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20 Mar 2000 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 20th March 2000.

Iraq: Sanctions Exemptions

Viscount Waverley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give itemised details for the most recent year for which figures are available of each application refused by the UN-Iraq Sanctions Committee under the Oil for Food Programme or under other humanitarian programmes.[HL1366]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): I refer the noble Viscount to my Written Answer on 16 March 2000, Offical Report, WA 229.

Detailed figures on all applications to the United Nations Oil for Food Programme, giving the number of applications and the status of the applications, can be found on the United Nations website at http://www.un.org/Depts/oip.html Internet access is available in the Library of the House.

Discrimination Against Women: Optional Protocol to UN Convention

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which member states of the European Union have signed the new Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and which member states have not done so.[HL1465]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The following member states of the European Union have signed the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden. Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom have not done so.

In 1997-98 the Government undertook a review of our obligations under international human rights instruments. The right of individual petition under various UN instruments was looked at very carefully. The outcome of the review was announced in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on 3 March 1999.

The review concluded that for the present accession to such Optional Protocols would have an adverse effect on work in hand to prepare for and implement the Human Rights Act.

The UK's position with regard to these protocols will be looked at again once the Human Rights Act has bedded in.

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Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are their reasons for having failed to sign the new Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.[HL1466]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Following a thorough review of our obligations under international human rights treaties completed in March 1999, the Government concluded that accession to Optional Protocols calling for the right of individual petition would adversely affect the major work under way in preparing for and implementing the Human Rights Act.

The UK's position with regard to these protocols will be looked at again once the Human Rights Act has bedded in.

Belgium: British Missions and the Union Flag

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Scotland of Asthal on 22 February (WA 13), whether the failure to fly the Union flag over British embassies in Belgium is because this could pose a security risk or whether it is because of the need to avoid offending local sensitivities.[HL1467]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Neither. The Embassy's flagstaff is being moved from its position on the roof and re-positioned over the main entrance. The diplomatic flag (Union flag with FCO crest) is flying on every working day during office hours. Our two other missions in Brussels are not Embassies. However, the UK Permanent Representation to the EU will continue to fly the flag daily in the lobby of their offices until a new external flagstaff is installed. The UK Delegation to NATO is located within the NATO HQ building. The Union flag flies outside the NATO HQ building daily.

UNHCR: Financial Management

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What reports have been made by consultants and auditors about financial mismanagement and irregularities at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; and what action the United Kingdom is taking, as a major contributor, to ensure that management controls and auditing of UNHCR spending are improved.[HL1140]

Baroness Amos: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is audited annually by a team of independent auditors whose reports are made public and discussed by UNHCR's Executive Committee of which the UK is a member. UNHCR is required to take action on any areas of financial mismanagement identified by the auditors.

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The UK National Audit Office has been elected by the UN to audit UNHCR in 2001.

The Department for International Development (DfID) places additional financial controls on its own funding for UNHCR, monitoring expenditure through regular financial and narrative reports and field visits by our experts. Any concerns we have about financial management are discussed at bilateral meetings with UNHCR and, if necessary, at the Executive and Standing Committees of UNHCR. DfID has made it clear that UK funding for UNHCR is conditional on increased transparency and accountability in the organisation. We therefore welcome UNHCR's adoption of a unified budget and its closer dialogue with donors on financial and policy issues.

Mozambique: Disaster Response

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether effective co-operation and co-ordination are taking place between the Department for International Development and appropriate non-governmental organisations to ensure maximum short, medium and long-term responses to the disaster in Mozambique; and whether consultations will take place between government and these non-governmental organisations on the most effective arrangements for responding to similar emergencies in future and in order to determine the international action, including monitoring, which the United Kingdom should advocate in relevant international institutions.[HL1421]

Baroness Amos: Co-operation and co-ordination between the Department for International Development and Mozambican and UK non-governmental organisations was in place prior to the disaster as part of the UK Government's longer term development assistance programme in Mozambique. These mechanisms have been enhanced during the disaster through formal meetings (this is a standard procedure adopted in the department in any emergency situation) in London and Maputo between DfID and NGO staff. A representative from the Disasters Emergency Committee participated in a recent DfID assessment mission to Mozambique.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are putting in place to ensure, within the priority of the Department for International Development for long-term development and elimination of poverty, inter-departmental co-operation for rapid and effective response on the scale necessary to humanitarian disasters and emergencies like that in Mozambique whatever and whenever they occur.[HL1419]

Baroness Amos: Humanitarian emergencies, whether caused by conflict or natural and man-made disasters, cause great suffering and loss of life and can destroy development advances and set back the

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prospects of progress for years to come. Providing assistance during times of instability and then assisting people to re-establish their lives is an essential humanitarian need and is a precondition for achieving the International Development Targets.

Inter-departmental arrangements are already in place for rapid and effective responses to overseas disasters. These are co-ordinated by the Department for International Development, which has established call-down arrangements with other government departments. These include the Home Office, with which we have an arrangement for the deployment of UK Fire Service Search and Rescue Teams and the Ministry of Defence, from which we are able to request, where appropriate, the deployment and utilisation of military assets. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and our diplomatic posts overseas provide useful early information in case of sudden disasters.

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken to thank the aircrew and ground support staff who made possible the relief work in the Mozambique disaster before the global response began to be effectively mobilised.[HL1420]

Baroness Amos: Public recognition in Mozambique and worldwide has been given for the outstanding efforts of all who have been involved in all the humanitarian response to the disaster in Mozambique. Departmental Ministers have made clear to their staff the Government's pride in the contribution they have made.

Humanitarian Emergencies: Advance Information

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements they are now putting in place, on an inter-departmental basis, to ensure effective monitoring of potential humanitarian emergencies before they develop into an avoidable scale of disaster, so that an adequate response can be made bilaterally and the United Kingdom can assist in mobilising an adequate response multilaterally.[HL1423]

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development has established global surveillance systems for the monitoring of potential and actual disasters. Internally, DfID is able to use information collected by its regional offices and also centrally through networks established with United Nations and other operational agencies in the field.

In addition to in-house capacity, we have a recognised system of information sharing with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Our Embassies, High Commissions and other diplomatic offices also assist us with monitoring of potential crises. The combination of early warning systems in place, together with our extensive capacity to respond, means

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that DfID's multilateral and bilateral response to disasters is recognised as one of the most rapid and effective in the world.


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