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Clare Short: The Government believe that trade has a vital role to play in helping developing countries to boost their economic growth and generate the resources necessary for reducing poverty. We have made important steps towards achieving these objectives, not least of which was the development agenda agreed at the Doha Ministerial Conference. This is, however, only the beginning of negotiations. To make it a real development round we will work to ensure that these commitments become a reality. We are therefore working with the Department for Trade and Industry, the European Union, the WTO and developing countries to assist them in forming clear and pro-development negotiating positions.
The UK Government are also at the forefront of efforts to enhance developing countries' capacity to trade. In the White Paper on Globalisation we undertook to double our commitment over the next three years. We have recently pledged a £20 million package of trade related capacity building which will take us towards this goal.
Clare Short: A "Comparative Study of Air and Sea Access" was published last July. A copy of the report was placed in the House of Commons Library. It identified various options, which have since been under consideration by the St. Helena Government. As part of that process, the views of the islanders are being sought on the possibility of developing air access in future as an alternative to replacing St. Helena's dedicated passenger and supply ship.
Clare Short: The UK's bilateral programme in Pakistan is focused on three objectives: creating the economic conditions for poverty reduction and improving health and education outcomes for poor people, improving
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19. Mr. McGrady: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what further steps have been taken to ratify the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of children on the involvement of children in armed conflict; and if she will make a statement. 
The Ministry of Defence has been preparing detailed administrative procedures and guidelines for the UK armed forces which will give concrete form to the commitment, and accompanying declaration, we made on signing the optional protocol to ensure that all feasible measures are taken to avoid the direct participation in hostilities by any of our serving personnel who are under the age of 18. This process is in its final stages and we hope to proceed to ratification soon. Details of the means of implementing the protocol will be covered in an explanatory memorandum to be laid before Parliament in the lead up to ratification. Meanwhile great care continues to be taken in selecting the types of duty on which personnel under the age of 18 may be employed, and I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave on 28 January 2002, Official Report, column 14W to the hon. Member for Ludlow (Matthew Green).
Clare Short: A new strategy paper will be published this year for DFlD's work in the Southern Africa Customs Union area, which comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland. DFID will continue to support the region's efforts to address inherited problems of poverty, inequality and exclusion. We will give increasing priority to work on HIV/AIDS.
Within the broader Southern African region, DFID also supports programmes in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. DFID is also working to strengthen its partnership with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), following its recent restructuring.
Clare Short: Thanks to the efforts of the UN-led humanitarian system, and with the support of the international community, a potential humanitarian catastrophe has been averted in Afghanistan. But at least five million people will remain dependent on food aid and other emergency support over the coming year. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next few weeks, a fourth
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consecutive year of drought looks likely. Large numbers of Afghans are beginning to return from neighbouring countries, including around 10,000 people from Iran in the last few weeks, and approximately 3,000 a day from Pakistan.
While it is vital that we prepare for longer-term development in Afghanistan, we must also continue to provide urgent humanitarian assistance, particularly over the remaining winter months. The UN has launched an Immediate and Transitional Assistance Programme (ITAP) for the Afghan people in 2002. This paper identifies a package of unmet humanitarian needs and calls for $736 million of donor support this year to help cover gaps in emergency provision.
At the Tokyo conference on Afghan reconstruction earlier this week, I announced a UK commitment of £200 million ($288 million) over the next five years. These funds will be used for both reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.
27. Tony Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the outcome of the Tokyo conference on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. 
Clare Short: I visited Sudan recently to assess the prospects for peace and development. In my discussions with Sudanese leaders and others in the north and south of the country, I found that both sides in the conflict were yearning for peace. I concluded that there is now a real window of opportunity for the UK and the rest of the international community to engage in dialogue to help Sudan bring this long running conflict to an end.
I believe the UK can play a significant role in helping resolve the conflict and that our involvement would be welcomed by both sides. My Department is now considering ways in which the UK can exert influence in the peace process. We will aim to raise and maintain the conflict's profile in the international arena, and to build the pressure for a just peace. This will involve discussing Sudan with the World bank, IMF and the EU as well as with African countries with the potential to help. It will also be important to maintain the continued interest and involvement from the US and we will work with them at official and ministerial level to ensure this.
Long-term development of Sudan cannot be achieved without an end to the war. Such a partnership would depend on an end to the conflict, sustainable peace and political stability, as well as a commitment on the part of the Sudanese Government to poverty eradication.
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Clare Short: DFlD's major focus for tackling illiteracy is helping developing countries achieve the millennium development goal of universal primary education for all by 2015. Increasing access to good quality primary education and ensuring that children are literate when they leave school is essential for development and poverty reduction. Since 1997 the Government have committed over £600 million to support sustainable education systems in developing countries able to provide high quality primary education for all children.
24. Ms Oona King: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the United Kingdom Government's quick-start demobilisation programme in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 
Clare Short: During my visit to DRC in August last year, I pledged the UK's support for the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants. The DRC Government have not yet taken up this offer of assistance. They have, however, assembled 1,800 soldiers in the Kamina cantonment and we are working with the Congolese and Rwandan Governments to try to ensure that they are properly screened and, if appropriate, returned to Rwanda. We stand ready to provide any useful support we can to the process. We are also providing direct assistance to MONUC to enable peacekeeping forces to deploy in the east of DRC.
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