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Indonesia: Use of British-built Military Equipment in Aceh

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Our embassy in Jakarta and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London monitors all sources of information available on the situation in Aceh and follow up on any reports that British-built military equipment has been used offensively or used to violate human rights.

In co-operation with our EU colleagues we continue to press for free and unhindered access to Aceh for diplomats, for NGOs and for the international press.

Iraq: Unemployment

Baroness Williams of Crosby asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the current estimated rate of unemployment in Iraq.[HL5182]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Nations/World Bank Joint Needs Assessment published in October 2003 estimates that unemployment and underemployment in Iraq is currently at about 50 per cent of the labour force.

I am placing a copy of the Joint Needs Assessment, produced to coincide with the Iraq Donors Conference held in Madrid, in the Library of the House. The document is also available online through the World Bank website—

Peacekeeping: UNSCR 1325

Baroness Northover asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they are doing to implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325.[HL5220]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The United Kingdom's support for Security Council Resolution 1325 (SCR1325), three years after its adoption in October 2000, is now focused on implementing its provisions and ensuring that the necessary mechanisms are in place for monitoring its implementation. UK support has included:

    providing 150,000 dollars to the United Nation's Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) to develop and implement a training manual and integrate its use into DPKO's Best Practices Unit;

    providing compulsory training to all UK military and police officers embarking on peace-keeping or similar overseas missions on gender, child protection and human rights issues;

    actively searching for and subsequently deploying UK female officers to missions and other conflict prevention/resolution operations, the most recent examples being the deployment of two female police officers to Sierra Leone and a senior gender expert to Baghdad to work with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA);

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    developing a database of suitably qualified women based in the UK experienced in conflict prevention/resolution work, and willing to be deployed overseas;

    continuing efforts in the UN Security Council to reflect gender perspectives in a meaningful way. The UK has argued for language in SCRs that establish or renew peace-keeping mandates as one concrete method of mainstreaming gender into the council's work. The UK is systematically looking for opportunities to ensure that gender concerns are properly addressed in resolutions, mission mandates and progress reports. Recent Security Council resolutions reflecting language taken from SCR1325 or its provisions include those on Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Cote d'Ivoire. We also repeated at the open debate of the Security Council on women, peace and security held on 31 October to mark the third anniversary of the resolution's adoption, the suggestion made at the same debate in 2002 that the council give thought to establishing a mechanism through which it can monitor its own progress on issues relating to women, peace and security;

    welcoming the International Criminal Court's willingness to include within its remit certain crimes against women;

    ensuring that those members of the various UK teams in Iraq, especially those working in or with the CPA, are fully briefed on the gender aspects of their work. The UK's Special Representative, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, on a recent round of briefing calls and meetings in London, met my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Minister for Women and Equality, and e-Minister in Cabinet (Patricia Hewitt), a representative group of Iraqi women, and representatives of UK non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including the Women's National Commission, active in the field;

    funding through the Global Conflict Prevention Pool several initiatives relating to the implementation of SCR1325, including the United Nations Development Fund for Women's efforts to gather information on women's peace-building and gender justice initiatives, and work with the Urgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights, an NGO that supports grass-roots activities in countries where there are multinational peace-keeping operations. It is our experience that small well targeted funding can make a big difference—for example, encouraging women to play an active role in Afghan politics by providing childcare facilities in the main Parliament building in Kabul.

Future ideas include a series of briefing workshops, held jointly by the UK and Canadian missions to the UN in New York, for newly elected Security Council members, to build a wider body of support amongst member states for SCR1325 and the broader set of issues surrounding women, peace and security.simone

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Vietnam: Unified Buddhist Church

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of Vietnam about persecution of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, and encourage the European Union to raise the matter.[HL5221]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: In Vietnam, the UK works closely with EU partners on human rights matters. The EU Presidency has already made representations to the Vietnamese Government about the recent detention of senior members of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). It will be seeking further information about the alleged incidents involving the UBCV at the next EU Vietnam human rights dialogue meeting later this month. When my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary met Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nien in September, he presented him with the EU's list of prisoners of concern, which includes UBCV prisoners.

Ceuta and Melilla: European Parliamentary Elections 2004

Lord Kilclooney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the electors of Ceuta and Melilla will have the right to vote at the next election of the European Parliament in 2004.[HL5229]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: This is a matter for the Spanish Government, but we understand that electors of Ceuta and Melilla will have the right to vote at the next European Parliamentary elections in 2004.

Fourth Geneva Convention: Civilians in the Occupied Territories

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

    Whether they consider that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies for the protection of civilians in the Occupied Territories, or whether they consider Israel to be the legal administrator of the territories pending determination of their status, and hence, not bound by the Fourth Geneva Convention.[HL5231]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The UK has long taken the view that the Israeli presence in the Occupied Territories is governed by the Fourth Geneva Convention. The UK reaffirmed its view of the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention in the Occupied Territories at the reconvened conference of High Contracting Parties in Geneva on 5 December 2001. In accordance with the declaration adopted at the conference, we continue to call upon all parties to the conflict to respect and to ensure respect for the Geneva conventions in all circumstances.

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Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What discussions they have had with Government Ministers from the Republic of Somaliland; and whether they agree with the submission by those Ministers that the international community should pay more attention to an administration which is founded on the principles of democracy and the rule of law.[HL5292]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My honourable friend the Minister for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Chris Mullin) met with two representatives of the Somaliland authorities, Edna Adan Ismail and Mohammed Hashi Elmi, on 2 October. The British Government have provided support to the development of multi-party democracy in Somaliland and are considering how they might increase their development assistance in the light of Somaliland's democratic achievements. Our Ambassador in Addis Ababa visited Hargeisa last week and discussed possible areas of support with the Somaliland authorities.

Democratic Republic of Congo

Lord Avebury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many troops are now deployed in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo; and what further steps they consider should be taken by the United Nations Security Council to secure the peace of the region.[HL5296]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: According to the latest available reports the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has 6,948 troops deployed in the provinces of North and South Kivu, Maniema province, and in the Ituri district of Orientale province.

No information is available on the numbers of Congolese troops deployed in eastern DRC; nor is there any reliable information on the numbers of troops belonging to the former Forces Armees Rwandaises/Interahamwe, the Force pour la Defense de la Democratie, or the Forces Nationales de Liberation who are also present in eastern DRC.

Security Council Resolution 1493 (2003) is a robust and comprehensive resolution, giving full Chapter VII powers to UN troops in the DRC for the first time. It should contribute greatly to peace and stability in the region. The UN Secretary-General's new Special Representative is in place to drive the peace process forward.

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