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Mr. Robathan: Again, I have a lot of sympathy with what the hon. Lady says about Afghanistan. However, I do not quite understand how development aid in education can be put in place in a country without the support of the civil authorities. Is she suggesting entirely private schools that would be outwith any form of social and political structure in the country?
Dr. Tonge: That could have been channelled through the non-governmental organisations. In fact, I have spoken to a representative of one NGO that ran 150 schools for girls in Afghanistan in the run-up to 11 September. So it was happening. If we had done much more of that, perhaps the catastrophe would not have happened.
Whichever way we look at it, there is no argument to say that we must deny people aid if human rights are being abused. It is too difficult to measure what we mean by that. I think that Opposition Members have the best of intentions, but the new clause is misguided.
I draw to the House's attention several factors that illustrate why the new clause, however well intentioned, would harm the victims of human rights abuse, rather than help them. Recently, the Select Committee on International Development visited some Afghan refugee camps in north-west Pakistan. While there, we saw people living in unacceptable conditions.
One of the refugee camps we visited, Kachagarhi camp, had been there for 20 years. People were either not working and living on food aid, or working in the black economy. Only about a third of the children attended primary school. If one were trying to create a seed bed of resentment, those are the conditions one would want.
The situation was bad enough when the Russians were in Afghanistan, but after they were forced out, western interest in the Afghan refugees declined and conditions in the camps got worse. They became a seed bed for anger against the west, in which Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations were able to recruit; we created conditions that helped that to occur. By providing long-term development assistance, therefore, we create conditions that make it less, not more, likely that terrorism will develop and that human rights will be abused.
The states and regimes that consistently and horrifyingly abuse human rights tend not to be run by humanitarian democratsby the sort of people who will look at the United Kingdom statute book and say, "We had better change our behaviour before we find that development assistance to this country has been slimmed down." I found it instructive that on the two occasions the hon. Member for Castle Point was asked whether he felt that human rights abuses should have led to a reduction or ending of aid to Afghanistan when the Taliban were in power, and to a reduction or ending of aid to Indonesia now, he wisely declined to give an answer. He would have been very unwise to say that we should have let the victims of the Taliban starve to death because of drought in central Asia, and that we should not give poor people in Indonesia opportunities to build a future.
Bob Spink: Two pointsfirst, my new clause excludes food aid, so people would not have starved. Secondly, it would have put pressure on the Taliban to look at human rights and to change what they were doing in a sustainable way. People would have lived in a better situation.
Hugh Bayley: Again, I do not think that Mullah Omar is the sort of academic, humanitarian, liberal-minded person who could be brought round to good common sense by our passing a bit of legislation. Do not forget that the most powerful nation on earth, the United States of America, spent three years asking the Taliban regime to give up the al-Qaeda terrorists who had bombed in Tanzania and Kenya so that they could stand trial. The Taliban were not the sort of liberal humanitarians who felt that that would make sense, so if we want to affect the behaviour of brutal dictators and human rights abusers, we must do tough things that hurt them. We must stop the
Mr. Robathan: The hon. Gentleman will know that we did stop aid. UN sanctions prevented development aid from going in. I am a trustee of a mine clearance organisation for which 400 local Afghans worked. However, it could get no funds from the UK, because the Government abided by the sanctions against development aid. I am sure that the Minister will correct me if I have got that wrong.
Hugh Bayley: We did not stop all development assistance to Afghanistan, even in those difficult times. However, the hon. Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) makes the important point that an aid regime that stops and starts is ineffective. It can yield the sort of results that he and I saw in the refugee camps in Pakistan. People get angry when the helping hand that they think is coming from the west is taken away.
Moreover, aid to Pakistan was halted after the military coup. For good human rights reasons, there was a pause. Hindsight is a great tutor, but I do not think that that pause was helpful, as it created the resentment against the west that has been so damaging.
The hon. Member for Castle Point made a distinction between humanitarian aid and development assistance. If it were possible to make that distinction easily and clearly, in practice and on the ground, there might be some sense in adopting a modified form of his proposals. However, it is impossible to make that distinction on the ground.
I shall share with the House two brief examples of that impossibility. They arose when I visited Sudan, a country that all hon. Members would say was a state that abuses human rights. I went there on behalf of a number of British NGOs to look at the human rights situation. Britain's Conservative Government of the time had a policyrightly, in my viewnot to give state-to-state aid because of the regime's human rights record. They did however provide some aid for NGOs to work with their local counterparts.
At the end of my visit, I spoke to Baroness Chalker. I felt that the then Government's approach was right at the time, but that it should not be tied down in statute, as flexibility was needed to ensure swift response to changing events. However, what I saw in one of the camps for displaced persons around Khartoum threw into sharp relief the distinction between humanitarian aid and development assistance. Such camps contain hundreds of thousands of displaced people, internal refugees from the drought in the west of the country and from the civil war in the south.
The aid agencies that we funded were able to take water to the squatter camps in the desert. Temperatures were at 120 or 130 deg F, and the agencies were able to take water in buckets on the backs of donkeys to the camps, because that was classed as humanitarian assistance. However, although the camps had existed for years, the agencies could not pipe in the water, as that would have constituted development aid.
Does it make sense to stipulate in law that water can be taken in buckets on the backs of donkeys to hundreds of thousands of people living in the most rudimentary conditions in the Sahara desert, but that a water pipe cannot be built? It does not, because the people in those camps are the victims of the Sudanese regime. We should help them. If we do not, we shall be creating another seed bed for the sort of terrorism and extremism that this House rightly opposes.
My second example is a little different, although it also comes from Sudan. A food-for-work project was being run by CARE International in north Kordofan province. Severe drought meant that many small pastoralists would have starved to death without the food and humanitarian aid that the organisation provided. The hon. Member for Castle Point says that that aid would get through to such people, whether or not the new clause was accepted.
In return for the food aid, however, the people were building water reservoirshaffirsthat would enable their animals to drink throughout the drought, and would mean that people would not be long-term dependent on food aid. Would it have been sensible to say that we could give them food aid, but that we could not help them construct a safeguard against drought in an area stricken by drought? It would not.
Finally, the haffirs were built mainly by the sweat of local people's brows as they worked with picks and shovels. For part of the work, however, digging equipment was needed to make the reservoirs effective and workable. Bulldozers needed to be hired, and in north Kordofan province only the provincial Government had them. To create food security for the people of north Kordofan, CARE International had to hire bulldozers from the Government of a state that abused human rights. That was done not out of a desire to aid that state, but out of a desire to aid its victims.
I hope that the House will agree that both examples show how important it is to provide the food security and development infrastructure that people need. However, the new clause would render that impossible. I understand why the new clause has been proposed, and I accept that it is important to tie human rights advances in with development work, but I do not think that it would achieve that in practice.