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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham for tabling this Unstarred Question. Perhaps I may mention his role in helping the Saharawi people through Rainbow Rovers. On my visit to the camps in southern Algeria I saw many indications that my noble friend had been there. No one who has been to see the Polisario camps can fail to be impressed by the people's tenacity and ingenuity in surviving that very harsh environment. I was distressed to hear of the storms that have caused so much devastation.
The conflict has been going on for a long time and needs to be resolved as quickly as possible to help the Saharawi people. Ultimately, the United Nations has a large part to play in resolving the conflict. However, the difficulties faced by the United Nations in enforcing Resolutions 658 and 659 in the Western Sahara are a striking example of the problems of inadequate resources and ambiguity of mandate that can often undermine the effectiveness of the United Nations. In April this year, total contributions outstanding to the MINURSO special account amounted to approximately half the total annual cost of its present deployment of 40 million dollars. The United Kingdom has a good record for paying its assessed contributions to the United Nations on time. But other member states' failure to pay on time is a serious obstacle to the fulfilment of the organisation's role. As the noble Baroness has said
I do not intend to address the numerous areas of tension in Africa but to confine myself to three present conflicts--Somalia, Angola and Rwanda--because they seem to me to exemplify the limitations of the United Nations and hence the need for substantial reform. Essentially, that is where the United Kingdom can take action by pushing for effective reform at the international level.
Since the end of the cold war, the type of conflicts that prevail today result from numerous complex and historical factors including political instability, ethnicity and religion. The definition of what constitutes "conflict" and at what stage the international community should step in has been the crux of the dilemma about foreign intervention in today's conflicts. The UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, helped to clarify the types of conflict and the consequent changing demands on the UN in his document An Agenda for Peace. Among his recommendations is the idea of preventive diplomacy, a concept that is really at the heart of the founding purpose of the United Nations. The vision expressed in 1946 at the opening session of the UN Security Council centred not so much on how to respond to future conflicts but how to prevent their very occurrence.
In An Agenda for Peace, Boutros Boutros-Ghali spoke also of the need for peace-building and reconstruction in post-conflict areas. Without the foundations of a peace-building strategy, which take into account the necessary political, social and economic changes in order to create an environment for stability, the international community has been only partially successful. That means that in future the assistance provided by UN agencies and other agencies not usually associated with peacekeeping--such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the private sector--should be tailored to both short and long-term needs.
UN operations in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia have demonstrated the urgency of institutionalising preventive diplomacy. An integrated early warning system for those crises could well have limited civilian casualties. Active UN diplomacy in Somalia did not begin until 1992, 15 months after the conflict began. Had the UN responded earlier, it is likely that much suffering could have been avoided. In Rwanda, UN troops were withdrawn from the area in April when evidence showed clearly that the crisis had mounted into genocide. The United States' reluctance to become involved in another Somalia, for whose failed and questionable military strategy the US lost face and which further damaged the credibility of the UN, meant US obstructiveness was a contributory factor to the UN's delayed response to the unfolding tragedy in Rwanda. Despite appeals from African nations to act, and the provision of a 5,500 African peacekeeping force,
UNOSOM II, the UN's second operation in Somalia, launched in May 1993, was to some extent an experiment drawing the UN into peacemaking rather than peacekeeping activities. "Peacebuilding operations" were the pretext under which the US military-dominated command pursued General Aideed only to end in defeat and the further loss of life. The lack of a clear mandate in Somalia contributed to the UN's ineffectiveness in many of its initial aims.
The political impasse in Somalia continues despite the considerable reduction in UN forces in the course of this year. It appears that the balance of power is once again in the hands of the faction leaders. There is fear that a new federal government could collapse if the fragile arrangement between Ali Mahdi Mohammed and his allies and the SNA is not accepted; at worst that could re-ignite the war. The cost of UN peacebuilding in Somalia has already set the UN back some 1 billion dollars a year. If the Nairobi Declaration were to disintegrate, it is doubtful whether the political will would exist for another attempt by the international community to resolve the conflict in Somalia. Moreover, the perceived partiality of UNISOM may well mean that the validity of its mandate to try to forge a political solution has long expired. Will the Minister comment on any recent developments in Somalia; the United Kingdom's position regarding any new outbreak of conflict; and the value of the United Kingdom's contributions to Somalia since 1991?
I move on to Angola. The ceasefire in Angola has raised hopes for an end to the conflict, often referred to as the worst war in the world. Although the peace accord has a fragile base, the chance for reconstruction and peacebuilding in Angola is an opportunity which should be encouraged by every means possible. Angola is a country rich in resources and its prospects are good. But much support in the way of foreign investment and long-term development initiatives is needed. As at 30th April 1994, total contributions outstanding to UNAVEM I and UNAVEM II were approximately 31 million dollars. Would the Minister consider channelling the amount outstanding to meet the needs of reconstruction?
A further problem is that although long-term agricultural potential in Angola is large, an estimated 10 million to 20 million landmines are scattered across the country, preventing agricultural workers returning to the field. That leads me to ask what steps the United Kingdom has taken to ratify the 1981 UN Inhumane Weapons Convention or to impose a ban on the production and export of landmines which continue to inflict civilian suffering in many regions of post and present conflict in Africa?
I conclude with a reference to the peace settlement in Mozambique. I recently had the opportunity to witness the elections in Mozambique. I was amazed by the degree of organisation and the peaceful nature of those elections. Mozambique summarises what can be achieved by the UN if it has the will to undertake such activities.
Lord Judd: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Winchilsea and Nottingham, spoke with compassion and conviction rooted in his first-hand experience of the Western Sahara and his exemplary commitment to the Saharawi people. However, as was argued by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, his Question has a relevance which stretches way beyond the Western Sahara. It is highly pertinent to next year's 50th anniversary of the United Nations. There will be much international debate about the future of the UN. Part of that debate will concern the future of the Security Council.
Were the Security Council being formed today, it is hardly conceivable that the United Kingdom would be offered permanent membership. However, permanent membership is what we have inherited based on the world as it was in 1945. If we want to retain that permanent place we must justify it. In our post-imperial, post-colonial era, the way in which we can best look to our interests is to be second to none in our commitment to international institutions, which are vital for effective global governance.
It is by our demonstrable internationalism that we shall maximise our influence on world affairs. Part of this will be our contribution to international peace-keeping. But more important than that by far will be our lead in building up the resources for pre-emptive diplomacy and conflict resolution.
The noble Earl reminded us of the brutality of the displacement of the Saharawi people. Amnesty International reports that, despite the presence of UN monitors, they still suffer disappearances, political prisoners and torture at the hands of the Moroccans. In the past some have been held for up to 16 years without charge or trial and no explanation has ever been offered. Human rights, guaranteed under the implementation plan agreed by the UN in co-operation with the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario (the political resistance movement of the Saharawi people), are not yet respected. I am afraid that, although Polisario does not yet itself have an unblemished record--and Amnesty International has certainly drawn attention to its prisoners of conscience--it has never resorted to international terrorism.
The Saharawi people do try to operate under broadly democratic principles, with the objective of one person, one vote and government by elected representatives. They aspire to religious freedom. In the main, women enjoy comparable rights with men. Priority is given to education and a 95 per cent. illiteracy rate has been transformed into a 95 per cent. literacy rate.
As was indicated by the noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Wise, the UN supervised referendum to determine the future of the Saharawi people, which was promised 20 years ago, has still not happened, and the implications of the UN Secretary-General's report of last November suggest that inevitably there will be another postponement beyond the expected date of February next year. The choices on offer are, after all, for a referendum without agreement on the electoral roll, for the UN to drop its presence and to withdraw the proposal for the referendum and for the parties to continue talking until June in the hope of compromise.
As the noble Lord, Lord Wise, stressed in his remarks, there are already acute anxieties about the manipulation of the voter registration process, with reports of intimidation by the Moroccans and of thousands of new settlers being sent into the region by Morocco. In all these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the Saharawi people are rapidly losing faith in the UN--or, as the Minister reminded us in the debate on the Queen's Speech, in us--for there is no United Nations other than its member states.
The noble Baroness will need to convince us that the Government, as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, are taking the lead that they should be taking to resolve the impasse and to bring about the direct dialogue between the parties for which the United Nations General Assembly has called.
Meanwhile, as the noble Earl so graphically described, the four Saharawi refugee camps adjacent to Tindouf were a month ago the victims of catastrophic floods. He told us that 50,000 people have been made
The Question tabled by the noble Earl refers to Africa as a whole. The cost of failure to resolve or forestall conflict in that continent has been horrendous. The accumulated evidence of the Horn, Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique, Liberia, Angola and, indeed, little Gambia is grim. Surely the inescapable lesson is that, as in the Western Sahara, the priority must be to address the causes of conflict and to act in time.
We have been reminded that in Rwanda, for example, there was no shortage of warnings. As one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, we must take very seriously our share of the responsibility for the failure to take pre-emptive action on the basis of the special rapporteur's report and, when conflict erupted, for the failure of the wider world to provide troops or even to provide sufficient logistic support in time to back up the African troops who had been offered. In other words, the issue was a lack of will.
In an age of revolutionised communications, with so much more information available, the predominance of reactive diplomacy is a sad commentary on political culture. It is all too often not a matter of whether the international community will intervene but of when it will be compelled to intervene--probably too late, at greatest expense and when least can be achieved. Repeatedly we cobble together the resources--far from sufficient--for the UNHCR to meet the latest refugee crisis; but how much do we spend on preventing the crisis developing in the first place? We agonise about GATT and the need to expand world trade; but how often do we count the cost to world trade of the failure to prevent conflict?
Governments speak of pre-emptive diplomacy--and, as was pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, the Secretary of State when he addressed the UN General Assembly spoke of his intentions to promote this in Africa--but what in the Government's thinking really is the priority for pre-emptive diplomacy? According to the latest's estimates, annual global military expenditure is of the order of 1,000 billion US dollars. The total annual UN peace keeping budget, inadequately struggling to cope with failure, is by comparison only some 3.6 billion US dollars. But resources for pre-emptive diplomacy and conflict resolution barely register in the shadow of these incredible figures. The Government like to claim a radical sense of purpose. Real radicalism in foreign affairs cannot leave these skewed priorities unaddressed.
In the African context this very day the world's attention, led by the Security Council, on which the UK is so determined to serve, should, for example, be tirelessly focused on Kenya, with all its sinister, incipient violence and cynical manipulation of ethnic differences--its disappearances, assassinations, hundreds of documented cases of police torture, judges directed by government, the media intimidated, MPs needing permits to hold political meetings and 36 of the
Attention should similarly be focused on Zaire and Nigeria, where there have been 24 years of military dictatorship and denial of human rights and where, as tension mounts, the United Kingdom still inexplicably and dangerously maintains its arms supplies to the regime, including, significantly, Vickers battle tanks. It does that despite the European Union's curbs on arms sales and IMF anxiety about the level of arms expenditure by the Nigerian regime.
Attention should also be given urgently to the renewed dangers in Rwanda demonstrated in the refugee camps, where an international police force is urgently required, and to the dangers in Burundi where the failure of the international community to provide the number of monitors called for by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights and many non-governmental organisations is frankly a disgrace, not least when the cost of not supplying them may well yet prove to be disastrous by comparison.
As I emphasised in the debate on the Queen's Speech, it is lamentable that, with all the talk of the importance of good governance, democracy and human rights, we have appeared impotent in the face of the wanton destruction of democracy in little Gambia by a handful of ambitious, power-hungry army officers.
In the debate on the Queen's Speech, my noble friend Lady Blackstone called for an early debate on pre-emptive diplomacy and the reform of the UN system. The question raised by the noble Earl today and the significant and thoughtful contribution by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, underline the importance of that proposal. Apart from the case for a rapid deployment force at the disposal of the Security Council and the Secretary-General to contain situations before they escalate out of control, the case for earmarked stand-by forces in member countries of the UN to be called up by the Security Council and Secretary-General when required, and the case for a proper, responsible system of financing UN peace-keeping operations, there is the crucially important issue of establishing clear guidelines and principles for UN pre-emptive intervention, let alone military action.
Recent history has been a disturbing story of tardy arbitrariness. The debate for which my noble friend called will, I suggest, need to examine arrangements for petitioning the international community by groups at risk; for early warning; for the use of the specialist knowledge and insight of non-governmental organisations, academics and other similar sources without--a vital point--compromising their ability to act as genuinely independent impartial agents. It will need to consider whether an office for preventive diplomacy, preferably on the 38th floor of the UN, might have a powerful part to play. It should look at experience of sanctions and how in future they might be better targeted and refined to achieve their objectives with minimum adverse effect on the innocent. It would be sensible too to review the contribution of safe havens.
The debate will not be able to dodge the issue of the arms trade--the crude fuel of armed conflict--the degree to which it is exploited ruthlessly by immoral profiteers and merchants of death and, equally significant, the degree to which large numbers of decent people in otherwise civilised countries have, through no fault of their own, become dependent, together with their national economies, on arms manufacture and exports. I hope that the debate will grapple with how, in the name of humanity, governments can together make the arms trade more accountable and transparent and how they can together work at massive programmes of substitution for arms manufacture.
Meanwhile, one astounding and profoundly worrying statistic cannot be too often repeated; namely, that almost 90 per cent. of the arms sold to the third world are sold by the permanent five members of the Security Council. Above all, however, in Africa, as the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, suggested in his powerful contribution, we must never overlook the reality that among the root causes of conflict have been the problems of land distribution, grinding poverty, debt, adverse terms of trade and insensitive economic restructuring demanded by wealthy nations of the world. In that respect Rwanda's story was far more complex than just ethnic conflict alone.
With all that in mind, latest budget indications for the future of the aid programme, when aid is already at an all-time low as a percentage of gross national product, are candidly depressing. With his unrivalled insight into the Western Sahara, the noble Earl has helped to demonstrate today that viewed from another galaxy the priorities of humankind are indefensible. Indeed, we prepare like giants for war and like pygmies for peace.
I cannot say often enough that the Minister is personally a genuine humanitarian. I have no doubt that she will convince us of that once more this evening. On all sides of the House we must work with her to build a strategy to transform the myopic preoccupations of government so that rationality is asserted, so that we think ahead and so that we free ourselves from the horrific consequences of fatalism. Nowhere is that more important than in our policy towards Africa. The story of the Western Sahara is all too symptomatic of the absence of commitment to effective global governance.
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