently and on our own, we should do it in partnership with the European Union, with those there who have been our real partners in this growth for so many years now. In other words, we will have a change of step, but I do not believe we should step outside the circle. We should support the European Union while pushing forward our own very similar views.
The Council of Europe is a wonderful place and a useful forum, but is too often the pawn of powerful undemocratic members, such as Turkey and Russia, to play that role. Indeed, the current Turkish Foreign Minister was president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. This is quite shocking, given the state of human rights in Turkey today and that the Council of Europe’s whole agenda is the formation and promotion of human rights across the continent. But it is still unlikely that Mr Orban, for example, could bring forward one of his lieutenants as a candidate who would be elected president of the European Parliament. We should note that distinction.
Similarly, European observation missions, of which I have tremendous experience, can be powerful tools to spread democratic values throughout the world. While similar organisations in the United Nations, in which I have also served, are much the same on the surface, they are in fact toothless given the nature of their membership. They buckle; they give way; they collapse. They do not put forward the reality of whether an election is free and fair or otherwise. We can offer our huge experience—with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, for example. Once the natural acrimony of separating from the European Union has settled, our nation should be open to and proactively encourage co-operation with all EU bodies in whatever way possible.
Defence, foreign affairs and foreign aid are obvious sectors of co-operation, but we should also strive, as a British foreign policy goal, to continue to expand participation in cultural and education projects such as Erasmus. One would hope that public opinion in this country will shift in favour of the European Union once it is not possible to blame all the ills of national politics on distant Brussels. Internal reconciliation should surely be the goal. We politicians have an important task to perform here, as have our mass media, social media, newspapers and television. In that sense, a first priority of British foreign policy has to be reconciliation with the European Union, while our domestic agenda is to find reconciliation within ourselves. We want the European Union to be within the concert of nations—we want to be there as well—so that the European Union can survive and flourish.
The European Union today faces many challenges and is in deep crisis. Leaving the European Union, we in the United Kingdom should put ourselves in a position to do all we can to limit the damage to this still young and fragile organisation. Our forebears and current colleagues have created so many gifts. These include our greatest strengths—our ethics, honesty, and stability. We have high standards in business, industry and the financial sector, and our tertiary education is second to none. We have high employment; in October this year, 75.6% of those between 16 and 64 were in employment, the highest since records have been kept—compare that with some other EU member states. We are the lucky ones. We have a health service, which serves the rich and poor alike, free at the point of delivery. Can anyone point out to me any other nation where that is true? No, they cannot. We have freedom to worship, within the broad arms of the Anglican communion, and a deep commitment to democracy on the common law model.
These things do not happen by chance, which is why this debate is so important. Continuous reconciliation, internally and externally, makes this possible. I thank the most reverend Primate for giving us this opportunity.
My Lords, I, too, thank the most reverend Primate for securing this timely debate. There was much need for reconciliation after the First World War and Second World War. My Jamaican father fought for Britain in the Eighth Army, against the Germans, yet when he came to England in September 1945 he was saddened to see signs warning, “No blacks. No Irish. No dogs”—I guess if you were a black, Irish Labrador, you were in real trouble. Since those difficult times, there has been reconciliation between not only Britain and Germany but Britain and members of the African and Caribbean nations, who proudly served in the British Armed Forces.
The Bible is a living book about reconciliation. For me, the most poignant verse is Matthew chapter 5, verse 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. That simple statement is so profound and has far-reaching implications. It should literally be the bedrock of our entire domestic and foreign policy.
I see three main elements to the phrase. First, there has to be a genuine desire for peace. Sadly, so many political decisions and careers are fuelled by the rallying cry of “fighting the enemy”, whether that is another country, another race or another religion. King James I understood that “Blessed are the peacemakers” is the route to reconciliation and applied this motto to his royal coat of arms. We have all heard or read from his authorised version of the Holy Bible.
Secondly, peacemaking is proactive, creating peace where there is conflict and restoring peace where it is broken. The making of peace can of course be a thankless task and the peace negotiator is often berated and criticised by both sides of the divide.
Finally, we know that peacemakers are blessed. Good things will flow from creating and maintaining peace, bringing success and happiness to many. Those blessings are practical and include investment, trade, jobs, homes and strong families—it is difficult to invest in a war zone.
In biblical times, the role of the peacemaker was so valued and esteemed that there were expert professional peacemakers. These were the original ambassadors or diplomats, sent to arrange peace between their country and another. In the United Kingdom today, there are 123 foreign embassies and 155 consulates, while the United Kingdom has 84 embassies and 45 consulates around the world. Will the Minister tell us what official strategy there is to make more use of these highly skilled diplomatic networks, here and abroad, to foster reconciliation?
The Government have two relevant departments: the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and the Stabilisation Unit. However, I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that these departments could perhaps be working in conflict rather than in harmony. Will the Minister outline the Government’s plans to bring together these departments?
One of the most high-profile examples of reconciliation is South Africa. In 1996, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings helped to heal some of the pain and injustice caused by apartheid. The inspiration behind this was President Nelson Mandela and the commission’s high-profile members, including its chairman, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, that reparation and justice must be part of the process.
That same year I had the honour and privilege of meeting the Archbishop and of having lunch with President Mandela. I treasure the letter that the President wrote to me. What struck me most about Nelson Mandela was that, despite his 27 years in prison, I saw and heard no element of bitterness in him: his main goal was peacemaking.
The challenges facing individual countries—such as migration, terrorism, cybercrime, the environment and rogue states—will increasingly require international solutions. It was therefore a further great privilege and honour for me to speak at the United Nations and the White House some years ago on the subject of international co-operation.
The year 2019 will soon be upon us. There will be opportunities for further peacemaking and Britain must play a part in that. Many will be through what we call soft power, which is a key addition, not an alternative, to the hard power of war, force and coercion. For example, in January the World Economic Forum in Davos will discuss how to change the world so that it works for more than just the elite. In June there will be the G20 summit in Osaka—the first time it will have been held in Japan—which will focus on the promotion of international financial stability.
Apart from business, sport is a tremendous example of how nations can be brought together in a positive and enjoyable peacemaking setting. In the summer of 2019 we will host the cricket World Cup. The tournament will include Afghanistan and Pakistan, nations that have experienced traumatic times in recent years. I still have fond memories of when, as a teenager, I played cricket for Warwickshire county schools against the visiting Indian schools cricket team. It was a typically English cricket game in early summer, played first with frost on the ground, followed by a torrential storm. The game ended with the exciting result of rain stopped play. However, for me it was an early introduction into the experience of co-operating and socialising with other nations and cultures.
Next year will also be the Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates, the first Olympic competition in the Middle East. We also have official NFL and Major League baseball games coming to London in the approaching months. This will only strengthen diplomatic ties with our close ally the United States—being married to an American and having many relatives in America, I welcome this. What is perhaps not recognised is that, since the middle of the 19th century, a number of major world sports were invented in Britain. These include soccer, rugby, cricket, hockey, tennis, boxing, badminton, squash and, last but not least, table tennis. Cricket in turn led to baseball, while rugby was also adopted by the Americans and became NFL football. Soft power skills such as sport, music, drama, dance, fashion and information technology are all areas which Britain excels in and can use to promote peace.
We are also part of the amazing network called the Commonwealth, which has much of its strength in faith-based organisations, and our Queen remains supreme among royalty around the world. These agencies, as it were, need to be further used to promote peacemaking and reconciliation here and abroad. Great Britain has a major role to play throughout the world in peacemaking. Nelson Mandela said that, in the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process. London is our capital city and its motto since 1633 reflects that spiritual wisdom: “Domine dirige nos”, which translates as, “Lord, guide us”. London is now the most multiracial and multicultural city in the world and is a major symbol of the reconciliation of nations and races.
Finally, President Mandela added that,
“reconciliation requires more than just a legal framework … It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people”.
My Lords, I would like to add my thanks to the most reverend Primate for calling this timely debate. While the debate is focused on foreign, defence and international development policy, I cannot help but think that it is timely for our domestic political relationships as well. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the most reverend Primate in the field of reconciliation and his commitment to it as one of his three key priorities as archbishop. His focus on it as a discipline has the potential to restore it to our national foreign policy skill base, and in doing so he has brought the wealth of both his international and domestic experience to addressing this issue.
Reconciliation is generally understood to be the establishment of friendly relations. It sounds so easy, but when we look at how long-term and entrenched some of the conflicts around the world are, and the absolute destruction and devastation that they have visited on individuals, communities and nations, it is self-evident that the journey to a place of re-established friendly relations can be taken only through a gateway of genuine and painstaking reconciliation, forged on the pathway of truth, justice and costly forgiveness—step by step, one life at a time.
Earlier this year I had the privilege of visiting the genocide museum in Rwanda. It tells the story of how the genocide was systematically created and how reconciliation was painstakingly forged over a 10-year period. If ever there was a warning not to walk the path of identity politics, it is Rwanda. But the hope and reconciliation that has been established step by step, one story at a time and one commemoration at a time, is remarkable and deeply moving. This meaningful reconciliation in a post-conflict environment required a bottom-up approach that focused on the past trauma of individuals and communities so as not to pass on intergenerational anger and cause violent recurrences. But there was also a role for an approach to reconciliation that was high profile and situated at the national level. It involved mechanisms that attempted to create reconciliation by bringing atrocities to public awareness through truth telling, confession, apology and making recommendations regarding the prevention of further abuses.
Why is it so necessary to include the skill of reconciliation in our foreign, defence and international development policy? Surely peacemaking is sufficient. Reconciliation is hugely important if we want to see a permanent closure to conflict. If we want to see a permanent end to conflict in regions of the world where there have been repeated bouts of violence followed by peace followed by repeated violence, the reconciliation process is crucial. Almost two-thirds of all armed conflicts that ended in the early 2000s had relapsed within five years. This shows the importance of viewing long-term peacebuilding and reconciliation as the fundamental foundation of enabling a country to move on from the destructive impact of conflict and actually heal.
Reconciliation is also crucial as a foundation stone for real international development. The 2018 Legatum Prosperity Index, in which I declare an interest, clearly illustrates that while global prosperity is rising, the gap between those nations at the top and those at the bottom of the index is widening. As many parts of the world become more prosperous, others fall behind. This is primarily being driven by deteriorating safety and security, which have continued to decline across the globe, falling in five out of seven regions. For example, over the last 10 years the number of deaths caused directly by war has increased by 60% and deaths from terrorism have quadrupled. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, nearly half of all people in extreme poverty will be living in conflict-affected areas.
We know that a platform of stability, safety and security is the foundation of successful nation building and the essential precondition of prosperity. It is key that the UK, in our international development work and foreign policy, plays a role in ending conflict and supports the transition to rebuilding a nation if we are to see the people we are investing in through our international development programmes flourish on a long-term basis. Rarely has there been a more important time for us to develop in our foreign policy and international development work the skills of not just peacemaking but reconciliation, in order to bring about permanent peaceful settlements and create a firm foundation for the development of fragile nations. I welcome the approach of understanding that the aim is not just to end conflict and create a physically safer environment but to go further and see reconciliation as a key part of enabling a country to rebuild and bring to an end to the cycle of peace, violence, peace, violence.
The UK already has a strong record to build on. Our Government’s commitment to nurturing peace and stability is well known: it features in the national security strategy, the Foreign Office’s priorities and the UK aid strategy. The National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 included a commitment to spend at least 50% of DfID’s budget in “fragile states and regions”. The Government’s cross-departmental Stabilisation Unit plays an important role in ending conflict, and its priorities increasingly include reconciliation work. The nature of reconciliation means that it is most effective when it is driven and supported from within a country—but that does not mean that Britain cannot play an important role in aiding the creation and sustaining of effective reconciliation. By keeping reconciliation at the heart of British foreign, defence and international development policy, we have a strong role to play.
The co-ordination of the Stabilisation Unit across departments is a welcome example of collaboration, but we should routinely seek to include explicit peacebuilding and reconciliation goals in policy dialogue at all levels. I support the proposed creation of a reconciliation unit in government. We should look for further opportunities to weave reconciliation and peacebuilding goals into diplomatic, trade, aid and national security strategies where they relate to conflict, post-conflict or conflict-prevention settings. We need to ensure that key decision-makers across all levels of government fully understand what reconciliation as a permanent peacebuilding tool can achieve, as well as the long-term, incremental nature of reconciliation.
If reconciliation is generally understood to be the re-establishment of friendly relations, the journey to a place of re-established friendly relationships can be taken only through a gateway of genuine, painstaking reconciliation forged on a pathway of truth, justice and costly forgiveness. We have made a start on this journey. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s plans of how we can further intertwine this essential work with UK foreign policy. When we have done that, we can apply those skills to our own political setting, remembering above all else our humanity.
My Lords, like other noble Lords, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Swansea, I want to express my appreciation of the most reverend Primate for obtaining this debate and, perhaps more importantly, identifying reconciliation as the subject for our consideration. As the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, pointed out, we have reason to be grateful to the most reverend Primate, not just for the debate but for things he has said in other places, at other times, and for what he has done by way of leadership and example. He is and continues to be an important thought leader and a model for many young people. We appreciate that.
I have been struck by this whole debate. We still have some important contributions to hear, but it is a notable debate even in the annals of your Lordships’ House, which has had so many. There have been very moving contributions. I will remember for a long time the comments and feelings generated by, for example, the experiences of the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, as my noble friend Lord Campbell remarked—comments about the importance of culture and language, and his reference to identity, to which I shall return later. I recall the earnest reflectiveness of the noble Baroness, Lady Fall, the vigorous and thoughtful challenges from the noble Lords, Lord Balfe and Lord Griffiths, and the moving and personal intervention by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry. I could have mentioned many more contributions because almost every one had something important to commend it, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, raising culture, identity and heritage, which are very important and sometimes overlooked.
I am sure noble Lords will not be surprised that I found myself particularly identifying with some of the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, particularly when he mentioned the assassination 35 years ago on
That is the striking thing: when we speak about these kinds of things they are not mere academic reflections. They are about our experience as people. When we think about it, reconciliation is about the relationships of individual people, but, even more importantly, of communities. The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, will remember, as perhaps will other noble Lords, that repeatedly through the decades the term “peace, stability and reconciliation” was applied to many initiatives in Northern Ireland. Those three words were used because they did not mean exactly the same thing and did not all involve all the same players. It has been rightly remarked that there is a security dimension to bringing violent political conflict to an end. There is usually no military, policing or security solution, but there is a role for security, our Ministry of Defence and our defence forces. It is a very important one.
It is also true that there are economic elements to this. The Department for International Development is extremely important because of the economic and community development it can facilitate, but if it is not done at the right time, in the right way and with the right understanding it gets completely the wrong results. Lots of money was put into Northern Ireland before we had a political settlement and all it achieved was upwardly mobile provos. It just made for wealthier terrorists. That has happened in many other places as well, but when it is done in the context of a political settlement it can strengthen it, encourage the building of the communities and take us to a better place.
As the most reverend Primate pointed out, reconciliation is about the relationships of communities and peoples. That is not just about getting different people together in the same room without hitting each other, though that is sometimes a substantial achievement in itself. When you bring things and people and communities together, whether atoms, molecules and subatomic particles, or people, nations and states, into a stable relationship, new phenomena and new possibilities emerge that simply did not exist before. When you bring hydrogen and oxygen together in a particular way, you might know everything there is to know about hydrogen and oxygen, but you do not know anything about water until you see what has emerged from that relationship, which has new possibilities. When those new possibilities arise, what are they like? They are more creative, more flexible and less reflexive. They are more adaptable; they create new possibilities and opportunities. That is what we saw in our process at home.
Why? Because we discovered, not because we are smart but because after hundreds of years of failure we found a different way of looking at things and began to understand, that the trouble we had was about disturbed historical relationships between communities—between Protestants and Catholics and unionists and nationalists in the north; between north and south on the island; and between Britain and Ireland. It became possible to look at that in the context of a wider Europe that brought the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland together on the same day in 1973, so that Ministers, civil servants and others would engage with each other in—at that stage, still in the European project—a creative, thoughtful, adventurous, novel way that made new things possible. That was the example for us that showed that there were new possibilities and new ways of doing things.
Tragically, as I look at what is happening at the moment and some of the negotiations taking place, I think that if some of those involved, including those in Brussels, had been with us in Belfast 20 years ago, there would never have been a Good Friday agreement. They would have said, “This is not possible, this is not acceptable”. It often happens that institutions start by being creative, imaginative and flexible and then get concretised down to regulation and legislation, and then it becomes impossible to change things without revolution further down the line.
What became possible for us from this was understanding a different way of relating to each other as communities in Northern Ireland, between north and south and between Britain and Ireland. But there are some important things to understand about relationships. The first, of course, is that they are not linear phenomena. If I have a relationship with someone, it also involves their friends, their family and the others with whom they have relationships. Once I start relating with them, it will impact on their other relationships and on my other relationships in ways that are absolutely not predictable, because relationships are complex. You can often say that if I make this intervention, it will harm a relationship, but you cannot say that any specific intervention will build a relationship. It is a much more complex matter—not just complicated but complex.
The other thing about relationships is that they are not a one-way phenomenon; they can progress and they can regress. They can be built not just on good possibilities but bad experiences. One of the things about the European project is that it took coal and steel, which people in Europe had used to create weapons of war to destroy each other, and made that the basis of co-operation, with the European Coal and Steel Community. Ireland, particularly the north, had been one of the most contentious things in British politics over the generations, but bringing Britain and Ireland together to work on a peace process generated new kinds of relationships between Britain and Ireland, as well as between north and south and between people within Northern Ireland. That meant that when all sorts of things were happening, not just in Northern Ireland, it was possible for the British and Irish Governments to engage with each other and find new ways of doing things.
However, what I began to observe over time was that the Prime Minister would no longer immediately think, “I need to talk to the Taoiseach about this”. Other Ministers would no longer immediately reflect that, if they were going to deal with even a border issue or a security issue, their first port of call was to deal with colleagues in Dublin because we were partners in a very special, historic way. We had achieved a development beyond disturbed historical relationships and transformed them into a more reconciled relationship in which we could do business and work together.
Then I began to find that that was not happening. I also began to find that in Dublin, instead of saying, “Because of our relationship with London, we can be the bridge with the rest of Europe. We can take things forward in an exciting way”, the response of the Irish Government was, “We will stand with the other 27 against the Brexiteers in the UK”. What was happening was a return—a regression—to the old split. It is a long time since the creation of the slogan,
“England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity”.
The truth is, England’s difficulty is usually Ireland’s difficulty as well.
As we think about reconciliation and the bringing together of identities, we must finally understand that each of those identities, brought together in a reconciled relationship, has to be able to change, grow and develop. The great historic faith families have survived because they found a way of holding a degree of continuity with the past and engaging in a new way with the future. Our personalities are not made of concrete; nor is our culture. Symbols may be made of concrete but our culture is our developing way of being in the world as communities, and reconciliation is how we transform disturbed historical relationships into fruitful, creative and flexible ways to the future. The most reverend Primate has given us an opportunity to reflect on these things. I think we will reflect on them for a long time because of his intervention.
My Lords, I too pay tribute to and thank the most reverend Primate for initiating today’s debate. None of us can fail to have been moved by many of the personal testaments and testimonies to the efforts to find reconciliation. Like the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, I was particularly moved by the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Trimble. It is important that we reflect on and listen to those contributions. That prompts me to quote someone else who has been mentioned today, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said:
“Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering—remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened”.
The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, is true testament to that.
If we are to have the international security and stability that we seek, development, defence and diplomacy have to go together. We have seen it in the national security strategy, which pledges,
“to address the causes of conflict and instability”,
“tackling corruption, promoting good governance, developing security and justice, and creating jobs and economic opportunity”.
None of us has a crystal ball to predict the future with certainty. As we have heard, significant challenges to peace and stability lie ahead. As the noble Baroness said, the strategy placed great stress on the UK’s commitment to a rules-based international order. The dangers of seeing that international order unravel are of course multi-fold, not least because we have a United States President—President Trump—who has a fondness for unpredictability. He started this year with a flurry of tweets that sparked protests across the world and caught his allies off guard. His tweeting has continued throughout the year with increasingly inflammatory rhetoric—rhetoric that has a huge impact far beyond his own borders, hitting particularly the ability of the world to reconcile itself with its different communities.
The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, suggested today, as he did 18 months ago, that the response so far of countries such as ours, which has regarded the maintenance of a rules-based international order as its national interest, has been quite inadequate in the face of those challenges. I totally agree with that argument: we need to do a better job in making the case than we have in the past. That case means covering the whole range of our international commitments and obligations. It means supporting the United Nations, NATO and the World Trade Organization. It means making common cause with like-minded countries, particularly our partners—or former partners, as they will potentially be—in the European Union.
The Labour Party would commit to a renewed internationalism and strengthen institutions: by supporting better use of the United Nations Security Council to build a renewed commitment to multilateralism; by respecting the primacy of human rights and international treaties, insisting on the use of the UN as a means of conflict resolution; and by developing the use of sanctions and soft power as a response to non-compliance. We would create a Minister for Peace and Disarmament. We are seeing disarmament challenged for the first time in many years, with Chinese, US and Russian politics dictating or potentially leading to another arms race. We certainly want increased funding for earmarked investment in peacekeeping.
I also want to say something about the need to work with the Commonwealth. It is a very important institution because of the values that it represents. I have had the opportunity to speak to my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland about her agenda for promoting change. The Commonwealth charter represents shared values on human rights and democracy. Think about how the Commonwealth still has a majority of countries which criminalise people like me, simply because of the person I love. It is about challenging those countries, not to “Do as I say” but to understand the nature of our past colonial influence. That is what we need to address as our shared values.
The conditions which overseas development assistance aims to address, if left alone, can create a melting pot of conflict. That is what the sustainable development goals and the agenda for 2030 are all about. That is why I disagree so much with the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, about our commitment to invest. We need to focus on stopping instability, not leave it until it is too late. That is why our development agenda is so important. Labour would focus on crisis prevention rather than reaction. We have committed to publishing a strategy for protecting civilians in conflict that sets out detailed plans for work on conflict prevention and resolution, along with post-conflict peacebuilding, and of course justice for the victims of war.
We want—and I recognise that the Government are committed to this as well—expanding cross-departmental capacity to respond rapidly to sexual and gender-based violence. We want to transform the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to move to a more transparent, human rights-focused peace fund. The ICAI review, which looked at it in 70 countries, including Syria, gave it an amber/red warning. Will the Minister remind us of the response to that review and also say whether he is satisfied that proper human rights assessments and safeguards are operating to ensure that ODA does not undermine human rights?
As the most reverend Primate said, we must demonstrate a joined-up, whole-government approach with a properly funded strategy. My noble friend Lord Boateng reminded us of the importance of our Diplomatic Service and corps. I reflect that the UK spends less per head on diplomacy than the US, Germany, France, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. That should be something of a wake-up call for us.
The UK must always put the security of our country first and ensure proper investment in defence, but in doing so it must consider the ethical implications of the arms trade. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry made this point. The UK cannot defend and offer development on the one hand and fuel the tools of war on the other. That is a contradiction that we cannot sustain, and it does not lead to stability. We also want to introduce an ethical procurement policy to rebuild our country’s defences, support our home industries and give our Armed Forces the resources that they need. We need to use our voice within NATO as a stabilising and resolute force for the values of democracy and freedom.
The United Nations has renewed its commitment to peacebuilding through the sustaining peace agenda and placing greater emphasis on conflict prevention and addressing the drivers of conflict as well as highlighting the need for international partnership and co-operation. At the most recent UN General Assembly, Theresa May urged UN member states to,
“do more collectively to prevent atrocities in the first place, and address the causes of instability that can give rise to them”.
I recently attended a British Council seminar, and I join my noble friend Lady Andrews in paying tribute to the British Council for its work. We call it soft power, but it is a way of introducing things that lead to a better understanding of our differences, which is an important element of the work of the British Council. It is not simply saying, “Here we are, we are good”. It is understanding value in all cultural aspects of the word. At that seminar, at which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was also present, the discussion focused on positive peacebuilding through rebuilding trust and institutions through a whole-society approach. Most importantly, that includes civil society. This debate has not been about governance; it is actually about people and the organisations that represent them, and of course, as the most reverend Primate said, that includes faith groups—some 80% of the world’s population are in faith groups—but it also means that trade unions, workers’ organisations and women’s groups have a critical role to play.
We can do so much more if we each respect each other’s roles, not just ensuring that our own voice is heard. We can do so much more if we amplify each other’s voices so that we have a better understanding of our respective roles. We have to recall that it is not that long ago that trade unions were the enemy within in this country. We saw on the front pages—although in the last few months the Daily Mail has changed its position—Supreme Court judges being called “Enemies of the people”; when we talk about the rule of law, we have to remember the impact that those sorts of statements have.
I was particularly impressed by the evidence from the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, who talked about a bottom-up approach—not something that Governments can legislate for but actually understanding how organisations work. Certainly my experience of the trade union movement in Northern Ireland taught me a lot about that, and the fact that when you talked about peace you also talked about jobs and progress. That brought a lot of people together.
I have also been part of the Tracks of Peace campaign in the Middle East, which my noble friend Lord Anderson mentioned, where Palestinians and Israeli people are coming together to build viable economic communities. That is people coming together; it is organisation at the bottom.
That is something that has always struck me about Cyprus, which the noble Lord, Lord Balfe, talked about. For years we have had a green line drawn in Cyprus. Well, I live in London, and in Green Lanes the two communities have been living and working together for years. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots live together because they respect each other, and that is what we have to fight to support more.
When we talk about ensuring the engagement of women, which the most reverend Primate talked about, it is also more important than just offering women a seat at the negotiating table, although of course that is important. It means dealing with the cultural and structural barriers that bar women from participating. We have to tackle the root causes of conflict rather than simply the symptoms.
My noble friend Lord Boateng highlighted the situation in Cameroon. My noble friend Lord Judd, who would have been here today but unfortunately was not able to participate, also mentioned that situation to me, and it is important that we highlight it. It underlines that reconciliation is not easy—it is tough—and it is certainly not something that can change overnight. Words cannot be our only response. I hope the Minister will be able to respond to my noble friend’s questions on that issue.
The UK’s call for global support for prevention-based approaches has not translated into funding. Only 1% is spent globally on peacebuilding. We know that, for societies in transition, positive peacebuilding is a long-term effort and it can be difficult to show immediate outcomes. With the UN currently eager for member states to take the helm of its sustaining peace agenda, this is an opportunity for the United Kingdom to exert positive influence, demonstrating a values-based foreign policy and reaffirming our commitment to engaging with the rest of the world.
We have heard in the debate—how could we not talk about it when we are talking about peace and reconciliation?—about the Middle East and, particularly, Syria. We have had seven years of bloodshed. The war in Syria has claimed half a million lives and driven 11 million people from their homes, causing a humanitarian tragedy on a scale unknown anywhere else. My noble friend Lord Boateng mentioned that an important element of reconciliation is not just truth but justice. Whatever lessons are to be learned from the conflict in Syria, we need to consider the institutions that have the job of investigating and gathering evidence of such horrendous crimes against humanity. Individuals who commit crimes against humanity should know that they cannot act with impunity and will be held to account.
In conclusion, my noble friend Lord Griffiths spoke movingly of the situation in Haiti, where external forces denied the opportunity for the country to govern itself and use its wealth for the benefit of its people. That reminded me of another quote from Bishop Tutu, who said: “When missionaries came to our land with their Bible, we shut our eyes and prayed. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible but they had our land”.
My Lords, it is a particular privilege for me to respond on behalf of the Government to this important Motion. I thank the most reverent Primate not only for tabling it but for introducing it with his characteristic authority and insight. I am sure that he will agree that this has been a debate of notable depth and quality. Indeed, I can say without fear of correction that the messages and ideas articulated by your Lordships are deserving of close consideration within government.
I begin by acknowledging the obvious: that reconciliation is a vital part of ending violent conflicts which claim so many innocent lives and immeasurably harm the lives of so many others. Reconciliation is also the ultimate safeguard to prevent a relapse into conflict or repeating cycles of violence.
We see about us how the scourge of violent conflict continues to affect many parts of the world. Over the past decade, the number of conflicts has increased, and we have observed a disturbing pattern in civil wars. More than half—57%—of countries that experienced a civil war between 1945 and 2009 have again relapsed into violence. It is vital that we continue to strive to prevent, reduce and bring to an end conflict wherever we can. As the most reverend Primate has argued, this requires a strategic approach.
Addressing, as we must, the root causes and drivers of armed conflict requires three broad strands of activity: early prevention, crisis response, and conflict resolution. Our Building Stability Overseas Strategy, published in 2012, and the introduction in 2017 of the fusion doctrine in the national security capability review, have given the UK a firm basis on which to develop our conflict response work. We can, I think, take some pride in the scale of this work. On average, between 2007 and 2016, the UK has been the second-largest OECD donor supporting civilian peacebuilding, conflict prevention and resolution. In 2016, the UK spent $581 million—up from $291 million in 2008—on conflict, peace and security. Although some people’s perceptions may be different, our work in this area is truly cross-Whitehall in nature. It is co-ordinated through the National Security Council and the Cabinet Office and involves the specialist skills of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development, the Ministry of Defence and the Stabilisation Unit, all supported by supported by the £1.2 billion Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, the CSSF.
Promoting reconciliation is a vital ingredient in this activity. However, we define it, and there are a number of definitions out there, reconciliation is about transforming the relationships between the parties to a conflict—between victims and perpetrators of violence—while addressing elements of the past and using approaches that are properly inclusive. In short, as my noble friend Lady Stroud described so well, it is a process of moving from a divided past to a shared future. The UK supports reconciliation in a number of ways. We have recently doubled our contribution to the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund from £16 million to £32 million annually between now and 2020, a valuable means of supporting international peacebuilding efforts. We strongly support the Secretary-General in his “sustaining peace” agenda. We also work with international non-governmental organisations that specialise in reconciliation and peacebuilding.
A number of noble Lords have referred to the importance of promoting transitional justice mechanisms, which can include truth commissions, judicial processes, mechanisms for reparations as a means of making amends, and supporting longer-term institutional reforms. Again, this is central to much of our work. I completely agree with the comments of the noble Lords, Lord Anderson and Lord Boateng, on that theme. We also lend direct support to local reconciliation projects on the ground. For example, the CSSF is funding a multifaceted reconciliation process in the Nineveh plains and Kirkuk in Iraq, involving civil society events and community-level engagement projects. As noble Lords have pointed out, this is far from straightforward. Conflicts become more complex by the day: they become more internationalised, their non-state armed groups become more fragmented, and the war economies that they create become more powerful. All this makes conflicts more intractable. Half the conflicts in the world today have been with us for more than 20 years. This complexity dictates that Governments, including our own, should approach conflict resolution with sensitivity and care.
Reconciliation cannot be imposed from outside: it can only be fostered. Often, the best approach is for us to actively support specialist organisations which can build dialogue and trust, and can nurture reconciliation through community-led action. The Government favour that approach but, as noble Lords have suggested, we can undoubtedly do more to build on that. That includes looking to see how we can strengthen societal resilience, not least to political and economic shocks. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for stressing that.
As we consider the potential for reconciliation in the conflicts that dominate the headlines today, we must also recognise the need to exercise sensitivity and care in the UK’s own interventions. The situations in Yemen, Syria, Cyprus, Kashmir, Cameroon and Haiti might merit separate debates in their own right, for each of those conflicts is unique in its causes and complexity. They are big topics. Each of them will require time and patience, as well as well-judged engagement and support, if they are to be satisfactorily resolved.
However, this debate has highlighted that there is scope for us to do more, in three areas in particular. First, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and my noble friend Lord Trimble illustrated so well—my noble friend Lady Fall also spoke powerfully about it—any society on the road to reconciliation has to take ownership of that process. So there is undoubtedly more we can do to enhance our work with civil society, supporting grass-roots reconciliation efforts through engaging opinion leaders such as religious figures, community leaders, and leaders in the local private sector. Of course, in answer to my noble friend Lord Taylor, we can do this, as we do now, through the good offices of our overseas embassies.
In that context, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, reminded us of the admirable and varied work of the British Council, including the UK’s Cultural Protection Fund, which the British Council manages. That fund does wonderful work, currently supporting 45 projects across 12 countries to protect vital cultural heritage that is at risk due to conflict in the wider Middle East and north Africa region. There is £30 million in the fund, which supports efforts to keep cultural heritage sites and objects safe, as well as the recording, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, helping to bolster a positive vision of shared identity at a time of crisis. It is helping to position the UK as a prominent actor in cultural protection in many parts of the world, and I believe that it is seen as a model of best practice, enabling communities to play a pivotal role in the care of their own heritage. I can tell the noble Baroness that, as we approach the end of the funding period, we are working closely with DCMS on opportunities to continue and expand the fund beyond 2020. This includes targeted funding, disaster preparedness, and the protection of cultural heritage post disaster.
Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and other noble Lords, were right to urge us to collaborate ever more closely with international partners, including through multilateral organisations such as the UN, to prevent conflict and support sustainable peace. The direct involvement of the United Kingdom in UN peacekeeping operations has considerably increased in recent years, and we do our best to lead by example, in training and mentoring peacekeeping teams from other countries. I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for his remarks on this point, and to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, who spoke about the importance of maintaining hard power. However, a feature of peacekeeping operations is that they are becoming more dangerous: they are less and less about policing a brokered peace settlement, and more and more involve the enforced separation of warring factions. Reconciliation in such circumstances can often be a distant prospect.
However, even in situations of that kind, where there are factions which merely coexist in an uneasy truce, with little or no mutual trust or shared values, there are opportunities. When I attended the UN peacekeeping conference in Vancouver last year, I made a particular point of strongly endorsing the Secretary-General’s drive to include more women in peacekeeping roles as a way of promoting a culture of gender equality and of interacting more effectively with local populations. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, referred to the variable quality and sometimes unacceptable behaviour of peacekeeping troops; I can tell him that we actively promote the Secretary-General’s Action for Peacekeeping initiative, which is designed to address exactly that issue.
Thirdly, even though we do our best in government not to operate in departmental silos, I am sure that we can do better as regards interdepartmental joint working to bring the collective skills of our defence, development and foreign policy experts towards a more co-ordinated approach. There are mechanisms at working level, such as the CSSF and the National Security Council, to fulfil part of that remit, but these can be broadened. The most reverend Primate has proposed the creation of a joint reconciliation unit. A concept of that sort, if it is designed correctly, could make a contribution to addressing gaps in our work, and on behalf of the Government I undertake to consider it seriously.
There are some improvements we can make in, for example, linking our horizon-scanning and early warning systems to well-targeted and rapid responses to crises as they arise. If I sound a little cautious, it is because I think we need to be realistic about what could be expected to flow from such a unit. Clearly, we would need to make sure that it represents the best mechanism for achieving our desired ends. For example, it might be more effective to focus our efforts and resources even more on mobilising fellow spirits, such as peer Governments, multilateral organisations and reputable organisations from civil society, to deliver conflict prevention and mediation.
On, I hope, an encouraging note, I can tell the most reverend Primate—and indeed the noble Lord, Lord Boateng—that there is now a cross-government working group, led by the Stabilisation Unit, which has been tasked by the National Security Adviser to explore cross-government collaboration platforms on reconciliation.
My noble friend Lady Brady questioned whether the UK’s aid budget is spent in a way that promotes our national interest. Some 50% of DfID’s aid budget is spend in fragile states because poverty is increasingly concentrated in these areas. Conflict and fragility will become the main reasons why extreme poverty exists. Our aid budget is also vital to ensure that we tackle the great global challenges, from the root causes of mass migration and disease to the threat of terrorism and global climate change, all of which directly threaten the UK’s national interest. The noble Lord, Lord Collins, was absolutely right to bring that point out.
DfID’s building stability framework, the BSF, aims to change how aid is delivered in fragile states and to ensure that we also work on—not only in—conflict, so that all our development programmes have a dual dividend; namely, reducing poverty and contributing to long-term stability. This approach will help states and communities to find pathways out of conflict to a sustainable peace.
My noble friend Lord Holmes focused on the imperative of inclusion, specifically inclusion of the disabled; and, in a more general way, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry did the same. Inclusion is a vital component of building peace, starting from peace agreements through to local development projects. In December this year, the DfID Secretary of State, Penny Mordaunt, launched her department’s five-year strategy for disability-inclusive development. However, we continue to understand and learn about inclusion. The Government are supporting the UK peacebuilding organisation Conciliation Resources, which is conducting research into the inclusion of disabled people in peace processes. We have a long way to go on that but the Government, and DfID in particular, are adamant about the central aim, which is to leave no one behind.
I hope I can help my noble friend Lord Elton on the respective roles of the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund and the Stabilisation Unit. I believe that he misunderstands not only their roles but their relationship with individual departments. It is the departments that make and hold the policy and agree on an approach. The Stabilisation Unit then implements that policy—for example, by finding staff to deploy overseas to assist with stabilisation and post-conflict work—and the CSSF that works through its £1.2 billion pot. Therefore, the CSSF and the Stabilisation Unit are the instruments of the FCO/MoD/DfID; it is not the other way round. I hope that brief explanation is also helpful to my noble friend Lord Taylor.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, asked about the extent to which the National Security Council engages with NGOs, faith groups and others, and I hope I can reassure him on that. The members of the NSC—that is, Ministers—have frequent engagement with non-government figures such as faith leaders and NGOs. Similarly, officials who advise the NSC also have frequent contact with non-government actors to discuss conflicts and other international issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Boateng, spoke of the importance of investing in diplomatic skills, including language skills. I hope he is glad to hear that the FCO has reopened its language school, which was closed in the early 2000s. This is enabling the FCO to give its staff the required skills to both speak and listen effectively to their interlocutors overseas. The FCO has also established the Diplomatic Academy, which offers training to both FCO staff and staff from across Whitehall engaged in international issues.
There is never time in debates of this intricacy and depth for me to cover all the questions that have been asked of me, and I willingly undertake to write to noble Lords on any matters that I have not properly addressed. There are many parts of the body to form the whole, as Corinthians 12 reminds us. However, it is perhaps appropriate for me to end by reflecting on what I think we all recognise—that reconciliation is a long road, and it is one that is rarely documented or adequately supported. We must learn to persevere and to support communities and nations emerging from violence not just to coexist but to make reconciliation what it ultimately is—a personal experience based on truth-telling, inclusiveness and a sense of justice.
Twenty-three years after the Dayton agreement, citizens in Bosnia still identify primarily along ethnic lines and not as Bosnians. Lessons such as that can be observed and, as speakers in this debate have highlighted, we have the tools both to learn from them and to apply that learning to better effect. I say to the most reverend Primate that the will to do so is as strong as he would wish.
My Lords, we began just over four and a half hours ago with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry reading from the Psalms:
“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills”.
I suggest we have reached the point where people are lifting their eyes to the clock. The best speech I can make is probably therefore a short one. I hope noble Lords will excuse me for not going in detail through all that has been said; otherwise, we will never get home.
I agree very strongly with the comments about the depth, profundity and thoughtfulness of this extraordinary debate. I have been noting feverishly for my own benefit, as well as to be able to think about what people have said; I will certainly be reading Hansard. It has been a wise and magisterial debate, and I am profoundly grateful to all those who have contributed.
At the risk of wildly oversimplifying, for which I apologise, it seems that three categories of things have come forward very powerfully. One is values. The very fact of values and their essential nature were raised a number of times. We heard the noble Lord, Lord Boateng, talk about inclusivity, justice and reparation in that memorable speech. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, discussed magnanimity. The noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, raised the courage of painstaking patience and was echoed very powerfully by the Minister.
I particularly want to pick up the issue of realism from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson. He asked whether there are limits to who we can reconcile with. In all my experience of this—going back 16 years, since I first went to work at Coventry Cathedral—the limits of what one can do has been one of the most difficult subjects to deal with. To put it bluntly: to what extent do you deal with really bad people? When challenged on this on the BBC, my former colleague, a very distinguished clergyman, Canon Andrew White, said, “Of course I deal with bad people; they’re the ones causing the trouble”. But that is not an unqualified way forward.
The noble Lord, Lord Jay, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry—with whom, of course, I invariably entirely agree—raised morality. The phrase that stuck with me from the noble Baroness, Lady Stroud, was “costly forgiveness”. We should not underestimate the pain and difficulty of forgiveness. I could make another dozen comments, particularly on the importance of the absence of impunity, but I will move on.
So the first category that has come out of this debate very strongly is values and the way we need to synthesise and hold to values, which are the only things that give real authority to our interventions. As was said very clearly, they must be values we live here as well as abroad.
Secondly, there is the whole question of supporting institutions of government, raised very powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Collins. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, raised culture in a very powerful speech that made me think afresh in a number of ways. She was the first to mention the British Council, which was picked up by numerous people. I think of the extraordinary work and enormous courage of the British Council. They are often the last people out. I remember many years ago watching the play “Things Fall Apart” in Kano. I was sitting in an open-air theatre, and there was a riot going on just over the wall of the British Council. The rocks and bottles, shouts and tear gas occasionally came over the wall, but the British Council kept going. They are the most extraordinary and remarkable people and they do wonderful work.
I was struck by the importance that the noble Baroness, Lady Brady, attached to the armed forces. I think I would have had some hesitations about what seemed to me a too linear and siloed approach in her speech, but her point about the importance of the armed forces is one we really need to bear in mind, and I appreciated that very much indeed.
As the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and other noble Lords mentioned, the Secretary-General of the UN has had a renewal of UN peacemaking. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, mentioned that I had the privilege of briefing the Security Council on reconciliation in September, and he was exactly right to suggest I had a mixed response—although nobody actually walked out, so that is an improvement on some of my sermons.
We have not really mentioned the last set of institutions, but they have been brought to mind by talk of justice and the absence of impunity: that is, the strengthening of the international legal system, in particular the ICC and the use of post-conflict court processes in culturally sensitive ways.
Then there is context. It will take us a long time to forget the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Trimble. We heard from him, as we did from the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, the unpacking of what it is like in this United Kingdom to be in a context of severe, generational civil conflict. We heard of friends and colleagues being assassinated, and of seeing those who carried out the assassination on the streets as part of a peace settlement and the difficulties that that involves—talk about costly forgiveness.
As I said, the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, talked about cultural identity and heritage, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned colonial history. The word “history” was used a number of times, and telling the right history is one of the most difficult things to do. He is exactly right: in almost every country in the Commonwealth that criminalises same-sex relationships, that law is a hangover from the colonial period. We need to bear history and truth-telling in mind when we look at conflict.
I was particularly struck by the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, and by his knowledge of Haiti. That was the most extraordinary example of how things can go terribly wrong without an understanding of the context and by its manipulation. In my experience, and that of many people here, another place that would apply to is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The manipulation of that country by foreign powers and commercial interests is, beyond all description, deeply evil.
I want to end on a positive tone. I will take into my own thinking about reconciliation something that came out of the speech from the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice. He spoke of reconciliation being a catalytic process that can lead to something new that people have not seen as a possibility. It is not the restoration of the status quo ante bellum; it is the possibility of a new way of going forward. In other words, it is the creation of hope in societies in conflict where, as we know, the most common feature is despair.
It is in that context that I particularly welcome what the Minister said in his powerful summing-up speech. I welcome strongly the need for further study of a joint reconciliation unit, and for the Church to commit to any involvement it can give through its resources around the communion in all our countries to support that. We also have to accept the need for good design, and that the adoption of one form of strategy does not exclude the adoption of others—it is not an either/or.
I thank all noble Lords who have spoken so powerfully. I will certainly read Hansard. It has been a remarkable debate.
House adjourned at 2.44 pm.