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Ukraine: Post-conflict Reconstruction

Volume 825: debated on Thursday 24 November 2022


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what discussions they have held with allies concerning post-conflict reconstruction in Ukraine.

My Lords, we engage regularly with our partners to ensure that the international momentum behind Ukraine’s recovery is sustained. We attended the German-hosted Ukraine reconstruction conference on 25 October and next year we will be hosting the Ukraine recovery conference in London, bringing together allies to signal our continued support and to co-ordinate efforts. We aim to build on the progress made at this year’s Ukraine recovery conference using our international influence and our commitment to drive delivery of Ukraine’s recovery.

I thank my noble friend for his Answer, I am grateful for his and the Government’s work and for the support of His Majesty’s Opposition in ensuring that the United Kingdom has been a leader in this field. However, before we collectively pat ourselves on the back, it is worth reminding your Lordships’ House of the scale of the challenge. In June, the World Bank conducted a rapid damage assessment and concluded that $349 billion would be required to reconstruct Ukraine. That figure is already six months out of date. According to the latest figures from the World Bank, we have raised $19.1 billion, less than 5% of what is required. My concern is this: in our rightful desire to end this brutal conflict, how do we ensure that Russia is not let off the hook but pays its fair share towards the reconstruction of Ukraine?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his remarks. Of course, he is right. We have seen real unity of purpose and action from the United Kingdom on Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. I agree with him that the economic recovery issue is immense. It is worsened by the fact that, after a degree of respite a couple of months ago, Russia’s subsequent carpet bombing of Ukrainian cities set back some of the recovery work that had taken place. For example, the United Kingdom has been engaged in reconstructing health centres, hospitals and schools.

That said, in the first instance we have also applied £37 million to a multi-donor partnership fund for resilience in Ukraine. Through UK Export Finance we have committed £3.5 billion to cover infrastructure, health, energy and security projects. However, the situation in Ukraine is incredibly unstable and vulnerable communities are suffering. Currently, about 60% of people in Ukraine are living on less than $5.50 per day—up from 2% in 2021. We are playing a significant role bilaterally. The UK has also unlocked £1.375usb billion of finance for Ukraine through working with multilateral institutions and multilateral development banks.

My Lords, both Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that for the rebuilding of a country we need strategic patience, and the international community does not have enough of that. We also need transparency and accountability, or else we will fail. Ukraine, for all that it deserves, is one of the most corrupt countries in the world according to Transparency International. It is fundamental to the investment of reconstruction money into this country that we set up accountability and transparency regarding where the international money is going. I hope that we take a role, because of our experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to ensure that it is right.

I agree with the noble Lord. One of the real challenges we have in any conflict is ensuring that money reaches those who require it. It is a continued commitment. The noble Lord referred to Afghanistan and Iraq. I know first-hand of the continued challenges, with people looking to intervene and interject, particularly with financial support throughout the country. These are the very points that we are focused on in respect of Ukraine. We need a continued strategic approach from a UK government perspective, but equally, whether it is the United States, the EU, ourselves or other key allies, we need to be totally aligned and working to a single objective.

My Lords, on the Government’s co-ordination work and commitment, I ask two things of the Minister. If it helps Ukraine, will the Government consider funnelling any additional support into the Team Europe fund, to which €19 billion was committed at the October conference, so that there is greater efficiency in the delivery of that work? Secondly, will the Minister please commit that any future support for Ukraine’s reconstruction will not be offset by cuts to developing countries, so that they do not pay the penalty for Putin’s aggression?

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, as I said in response to him yesterday, we remain committed to key objectives in respect of our ODA spend. Of course, the ODA spending and the challenges we faced in providing support for Ukraine has impacted on some of the work we are doing around the world. However, we continue to stand steadfast on some of the key conflicts. Afghanistan, which was mentioned a few moments ago, is a notable example.

On the noble Lord’s earlier point, of course, we want to ensure every fund, but it comes back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne: it must be efficient, effective and transparent, ultimately ensuring delivery of the true purpose—the reconstruction of Ukraine.

My Lords, one of the things that Russia has tried to do is destroy Ukraine’s identity as a separate and independent country. Much of that identity resides in their arts and culture, which is extremely important to them. What further help can we give to continue to protect Ukraine’s arts and culture, and to assist with the rebuilding of churches and other buildings of cultural significance when this conflict is over?

Again, I assure the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, that we remain very much committed to the reconstruction of Ukraine across the piece. He mentions arts and culture. In visits to Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine prior to the conflict, I saw the richness of its cultural and religious history. We are working with key partners, but there is also an important role for institutions such as UNESCO, focusing on heritage sites to ensure that they are protected.

I welcome the fact that my noble friend Lord Howell has not yet converted to the Cross Benches.

My Lords, I return to the original point of the Question: how do we hold Russia to account? Earlier this month, we had the UN General Assembly resolution on mechanisms for reparations. What other UN bodies are we working with to hold Russia to account? How will we engage with and involve civil society in Ukraine, which will be vital to the reconstruction of that country?

My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second point, he will be aware that we are a key part of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, to which we have allocated £3.5 billion. We are also working with the US and the EU on that, and with civil society organisations. There is a real request from the Ukrainian Government regarding the importance of Ukrainian civil society organisations. On the broader point about the UN, frankly, as the noble Lord knows, the UN system was not, beyond the World Food Programme, for example, ready for a conflict such as Ukraine. However, we have been working in partnership with key UN agencies, including UNICEF and OCHA, and will continue to do so. Civil society delivery is key to that, particularly civil society organisations that know Ukraine best—the Ukrainian ones.

My Lords, what we have done so far is good, and there has been of talk of a new Marshall plan. But does the Minister accept that in 1945, the Marshall plan took two or three years to get going and was entirely paid for by the United States, whereas in this case, we will be raising funds from all around the world—not least Russia itself but also international institutions, the UN and many other countries, including ourselves? This will require very careful administration and possibly a slightly different model from the Marshall plan.

Also, whereas in 1945 the war was over and there was defeat, and therefore a peace scenario in which to operate, here this will not be the case at all. Russia, even if defeated, if that is right word, will probably continue rearming and have another go. Therefore, we will need a model and an approach that has not been tried before. The more that we hear about it and develop it, the better.

My Lords, we do need a kind of strategic endurance, if I can term it that way, again referring back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Browne. The world today is very different from 1945: there are institutions such as the G7, the G20 and of course NATO, which will be key to ensuring that we give the military and humanitarian support required, allowing Ukraine to continue to operate economically and to reconstruct in the long term. Work has started in this respect and there are good partnerships, but we need co-ordination and that must continue.