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Sudan and South Sudan

Volume 537: debated on Wednesday 7 December 2011

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Jeremy Wright.)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship again, Mr Owen. I declare an interest as the new chair of the all-party group on Sudan and South Sudan, and I pay tribute to the work of my predecessor, my noble Friend Baroness Kinnock, for her commitment to alleviating poverty and hunger throughout the region.

This is a particularly timely debate, as it is nearly six months since South Sudan became the newest member of the international community. It is a new state with good natural resources, particularly in agriculture, but with genuine challenges as one of the least developed countries in the world. Chronic food insecurity in Sudan and South Sudan has been exacerbated by delayed rains in South Kordofan, the conflicts in that state and in Abyei and Blue Nile, and rising commodity prices linked to global factors and border restrictions and closures.

Conflict has meant that hundreds of thousands of people, those who were displaced and those who were not, have missed the planting season and remain unable to access their livelihoods. As of 4 September, some 4 million people in Sudan and as many as 3 million in South Sudan were at risk of food insecurity according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which is of particular concern because the Sudanese economy depends on agriculture for almost a third of its output.

There have been significant recent developments across the two nations. Negotiations resumed between Sudan and South Sudan on 21 November in Addis Ababa, on several issues outstanding since the secession of South Sudan and expiration of the mandate of the comprehensive peace agreement in July. The negotiations focused on the sharing of oil revenues and on debt, trade, citizenship and border demarcation. But violence continues across Blue Nile and South Kordofan states in Sudan, with new waves of conflict-displaced people heading into South Sudan. The Sudanese armed forces state that they have captured key rebel holdings in Taruje, South Kordofan, which rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North forces deny. Médecins Sans Frontières states that new waves of refugees are reported to be fleeing the Blue Nile region for South Sudan, as the Government army have intensified air raids on the rebel SPLMN. That follows reports by the Satellite Sentinel Project of aerial bombardments of civilian areas between 11 and 27 November by the Sudanese armed forces in Blue Nile state. Thirteen thousand refugees have been reported thus far. Tens of thousands of southerners in the north attempting to return to South Sudan are left in limbo, unable to return home or reintegrate into life. They have sold their homes and possessions and are stuck in temporary camps with limited access to basic amenities.

Unresolved issues between Sudan and South Sudan continue to give rise to considerable tension, as the Government of Sudan continue to halt the south’s oil exports until a transit fee is arranged. Sudan is also confiscating 23% of the south’s oil entitlement as payment owed since independence. It is significant that China has sent senior official Liu Guijin to mediate between the two states. Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has expressed deep concern about the fighting in Blue Nile state and South Kordofan. The EU made €40 million available for humanitarian action in Sudan and South Sudan throughout September, part of which was set aside for South Kordofan. As I mentioned earlier, in late November, the EU welcomed the resumption of crucial negotiations in Addis Ababa between Sudan and South Sudan under the auspices of the African Union high level implementation panel, led by Thabo Mbeki. It urged both parties to make every effort to resolve outstanding issues, including those related to oil, transitional financial arrangements, borders and Abyei, and to reach a negotiated settlement.

The EU has announced that it would provide funds for new early recovery projects in areas of Darfur where the security situation is stable and to where displaced people have voluntarily decided to return, with priority being given to health, education, food security and securing livelihoods. On 11 November, the EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, announced that the European Commission had pledged €200 million to South Sudan to address key sectors such as health, education, rule of law and infrastructural development, particularly in connection with the construction of feeder roads. But the EU has not been able to disburse the €294 million pledged to Sudan in 2008 for between then and 2013, as Sudan chose not to ratify the revised Cotonou agreement because it included clauses about co-operation with the International Criminal Court.

There are ongoing conflicts in Abyei, South Kordofan, Blue Nile state, and Darfur. In Abyei there are still flows of people crossing the Banton bridge from Agok and going to areas north of the Bahr al-Arab, or Kiir river. Some 60 people cross daily and fewer return. The UK’s Special Representative for Sudan, Michael Ryder, stated in Juba on 1 December that the deployment of UN troops from Ethiopia in the Abyei region has led to improvement in the stability of the area. He indicated that civilians are now able to return to their homes and that the remaining controversy is about the formation of the Abyei administrative council. The Government of Sudan have indicated that they will fully withdraw their troops once the council make-up has been agreed.

In South Kordofan, international non-governmental organisations estimate that 300,000 people have been displaced since the summer. A camp for refugees from South Kordofan in Yida, South Sudan, was bombed by the Sudanese armed forces on 10 November, an act that has met with international condemnation. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees now plans to facilitate the voluntary relocation of some Sudanese refugees from the Yida site to safer locations further south. Heavy shelling has been reported though, and the UNHCR reports that 80,000 people have now fled conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile state. Some 36,000 Sudanese refugees are estimated to be in Ethiopia, in three refugee camps—Sherkole, Tongo and Fugnido—as well as at Adimazin transit centre. Foreign aid workers and journalists are still prohibited from accessing the area to verify information and provide much needed humanitarian aid.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. He is turning now to international access and the lack thereof, particularly by journalists. He is eloquently outlining the problems, but does he agree that one of the big issues from now on will be the information to the west and the developed world about what exactly is happening in Sudan and South Sudan, so that we can more appropriately and better deploy the resources to help the people there?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting and accurate point. It is interesting that more than 35,000 refugees have been displaced from Blue Nile state into Ethiopia, but up to 13,000 new refugees are fleeing Blue Nile into South Sudan as the Sudanese armed forces’ air raids on rebel forces are reported to have intensified on 2 December. Information about what is happening on the ground will be critical to resolving the disputes.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that some 700,000 southerners of Sudan have not had their nationality recognised? They are in a grey area—limbo-land. Does he feel that the Government should be doing more to address that issue, so that people know where they belong? Is it north, is it south—where are they?

That is the issue to which I referred a few moments ago. I thank the hon. Gentleman for raising it once more. Clearly, the Government should use their influence to speak with Catherine Ashton and UN agencies to ensure that the issue is resolved in negotiations between the two states as urgently as possible.

To return to dislocation, a further 8,000 refugees are thought to be on the move towards South Sudan from Blue Nile state. Some are reported to have walked for more than a week to reach safety in Doro village in South Sudan, 40 km from the border between the two states. Satellite images captured in November indicated that war planes had attacked villages directly. Between 10,000 and 15,000 refugees are estimated to have fled to the border areas of Upper Nile state after infighting in Blue Nile state, according to UNHCR information.

The UN has reported new cases of displacement in both North Darfur and West Darfur as a result of continued offensives between the Government and rebels. Population movements have also been recorded in South Darfur due to ongoing military operations. Groups displaced before July continue to lack proper access to water, food, health care and sanitation, and humanitarian relief access to the area is also lacking. I hope that the Minister will address several issues in his closing remarks. Will the Government make representations at EU level so that all parties unite in calling for the two states to ensure the welfare of civilians by refraining from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, agreeing an immediate ceasefire and allowing unimpeded humanitarian access? Will the Government engage in diplomatic efforts and encourage actors with leverage over both parties to seek a political solution to the crisis, including by completing post-comprehensive peace agreement negotiations with support from international or regional arbiters, and ensure that the promised popular consultations in South Kordofan and Blue Nile take place as part of broader efforts to include the concerns and priorities of civilians in peace negotiations?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. His point about encouraging all those with influence on both countries to exercise it to bring about peace is crucial. What role does he think the Arab nations in particular have to play in providing influence on the Sudan Government? I know that the Sudan Government were congratulated by the new Libyan Government on the support that they gave Libya. Maybe that influence could now be reciprocated to encourage progress in Sudan.

My hon. Friend raises an interesting point. Where the Arab League and other actors in the Arab world can exercise positive influence, we should welcome that.

It is essential to support the efforts of the UN emergency relief co-ordinator to secure full and unimpeded humanitarian access. Will the Government encourage the EU to seek an end to any support for non-governmental armed groups operating on either side of the border, and support the establishment of a demilitarised zone monitored by the UN along the border?

The international community has been engaged fully in development issues since the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement in 2005, but one in eight children die before their fifth birthday, the maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world and more than half the population lives below the poverty line. More than 220,000 people were displaced by conflict last year, and more than 100,000 were affected by floods. Already this year, fighting in the disputed border areas, clashes between the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and militia groups, disputes over land and cattle and attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army have forced nearly 300,000 people from their homes.

The 38 aid agencies working in South Sudan have made several recommendations: strengthen the capacity to deal with humanitarian crises; prioritise food security; strengthen the role of civic society; work with the Government of South Sudan to enhance social protection; encourage the development of smallholder agriculture as a means to improve women’s economic participation; address the land issue for returnees, internally displaced persons and vulnerable groups; and provide technical support for the Sudan-South Sudan border co-operation policy. The Sudan unit within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has indicated that £150 million will be allocated for Sudan each year, with £90 million going to the Republic of South Sudan. To what priorities will that spending be devoted?

The people of Sudan also suffer the plight of HIV/AIDS. An estimated 40,000 people in South Sudan are living with HIV, about 14,000 of whom are eligible for treatment. Of those, only about 3,500 are receiving the medication that they need to return to health and prevent further infections. Between now and 2014, at least 11,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in South Sudan who need antiretroviral treatment will not have access to it, and might die unless additional funding is found. I commend the work of Alliance South Sudan, which currently supports 92 community-based organisations across 23 counties in eight of South Sudan’s 10 states, on its efforts to build capacity for an integrated HIV response.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria was founded in 2002 in response to the devastating impact of those three diseases. It is the largest international financier of action against AIDS, TB and malaria and accounts for 80% of funding for TB, three quarters of malaria programmes worldwide, and half the global AIDS response. It is currently chaired by the United Kingdom. To date, it has disbursed more than $20 billion in 150 countries, saving an estimated 6.5 million lives. It was rated as a high-performing institution providing very good value for money in the multilateral aid review carried out last year by the Department for International Development.

At the board meeting two weeks ago in Accra, however, it became apparent that, for the first time in the fund’s history, its supporter countries lack available funds to sustain the next round of funding. The decision was taken to cancel round 11, delaying any expansion in programming until 2014 at the earliest. That means that the fund will not be able to put more people on vital TB treatment or provide additional bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria. It will also lead to rapidly growing waiting lists for life-saving HIV medicine over the next two and a half years.

The replenishment conference in October 2010 raised just $11.7 billion to cover programming between 2011 and 2013, rather than the $13 billion required to maintain programming and modest expansion, or the $20 billion needed to scale up towards universal access. In addition, donor countries have not paid the amounts pledged on time or in full. South Sudan is among those countries where the delay could have a devastating effect. South Sudan was depending on the fund’s round 11 disbursement to fill a significant funding gap within its health response. Although it has a fully costed national AIDS plan, the plan has a funding gap of 80%.

The UK pledged £384 million in October 2010, in line with the existing £l billion pledge to the fund between 2008 and 2015 made by the previous Government. The Government are paying in full and on time, and have advanced some payments to help ease the fund’s cash flow issues. The UK has also pledged a significant increase in its contribution dependent on implementation of reforms, following the multilateral aid review’s rating of the fund as very good value for money, but nine months after the intention to increase funding was announced, it has not been confirmed.

Will the Minister agree to liaise with DFID to discover whether we can expect an announcement before the fund’s mid-term replenishment, due by mid-2012? Will the Government consider making allocations from DFID’s budget to deal with important issues such as prevention, care and support and work with children affected by AIDS in South Sudan? Will the UK use its influence to encourage other contributor states, such as Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United States, to follow through the commitments to tackle HIV/AIDS—US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made that commitment in her speech on world AIDS day last week—by offering more financial support to the global fund? Could such action involve the hosting of a special donor conference next year?

The challenges to alleviate poverty and suffering across the two nations are severe. In July, Save the Children reported that South Sudan has the world’s worst maternal mortality rate, that a fifth of all its children suffer from acute malnutrition, and that only 10% of children complete primary school. A hundred midwives and fewer than 500 doctors cover a population of 8.3 million people. This represents the biggest development challenge in the world, and our response to facilitating an end to the internal conflict that has scarred the region for too long is a test of leadership for the international community.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on securing this timely debate, which is a reminder, if one were needed, that the securing of comprehensive peace agreements and the achievement of independence do not in themselves deliver peace and security or the welfare of the people involved. The situation in Sudan and South Sudan is, if anything, more worrying today than it was only a few months ago.

The hon. Gentleman rightly referred to the interaction between armed conflict—some of it state sponsored—and the creation of refugee situations, which are making the development picture and the welfare, health and security of the people even worse. He referred specifically to the attack on 10 November, when it was reported that there was a bombing raid on a refugee camp in South Sudan, apparently carried out by north Sudanese forces.

On that same day, a US satellite monitoring group also reported that the north was building up and upgrading its air bases and air resources in what could be perceived as the precursor to an even wider aerial bombing campaign. Those are worrying signs, especially when put in the context of the truly appalling record of the Bashir regime in north Sudan. Mr Bashir has repeatedly stated that there is no room for cultural or ethnic diversity in the Sudanese state, and has predicted the fall of South Sudan as a failed state.

Clearly, it is possible that Mr Bashir is himself trying to make that prediction come true and make it self-fulfilling. His record clearly indicates support for terrorist organisations and a closeness to Iran; Sudan is Iran’s only Arab ally. A staggering number of deaths have been caused by the conflicts to date. It is possible that some 2 million people have died in Sudan during this present conflict—possibly as many as 300,000 in Darfur alone.

The International Criminal Court has warrants out for Mr Bashir’s arrest, not only for war crimes but for crimes against humanity and, since July, for genocide; a further two ICC arrest warrants are still outstanding. The list of outstanding issues between South Sudan and the north is lengthy and worrying. It covers citizenship, the border, debt, oil revenues, security and the status of arms. Sudan has still not implemented key parts of the comprehensive peace agreement. Critically, an independent national human rights commission has still not been established, and there are serious unresolved issues in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

The hon. Gentleman rightly outlined many of the effects of this kind of uncertainty and conflict, the attitude of the Sudanese Government in the north and the way in which they interact with the situation. I will not repeat some of the appalling statistics that he cited. The question is: what do we think can be done about this and what can the Government do?

I know that the Minister has himself visited the region, as has the Secretary of State for International Development, which is welcome, and we have raised both the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement and the issues of human rights with the Foreign Minister, Ali Karti, only in the past month. The situation, however, needs to progress and that does not seem to be happening at the moment. Simply making representations to the Sudanese Government does not seem to be having a great effect.

I think that we have other levers at our disposal. It is right that the focus of the Government’s international development assistance programme for Sudan and South Sudan should be concentrated on the south, where the development indicators are truly appalling. The worst statistic that I have seen comes from the Christian charity World Vision, which states that a 15-year-old girl in South Sudan

“has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than completing school”.

It also notes that

“One out of every seven women who become pregnant will probably die from pregnancy-related causes”,

and that

“While the under-five mortality rate has decreased, one out of every seven children will die before their fifth birthday (135 per 1,000 live births)”.

Nevertheless, some 35% of what I think is the £140 million a year committed to Sudan and South Sudan—some £50 million per annum—is committed to the north. Does the Minister have an assessment of how well that spending is going? Is it being targeted at measures that will help reduce conflict? The non-governmental organisation Saferworld has highlighted the need to control small arms in the north. Can our development assistance facilitate projects such as the Regional Centre on Small Arms, which will try to reduce the potential for conflict in small areas, at least in a small way?

It has been suggested that the role of the Arab League, which is now a very interesting organisation, might be stepped up. I think that, for many years, many people in this country and in the west wrote it off as a talking shop, but it has pursued a much more active policy over Libya and now over Syria. The potential for the Arab League to play a much more proactive role in trying to avert further conflict in Sudan and to put pressure on the Bashir regime is important.

There are other interesting forces in the region. I was at a symposium yesterday that involved members of the Muslim Brotherhood organisations and parties in the emerging democracies of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is, of course, located close to Sudan. Those parties are trying to prove their democratic credentials and to reassure potential western allies that, if they play a part in government in what we hope will be new democracies, they will respect human rights, have due respect for the rights of minorities and observe the democratic process.

If those parties are seeking connections with the British Government and positive and reassuring relationships with us, perhaps one of the tasks that we could set them, in a friendly way, would be to seek whatever influence they can over the regime and the Islamist movements in Sudan, and to point out that political Islam does not have to be synonymous with repression, the denial of human rights and a determination to exclude the rights of minorities.

There are other factors. The debt issue is important, because Mr Bashir would like to have access to support from everyone—from the International Monetary Fund, to the World Bank, to the African Development Bank. That seems to give us some international leverage. Has the Minister had any conversations with any of those multilateral institutions to see whether there are ways in which they can exert some influence on the Government in the north? War and conflict have been described as “development in reverse”, which I think is accurate. If funds are to be invested in these countries with a view to growth and to debt being written off, it is important that it is done in a context that means it is likely to succeed. The current context seems to provide exactly the reverse of that.

I will not speak for much longer because I am sure that other hon. Members want to contribute. Beyond the usual representations, expressions of regret and concern, and the commitment to facilitate a comprehensive peace agreement—although those are all welcome—I would like to hear from the Minister whether we will start to use other levers more imaginatively to try to resolve some of what is happening in Sudan and South Sudan. At the moment, the situation seems to be spiralling into an ever deeper conflict, which I am afraid seems to suit the purposes of the regime in the north. That may be a very bad omen indeed for the prospects of having a free, independent and prosperous South Sudan.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on bringing this matter to Westminster Hall for debate. The debates that we have are not always on local matters. We need to be aware of the influence that we have as a country in other parts of the world. People in our constituencies have friends and relatives in that part of the world, and therefore we have an interest in the subject.

I will make a few quick comments because it is important that we register concern about some of the issues. I am pleased to be called to speak. I am not sure whether many other hon. Members will contribute after me but, none the less, this is an important debate. I have a particular interest in Sudan because some of my constituents are missionaries in the country and I have received feedback from them on what they do out there.

When South Sudan was proclaimed and recognised as a state, it was very clear that the people who voted for it wanted that. I shall make a couple of comments in relation to South Sudan. By and large, a significant proportion of the people who live there are Christians. The country is rich in oil and its land is arable. It is productive for food production, which is good. However, China holds the oil leases and, as such, it controls what happens with the economy. All the oil in southern Sudan has to go north to get out to China, which is where two thirds of the oil goes. What discussions are the Government having with the Chinese about that? What influence can they put on them to relax the controls from north Sudan on those in the south?

It is of some concern that South Sudan is one of the least developed countries in the world. Are the Government sending people out to help train those Sudanese, so that they can do more for themselves, rather than their being dependent on grant aid from other countries?

South Sudan is a state recognised across the world, so although the following issue is perhaps not entirely relevant, it should perhaps be considered. The Olympic games are coming in 2012. Has any consideration been given to that? I know that there are issues surrounding health, food and all the important daily things that we take for granted, but have there been discussions with South Sudan about the Olympic games? Is it sending any representatives over? It is a new, virgin country. Is there any possibility that it will have representation in the London games next year? If it did have representation, that would be good. It is sometimes good for people to have some outside interest to look to and for people in Sudan to be able to say who their representative is. What is happening on that?

There are some 1 million Christians in Sudan—north and south—and I am sure that the Government are well aware that there has been persecution against some of them. Have the Government made any representations to the authorities, both north and south, on that? If they have, what feedback did they receive? Many of those 1 million Christians feel threatened by militant Muslim groups.

The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood), who spoke before me, mentioned human rights. I would like the Government to give me, and ultimately the people whom I represent and who have asked me to comment on the matter, some assurance that the human rights of Christians are being assured. What pressure has been put on Governments in the north and south of the country to ensure that such attacks stop? There is a bigger threat in the north than in the south.

In conclusion, I am ever mindful that China holds the oil leases and I have some concern that, whenever it comes to solving the problems, it is China that the area looks to. Is the influence of the west—the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States—being eroded by the greater elevation of China and the influence that it has in Africa? The United Kingdom and Great Britain has had traditional and historical influence in Sudan for many years and I want the Minister to assure me that that has not been eroded. I hope that he will take those matters on board.

I shall make a few observations and ask a few questions, to which I hope the Minister can respond.

It is obviously important for the EU to do what it can to put pressure on the various parties involved and on the Government of Sudan in particular. It is also vital for UN initiatives to be supported and to continue—as, indeed, they are—in parts of the countries concerned. Ultimately, as I said in my intervention and as the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) also mentioned, neighbouring countries and Arab and African organisations will play a crucial role in securing a long-term change in terms of stability, peace, democracy and human rights.

Will the Minister say what steps are being taken to encourage the type of action, from the Arab League and our Arab neighbours, that the hon. Gentleman outlined? Also, what is the Minister’s perspective on the role that the African Union can play in not only the short term, but the long term?

Ultimately, the solutions to these problems will require not only peacekeeping—perhaps military intervention—but development co-operation among African countries themselves. That is the crucial way in which such conflicts can be resolved on a long-term basis. I would be interested in hearing what the Minister considers the role of the British Government can be in encouraging initiatives and co-operation at an African level to bring about the type of pressure and support that the situation in these countries so desperately requires.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain)—he has been congratulated before during the debate—on introducing this immensely important subject. As has been rightly said, the debate is very timely given the flashpoints of conflict, some of which are internal and some of which are external. Indeed, as I shall refer to later, there are also great concerns about the interruption of oil flow, which has an enormous effect on the economies, the budgetary position and, indeed, the solvency of both countries.

It is also important—this has come out substantially during the debate—to recognise that we must not simply focus on what these events mean for the countries concerned, for the ruling groups in those countries and, indeed, for those who are the participants in armed conflict. We need to highlight—I will refer to this later, but it has been mentioned several times during the debate—the impact that all this has had on the living standards and the opportunities for life of many of the people, particularly in South Sudan but, wider than that, in parts of Sudan itself.

During the conflict, which has rightly been referred to as one of the longest running conflicts, huge loss of life and devastation has been suffered by communities. It is absolutely right that tribute should be paid to a number of non-governmental organisations, several of which have been mentioned today—some are Church-based, but some are more secular, such as Saferworld. They have monitored the situation and ensured that the often unreported agony and misery of the people of South Sudan—not the sort of issue normally likely to be carried by television cameras, or where CNN is always likely to turn up—has been kept on the world agenda and has been the focus of international attention. That is important. The amount of oil is not hugely significant in terms of world oil supplies, and South Sudan is not an intrinsically strategic area, but it has some importance. It is not irrelevant because, as in so many areas of the world, there is a capacity for instability to spill across borders. We have already seen that to an extent in both this region and in the great lakes region. Conflicts continue in the border areas between Sudan and South Sudan.

According to reports, South Sudan is also witnessing the unwelcome attentions of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The LRA and other organisations have an impact on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the wider region. In those areas, the outside world, including China, has significant mineral interests. China is involved in Sudan, quite properly, to obtain access to oil. We have to ensure that there is an equal bargain for the people of South Sudan and Sudan. We need to ensure that, given the huge importance of oil revenues to the budgets of both countries, there is an equitable distribution—I realise that that is not easy to calculate—to ensure a win-win situation. That will involve responsible behaviour by production and transportation companies, and by the final client.

It is undoubtedly true, however, that in spite of those revenues, the impact on society has been minimal. Hon. Members have mentioned the appalling figures on maternal mortality and infant mortality per capita income. Approximately 45% of people in Khartoum have access to water. In South Sudan, very few people have access to anything like clean water. We know the impact that that has on health, let alone on the ability to run any sort of modern society. My hon. Friend highlighted the huge impact of AIDS, which is not just confined to South Sudan, but to much of that area of central Africa. Efforts have been made, but it is an ongoing problem. Any breakdown in the provision of support and aid—indeed, any breakdown of society—can only hasten the spread of that disease and prevent the necessary relief, alleviation and medication.

We need to move on from the problems, which have been outlined in debates over a number of years, to the solutions. That requires us to look beyond the simple differences between Sudan and South Sudan. Not only is external reconciliation required between the two states—there is a number of issues still running between them—but some internal reconciliation. One problem is that for years Sudan fostered tribal divisions in the border areas and in South Sudan to undermine the independence movement in South Sudan. That is not unprecedented. British Governments often operated a policy of divide and rule, as did many other countries. However, its legacy might roll on for many years. We ought to be particularly concerned if division is ongoing, if various tribes are being armed and if ordinary criminal issues, such as cattle rustling, escalate into tribal inter-ethnic warfare. The whole cycle of violence and disruption could continue and ultimately affect the oil fields, which will be the basis of the two countries’ income.

Where is the light in all of this? My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz) highlighted the positive role being played by the African Union in hosting talks. In Somalia, the African Union is playing a more proactive role than it has in the past. It recognises that such instability can very easily spill over into other countries. In Somalia, problems have not been contained within its borders. We are only too well aware, for example, of the problems of piracy affecting international trade. Indeed, there was an announcement from the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), only this week regarding the UK response. The Kenyan Government are having to take action because of the disruption and enormous impact that banditry and piracy are having on the Kenyan economy. Many of its resorts are close to Somalia and the cruise-liner business uses the port of Mombasa. In the first half of 2010, approximately 60 cruise liners stopped at Mombasa; this year only one. That has a substantial impact on the local economy.

The idea, therefore, that such problems can just be contained in one area, and are only a problem for the unfortunate residents of that area, is no longer sustainable. The encouraging thing is that that is recognised as being no longer sustainable. That is why we see a more proactive position from the African Union. The Arab League was also mentioned. It has looked at countries in its region and the difficulties that can flow on. It has not taken the position that it should stand away from such difficulties and that such problems are problems only for the countries concerned. That is encouraging, and I hope there will be some interaction between the African Union and the Arab League. I hope that the Minister will comment on that.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) mentioned the religious differences between South Sudan and Sudan. We know about the involvement of al-Qaeda in Sudan and how it was offered safe haven for a considerable period of time. Religious extremism is an additional concern to the mixture of various tribal and ethnic differences.

I have mentioned oil a number of times, because it is so significant: approximately 98% of the revenue of South Sudan. Arguably, oil was the driver for conflict in the past, with the desire of Sudan to keep control of South Sudan and the oil fields, the desire of the South Sudanese to have a greater share, and the vexed question of the transport of oil. It still has potential of course, with arguments about the price at which Sudan should be getting oil from South Sudan or the price of transiting oil through the pipeline, with Sudan wanting to charge what is estimated to be 15 or 20 times as much as transport on other pipelines in Africa, for example.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the greatest investments that the western nations could make in new South Sudan would be in helping it to have a pipeline of its own, so that it could determine its own prices, rather than having to rely on Sudan, or to help it go through Kenya and find a way out in that direction?

As I used to say in ministerial times, I require notice of that question. However, if one already has a facility, which is a sunk cost, the most desirable outcome is to have a properly negotiated agreement to use that facility. One has to look at the distances, at which areas a pipeline would be running through and their safety and at the time scale involved, because constructing a new pipeline would be taken as an unfriendly act by Sudan. That might exacerbate tensions and could lead, for example, to cutting off the existing pipeline and therefore to no revenue at all—a potentially catastrophic situation for South Sudan. It is always worth examining alternatives—they might be viable—but they are not a real alternative to ensuring through whatever mechanisms, whether the UN, the African Union or the Arab League, that a modus vivendi is obtained between Sudan and South Sudan to ensure that oil, rather than a cause of contention, is a shared benefit.

Is the right hon. Gentleman concerned by the emergence of the so-called South Sudan Liberation Army in the relatively oil-rich states of Warrap and Unity, which the rebels are aiming to liberate—as they describe it—from the Government in Juba? They are advising civilians to evacuate towns and move to villages. Does that look like a deliberate campaign of destabilisation aimed at the oil revenues of the south?

I do not know what assessment has been made of the origins of that movement or who may or may not be supporting it, but it is absolutely clear that a continuation of the instability and fighting in those areas will not only disrupt the oilfields and revenue but, as we have seen so dramatically in South Sudan, southern Sudan and Darfur, completely disrupt all normal life, including agriculture, because of displaced populations. All that makes the area unviable and brings huge misery to the populations who, essentially, have to live in refugee camps, dependent on aid, and that is not a sustainable future.

A viable agreement between Sudan and South Sudan is therefore crucial. Sudan has a sizeable external debt—let us not argue about how it was acquired—which it has to service and South Sudan is totally dependent on oil for revenue, so both countries, for the viability of their Governments and their states, require a share of the oil revenue and a regular flow. It is argued that the interruptions to oil production have already led to sizeable reductions, with estimates of about a quarter, but I am not sure of the exact figure. Unless agreement is reached, those ongoing problems will continue; it is in both their interest to undertake an agreement. I referred to external and internal reconciliation, and no conflict between the two states is not alone in being hugely important. We have had worrying reports of attacks, although there are arguments that some are in response to guerrilla movements and attacks, but the facts need to be ascertained, and considerable international and regional pressure on the participants to lower the tension is needed.

One problem in so many areas of conflict once a peace agreement is signed, however, is the large number of people whose whole life had been bound up with military operations. I am pleased to see several colleagues from Northern Ireland in the Chamber, and a key factor is to create conditions of normalisation, in which arguments are settled in a normal fashion and become the norm or established practice. Year on year, people then gradually move away from their old way of life. Simply preventing people from shooting each other becomes important in establishing the norms of society; otherwise, the trouble could continue—a lot of it based on tribal differences running from generation to generation. However, tribal differences previously settled with traditional weapons are now settled with AK47s, causing huge devastation and the mass migration of populations, which become dependent populations. That is why it is so important for a real effort, using the experience from work in other areas of conflict, gradually to reintegrate groups who have been involved in guerrilla movements or in over-extended armies back into the population and for them to assume civilian roles. Again, that is why the reconstruction of agriculture, which my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North East mentioned, is so important, to provide alternative occupations and a security environment.

One of the difficulties on which I hope the Minister can comment is to do with those who did not participate in the violence or become involved in the various guerrilla movements and armed gangs if they are seeing all the benefits go to the people who were involved. That is not an unfamiliar story in many parts of the world. Getting the balance right is enormously difficult, but also enormously important and significant. So any programme must be community-based, as well as involving the participants, important though they are.

Another feature of the development of agriculture is, as has been mentioned, the appalling transport infrastructure. In many parts of the developing world, one of the key constraints on developing agriculture is access to market—the ability, when the harvest comes in, to get large quantities of produce to market and not to have it rot in the fields or during transport to market. We are all very much aware of the state of the infrastructure in South Sudan, and a significant priority in improving living standards and creating opportunities for people is the development of transport.

What is key and what I hope the Minister will report on in his contribution is that the effort has to be sustained. If the area descends once again into feuding civil war, I recognise the danger that the interest and, indeed, patience of the public in the wider world will start to run out. That is a key message that the Foreign Office must convey to the countries in the region in the best possible way—not threateningly, but in a matter-of-fact way—so that the people of South Sudan who have suffered so much for so long have some decent opportunities not only for themselves but for their children.

This has been a fascinating and well informed debate, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain) on securing it. I praise him for his well informed and compelling speech, and pay tribute to him for his work. I also congratulate him on his election to the chair of the all-party group on Sudan and South Sudan, and I look forward to working with him in that capacity.

The House will know that I follow the situation in Sudan and South Sudan very closely. I was fortunate to visit Sudan in July, and was the first UK Minister to do so after secession of South Sudan. While I was there, I met a number of Cabinet Ministers, and impressed on them the UK’s continued commitment to Sudan. I made clear our hopes that they could work with their southern neighbours and international partners for a peaceful and prosperous future. Similarly, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary was in Juba for its day of independence on 9 July. When addressing the people of the newest country in the world, he was sincere when he stated that the UK would stand by the people of South Sudan as they sought a future of stability, prosperity and lasting peace, particularly peace with its most immediate neighbours.

We should not downplay—the hon. Member for Glasgow North East made this point—the achievement of South Sudan’s peaceful secession on 9 July, which was the result of leadership in both countries, or the important role of the international community. Since then, we have seen positive developments in some areas of both countries. South Sudan has taken its place on the international stage, and has joined major international organisations such as the UN, the African Union and UNESCO. The signing ceremony of its accession to UNESCO was held recently at the Foreign Office. South Sudan has also applied to join the Commonwealth, a move which the Government strongly support. The application process will be an important means of ensuring that South Sudan entrenches our shared values of democracy and human rights. Commonwealth countries, including several of South Sudan’s neighbours, can provide important assistance in those areas.

Sudan has also shown some welcome signs of becoming a more constructive voice in regional issues—for example, in its support of the new Government in Libya, and the leading role it has played in the Arab League’s recent action against the Syrian regime. I will come to the Arab League in a moment. However, it is extremely unfortunate that there have been some worrying developments that lead us to believe the elusive goal of peace is still far from the reach of the Sudanese people.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North East and other hon. Members mentioned the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Conflict continues in those states in Sudan, causing a humanitarian emergency. Neither national nor international organisations are being granted access to provide support to civilians affected by the conflict. We are supporting the efforts of the UN to negotiate access, and I hope that the visit of my noble Friend, Baroness Amos, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, later this month will lead to some progress.

We are very worried about reports of new offensives in the past few days around Jau and Talodi in South Kordofan. That escalation and spread of the conflict are putting civilians—those who remain in South Kordofan and the estimated 16,000 who have been displaced to Yida in Unity state—in even greater danger. We continue to make it clear to the Government of Sudan, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North, and the Government of South Sudan that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. We condemn indiscriminate aerial bombardment by the Sudanese armed forces, and we are calling on those who are fighting to cease hostilities immediately, to allow unfettered humanitarian access to all populations, and to engage in inclusive political dialogue that addresses the root causes of conflict. We urge the Governments in Khartoum and Juba to respect each other’s problems, and to refrain from unilateral action and inflammatory statements.

Some hon. Members referred to nationality and southerners in the north. We are worried about the lack of progress in resolving nationality issues, which threatens to leave stateless thousands of southerners who have been resident in the north for many years. We are urging both Governments to extend the deadline, and to put in place administrative arrangements to address the problem.

There is a significant humanitarian issue for returnees to the south who are awaiting transport, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development recently visited the way station at Kosti to draw attention to the plight of thousands of returnees who have been waiting months to take barges south. We are working with the UN to ensure that their needs are addressed, and we are urging both Governments to assume responsibility for the returnees.

It is also worrying that there has been conflict across the international boundary between the two states, and the recent cross-border bombings by the Sudanese air force at Yida and Quffa are particularly worrying. I issued a statement at the time—on 10 November—condemning any action that puts civilian lives at risk. We are calling on all parties to exercise restraint, and to cease actions that provoke conflict within each other’s territory. It is totally unacceptable for either Government to provide support to proxy armed groups that contribute to conflict in their neighbour’s territory. There are worrying signs that both sides are doing just that.

I stressed the importance of non-interference to South Sudan’s Foreign Minister, Nhial Deng Nhial, when I met him on 24 September, and I repeated that message last week to a special envoy who had been sent to the UK by President Salva Kiir. I will make exactly the same point next week to the Sudanese presidential adviser, Dr Ghazi Salaheldin, when he visits London, and I will emphasise the critical necessity of allowing humanitarian needs to be addressed urgently.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow North East made clear, those latest events make it all the more important that both sides allow a border monitoring mission to deploy quickly. We will pursue a resolution at the UN Security Council in the next few weeks to ensure that UN peacekeepers can take on that important task in support of the two Governments. Some hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) and, in an intervention, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon), as well as the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Mark Lazarowicz), asked about how to engage the Arab League and the African Union. I agree that it is important to engage as many important regional organisations as possible. The region is engaged. Ethiopia supplied troops to go to Abyei. There will be an AU summit in January, and I hope that Sudan will be a key issue on its agenda. As the hon. Member for Glasgow North East said, and as the right hon. Member for Warley (Mr Spellar) emphasised, the regionalisation of the conflict could be very damaging to the entire area.

I want to speak about the unimplemented areas of the comprehensive peace agreement. It is incredibly important that decisions on oil, citizenship, border demarcation and Abyei are given urgent attention. We have been particularly concerned about the failure to reach agreement on an equitable sharing of oil revenue, and I am worried that the Sudan Government have recently raised the temperature by threatening to halt the trans-shipment of oil from South Sudan, as well as by making an unrealistic royalty demand for $32 a barrel, which is way over the going rate.

We welcome the constructive role being played by the AU’s high level implementation panel, which is mediating between the parties on these issues. Talks that it facilitated in Addis Ababa on 25 to 30 November reached no agreement, but some constructive proposals were placed on the table, including on the level at which compensation should be paid to Sudan for the loss of oil revenue. As the Foreign Secretary said yesterday in a joint statement with his Norwegian and US colleagues, it is vital that the two parties return to the table as soon as possible to find equitable solutions. Sorting out oil revenue is crucial to both countries’ economies and to both currencies.

A number of colleagues, including the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), referred to whether there could be a pipeline to South Sudan, which is a fair point. The proposal has been reported in the media on a number of occasions. Indeed, it has been suggested that a Japanese company could be contracted to build a pipeline to Kenya. We take the view that it does not make a huge amount of commercial sense, because peak production has already been reached and it would take a long time to build. The only sensible short-term way forward is to ensure that there is agreement between the two countries on this important issue. As I said, it is absolutely vital for both their economies.

I mentioned the importance of Abyei as one of the outstanding CPA issues. Obviously, we are concerned that neither the Sudanese armed forces nor the Sudan People’s Liberation Army has withdrawn fully from the Abyei area, despite the presence of the United Nations interim security force. We fully support UNISFA in its efforts to secure the Abyei area and to monitor the withdrawal of both parties’ troops. We are calling on the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to co-operate fully with the mission so that it can deliver on its mandate.

Several hon. Members mentioned Darfur. There has been significant progress there, and I am pleased that the UK’s Special Representative for Sudan participated in a conference in Washington earlier this month, which saw discussions between the Liberation and Justice Movement, which has signed the agreement, and other groups that currently remain outside the peace process, about how they might be brought in.

The right hon. Member for Warley mentioned the LRA. I agree that one of the concerning developments recently has been the statement by a number of armed groups that they want to come together in a new umbrella organisation to work to overthrow the Government of Sudan. We want to see peaceful political change in Sudan. We are therefore greatly concerned about any talk of further incitement and use of violence.

Development assistance has been mentioned by several hon. Members. Despite the ongoing conflicts and the political difficulties that face both countries, it remains a priority for the UK to support the peoples of the two Sudans in building a more prosperous future. Our development programmes are based on the provision of substantial assistance to both countries. As well as humanitarian assistance, DFID’s support is focused on delivering basic services to those who need them most, and to building accountability of the Governments on both sides of the border.

As the hon. Member for Glasgow North East reminded us, we are providing £50 million a year to Sudan over the next four years. Alongside many other donors, we are contributing to its humanitarian needs. Indeed, the Under-Secretary of State for International Development recently announced additional support for the World Food Programme that will enable it to meet the humanitarian food needs of approximately 315,000 people who have been particularly affected by conflict in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei. DFID is also seeking to address longer-term development needs. Its programmes will improve education, ensure provision of clean water and sanitation, encourage better access to justice and support the demand for improved governance in Sudan.

We all know that the needs faced by South Sudan are absolutely huge. We are talking not about reconstruction, but the construction of a new country. There is virtually no infrastructure. I believe there are only 25 kilometres of tarmacked road, so the needs are huge. We will be providing £90 million a year for the next four years to help the people of South Sudan. We will be working closely with others, including the US, UN and EU, and our programmes will support accountable, inclusive and transparent government, economic growth and improved security and access to justice. In particular, the UK through DFID aims to help 240,000 children to get through primary school; enable 4 million people to receive life-saving health care and nutrition; help 1 million people get enough food to eat; provide more than 750,000 people with malaria prevention and treatment; and give more than 500,000 people access to clean water and sanitation.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North East mentioned the global fund, AIDS and the lack of support from other countries. I can assure him that, as far as the UK is concerned, we will be doing all we can to keep up the pressure on other donor countries. We have influence within the global fund, and I can assure him that we will be delivering on our commitment and working with other countries to ensure that they also deliver. I will certainly raise the specific ideas that he mentioned with the DFID Minister. We need to work in many other areas as well.

As the right hon. Member for Warley said, we must not forget about the silent majority of people who stayed outside the different militia and guerrilla forces. I agree entirely with what he said about agriculture. South Sudan has the most phenomenal potential to build its agricultural sector and put in place total food security. I was in South Sudan a year ago, and as I flew into Juba, I was struck by the incredibly verdant countryside on either side of the Nile, yet, after a mile or so, the ground became arid and rugged. Obviously, irrigation, modern farming techniques and irrigation are needed. Of course, there was irrigation in the past, before the conflict. The country was able to provide food for most of its people before the war started all those years ago. Food security is incredibly important, but we cannot have food security without infrastructure.

The hon. Member for Strangford mentioned the Olympics. We are in discussions with the Government of South Sudan to see how we can support their wish to participate in 2012. They have to join international sports federations and we are offering any help that we can. That matter has certainly been taken on board.

Several hon. Members raised the issue of debt. They will know that Sudan assumed responsibility for the entire £38 billion of international debt outstanding at the time of independence. Agreement was reached and based on an assumption that Sudan would be granted debt relief by the international community within two years of secession, failing which the two parties would have to renegotiate.

We have taken a leading role on the issue of debt relief for Sudan, including though the establishment of an international technical working group, to address the progress that will be required. I have raised debt relief with a number of key partners, including China. I can tell the hon. Member for Strangford that China is a key player, because it holds a great deal of that debt. We are committed to supporting Sudan in making progress towards debt relief. However, I agree with the hon. Member for Cheltenham. Sudan needs to understand the importance to its creditors of real and continued progress in resolving outstanding CPA issues and in ending the ongoing conflicts. He asked whether there is any other leverage that we can bring to bear. We do not have any arguments or disputes with the Sudanese people in the north. In our view, trade will create wealth and bring prosperity. We want to see the creation of jobs and cross-border trade between the two countries. Cross-border trade is one way to create wealth, but we will not see such trade if a war is going on.

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that there is leverage here. We are not going to advance trade at the expense of human rights; we have made that very clear. When I was in Sudan earlier this year, I went to Port Sudan in the east, where there has been a successful peace process. We made it clear that, where there has been a successful peace process, we will reinforce that with trade. Indeed, that is why we were pleased to see the Kuwait investment conference for eastern Sudan held last year. Where there is a successful peace process taking place in north Sudan, we will certainly do what we can to encourage UK companies to go there and invest. Obviously, there are obstacles as things stand at the moment with the different conflicts going on.

It has been an interesting and full debate with a huge amount of cross-party agreement. It has now been five months since the successful birth of South Sudan. As these new countries adjust to life as neighbours, we too have to adjust to dealing with two sovereign states. The CPA foresaw the possibility of two states co-existing peacefully and prosperously, maintaining the strong economic and personal ties that continue to bind people across the international boundary. For that to succeed, both countries must draw back from interfering in each other’s affairs, address the issues left unfinished from the CPA, and focus on resolving the conflicts within their own borders through inclusive governance and promoting economic and social development.

Our Government will continue to deliver, both in public and in private, tough messages about the work that both sides need to do. The urgency of such messages should be apparent at the heart of a region where the winds of the Arab spring are blowing, and it is vital that the international community, through the UN and regional organisations such as the African Union and the Arab League, does not reduce its efforts to resolve the outstanding problems of Sudan and South Sudan. We should also acknowledge the enormously positive work that is being done by many non-governmental organisations and civil society groups in addressing the needs of the Sudanese people—I highlight in particular the work of the Churches in Sudan and South Sudan and their humanitarian support and work for community reconciliation.

I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow North East for raising this issue and for giving me the chance to explain the Government’s position, and it is heartening that so many constructive, positive and imaginative suggestions have been made this morning. It is a crucial moment for Sudan and South Sudan; there is a lot to gain but, as the right hon. Member for Warley pointed out, a huge amount to lose. I hope that, with the focused attention of the international community, we can steer the path of those countries towards peace and prosperity for all their peoples. After decades of conflict and appalling, dreadful suffering, they deserve nothing less.

Sitting suspended.