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Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what the priorities of his Department are towards Lebanon. (128776)

DFID does not have a bilateral programme in Lebanon. However, the UK responded to the humanitarian crisis last year by contributing £22.3 million at the international donors’ conference in Stockholm in August 2006. This money was allocated to humanitarian relief (logistics, food, water, sanitation) delivered through aid agencies (e.g. Red Cross, United Nations (UN)); munitions clearance; bridging (providing and transporting temporary bridges to Lebanon) and funding that is channelled through multilateral funds, e.g. the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the European Commission (EC).

Over the next four years we will be continuing a further £60 million (approximately) to Lebanon through contributions to the international system. Therefore, a key priority for DFID is to ensure the effective use of funding delivered through multilateral channels.

A difficult problem that we have been addressing in Lebanon is danger to civilians from unexploded bombs. On top of the £1.5 million we had already committed to clearance of unexploded mines, we made available a further £1.2 million to the UN Mines Action Service (UNMAS) and the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for further munitions clearance work in Lebanon. This means DFID’s total contribution to munitions clearance is now close to £2.8 million. We have also asked the Government of Israel to hand over all relevant maps locating unexploded ordnance.

Improving the plight of Palestinian refugees remains a priority for DFID. At the Paris III conference on reconstruction in Lebanon in January 2007, we committed a further £24.4 million to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for 2011-12, on top of the £76 million that will be provided to UNRWA over the next four years. Although funds are not ear- marked, UNRWA estimates approximately 20 per cent. of these funds will support Palestinians in Lebanon.

The ripple-effect of conflict and instability in Lebanon holds significant risks for our bilateral programmes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Iraq. We therefore have an interest in addressing the causes of conflict in Lebanon and seeing a stable and prosperous state. In partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) we work through HMG’s Global Conflict and Prevention Pool (GCPP) to support the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 and to contribute to peacebuilding.

With the UK embassy in Beirut we are also monitoring initiatives to promote democratic oversight of reconstruction spending and planning. This has the potential to address some of the issues underlying the internal conflict in Lebanon.