I very much welcome the opportunity to debate this important subject. On 10 October, I asked the Prime Minister this question:
“Given the still extremely serious situation in Darfur, will my right hon. Friend explain what steps his Government took during the recess to support Security Council resolution 1769, as well as the wider peace agreement in Sudan, in order to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered in desperate circumstances, and that this carnage is discontinued?”
“The combination of peace talks beginning in the next few days, and the possibility of an end to hostilities, gives us hope that this outrage—which has meant that 2 million people have been displaced, 4 million are in famine and a quarter of a million have died—can soon be brought to an end.”—[Official Report, 10 October 2007; Vol. 464, c. 294-95.]
There followed a debate in Westminster Hall on 16 October, which was led by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), whom I am delighted to see here today. That debate highlighted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office perspective on Sudan, underlined by the fact that my hon. Friend the Minister for Europe replied. Today, I invite a wider debate specifically on aid and want to draw attention once more to the immense humanitarian problems that still exist in that unhappy region. It is right to seek to update the excellent debate on Darfur that we had on 5 June on the Floor of the House, but I wish to widen the debate to include the whole of Sudan.
A report received as recently as last week shows that the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is getting worse, with aid agencies suggesting that targeted attacks on their workers are at their highest since the conflict began. On 9 October, the African Union Mission in Sudan published a bulletin stating that, on 29 September, an AU peacekeeping camp was burned down, killing 10 African soldiers for peace. For reasons that I gave to the House on 5 June, aid agencies working in the region now understandably refuse to be quoted by name for fear of having their cover blown.
In a country of 35 million people, nearly 4 million in the Darfur region alone currently rely on aid. The activities there have been described as the world’s largest humanitarian response. Nearly one in seven Sudanese people are in need of aid; that is equivalent to the population of Wales. Two million of those people are displaced and living in refugee camps, often in appalling conditions, and half a million cannot be reached by aid agencies. Two years of bad rainy seasons, particularly in the east of Sudan on the coast of the Red sea, have put even more strain on the fragile infrastructure of the country, with more humanitarian efforts having to take place in that region.
Implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement between north and South Sudan has been slow. Southern Sudan is potentially achieving four of its 20 millennium development goals, compared with 13 out of 20 in the north. Enrolment in primary schools in the north is about 60 per cent. compared with 20 per cent. in the south. Sudan is facing horrendous problems, and it is profoundly unacceptable that, when the international community seeks to offer assistance, its efforts are blatantly undermined by—there is no point in mincing words—the Government of Sudan. It is plainly outrageous that, while non-governmental organisations and aid agencies struggle to assist in refugee camps, they do so under conditions of aerial bombardment initiated by the Bashir regime.
There has been no absence of outright condemnation; nor should there be when men, woman and children are fleeing their homes, women are being raped as they gather firewood and emaciated children appear on our television screens. The case for international outrage is surely justified. Comparisons with Rwanda have been made. I do not for a moment seek to excuse what took place there, and I welcome the reconciliation, but that terrible scenario extended over 100 days, whereas the awful carnage in Sudan has gone on before our very eyes for something like five years.
What is to be done? A consensus seems to have emerged in the House that our humanitarian efforts should be matched by a diplomatic approach. I commend the efforts of my colleagues in the Department for International Development, especially the former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the current Secretary of State for International Development and his team. I particularly welcome my good friend the new Minister, who will respond to the debate. DFID is the second-largest bilateral donor to Sudan, having given more than £250 million in humanitarian assistance since April 2004.
It seems to me that the House believes in taking a two-pronged approach by stepping up humanitarian delivery and pursuing urgently the diplomatic route. However, I concede that that is far from easy. President Bashir seems to concede when the international community makes concerted efforts to put pressure on him, but carries on as before as soon as our back is turned. The only way to force real change, given the unacceptable intransigence of the brutal regime, is to exert pressure continually on every relevant issue. Parliament is the right forum for doing that in Britain. Without that pressure, the Sudanese Government will throw up obstructions at every opportunity. They will impose needless red tape, undermine NGOs, delay United Nations and African Union peacekeeping efforts and carry out aerial attacks on their own people. The truth is that the shame of the regime knows no bounds.
Many people have placed their hopes in the peace talks due to take place in Libya at the end of this month, but the considerable concerns about progress must be expressed. For example, those very hopes must have taken a severe blow when the Justice and Equality Movement, one of the main political players in Sudan, announced last week that it would not attend the conference because of the planned absence of other key parties. A spokesman for the group said that he would stay away unless the rival Sudan Liberation Army united its warring factions. Indeed, in the run-up to the talks, infighting between the warring factions in Sudan has led to the creation of many splinter groups. It almost seems that no one is sure who should or should not be at the table in Libya.
Will the Government continue to give their full support to the fine work of Ban Ki-moon, who is attempting to get negotiations off the ground? On that point, I received a letter from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees this morning, virtually on my way to the debate. Its immediacy is extremely striking. It is able to give a far clearer picture, devastating as it is, of what is happening. I ask for the patience of my colleagues as I share some of the letter with them.
On UNHCR operations in Sudan, the letter states:
“Sudan epitomises the complexity and intricacy of refugee crises in today’s world. Whilst repatriation is ongoing to South Sudan, violence in the Darfur region in the west of the country continues to force people from their homes, the Eastern part of the country continues to receive asylum seekers from Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia, and up to 2,000 Palestinians may soon be resettled from Iraq to Sudan.
The UN Refugee Agency has a network of 16 offices across Sudan, managing the return operation to South Sudan, supporting tens of thousands of refugees in one of the world’s most protracted refugee situations in eastern Sudan, as well as providing protection and assistance to some of Darfur’s two million internally displaced persons in the west of the country.
UNHCR has welcomed the UK Government’s funding of 1.2 million GBP for its 2007 operation in Darfur and Chad. However, further support from the international community is urgently required as two of UNHCR’s largest operations within Sudan—repatriation in the South, and protection and assistance to internally displaced persons in Darfur—both face funding shortfalls.”
Elsewhere, the letter deals with UNHCR operations in Darfur. It states:
“UNHCR opened offices in…West Darfur, in 2004. In April this year, UNHCR responded to a request by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator and agreed with the Sudanese Government to ‘scale up’ its activities in west Darfur, which are expected to include south and eventually north Darfur.
However, the general security situation in Darfur continues to be unstable, with recent reports of vehicle hijackings, temporary abductions and even killings of aid workers. The deteriorating security environment prevents UNHCR from accessing some displaced persons (the agency’s current reach is about half of Darfur’s two million displaced) as well as placing civilians at great risk.”
A poignant paragraph—again, I appreciate the forbearance of my colleagues—states:
“The plight of Darfur’s internally displaced is extremely precarious, with the recruitment of displaced children”—
“into armed groups a serious protection issue. UNHCR has continued to search for innovative ways of addressing this problem, including programmes to keep youths productively engaged and the separation of armed elements from refugees.”
Given the title of this debate, I should like to refer finally to what the letter said about funding shortfalls. It states:
“Unless funding is received soon, a shortfall of US$7.1 million in its 2007 Darfur budget of US$19.7 million may force the UN Refugee Agency to scale down protection and humanitarian aid operations in the conflict-ridden region. UNHCR is appealing to donors for immediate contributions. UNHCR is concerned that the lack of funding will soon have a direct impact on our operation to protect and assist some of the more than 2 million internally displaced persons…and thousands of Chadian refugees in Darfur, whose numbers continue to rise.
Similarly, UNHCR is facing a critical shortfall of US$11.1 million for its refugee return and reintegration operations budget in South Sudan for this year.”
I am grateful to my colleagues for their forbearance while I quoted from an extremely important letter. I believe that it shows the importance of the focus that we are giving to these matters today, and I am glad that the Minister is indicating that he agrees.
The UN and the African Union have committed a force of 26,000 troops for the task of peacekeeping in the region. That is an admirable and much-needed step forward in the process of getting aid into the region. However, although the force is due to reach its full complement of troops by December, it appears that diplomatic impediments have been placed in the way. As a result, there is now no clear timetable for having personnel in place to safeguard the aid agencies and their work, and, therefore, to help the 500,000 or so people who are unable to receive aid.
Another issue of enormous concern has recently come to my attention. A group called the Aegis Trust, to which the hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) referred in the June debate in the Chamber of the House, has written to several hon. Members. That international genocide prevention organisation has highlighted cases of Sudanese people seeking asylum in this country who could be sent back to Sudan because the capital, Khartoum, is considered safe, even though it is plainly obvious that they would be in considerable personal danger.
The matter has been before the courts and is due to be considered in another place, but the other side of the coin is truly intriguing. Sudan’s head of intelligence, Salah Abdullah, is seen by many as the architect of what they consider to be Sudan’s genocide. He recently hosted an intelligence conference, which representatives from the United States, France and the UK attended. Indeed, Mr. Abdullah was recently invited to this country to receive medical treatment, and it was revealed by The Guardian that he later met unnamed officials. That was at a time when aid workers were putting their lives on the line and working with inadequate resources, including insufficient medication to meet the needs of the most vulnerable of the world’s oppressed people. More than 10,000 people, mainly young, attended the charity concert for Darfur at the weekend. What would they have thought if they had known that their contribution had been so deeply undermined? The House is entitled to an explanation.
Let me be frank as we survey the carnage that clearly exists in Sudan. It did not come about by accident, and those responsible should be held to account. For example, the House knows that arrest warrants were recently issued by the International Criminal Court. Former Sudanese interior Minister, Ahmad Harun, and Janjaweed militia leader, Ali Kushayb, are wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the region. Khartoum has refused to co-operate with the ICC and has said that it will not hand over Kushayb or Harun, who—would you believe it?—is now Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs. The ICC’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, has expressed his worry that Harun in his new position will not help the people whom he displaced.
Before the Minister prepares to respond to the debate, may I make a few points for his consideration? Many people are asking where we are with the proposed no-fly zone over parts of Sudan, and perhaps he would enlighten us. What are the Government’s thoughts about the problems in neighbouring countries, such as the Central African Republic and Chad, which have had to deal with 235,000 refugees since the conflict escalated? What response have the Government made to the Sudan-UK investment organisation, particularly its letters to the Governments of India, Malaysia and Japan, which have close economic ties with the Sudanese Government? Those letters ask those states to make their economic relations with Sudan dependent on its full commitment to peace and security for the people of that country. What is the Government’s view of the effectiveness of the European Union’s response?
As in so many other regions of the developing world, we know that wealth-sharing is an increasing imperative in moving people towards genuine development, so I invite the Minister to take this opportunity to outline the steps that DFID is encouraging in this important matter.
In conclusion, I want to underline the importance of crucial diplomatic initiatives. Of course, a positive approach involves France, the United States and the UK speaking with one voice on this crucial issue, but there is another window of opportunity with the Olympic games in Beijing. In many ways, China could be the key to a permanent solution, especially with its desire to be seen in a positive light as the games approach. I was greatly encouraged during the debate in June, when I made that point to the then Secretary of State for International Affairs, who said that
“at the Addis meeting last November…we reached the point where the Chinese representative said to the Government of Sudan, ‘I think you really ought to accept what is being offered here.’ The Sudanese Foreign Minister looked around the room and realised nobody else was supporting him.”
The then Secretary of State continued:
“That collective determination of the international community helped to get that agreement.”—[Official Report, 5 June 2007; Vol. 461, c. 227.]
Unless the Sudanese Government change track, they are destined to be isolated and alone. The international community might have been found wanting in the past, but the future can be so different. Challenges and opportunities exist, and we should not flinch from our duty when the opportunity for peace and progress comes.
It is a pleasure to follow my good and right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), and to have a second bite of the cherry, having had a debate last week with the Foreign Office.
I welcome the Minister, and the good news is that I do not intend to go over the same ground. I am sure that you would rule me out of order, Mr. Olner, if I did, because this is a different debate. However, I want to emphasise a couple of points that I made last week and to examine the funding situation. It is good to see the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) here today. He accompanied me and the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Susan Kramer) to Sudan a couple of months ago when we saw the situation for real, and I want to make a further contribution as a result of that.
We are having this debate against a difficult background. I referred last week to the decision of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to withdraw from the Government of national unity for a period. Various attempts at mediation are being made, but while the situation in Darfur is dire, the wider ramifications for Sudan of losing the comprehensive peace agreement must be understood in their full context, because they are deeply worrying. I hope that at the very least the Minister will tell us what efforts we are making to ensure that the comprehensive peace agreement is maintained, and that every attempt is being made to persuade the SPLM to return to the Government of national unity. That is an interesting concept, but it remains the only show in town, and there is no possibility of solving the Darfur situation unless we can keep the north-south dialogue on track. Given that the Darfur peace agreement is entirely reliant on the comprehensive peace agreement, we must understand how important this time is in the history of Sudan.
I make no apology for looking at the multilateral arrangements for funding, but as chair of the all-party group on Sudan I have nothing but praise for the way in which the Government have engaged with Sudan, and that includes current Ministers and their predecessors. When we took on the issue, we knew that we were in it for the long run and that it would be a rocky road. It has certainly proved to be so, but there is no evidence that the Government have reneged on their commitment and they have been asked to take on more responsibility, which they have done so willingly, knowing that the situation is difficult.
To put the funding situation into context, I shall give some of the background. When the original arrangement to proceed to the comprehensive peace agreement was put in place at the Oslo conference, some £5 billion was pledged. There is a downside to the international community’s commitment, and the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes will remember that Riek Machar, vice president of southern Sudan’s Government, put it to us fair and square that the international community had failed to deliver its Oslo commitment.
Again, it is pleasing that the British Government have kept to their commitment, but many other countries have yet to deliver the money that they promised. The international community has made a commitment, and if we are going to point the finger at Khartoum and Juba and argue that it is right for them to pursue peace, it is only fair that we keep our side of the agreement. However, we have failed to do so, which is lamentable, given that that will bring pressure to bear on the comprehensive peace agreement.
On the wider issue, it is fair to say that Sudan has been something of an experiment—almost a laboratory experiment—in the provision of funding, but no one knows whether that experiment will work. Part of the problem is that the situation is quite complicated in terms of what has been put in place and how it works or—dare I say it—does not work on the ground. There are three main funds—the multi-donor trust fund, the basic services fund and the common humanitarian fund. I will quickly go through what I think each of them does, although there is some questioning of them on the ground in the south, and I am sure that there will be some questioning when we get some peace in Darfur whether the right structures are in place and whether they have worked.
Seventy per cent. of the funding that goes into the south comes from the multi-donor trust fund. The fund largely concentrates on capacity building and focuses on larger projects; indeed, there is a de minimis level below which it does not become involved. Sadly, Vice-President Riek Machar strongly felt that the ratio of funding from the oil revenues that the Government of southern Sudan are beginning to receive and from the international community was two to one. He felt that that was the wrong way round and that there should be much greater commitment from Governments internationally.
One problem, as I said last week, is that 60 per cent. of the moneys from oil revenues go towards military expenditure, which is not helpful. Of course, we can define such expenditure in the widest sense to include policing, as well as soldiers. What is more, a lot of people have been under arms, and something must be done with them—we cannot pretend that it is not important to find ways to occupy them. However, spending oil revenues on such things is not a good start. Of course, the security situation in the south is difficult, as it is in other parts of Sudan, but spending 60 per cent. of revenues on military expenditure does not leave an awful lot for health, education and basic support. Like me, the hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes will have been quite shocked by what he saw and by the insufficient level of provision on the ground. There are huge question marks about what is being done to improve the quality of people’s lives. If it does not improve, people will simply question the comprehensive peace agreement, and the danger is that they will return to conflict.
The basic services fund simply cannot cope with the demand for basic requirements, such as new schools and health centres. Indeed, we saw a health centre, which was very primitive and lacked medicines. Furthermore, most people simply have no access to such centres. Given that people cannot receive basic health care, there is a huge question mark about whether they see their quality of life improving.
As one would suspect, the common humanitarian fund tries to do the absolute basics and to keep people alive by offering some protection and help. Very limited funds have gone into it. Some $279 million was requested for the work plan, but only 61 per cent. has so far been provided. Again, money has been promised, but nothing has been delivered by Governments, let alone on the ground.
As I suggested, such problems add up to a significant threat to the peace process. Those who have returned home with some expectation that things will be better have been sadly disillusioned. That cannot be acceptable to the Government in the south and certainly not, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill has said, to the Government in the north, whether that is the Government of national unity or the National Congress party, which effectively runs the north. That cannot be acceptable to the British Government, let alone to the wider community, and we must do something about it.
My recommendation is simply that we must ensure that the different funds work more efficiently and that they move money to where it is needed—to the people themselves. It is all well and good to ask for additional funding, and it is true that we need it, but the reality is that we need to put in place the funding that was promised. The message from the south, however, is that that has not happened.
Let me move quickly on to Darfur. Again, an awful lot of resources are going into the region, but they are not enough, and a lot more will have to go in as we gear up for the introduction of the force of 26,000 soldiers, who will need support. In the defence debate last week, I challenged the Secretary of State to say exactly what the Government are doing to provide logistical support. Understandably, he was somewhat careful—I will not say less than frank—in what he said. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill must be aware that it will not be easy when that force goes in. The recent outrage at Haskanita made it clear what it is like in parts of Darfur and highlighted the bravery of the forces there—they are currently from AMIS, but will soon be from the United Nations African Union mission in Darfur. Given the level of anarchy in some places in the north, west and south of Darfur, those forces will be fighting all manner of different groups, which will make things difficult. At the same time, however, we must try to get the funds in to make people’s lives better. Humanitarian support is vital.
While the bravery of the troops should, of course, be mentioned, as my right hon. Friend has said, the NGOs are working against an amazingly difficult background, and they deserve a lot of praise. There are always arguments whether the money should go directly to the governmental agencies in the region, both donors and recipients, or through NGOs, and that tension is always there. In reality, however, it does not matter, as long as the funds, the resources and the support reach people. Sadly, there are too many examples of when that does not happen, and that is largely because of the security situation, which is very difficult and which is not getting better, as my right hon. Friend has rightly said.
I ask the Minister to look at the funding mechanisms in the north and south under the comprehensive peace agreement to see whether they should be improved. How do we learn from the mistakes that have been made in the north-south relationship, so that proper funding can begin to improve the humanitarian situation when Darfur moves, I hope, to some form of ceasefire and when some attempt is made to impose a peace settlement?
As in last week’s debate, I finish with a plea not to forget the east. Sadly, it is always left out of the situation. Our group did not get the chance to see it, because we were, as always, strapped for time. The problem in the east is that many promises have been made. People forget that the area around Kassala and Port Sudan is the poorest part of Sudan. It would not take much of a leap of the imagination to see how the rebel groups that have argued forcefully that they have lost out because of what has happened between the north and south could launch their own conflict. At the moment, they remain at peace, but they have Somalia and Eritrea as neighbours—hardly the most stable parts of the world. Issues about the funding mechanism arise in that context, as do issues about ensuring that Khartoum for once does what it has said that it will do and puts resources into the east to prevent a conflict, rather than trying to overcome a conflict once it has arisen. On that sombre note, I shall sit down, and I shall be pleased to hear what the Front-Bench spokesmen have to say.
Sudan is cursed by some of the worst afflictions to which states can fall victim. There is not one problem, but a mixture. Everything that could go wrong has gone wrong there. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) on securing this important debate. With the continuing problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, the focus of the media has drifted away from Sudan, but the House cannot afford to let events elsewhere, however serious, push into the margins the humanitarian disaster that continues to deteriorate day after day in that country.
Before looking at UK aid to Sudan and what could or should be done by the UK Government and taxpayers to help those who are suffering, it is worth taking a minute to consider what the problems are, so as to understand how better to deal with them. To say that the situation is the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet is no exaggeration. What has caused the problem? Religious and ethnic tensions have existed between many tribes and communities, going back well into the past. Even before Gordon of Khartoum was there in the 1870s and 1880s, there was conflict in Darfur, a region that today is a byword for everything for which UK aid is urgently needed: poverty, malnutrition, lack of water and basic sanitation, and a desperate need for health care. Aid is needed to help to deal with infant mortality and to assist refugees within and outside its borders.
“Displaced people” is a phrase that we often hear to describe those who have lost everything but who remain in their own country. It does not sound too bad, but there are few things that could be worse, for those displaced people are often hungry, homeless, malnourished and suffering from a variety of illnesses that leave many too weak to survive. The scale of the problem is well documented. The chairman of the all-party group on Sudan, the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), has been very eloquent in detailing the problems.
Climate change is one of the problems from which Sudan suffers that give rise to its need for a huge amount of aid. With the change in global weather patterns, farmers’ and pastoralists’ traditional land use is also changing, and in some areas it has developed into a battle for survival. We have heard about oil revenues. With the discovery and exploitation of oil, in what is for many a desperately poor country, there is money to fuel conflicts but not enough to feed the hungry. Corruption, as I have said before, and poor governance, are at the heart of the problem in Sudan. I am in no doubt that the Sudanese Government, who should be part of the solution, are in fact a major part of the problem. Arms are another problem. There are simply too many weapons available to too many people. Knowing that an automatic machine gun is required to protect their herd of animals makes potential killers of many farmers. There is also evidence of a flow of second-hand arms from neighbouring countries. Those are some of the factors that our aid, and the people in the front line, are struggling to cope with.
In a debate on UK aid and the Sudan, it is crucial at the outset to pay tribute to the dedication of aid workers and those with the task of delivering our aid on the ground. They risk their lives daily and some have already paid the ultimate price. The international community owes them a great debt. At a sitting of the Select Committee on International Development some time ago, during evidence from Save the Children, the execution of two of its workers was graphically described. More recently, others who have gone to help have also lost their lives. I want also to pay tribute to the work of the former Secretary of State for International Development, the current Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. He worked hard and was often to be heard responding to debates such as this in this Chamber.
Since its independence in 1956, Sudan has known only 11 years of peace. Given that peace is a basic necessity for development and infrastructure building, the scale of the challenge for the people of Sudan and Darfur is considerable. Development will never succeed without good governance and peace. As hon. Members outlined, Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with its per capita income languishing at the bottom of international tables. When the most recent millennium development goals report for Sudan was published in 2005, it painted a grim picture of South Sudan’s progress towards the MDGs. Decades of marginalisation, conflict and insecurity, and lack of access to basic social services, have undermined livelihoods, increased levels of poverty, reduced opportunities and led to high rates of malnutrition. Two years on, in spite of many false dawns, all of those problems remain.
My hon. Friends and I strongly support the work of DFID in Sudan and Darfur. Sudan has rightly been a focus for the Department and its efforts. No one could fault the Government on their commitment to Sudan. Huge amounts of money are flowing into the country, including the south, as well as Darfur. However, unless tangible benefits are forthcoming, frustration will grow. Increasingly, there are questions about how much of the money is making its way through to the ground and to the refugees who need it most.
As to the comprehensive peace agreement, to talk about aid delivery in Sudan we must first talk about the conditions affecting peace there. Along with other hon. Members who are here, I was among those who welcomed the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement as a major breakthrough. However, despite all our hopes, less than two years on implementation is lagging. We are concerned that the international community has disengaged to a degree from getting it back on track. Any progress in Sudan will be hamstrung from the start if we cannot get the CPA to work. The Government rightly stress benchmarks and compliance as the key to sustainable peace in Darfur. They now need to do the same for South Sudan. Benchmarks are in place, but international bodies and Governments are not putting enough pressure on the parties concerned to ensure that they are met.
Transparency in the handling of oil revenues is also a vital component of the CPA. There are currently too many unanswered questions about exactly where much of the oil revenue is going. I am afraid that too little of it is apparently being pushed into basic service provision. I would appreciate the Minister’s thoughts on the lack of transparency and on his Department’s assessment of the scale of the problem with oil revenues.
Although the Government of Sudan need to do more to meet their commitments to the CPA, they are not the only ones: $5 billion was pledged at the 2005 donor conference, and yet only about $150m has been channelled through the Government or to implementing agencies. That is frankly not good enough, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister what the UK Government are doing to put pressure on other countries to live up to their promises. As the hon. Member for Stroud said, Sudan has become something of a laboratory for funding mechanisms. We must look at whether those are working. Donors have set up a number of pooled funding mechanisms, including the multi-donor trust fund, the basic services fund and the common humanitarian fund. However, none has to date adequately dealt with the immediate humanitarian and short-term recovery funding that is needed in South Sudan.
Hon. Members will be aware that 70 per cent. of donor funding to the south is channelled through the MDTF, which is administered by the World Bank. However, the MDTF was not designed to meet immediate recovery needs, and I know from speaking to NGO representatives that in their experience the fund has been far from perfect, with recipients experiencing severe delays, confusion and frustration. Similarly, channelling funding through South Sudan’s Ministries has also been very slow. I have real concerns that the Government of South Sudan simply do not have the capacity to channel so much centrally driven funding through the MDTF.
The DFID-instigated basic services fund was designed to plug a time-limited gap until the MDTF money was paid. However, two and a half years down the line, the BSF is the only major fund that NGOs, which are the main services providers in most cases, can tap into effectively. I commend DFID for setting up the BSF and for committing £17 million to it but, simply, it is not enough to cover the dearth of basic services in South Sudan. What plans are in place for funding NGOs in future?
The common humanitarian fund, which was set up to address humanitarian relief throughout Sudan, is overstretched. The fund is administered by the United Nations Development Programme, and UN agencies and NGOs tap into it for both humanitarian and early development purposes, but their requests overwhelm it—only two thirds of requests currently receive funding. Funding shortfalls and delays carry a considerable cost for intended beneficiaries, and such costs outweigh any efficiency savings gained from pooling resources. Clearly, there are problems with the current approach. What assessment has the Department made about where we go from here? We must recognise that a significant increase in funding is likely to be necessary in the future to provide basic services as long as the MDTF continues to struggle.
Sudan is a prime example of a country in which conflict has destroyed the education system and rid children of a chance to go to school. There has been a severe shortage of aid funding and teachers since the conflict began. For many, learning takes place under trees or in thatched huts. When I was in Sudan, I witnessed first hand massive classes taking place outdoors under the burning midday sun. There was no running water for the children, and they had hardly any learning materials at their disposal. The result is that fewer finish primary school, especially girls. I commend the work of Save the Children for highlighting that injustice. For Sudan to progress, education provision must be adequately funded, in particular in South Sudan, which must avoid producing a generation of illiterate youths. Although enrolment has increased in recent years, three quarters of children have no access to education. In that regard, marginalisation of girls and young women has serious implications because it reduces women’s opportunities to participate in all levels of government and civil society. I would appreciate it if the Minister would comment on that. Is he aware of how much the South Sudan Government spend on education compared with defence? Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will, like me, have seen reports that defence spending has reached a high percentage of GDP, and education spending might be suffering in comparison.
On health, one child in four dies before the age of five, and the lifetime risk of a woman dying in pregnancy or childbirth is one in nine. That is an outcome not only of poverty and insecurity, but of inadequate health services. There is currently only one doctor for every 100,000 people, primary care facilities lack drugs and equipment, and there is virtually no obstetric emergency care. Those problems are compounded by the fact that fewer than one third of the population have access to safe drinking water, and by the prevailing poor hygiene and sanitation practices.
I have seen the great work that Médecins sans Frontières does on the front line. I shall not forget hearing about what young nurses deal with on a daily basis in both the south of Sudan and in the Darfur refugee camps. A significant amount of aid has gone to support them and they do a magnificent job—many of us are stunned and impressed by their work.
The right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill mentioned that some bigwigs fly to use UK hospitals. Does the Minister know what is going on and will he say what the Government’s policy is on that?
Thank you, Mr. Olner. I shall conclude my remarks shortly.
Aid workers in Sudan’s Darfur region come under increasingly savage attack, but I shall not say more on that because hon. Members on both sides of the House are well aware of it.
The debate is entitled “UK Aid (Sudan)”. The aid comes from a number of sources, but it is mainly paid by the UK taxpayer through DFID. The people of the UK, including my constituents and people throughout Scotland, are generous, but there is another aid budget—that of the Scottish Government. Their aid budget has doubled since the May elections, and it would not be proper to exclude it from the debate. If the Minister is in discussions with the Scottish Government, will he ensure that their aid and that provided through DFID works together to maximise its impact? The Scottish Government have raised a number of issues. They would like to spend aid money within the UK, but they have never mentioned Sudan. They have mentioned the doubling of their aid budget, but to my knowledge they have not mentioned aid to Sudan.
Most debates on Sudan in recent years have centred on the problems of Darfur, so it has been good to look at the wider issue of aid to Sudan, because many areas are at risk, as there will be in future. I am optimistic by nature, but one of the few places to defeat my optimism is Sudan. There is one simple reason for that: the Sudanese Government. Most other countries that struggle to cope with disaster—I exclude Zimbabwe—have a Government who work towards a solution. That is not the case in Sudan. Until something changes, I fear that no matter how much aid is poured into the country, the problems will persist. There is no alternative but to continue to work for change at all levels, but that will take time. Unfortunately, time is the one thing that many of those who most need help to survive do not have.
May I say what a pleasure it is to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Olner? Some six years after the event, I have just about come to terms with your election victory in 2001, even if I remain convinced that there were 7,500 or so Conservatives who, had they voted, would have made things rather different.
I congratulate the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) on securing this important debate. His reputation in the field proceeds him and, in a wide-ranging speech, he demonstrated his commitment to and knowledge of the issue. It is a pleasure to follow my friend the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew), with whom I enjoyed enormously a trip to Sudan this year. He is widely recognised as the House expert on Sudan and demonstrated his knowledge on our trip. I am sure that he will join me in offering thanks to Chris Milner, who works in his office, for the wonderful job he did to organise our trip. I am also pleased to follow the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett), who covered much of the ground that I wish to cover, as is often the case in such debates. He outlined eloquently some of the key problems in Sudan.
As the hon. Member for Stroud mentioned, I returned from a trip to Sudan with the all-party group recently. Although I did not have time to travel to every region of the country—I went mostly to the capital and to South Sudan—I saw a fractured society, a creaking political structure and unchecked militias. The international community is giving its all in an effort to resolve the various internal crises; but ultimately, it is struggling to make much progress.
I wish to mention briefly two key issues: DFID’s involvement in Sudan and, time permitting, some of the different geographical crises and their impact on aid delivery. I commend the Minister and the Department’s continuing commitment to Sudan. I shall certainly not criticise DFID for the monetary aid that it gives to Sudan. As was mentioned, the figures suggest that, since April 2004, DFID has given more than £250 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan, of which £145 million was directed to the Darfur region. Sudan is the third largest recipient of bilateral aid from the UK, which is the second largest donor after the United States.
The budget for 2007-08 is £110 million, £67 million of which will fund humanitarian work and £40 million of which will in turn be channelled through the UN-administered common humanitarian fund. The remaining £27 million will be used to support NGO programmes, mostly in Darfur. With that in mind, I ask the Minister to outline the priorities for the common humanitarian fund and the measures in place to ensure that the UK taxpayer is receiving value for money. Can he also offer a breakdown of which NGO projects are being funded and where?
Although we can see that the input of financial support is considerable, my concern is exactly how we are measuring the success of that support. If I were to be critical, I would argue that the Department, rather like the Government as a whole, continues to judge its success on inputs rather than outputs. Unfortunately, when we begin to look at the outputs, we see that the picture is slightly less rosy.
At macro level, we could take progress towards achieving the millennium development goals, for example. The United Nations Development Programme’s Sudan millennium development goals interim unified report concluded that achievement of the 10 millennium goals, broken down into their 20 subsections, was unlikely in 12 of the 20 sections and only potentially achievable in the eight others. Only the MDGs on the under-five mortality rate, the maternal mortality ratio and the proportion of population with access to an improved water source were assessed as probably being achievable. Those statistics paint a grim picture, but it is a picture for the country as a whole. In areas such as Darfur, South Kordofan, Abyei and Gereida, the situation is, unfortunately, much worse.
The report suggests that, although education enrolment is increasing, 75 per cent. of children still have no access to education—worst off are girls—and the problem has become so bad that southern Sudan is in danger of producing a generation of illiterate citizens. That obviously has huge implications for Sudan’s future development.
Health standards are also very low. One in four children dies before the age of five. One in nine women giving birth in Sudan dies in labour. Hospitals are badly under-stocked with drugs, and a number of sources suggest that there are only enough doctors for a ratio of one doctor per 100,000 people—assuming, of course, that they can get to the doctor in the first place.
Shortly before the hon. Member for Stroud and I met the Vice-President of the Government of South Sudan, we travelled a short distance out of Juba to one of the villages where many of the recently returned former internally displaced persons from the north were staying. Accompanied by some immaculately dressed, armed and fed soldiers—that is hardly surprising, as some 40 per cent. of the budget from the oil revenue for the Government of South Sudan is spent on defence—we talked to villagers who were almost at their wits’ end because, despite being little more than three miles from the capital, the village lacked any basic infrastructure, whether a kindergarten, junior school or even the most basic medical clinic. I recall causing our excellent ambassador some concern less than an hour later by asking the Vice-President why his Government were spending so much on defence and so little on the most basic facilities for his people.
In 2005, the comprehensive peace agreement created two multi-donor trust funds: one to provide financial aid to the Government of national unity in Khartoum for war-affected areas in the north and for the three transitional zones of Abyei, Blue Nile and South Kordofan; and one for the Government of South Sudan. The amount of money currently committed to the two funds is estimated at $508 million. Of the £47 million originally committed by the UK, £30 million has been committed to date, with a further £17 million due in 2007-08. Regrettably, however, during the trip the common view from those whom we met appeared to be that the MDTFs are failing.
It appears that not only did the international community force unrealistic start-up programmes on the two MDTFs, but their inability to support quick impact aid delivery went unrecognised. To be fair, the MDTFs were not designed to meet immediate recovery needs. Instead, the funds focus on Government capacity building and centrally decided programmes, with an over-reliance on outside consultants. Having met representatives of several NGOs, we heard how their experiences of the MDTFs had been very negative, with recipients experiencing severe delays, confusion and frustration.
In the light of those problems, the UN has suggested that the MDTFs implement a new quick delivery strategy. Although the Government of national unity were supportive in the north, the Government of South Sudan appear less supportive, and recent events seem to have underlined that fact.
If development is to progress in Sudan, the big international players, the UN and, most importantly, the African Union need to put pressure on the Government of South Sudan as soon as possible. With that in mind, can the Minister confirm whether all the budgeted £47 million will be given to the two funds by the end of the financial year? Will he explain what progress has been made in setting up a quick delivery mechanism to address the slow delivery problem? Will he also outline some of the outputs that have been delivered by the MDTFs to date? Is he confident that they represent value for money?
I realise that I am asking a lot of questions, but I hope that they do not come as a surprise to the Minister. Finally, can he confirm when the donor-commissioned review of the MDTFs is due to report and why the Sudan consortium meeting scheduled for this month has been delayed at least until January and possibly even March?
The hon. Member for Stroud suggested that Sudan has become something of a laboratory for experimentation in funding mechanisms. I have to agree. Donors have set up a number of pooled funding mechanisms. In addition to the multi-donor trust funds and the common humanitarian fund, which have been discussed, is the basic services fund. As has been said, however, even now, we are simply failing to address the immediate funding crisis. That was repeated to us again and again during our visit, perhaps most noticeably by the head of the UN mission in southern Sudan. What plans has the Minister to give a greater percentage of UK aid to the basic services fund to help to plug that gap?
It is clear that funding shortfalls and delays carry a very considerable cost for the intended beneficiaries, outweighing any efficiency savings gained from pooling resources. The lack of a clear peace dividend in terms of high-impact additional funding represents a serious threat to the comprehensive peace agreement.
While we were in Juba, in the south, we also visited the new joint donor team that was first set up back in May 2006. That joint project involves the UK, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Canada. It is commendable in that, through working together in that innovative way of joint funding and joint policy making, the delivery of aid should be more effective. However, the same problems seem to exist where the multinational nature of the team seems simply to add to an already slow delivery time. Can the Minister confirm whether it remains DFID’s intention ultimately to deliver all expenditure, except humanitarian aid in the south, through the joint donor team? Will he also outline what outputs the joint donor team has delivered since its creation in May 2006?
Time is marching on, so I intend to deal briefly with just one area, which is Abyei. The Abyei oilfield is estimated to be raising $529 million in 2007. Boundary disputes continue, although it is hardly a surprise, given the oil interests, that both the north and the south claim the region as their own. DFID and other key international players have an opportunity to bring both sides back to the negotiating table and use the region as a springboard for greater success across the whole country.
Since Dr Garang’s untimely death, trust between the National Congress party and the Government of South Sudan has ebbed away. When we visited southern politicians who were part of the Government of national unity, they certainly said the right things, but the events of the past two weeks have shown that there was really a lack of trust. However, if a demilitarised zone can be created, it could set a precedent for the rest of the country. Of the four possible methods of resolving the deadlock drawn up by the joint NCP and Government of South Sudan group, only political mediation has been attempted so far. The Government of South Sudan have shown a willingness to involve international mediation. However, the NCP continues to rule out that option. Perhaps most seriously, the recommendations made by the boundary commission have still to be recognised, and with that stumbling block still in place, progress probably remains a pipe dream.
Will the Minister outline what actions the Government have taken to hold talks with our Chinese counterparts, whose considerable influence could be used to bring about peace in the Abyei region? Also, what does the Minister propose to kick-start the talks about the boundary commission report?
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke) on securing this important debate. He is someone who uniquely commands respect in the House for his work on international development, and it is a privilege to respond to his debate.
My right hon. Friend’s eloquent and powerful description of the reality of life in Sudan was, frankly, depressing, but it is important that we are depressed. That depression should act as a catalyst for us to do even more, but we will all recognise that while we are depressed here, we are not living that reality—the people of Sudan are. I know that right hon. and hon. Members are clear about the fact that the cruel, prolonged and unnecessary suffering of the people of Sudan must come to a swift end. Their impatience for peace is shared by people on these shores and beyond.
Sudan faces significant development challenges. The war between north and south Sudan left more than 6 million people displaced. Large swathes of the population endured some of the worst development indicators possible, and the recent conflict in Darfur has added to that suffering. Current projections suggest that Sudan will not meet any of the millennium development goals by 2015. Each year, 100,000 children die from preventable diseases. The UK has more than 25,000 qualified midwives; we are told that southern Sudan has only eight. It should not be a surprise that Sudan has perhaps the worst maternal mortality rate in the world, at 2,000 deaths for every 100,000 deliveries.
The UK is responding to those challenges. As has been mentioned, we are the second largest donor to Sudan. In 2005, we pledged £317 million in aid over three years. To date, we have spent £290 million and stand to exceed our pledge. This year alone, we have committed £110 million, £67 million of which will go to humanitarian assistance.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill was kind enough to share with us a letter from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights about funding shortfalls. We are pleased that the UK’s role and commitment has been acknowledged. Our response is that we cannot meet the needs of the people of Sudan alone. As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) has said, other donors must meet their commitments and play their parts, if we are to have the impact so desperately required now and for many years in Sudan.
Work in Sudan is becoming increasingly complex. The comprehensive peace agreement in 2005 ended decades of civil war between the north and the south. It is the essential foundation for long-term peace and stability for all parts of Sudan. We remain fundamentally committed to supporting its implementation.
My right hon. Friend spoke about the bombings and condemned them. I know that he is aware that the UK sponsored the UN resolution in March 2005 referring Darfur to the International Criminal Court. Two arrest warrants for atrocities in Darfur have been issued so far. I concur with his comments and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and other hon. Members that the announcement on 11 October by the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to suspend its participation in the Government of national unity underlines the agreement’s fragility. Political leaders in the north and the south need to muster the political will and demonstrate the leadership necessary to resolve the more sensitive issues at the heart of the agreement—border demarcation, elections and Abyei. The current political deadlock has the potential to derail the relative peace that is, at the moment, mercifully allowing recovery and development work to continue in the south. We must do all we can to restore faith in the agreement and demonstrate to the people of Sudan the tangible benefits that peace will bring.
The UK provided £60 million in development assistance last year to support CPA implementation. We have also put £47 million into the multi-donor trust fund over three years, to be split evenly between the north and the south—a vital contribution to funding the introduction of a new currency for Sudan required by the CPA. Through a DFID programme, we have also provided £17 million for basic services such as primary schools, boreholes, latrines and health services, which are having a major impact on people’s lives.
We will provide support to help ensure that the 2009 elections are a success, as they are crucial, and will continue to support the transformation of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army into a disciplined professional army operating under democratic civil control with respect for human rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud focused on that issue. The Government believe that it is crucial to consider it, as well as the disproportionate sums of money that seem to be targeted at the military, including many former military operatives who are still being paid salaries.
We are also working with partners to reinvigorate the assessment and evaluation commission, which oversees CPA implementation, and to ensure that the CPA remains high on the international agenda and is not forgotten. I think that we all accept that it is crucial to get close to the kind of situation that we want. The CPA is the bedrock of stability for the whole of Sudan, and it is indivisible from the peace process in Darfur.
The humanitarian situation there remains a major source of concern. Since the start of the conflict, many thousands have been killed and wounded, and more than 2 million people are internally displaced in camps throughout the region, while more than 4 million depend on international aid for their basic needs. Malnutrition levels exceed emergency thresholds in many parts of Darfur. We have spent £145 million on humanitarian funding to Darfur since the start of that tragic crisis in 2003. The majority of this year’s aid, some £40 million, is being channelled through the common humanitarian fund, a pioneering multi-donor mechanism allowing the UN humanitarian co-ordinator to allocate resources where the need is greatest.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud mentioned the need for efficient and effective funding mechanisms that would have an impact on the ground, and we are very conscious of that. The multi-donor trust fund is being reviewed, and we rely on the Governments of Sudan and southern Sudan to take part in that process. They have asked the World Bank for more time to prepare, but we hope that the review will take place in early 2008, so we can be more confident that the systems in place are delivering the maximum possible.
My hon. Friend also mentioned the 2:1 ratio. The ratio has been proposed to ensure that the Sudanese Government make a long-term commitment to poverty reduction. The UK will continue to fulfil its obligation to help alleviate the suffering, but sustainable peace and security in Darfur will be achieved only through a political process involving all parties to the conflict.
The Prime Minister is leading international efforts to build a consensus on Darfur. On 20 July, he and President Sarkozy announced a joint initiative for Darfur. It focused on four areas—rapid deployment of an effective peacekeeping force; movement towards political negotiations; preparing for economic recovery to show the people of Darfur that there are dividends of peace; and regional stability.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and the hon. Members for Edinburgh, West and for North-East Milton Keynes (Mr. Lancaster) have discussed China’s role. We are certainly encouraging China and India to play a more prominent and positive role. Hon. Members should be aware that, like us, China has urged and pressed the SPLM and President Bashir to end the political crisis and fully to implement the CPA.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud has mentioned east Sudan. The peace agreement there was announced on 14 October last year, although we accept that progress has been slower than we would have liked. Unfortunately, that is a common theme in Sudan, but we are sure that the multi-donor trust is playing an important role. I assure my hon. Friend that the embassy in Khartoum monitors progress regularly. It is appropriate now to pay tribute to our British personnel, who do a magnificent job under what must be extremely challenging circumstances. I have not had the opportunity to go to Sudan to see them in action, but most hon. Members here today have, and I know that they would wish to join me in paying tribute. It is always useful to remind ourselves of their efforts.
Recently, we have seen progress. UN Security Council resolution 1769, which was sponsored by the United Kingdom with unanimous agreement, mandates a hybrid African Union and UN peacekeeping force. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill spoke of a no-fly zone. That is obviously a possibility, but our initial focus and priority must clearly be to ensure that the hybrid force is up and in action. We hope and pray that it will create the secure environment that is so desperately needed for us to deliver vital humanitarian assistance to the people of Darfur. In September, the UN Secretary-General announced that peace talks would be held in Libya later this month, which is an encouraging sign.
Despite those positive developments, we are all aware that problems remain. The violence has increased, including a heinous attack on AMIS peacekeepers in Haskanita and fighting around the town of Muhajiria. That has added to an already challenging humanitarian situation, with a quarter of a million people being displaced this year alone.
My right hon. Friend referred to the Central African Republic. We support the deployment of an interim European Union force for the Central African Republic and for Chad, and we have given some £6.5 million of humanitarian assistance for Darfurian refugees in Chad.
Since the start of the year, more than 100 humanitarian aid vehicles have been hijacked and five aid workers have been killed. That seriously undermines the ability of humanitarian agencies to deliver vital aid to those in desperate need. I pay tribute to the brave efforts of those humanitarian workers who continue to provide essential assistance to the people of Darfur. Their tireless contributions in the most dangerous of circumstances deserve not only recognition but praise. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, too, rightly gave praise to those brave front-line workers.
We call on all sides to commit themselves to an immediate cessation of hostilities, so that humanitarian workers can do their job and so that the peacekeeping forces can be rapidly deployed. They must engage fully in the political talks being led by the African Union and the United Nations.
The hon. Member for North-East Milton Keynes asked about the multi-donor trust fund. As I said earlier, £47 million has been given, and we remain committed to meeting the target that we set ourselves. We all want to see the quick delivery mechanism; although we support efforts to make the MDTF more flexible, there is a trade off between fiduciary standards and speed of delivery. Looking forward to the next Sudan consortium meeting early in 2008, we hope to address some of the issues correctly raised by the hon. Gentleman. He also spoke about the common humanitarian fund and channelling funds to meet the most urgent of needs is an absolute priority.
A breakdown of projects cannot be given today, but disbursal by non-governmental organisations is rising. NGOs received 26 per cent. of the fund in 2007, compared with just 12 per cent. in 2006. As for results, in 2007 the common humanitarian fund supported the return and reintegration of some 180,000 people displaced by the civil war.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West mentioned the Government of Scotland. I am not aware of any approaches having been made by them, but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is a former Secretary of State for Scotland. I am sure that he would want to maximise the impact of the work that we do in Sudan by working with all nations of the United Kingdom.
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He is making an absolutely excellent speech, and has a firm grasp of all the issues raised today. Will he join with me in saying that we should continue working with our colleagues in the European Union, particularly with France? We believe that they have much to offer. I thank the Minister again for his excellent contribution.
It is right that we work with all nations and parties, including the EU, which has an important role to play. Again, I commend my right hon. Friend for his efforts on these and wider issues. I now need to get on the home straight, as only 90 seconds remain.
As the Prime Minister made clear, if the situation improves we are prepared to act in support. As part of the joint initiative for Darfur and as an incentive for the peace process, the UK will ensure that when political progress is made it will be matched by economic support. However, if the Government of Sudan and the rebels do not meet their commitments, I make it clear that we will pursue further, targeted sanctions.
On Sunday night, I attended the Muslim “Live 8” concert for peace in Darfur, which was organised by Islamic Relief. About 10,000 people gathered in Wembley arena, which demonstrated the strength and depth of support here for the people of Darfur, and I congratulate the organisers on that timely initiative.
None of us should forget the people of Darfur, and we accept that we have an obligation to end their suffering. The CPA must be implemented, because only then will we have a chance to bring lasting peace to Darfur and the whole of Sudan. With the help of our international partners, we will work with the people of Sudan, letting them know that they are not alone. Our challenge is to deliver their dream—a Sudan where there is peace, prosperity and justice for all. We will meet that challenge.