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Volume 726: debated on Tuesday 5 April 2011


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Burundi’s role in long-term regional stability and regional integration strategies in the light of their decision to cease bilateral aid for Burundi.

Burundi’s location at the centre of the Great Lakes region and its membership of the East African Community mean that its stability and economic growth are closely linked to the rest of the region. The Secretary of State for International Development has therefore decided to continue to support Burundi’s economic integration into the East African Community from 2012 through a regional approach.

I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does she agree that the UK should be supporting a political, and certainly non-military, solution to regional stability throughout the Great Lakes region, which crucially requires Burundi’s involvement?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises some very important points. However, through our regional work on economic integration and expanding focus on free trade, we think that our greatest support will be through developing Burundi’s ability to integrate into the East African Community through trade. That will be the determining factor for its growth. We will also work incredibly hard with the Burundi Government to ensure that peace comes through all sorts of means.

My Lords, the Minister’s recognition of the centrality of Burundi in the Great Lakes region is welcome. Given the fact that this is not only one of the poorest countries in the world but the most fragile in the region, how, in the absence of either a country programme or a resident ambassador, will it be possible to influence that country for good?

My Lords, the noble Lord is aware that our programme in Burundi was quite small, but we do support programmes through the EU and the World Bank. Through those programmes we feel that we are better placed to provide aid. We are also working very much with Trade Mark East Africa, which we have launched in the region, to ensure that Burundi is able to grow its private sector to develop economic growth.

My Lords, what progress are the Government making in helping Burundi strengthen its revenue collection authorities in comparison, for example, with Rwanda next door? What impact do the Government believe this will have in helping Burundi to meet its millennium development goals?

My Lords, Burundi has not met any of its MDGs at all. The president has promised universal education, which will go a long way to meeting the primary education goal. We feel that the rest of the goals will be achieved through strengthening Burundi’s infrastructure, which will come about through Burundi being a free access market to the countries in that region.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness recall that the Secretary of State for International Development said that we will be dealing with people who live in extreme poverty and in very conflicted societies? Does the noble Baroness therefore agree that Burundi certainly qualifies on both counts? Can she account for the inconsistency of a Great Lakes policy that includes increased commitments to the DRC and Rwanda but closes the United Kingdom’s office in Bujumbura?

My Lords, as the noble Baroness has just heard, we believe that we are better placed to put some of our funding through the EU and the World Bank, where we are large contributors. Our funding programme that will end in 2012 was only a small programme of £10 million. We believe that putting in an agency that will actually help Burundi grow through its economic development will benefit that country far more than the £10 million that we were giving.

Will the noble Baroness accept my congratulations on the fact that in her answers she has suddenly made multilateral aid through the EU respectable? Thank you very much.

My Lords, given that Burundi is one of the worst performers as regards millennium development goal 5, what plans do the Government have to help Burundi to achieve that goal?

My Lords, we believe that our funding through the EU programme that takes on the role of looking at maternal and child mortality will assist through an agency that is better placed to deliver that.