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Sudan

Volume 521: debated on Wednesday 12 January 2011

Our future support to Sudan will be determined by the bilateral aid review, which is on schedule to report by the end of February. Whatever the outcome of the referendum, there will continue to be significant humanitarian and development needs in both north and south Sudan.

According to Transparency International’s measures, Sudan rates as the 176th most corrupt nation in the world. What assistance will the Department be offering to help to establish the rule of law and build democratic structures in Sudan, whatever the results of the current referendum?

My hon. Friend is right. Corruption has a devastating impact on the lives of poor people and, indeed, on the confidence of taxpayers in donor countries. It is for that reason that no British taxpayer funds go through the Government of Sudan, but I assure my hon. Friend that we will be working in both north and southern Sudan, whatever the result of the referendum, to increase access to justice and to ensure that in the north, for example, there is much greater transparency in the operation and accountability of local government, and in the south to seek to embed anti-corruption mechanisms from day one, were the referendum to decide that there should be a southern Sudan.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s efforts in Sudan. Although attention is rightly focused on the referendum in southern Sudan, the violence in the west means that the situation is still fragile, particularly in the region of Darfur. Can my right hon. Friend reassure the House that his Department is able to help both regions—the south and the west—simultaneously?

Again, my hon. Friend is right. Although things are going extremely well so far with regard to the referendum, and people respect the agreements made under the comprehensive peace agreement, affairs in Darfur have deteriorated. Indeed, in the last week we have been told that 40,000 people were displaced as a result of fighting there. The British Government are absolutely committed to our humanitarian work in Darfur as well as in south Sudan, and through the common humanitarian programme we provide that support throughout the whole of Sudan.

Sudan has been beset by conflict for decades, and I pay tribute to the work of DFID officers in bringing about the peace accord. Can the Secretary of State spell out, whatever the outcome of the referendum, how joined up his policy will be with the policies of the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, to make sure that violence does not erupt again in the south?

The hon. Gentleman rightly points to the importance of the UK Government platform being seamless. That is why, when I was in Sudan in November, I opened a new British Government office in Juba. Last weekend, it was elevated to a consulate generalship and will provide state-of-the-art support for the work that the British Government are doing in southern Sudan.

Can the Secretary of State update the House on the progress of any agreed settlement regarding the distribution of Sudanese oil reserves between north and south Sudan?

This is one of the issues that former President Mbeki is particularly addressing in the discussions about Abyei. As the hon. Lady implies, the largest amounts of oil are in southern Sudan but the mechanisms for extracting it and getting it out are pipelines through northern Sudan. The negotiations are continuing and are likely to continue for some time yet.

The Secretary of State will be aware that oil wealth has not always transformed countries in Africa, or indeed relieved the poverty of those in question. What steps will DFID take to ensure that southern Sudan will have the infrastructure and diversification support it needs so that it does not become another country suffering the Dutch disease because of oil?

The Chairman of the Select Committee draws attention to the resource curse that has afflicted so many countries in that part of the world. The point he makes is being directly addressed. I discussed the matter with President Salva Kiir when I was in Sudan in November. Sudan is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world, with illiteracy of more than 82% and only 24 km of tarmacked road in the entire country. There is a huge development issue to be addressed, but there is also the ability, through oil wealth, to make real progress over the last five years of the millennium development goals until 2015.

Last year, almost half the people in southern Sudan needed help just to get enough to eat. Southern Sudan has enormous agricultural potential but, as the Secretary of State has just said, there are scarcely any roads or systems to support food production. We help with emergency food aid, quite rightly, but what more can DFID do to ensure that the people of southern Sudan can get off food aid and develop their own agriculture?

The right hon. and learned Lady is right to suggest that 4.5 million people directly benefit from British food aid in southern Sudan, but that is not a long-term solution. As we have learned in eastern Africa, by contrast with western Africa, it is crucial to try to ensure that food is grown as closely as possible to the people it supplies and that local markets are stimulated close to where there is food and security. That will be one of the key objectives that we will pursue in conjunction with the authorities in southern Sudan.