International Development and Gender-based Violence

Part of Backbench Business – in Westminster Hall at 4:01 pm on 26th November 2020.

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Photo of James Cleverly James Cleverly Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) 4:01 pm, 26th November 2020

That money has already been allocated. As I said, I cannot give clarity as to what future funding streams will be like, but this agenda remains a priority for the Government.

We will continue to take a leading role to tackle gender-based violence in conflict and crisis, including through the preventing sexual violence in conflict initiative. Last week, my noble friend Lord Ahmad launched the declaration of humanity. Crucially, that declaration commits leaders of faith and belief groups to do all in their power to prevent sexual violence in conflict, to support victims and to dismantle harmful cultural norms and misinterpretations of faith. I hope that will go some way to addressing the concerns raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Congleton (Fiona Bruce) and for Wakefield (Imran Ahmad Khan), because sadly, that is too often used to justify and condone acts of sexual violence.

Through the call to action on protection from gender-based violence in emergencies, the UK works with our partners to drive system change to better protect women and girls in a humanitarian context. We are pushing for increased funding and greater accountability on gender-based violence as part of humanitarian responses. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield made an important point, however, that although ODA is important, it is not the only means to drive change in this agenda.

Several hon. Members have criticised the merger of the FCO and DFID to form the new FCDO, and I recognise the points about yesterday’s announcement and the statement from my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary today. Using the UK’s economic power, however, we will still be one of the most generous ODA-donating countries in the world, and we can also use our diplomatic power as a force multiplier.

We will put women and girls at the top of the UK’s agenda for our term as president of the G7. We will use our position as co-leaders on the GBV action coalition to tackle the root causes of violence. As COP26 president, we will promote clean and inclusive resilience from covid and natural disasters, because, of course, we know well that those economic and environmental pressures are drivers of conflict, and that conflict is often a driver for sexual violence against women and girls. We will continue to push the agenda through our diplomatic network.

I reiterate that violence against women and girls is not only completely and wholly unacceptable, but preventable. The key message for today is that we should not, and must not, accept it as a reality. I return to the praise that I gave to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have done so much work to drive this issue and to ensure that the appropriate attention is paid to it globally.

We must challenge the idea that there is inevitability or inertia, or indeed that change takes decades or generations. It does not. It should not. That is why we have prioritised this important work. We are working to stop any reversal of our hard-won progress on gender equality, perhaps driven by the covid-19 pandemic, and we are using the spotlight the pandemic has shone on the violence women and girls have to endure to tackle the root causes and accelerate progress to meet the sustainable development goals on this issue.