|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Moved, on behalf of the Committee of Selection, That the Lord Slynn of Hadley be appointed a member of the Select Committee in the place of the Lord Wilberforce deceased.(The Chairman of Committees.)
Lord Lea of Crondall rose to call attention to progress towards the development of "mutual accountability" with African countries under the aegis of NePAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development) prior to the G8 summit at Evian; and to move for Papers.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am very glad to have been fortunate enough to secure this debate in the lead-up to Evian early in June providing the opportunity for my noble friend Lady Amos to respond in her new role as Secretary of State for International Development. It was clear in her previous incarnation that the issues surrounding the New Partnership for Africa's Development were and are very close to her heart.
In that context I also welcome, among an impressive list of speakers, her distinguished predecessor in that role in this House, the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey, who has a long and continuing experience with the affairs of Africa.
Our immediate aim is to help to maintain the G8/NePAD momentum set in motion in Canada a year ago. President Chirac, who is in the chair of the G8 this year, is giving this a high priority at Evianif it is not a treasonable offence to mention that. We need continuity in the work of the G8 even when major new issues in the Middle East and the world economy dominate the headlines. The African time-bomb is still ticking away, and we have to attend to it.
Peer review is voluntary, but there are tangible advantages for countries entering into the process. We are beginning with about a dozen. There are 46 counties in total in Africa to bring within scope, some more on a regional framework. In the language of the Government, there will be,
First and foremost, peace and security, covering good governance, is correctly placed at the top of the list. No one can doubt that political stability is of the utmost importance for social and economic progress. I can add to that the effectiveness of aid; fostering trade and investment; implementing debt relief; health issues; and water security. There is a long list to be addressed. Those issues immediately raise all aspects of what is now called mutual accountability, between African countries, within African countries and north-southby which I mean between the G8 OECD countries and the countries of the African Union.
On the question of peer review, as in the European Union the African Union leadership of such initiatives has to be top-down to begin with, but it certainly will not go far unless there is in-depth understanding and ownership. That is a tall order. It is not often appreciated how much we in Britain have benefited from being peer reviewed in Europe, but many people in this House view that process with only modified rapture. I have personally been on the receiving end of that on such issues in the labour market as adaptability, employability and equal opportunity. My advice is that it does you good.
I find when talking to African colleagues at different levels in the trade unions that they are surprised to hear what I have just said; they find it an eye-opener. One of them said to me, after hearing my line on it: "Well, if you are benchmarked and you are rich, maybe it's alright for us as well". This is not an abstract matterit is entirely practical.
The G8 countries will be reporting at Evian on progress against the commitments agreed in Canada a year ago. If the UK national action plan is any guide, that will further demonstrate the value added in the NePAD process. It is also very timely to welcome our Government's ideas for the international financial facility and the 50 billion dollars that it would produce for international aid.
The term "mutual accountability"I emphasise the word "mutual"is relatively new. It may be useful to identify the two complementary aspects of the concept: the accountability north-south and the accountability within Africa. The northern contribution, from OECD countries, is not only to help with cash and technical assistance but also to be accountable in terms of removing trade distortions;
The June deadline for the headings of agreement on reform of the common agricultural policyperhaps I should say that the same should go for the American agricultural policyshould see tangible progress on one of the central issues on the north-south agenda. One of the central reforms should be put in place so that, inter alia, we switch about 80 per cent of the CAP spending into areas that the WTO accepts are not trade distorting. That is only a start. Here again, however, one cannot gainsay the fact that for the countries with falls in GDP in the past 10 yearsof which there are many, although I do not have time to read out the statisticsthe big factors unfortunately have nothing to do with trade policy.
We want to see more on the table from the north on trade policy. President Chirac acknowledged the need for change at his meeting with Africa presidents in March, beginning with the abolition of EU export subsidies for agricultural products affecting African markets. It is essential that that is taken forward further at Cancun in the autumn.
NePAD has its critics, in Africa and elsewhere. I was struck by the robust response by the executive secretary of the Economic Commission on Africa last October. Mr Amoako referred to what he described as the main myths about NePAD. First, it is said that it is an intrusion on national sovereignty; we all know about that one, of course. Secondly, it is said that it will be an elite club with insiders and outsiders. Some of our own aid organisations, such as Christian Aid, quoted in the House of Commons research paper on NePAD, share the critique of elitism against grass roots involvement.
On the other hand, there is the opposite critique, heard much more frequently in this House, that NePAD is ineffectual. There are, in fact, two opposing myths. That is well illustrated by Zimbabwe, which will obviously feature in some of your Lordships' speeches. There is a myth put about in that part of the world that NePAD is all to do with South African imperialism. The South Africans have given courageous leadership in getting NePAD off the ground, and I would advocate that they are much bolder. But what about the fact that the Mugabes of this world get a standing ovationas he doesat the meetings of African heads of government? One way of understanding how that can happen is to reflect on how politics in our own sophisticated country operates. One might take the example of why we, in the TUC, gave a standing ovation each year to Arthur Scargill years after the TUC was even remotely in agreement with his irredentist policy. It is a genuflection to the old time religion.
The South Africans are better placed than ourselves to knock right on the head the idea that NePAD is part of a conspiracy designed by forces of white imperialism vis-a-vis countries to their immediate north. Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, is no one's poodle, as his
Zimbabwe also illustrates the fact that NePAD cannot at this stage jump miles beyond peer group pressureas if the next move would be to go right to the other end of the spectrum of direct intervention. It is absurd to say that NePAD has failed on such a test as that.
It is necessary to issue a general disclaimer or health warning that NePAD cannot do everything. Nor can it be a quick fix. Some things may need to be done that could by no stretch of the imagination be its responsibility or even potential responsibility. For example, it cannot change the United Nations rules of engagement in the Congo, highly desirable as that might be. Nor is it responsible for the arms trade; we are more responsible for it than NePAD. It cannot change tribal loyalties, straight lines on the map or more than 1,000 years of history as regards Christianity versus Islam, desirable as all that might be if we could turn back the clock.
In that connection we should remember that the countries of the Maghreb are prominently involved in this African project even though they may feel different and much nearer to Europe than to sub-Saharan Africa. However, having said that NePAD must not bite off more than it can chew, I believe that it can make the difference between a road to ruin and a road map to minimum standards of governance. Political stability has been the centrepiece in transforming many basket-case economies. It is certainly the key to private investment. I am sure that colleagues will have more to say about the role of the private sector. I hope that the Secretary of State will say more about the multi-donor-funded public/private infrastructure facility and the framework for dialogue about that.
In our most recent debate on this general topic I engaged in an interchange with the noble Lord, Lord Desai, on the comparative growth rate between Asia and Africa. We discussed the role of the middle class in generating a quite high rate of return for the new professional services and so on and creating a more powerful political constituency for good governance and the rule of law.
The role of the trade unionsone of the main forces for pluralism in many party of Africa ever since colonial daysshould also be acknowledged. When it comes to local "ownership"to use the modern vernacularthey are streets ahead of the otherwise admirable development NGOs. Trade unions play a much wider role than simply at the place of work. For exampleto give a flavourin Sierra Leone the Commonwealth TUC is working with the Labour Congress to help all civil society organisations contribute to peacekeeping. In Ghana and Nigeria, the TUC and the national Labour Congress have run voter education programmes. The list is a long one.
Ownership of NePAD in depth is now an urgent question. That ultimately bears on the role of parliaments and parliamentarians. We should note the creation, at a meeting in Cotonou in October 2002, of the African Parliamentarians Forum for NePAD. In its communique it reports that some EU countries have had a direct financial input into the forumnamely, Denmark, Italy and Francewhereas the UK is not mentioned except indirectly insofar as there is also EU assistance. Perhaps my noble friend can say more about that.
As regards the role of Westminster, both the IPU and the CPA do an excellent job on inward and outward missions and in seminars on the type of issue we are discussing today. The All-Party Group on Africa will be discussing with those bodies, and perhaps with the Foreign Office and DfID, how we can put together a more systematic exposition of the link with the NePAD parliamentary forum.
For many historical, contemporary and practical reasons, among G8 countries Britain and France have by far the most significant interests in Africa. France is, for example, the biggest aid donor to Africa. We are therefore proposing a meeting between British and French parliamentarians, perhaps to be addressed jointly by a NePAD governmental and parliamentary representative as the start of a continuing relationship. There have been preliminary discussions with French parliamentarians who have warmly welcomed the proposal in principle. Now we have to work out the logistics, with the enthusiastic support of the French ambassador in London, M. Gerard Errera.
Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I should first declare an interest as chairman of Africa Matters Ltd, where we try to open doors to African investment and development. Secondly, I most warmly welcome the new Secretary of State for International Development, our own Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Amos. She has a huge task ahead of her. She has my full support. Although we might have grown up in different stables, we have exactly the same objectives. I hope that this will be the first of many informative debates about Africa. Such debates might expand the positive attitude that already exists among many of those doing the practical work on the ground. Thirdly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, and congratulate him on gaining this debate.
In a recent conference involving thinkers from both the G8 and African nations, we came to the conclusionwhich the noble Lord, Lord Lea, has already mentionedthat NePAD cannot be a cure-all for the many problems facing Africa. It is by far the most complicated of continents. There are more than 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, all with their own cultural diversity and customs. I often become a little infuriated, shall we say, when I hear people talking of Africa as if it were one country with a single cultural
The African Union seems to realise that and to be aware that NePAD cannot be a one-speed forward process. NePAD must work at a variety of speeds in a variety of different sectors. I should like to concentrate on that in the few moments available to me.
The first thing that I should say about mutual accountability is this. Part of the solution to many of the issues on which the western world and northern hemisphere criticise NePAD, where the G8 nations and others in OECD are looking for solutions, is already in their own hands. I begin with the issue of corruption. Bribery is successful only when someone bribes. By going into the detailas Transparency International has doneof how much corruption around the world occurs, one finds that an awful lot of companies from European and other OECD countriesand maybe even some governments, for all I knoware involved. It is they who, for a variety of projects, put up the money, which is easily taken by people of lesser probity. So part of the solutionmutual accountabilityis, as the noble Lord, Lord Lea, said, in our own hands. Corruption is but one issue.
The second issue is the whole question of funding for small private sector developments through banking and other funds which may be made available by the IFC or other multilateral bodies. We will cure some of Africa's problems only if new jobs are created. As we know in this country, new jobs come not from big government contractsI think that even the current Government would accept thatbut from loads of small enterprises. Small enterprises succeed only if they can get funding. Of all the problems that can arise in developing enterprises which can bring growth, the lack of resources for small business is one of the most critical. I hope that with the new African Project Development Fund organisation and the emphasis now being placed on it by multilateral and bilateral donors, we can really do something to enhance the growth of small businesses. That will bring the jobs, and that will actually start to cure some of the problems.
The noble Lord, Lord Lea, spoke of the key problem of gaining peace and security as well as democracy and political governance. You get peace and security only when people feel themselves secure, and that requires employment. That underlines, perhaps in an unusual way, why I am so keen to see such business development.
There is a great deal to be done in terms of economic and corporate governance, not only by sharing best skills on financial management with the countries of Africa but also by making sure that businesses operating in Africa have first-class corporate governance and can share systems of corporate governance with African countries and companies in the continent.
The third broad precondition for the sustainable development of NePAD is clearly regional co-operation and integration. I believe that if we are to see NePAD succeed, we have to put many things in our own houses in order. I hope that a renaissance decade lies ahead. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to push that for all she is worth. Certainly the African Union wants to meet commitments in terms of creating local conditions of peace, security, democracy and political governance. The African Union is prepared to take on the ownership of NePAD, but NePAD's own development goals can be met only if it is a real partnership. That real partnership involves not just money but the active involvement of people sharing their skills with people in African countries. That is the way to get growth and stability in this huge continent, and that is the way for the G8 to help NePAD forward.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Lea, on initiating this useful and timely debate in advance of the G8 summit. We are glad to know that the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, will be there maintaining the high priority given to African affairs notwithstanding the other important issues that will be on the agenda. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lea, that the momentum has to be kept up. It is more important than ever that the resources available for this project are effectively deployed and underpinned, as has been said, by good governance, the rule of law, human rights and democracy. That was the essence of the G8 Africa Action Plan, agreed at Kananaskis a year ago. At Evian the participants will no doubt assess the progress made towards meeting the objectives of the plan, which include strengthening institutions and governance.
In July 2002 the African Union agreed to the African peer review mechanismwhich has been mentioneddirected and managed by a panel appointed by heads of state and government, and supported by a secretariat which would maintain information about participating states. Each state would submit a programme of action for implementing the declaration on democracy, political, economic and corporate governance, and that would be subject to periodic review by the panel.
Unfortunately, there are some defects in the proposals. First, states which have no intention of complying with international standards will simply not participate. It is a pity that the mechanism was not built into membership of the African Union. Secondly, the panel is not independent. Why not allow candidates to be nominated by the leader of any political party or NGO in the participating countries, with the final selection being made by an independent body such as chief justices instead of heads of state? The panel would then have the power to appoint the head of the secretariat, making that also fully independent.
Thirdly, there is a commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but not to the covenants, or to other UN instruments such as the Convention Against Torture. That is a defect. Fourthly, civil society should have been given a more prominent role. As I say, appointments to the panel are controlled entirely by governments, and so also presumably would be appointments to the secretariat and to the peer review teams. The review of a state will rely on
Finally, only heads of government have the right to call for a review outside the normal cycle where they consider that there are signs of an impending political or economic crisis. If the panel is independent, why should it not have the power to conduct a review of its own volition, on the basis of objective trigger facts such as an adverse report on the conduct of an election, together with a request for a review by the main opposition in the country concerned? By what right do we make suggestions of this kind about the African peer review mechanism? Since the object of the exercise is in part to create a new environment that will encourage aid and investment from G8 countries, we can, by making these suggestions, render it more attractive than it is now.
That brings me to the OECD guidelines for multinational enterprises and the associated monitoring mechanism. These are practical tools for ensuring that commercial activities in Africa are guided by the highest standards of corporate social responsibility. NePAD's peace and security commission has proposed that African governments establish minimum standards by which non-state actors may access natural resources, and the guidelines provide a workable model that could be adapted or even adopted by the African Union for this purpose.
The G8 Africa Action Plan has pledged to work with African governments, civil society and others to address the linkage between armed conflict and the exploitation of natural resources by encouraging the adoption of voluntary principles of corporate social responsibility. It also calls for accountability and transparency with respect to the import or export of Africa's natural resources from areas of conflict. So there should be a more specific linkage between the guidelines and NePAD, and this would again dovetail with the Prime Minister's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which I hope will be discussed at Evian ahead of the meeting on June 17th, where I understand that key players will be asked to sign up to a statement of principles. It would be useful if the noble Baroness when replying to the debate could say something further about the EITIan initiative which I am sure your Lordships warmly welcome.
Not much progress has yet been made towards mutual accountability under NePAD, but now is surely the time to accelerate the process. President Chirac says that one theme at Evian will be the responsibility of both governments and business. The G8 need to spell out clearly both what they expect from the peer review mechanism and what states can expect from the G8 if they satisfy well-understood benchmarks of good governance. Equally, they must speak plainly on what business and governments must do together to ensure that the African people, and not the kleptocrats, get the full benefit of developments that NePAD can ensure.
Lord Rogan: My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, on initiating the debate. I offer my good wishes and congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, on her new position.
This debate hinges on an extremely important topic, particularly coming at a time when the plight of Africa has slipped somewhat from the limelight. When campaigning in Edinburgh back in May 2001, the Prime Minister said:
It is therefore vital that the achievements of Kananaskis in Canada last year, when G8 support was secured for the New Partnership for Africa's Development, are carried through to this year's G8 summit in Evian. If not, we are in danger of allowing Africa to become little more than a fashion accessory, a stylish issue that grabs the headlines on select occasions to appease targeted audiences.
It is worth reminding ourselves of the reasons why we need to think more carefully and frequently about Africa. Some 65 per cent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa live on one dollar a day, 40 per cent do not attend primary schools, and 28 million are living with HIV/Aids. Southern Africa is plagued by famine and food shortages. Many of Africa's nations are suffering under the effects of continued conflict and corrupt leadership, and countries persistently face low growth rates.
Yet, even among the gloomiest of pictures and statistics, there is a glimmer of hope. Uganda and Mozambique, for example, have annual growth rates of 7 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. Recent years have seen the smooth handover of power to democratically elected governments in countries such as Ghana and Kenya. Life expectancy in Gambia has risen from 45 years to 53 years, and the percentage of the population receiving education has doubled in countries such as Burkina Faso, Liberia and Mali.
Although many of those improvements should be attributed to foreign aid from developed countries and to the excellent work and major commitments of NGOs, credit must also be given to the African countries themselves. Aid can and does provide the infrastructure, the means by which improvements can be made. It can indeed be the impetus to change. But fundamental long-term change can come only from within the countries themselves. Without the support of the African leaders, and the African people, aid will be little more than a stop-gap measure, a sticking plaster or band-aid over a very deep wound.
In setting standards for good governance, respecting human rights and working for peace and poverty reduction, NePAD, as the brainchild of several African leaders, is Africa's recognition that it is responsible for its own development. NePAD does not represent ideas and regulations imposed on African nations by western countries. It is not an attempt to mould them to our liking, although of course we share the aims and sentiment. Rather, it is an inside-out approach to development. As a child learns from its mistakes, so must Africa recognise its own problems, recognise that it can and must do something about them, and set about not only resolving them but moving forward and beyond them. NePAD is a real opportunity for Africa. I urge the Government to consider more carefully our commitment to and support for it.
NePAD is undoubtedly ambitious. Perhaps it can best be described as offering a new attitude to African leadership, a new way of thinking that needs time to seep into the African psyche. I wish to place on record my admiration for and congratulations to those African leadersin particular, President Mbeki of South Africa and President Wade of Senegalon their drive and determination in taking on the arduous challenge of lifting Africa from global depression. It is all too easy for us to be cynical about NePAD, to dwell on the teething problems and criticise the tardiness with which the principles are implemented. But I believe that we should offer those African leaders our steadfast support and not our criticism.
That said, the notion of mutual accountability or the peer review process has had a less than wholehearted response. It is not unlike the concept of peer mentoring, of which we hear much in the UK. At first glance it represents an excellent idea. African leaders can help each other to reach the goals of democracy and good governance. They can keep a close eye on each other, and allow their neighbours to criticise them in order that improvements may be made. However, with only 13 states signed up so far, it
We need only look at other African states' response to the behaviour of President Mugabe to understand just how reluctant Zimbabwe's neighbouring states are to condemn one another. If self-scrutiny is going to work in Africa, it needs a lot more teeth. The peer review mechanism requires a great deal more authority, complete with punishments and incentives.
If NePAD is truly to be an African initiative, implemented by African nations, it cannot solely remain in the domain of Africa's leaders. In asserting the importance of democracy across the continent, the heads of state must show and recognise that everyone, not just the government, should be involved.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page