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Petitions

Volume 473: debated on Friday 14 March 2008

Petition

Friday 14 March 2008

OBSERVATIONS

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Darfur Genocide

The Petition of Hannah Marshall, Elliott Ward and students of the Anglo European School and of the South East,

Declares that the children and young people of Britain are the future of this country and want a future without violence and unnecessary suffering, bred by inequality, believe that genocide in Darfur should be tackled more appropriately by the UK and other nations, and that this genocide should be more widely publicised, and further declares that there are over 20 million refugees in the world, many of whom are children or young people, like the petitioners, but many of whom do not have a family or even a country and need our help as their brothers and sisters.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons to urge the Government to take a more positive role in bringing attention to the Darfur genocide, in helping those refugees in need in Darfur, and in getting a solution to the political and security problems and giving appropriate aid so issues are dealt with in a sustainable manner.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 11 July 2007; Vol. 462, c. 1581.] [P000152]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:

The UK Government shares the petitioners' concerns about the situation in Darfur and utterly condemns the appalling acts of violence committed by all sides to the conflict. The UK is at the forefront of international efforts to bring lasting peace and security to Darfur and across Sudan.

The UK was instrumental in achieving the transfer of authority, on 31 December 2007, from the African Union (AU) force to the AU-UN Hybrid peacekeeping force (UNAMID) in Darfur. The mission is vital to restoring peace and stability and improving security for displaced persons. The UK sponsored and led work in New York last summer on the Security Council Resolution (UNSCR 1769) that authorised the mission.

The international community must act together to resolve the crisis in Darfur. UK Ministers agreed on 21-22 February with the Chinese Special Envoy for Africa, Liu Guijin, the key objectives of accelerating UN AMID's deployment, re-energising the Darfur political process, and securing an end to the recent violence in West Darfur and Chad. I discussed these issues in Beijing on 28 February with my Chinese counterpart.

The Prime Minister and other UK Ministers, both in public and our dealings with the Government of Sudan and other interested countries, have repeatedly made it clear that Darfur is a high priority for the UK. The Prime Minister promised further development aid, dependent on progress on security, ceasefire, political process and humanitarian access. All sides must act or face the consequences.

Ultimately, sustainable peace and security in Darfur will only be achieved through a political process. We are urging all parties to cease hostilities and to engage fully in this process, which re-started on 27 October 2007 in Libya under AU-UN leadership. The UK supports this process by providing £1 million to the Mediation Support Team. Securing a sustainable peace deal for Darfur also requires effective consultation and engagement with civil society, including all ethnic groups. The UK is funding key positions within the mechanism for consulting civil society.

The UK is committing considerable resources to alleviate the immediate humanitarian crisis and will continue to push for full humanitarian access for non-Government organisations operating in Darfur. We are the second largest bilateral humanitarian donor, having contributed over £290 million in humanitarian assistance to Sudan (£158 million to Darfur) since April 2004.

Addressing Darfur's immediate recovery and long-term reconstruction needs is equally important. On 28 October 2007, the UK announced a contribution of £5 million to the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund, which is intended to support peace by providing services and promoting reconciliation at community level where the security situation permits and where local leaders commit to political dialogue.

There can be no impunity for the terrible crimes committed in Darfur. In March 2005, the UK sponsored UNSCR 1593 which referred Darfur to the International Criminal Court (ICC). We call on the Government of Sudan to co-operate unconditionally with the ICC and surrender the two individuals for whom the ICC issued arrest warrants in connection with alleged atrocities in Darfur. The ICC has our full support for its activities. I raised this in my meeting with ICC President Philippe Kirsch on 8 November 2007. Lord Malloch-Brown raised it with the Government of Sudan during his visit to Khartoum in January.

The UK remains committed to a peaceful and prosperous Sudan. We will continue to play a leading role in international efforts to support work towards a peaceful future for Darfur.