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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on squaring a number of circles at the same time as establishing the long-term aspiration of moving towards an employment rate of 80 per cent, with all the attendant benefits for the country's prosperity, not least for pensioners. Indeed, this is the key to sustainably rising pensions. Will my noble friend confirm one point; namely, that no disabled people will be financially worse off as a result of the Government's proposals?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Yes, my Lords. I am delighted that my noble friend shares with me an aspiration for 80 per cent employment, which means bringing into the labour market people who have been economically inactive, whether as lone parents or as people suffering from a disability. To use an overworked phrase, it is a very challenging target, but if we can meet it, we would not only mainstream those people in ways that are decent but would do a huge amount towards lifting them out of poverty during their working life and prevent them passporting poverty into their retirement. The best protection against poverty in old age is a decent job when you are of working age. In that sense, the 80 per cent target will not only reduce inequalities and poverty but will help to mainstream people in ways that all of us would want for ourselves.

As for the point about no disabled person being worse off, that is absolutely right. As I have said, in the first few months, they will be on the same rate as now. For the rest, they will be £15, £20 or £25 a week better off than now. We are offering financial support while trying to remove some of the risk that has conventionally accompanied disabled people's fears about moving into the labour market. We have to address that issue. It is a real issue, as the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, said, which is why issues such as linking rules and permitted earnings will continue to need to be scrutinised.

{**8**} Lord Dykes: My Lords, I was called out briefly during the exchanges after the Minister repeated the Statement, so I hope that I am in order in coming back and asking a brief question. As an external consequence of the measures, which are to be welcomed, does the Minister welcome the fact that we will now get a much more accurate representation of the real unemployment figures in the future, which will also help her and other
 
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members of the Government in the prosecution of the Freedom of Information Act?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am not sure about the connection to the Freedom of Information Act. I am sure that there is a twist there that, in my innocence, I am missing.

I accept that, for too long—until at least the later 1990s—unemployment benefit was replaced by what was first called invalidity benefit and then became incapacity benefit to conceal long-term unemployment, particularly in areas in which there was and still is high unemployment due to the decline of the heavy industries. We are working with GPs on that, but I emphasise again—the point was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay—that, although I accept that there are different opportunities in different regions, it should not escape us that the number of job vacancies is not that disparate throughout the country.

There are jobs, particularly for disabled people, who will get a full disabled person's tax credit to top up 16 hours' work a week. There are a lot of jobs and a lot of part-time jobs. Conventionally, they have gone either to women who are lone parents, but they could also go to disabled people, supported by tax credits that mean that they take home a decent income. I hope that the noble Lord will help us to spread the message.

United Nations Reform, and Conflict in Africa

3.56 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick rose to call attention to the report to the United Nations by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, the Millennium Development Goals Review, and to the causes of conflict in Africa; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friends on the Cross Benches for enabling the debate to take place at a moment when the report to Kofi Annan on peace and security is highly topical and at the beginning of a year in which all the subjects covered by the report will be high on the international agenda. At the outset, I declare an interest—albeit a non-pecuniary interest, as the members of the panel were not paid—as a member of the group of 16 that delivered the report to the Secretary-General at the beginning of December.

The background to the commissioning of the report is reasonably well known. Throughout the Cold War, the UN remained at least partially paralysed. It had no substantial role in the confrontation between the superpowers. Many wars raged between the proxies of those powers, with the UN unable to intervene. With the end of the Cold War, all that changed. Areas that were off-limits became on-limits. Iraq's aggression against Kuwait was reversed, with full UN authority. A number of regional and proxy wars were brought to an end through UN peacekeeping operations. However, no systematic attempt was made to rethink the UN's mission or consider what the main threats to
 
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international peace and security were in the post-Cold War world. Despite an attempt in 1982 to undertake a serious rethink of the way ahead, with Boutros Ghali's paper An Agenda for Peace, the UN's main stakeholders opted for muddling through.

Soon enough, muddling through brought its own nemesis. The proportion of successes to failures dropped sharply. Appalling events such as the Rwanda genocide and the Srebrenica massacre occurred under the noses of UN peacekeepers. Later, the organisation became paralysed in deadlock, first over Kosovo and then over Iraq, even though Security Council resolutions were being flouted.

There were two main weaknesses. One was a lack of effectiveness. Even when the Security Council voted ambitious if, often, also ambiguous mandates, it failed to provide the resources in men, money and political backing when the going got rough. The other weakness arose from disputes over the use of force under UN authority, which led twice to the UN simply being bypassed. When, in September 2003, Kofi Annan told the General Assembly that the organisation was at a fork in the road and that, in effect, it could no longer afford to go on just muddling through, he was neither criticised nor contradicted. The panel was established to provide the foundation for a fundamental rethink that should have taken place long ago.

Even since that call, we have seen yet another instance of those twin weaknesses—in Darfur. It was certainly right to look to the African Union for help in that crisis, but it was no good thinking that peacekeepers and human rights monitors could be conjured up out of thin air or sustained by the sort of ad hoc hand-to-mouth help that has so far been provided. Nor could a government who again and again broke the commitments into which they had entered be brought to honour them if the possibility of any coercive measure remained bottled up in a deadlocked Security Council.

The panel's analysis of the threats that we now face came to two very clear conclusions. First, the threats are completely different from those that we faced during the Cold War and, thus, require completely different responses. Secondly, the threat agenda is not just the narrow one from international terrorism and from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, real though those two threats, and even more so any combination between them, certainly are. It extends also to the phenomenon of state failure and to the issues of poverty, pandemic diseases, organised crime and environmental degradation, which have not in the past been considered a direct part of the peace and security agenda at all.

The reasoning behind that second conclusion is clear but complex. It rests not only on the fact that in many parts of the world—in Africa and Latin America, for example—a narrow agenda is simply not accepted as representing the main threat, although that in itself has very important implications for the prospects of rallying the worldwide support without which terrorism and proliferation will not be successfully combated.

It is also because the interconnections between what in the past were misleadingly labelled as "hard" threats and those labelled as "soft" threats are multiple and
 
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inseparable. Failed states have provided havens for terrorism and opportunities for genocide. The incidence of state failure and strife is noticeably greater in states with very low GNP per capita. Pandemic disease threatens to destroy the very structure of states. The list goes on. So a broad threat agenda, not a narrow one, is the only approach that makes sense, as is one that does not seek to establish a hierarchy between different threats, but finds ways of addressing them all.

There is one other conclusion to be drawn from this threat analysis which is particularly relevant to the priorities being established by the Government—quite rightly in my view—for Britain's forthcoming G8 and EU presidencies. Just as it is essential to address poverty, disease and the environment as part of the peace and security agenda, it is equally essential to address the other components of the peace and security agenda—state failure, governance, terrorism and proliferation—as part of the development agenda. One without the other will simply not work, least of all in Africa which is the focus of so much attention.

When it came to charting the responses to those threats, the panel's approach was rigorously policy-driven. We recognised that institutional changes would be needed, but we were clear that they must be changes designed to fit the institutions to carry out the policies decided by the membership. Too often in the past at the UN, institutional tinkering has been a substitute for hard decisions on policy.

No policy decisions cause the international community more difficulty than those involving the collective use of force; none has led to deeper divisions. Hence the need to try to clarify and to rationalise those decisions. But let me be very clear at the outset. However necessary it may be for the Security Council from time to time to take such decisions on the use of force, that must always be a last resort. We on the panel spent a great deal more of our time and devoted many more of our recommendations to the comparatively neglected and unsuccessful area of prevention, to, indeed, avoiding the need for the use of force.

The guidelines that we propose for reaching decisions on the use of force—seriousness of threat, proper purpose, last resort, proportional means, balance of consequences—will we hope be adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly. They will provide no push-button certainty; decisions will still have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. But they may bring greater predictability and thus some degree of deterrence. The same may be said of our endorsement of the responsibility to protect the individual citizen, a responsibility that falls in the first instance on the citizen's government but which, if that government prove unwilling or unable to exercise it, shifts to the international community acting collectively.

Nowhere is the need for stronger and more proactive preventive policies clearer than in the case of state failure. States do not usually fail suddenly and unexpectedly. They do so most often in stages, of which there is plenty of often neglected early warning. We have recommended the establishment, under the aegis of the Security
 
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Council, but reaching out well beyond its membership, of a peace-building commission which would manage the whole continuum from early warning through prevention to post-conflict peace-building where conflict cannot be avoided. The aim is to harness all the main instruments of international policy—financial, regional, the main donors and troop contributors—to a common cause and to avoid the dislocations, short attention span and policy voids that have so often occurred in the past.

The UN cannot do everything and it needs to work more effectively with regional organisations, particularly where, as is the case with the African Union, those organisations are active in the field of conflict prevention and peace operations. We are trying, therefore, to breathe life into a hitherto grossly under-utilised section of the UN charter—its Chapter VIII. We have proposed formal agreements between the UN and regional organisations, providing for exchanges on early warning and mediation, and for training and logistical support. We proposed a major programme for capacity building for the African Union. Most importantly of all, we have suggested that where the Security Council asks for or authorises a regional organisation to take on a peace operation, the provision of financial backing should be on assessed contributions from the whole membership.

The scourge of international terrorism is as real as that of war. The Security Council declared it a threat to peace and security as long ago as its summit in 1992. It is surely long past time to cut through the layers of obfuscation that have so far prevented the clear definition and outlawing of the targeting of civilian non-combatants. We have put forward proposals as to the basis on which that could be done. We have also recommended the adoption of a much wider counter-terrorist strategy that would look beyond coercive measures, necessary though these are, and address the causes of terrorism as well as its symptoms.

The rules that seek to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are under great stress, particularly those that deal with nuclear and biological weapons. In the latter case of biological weapons, we have underlined the urgency of establishing an intrusive inspection regime, without which failure to prevent proliferation of those weapons is almost certain.

In the case of nuclear weapons, we have such a regime, but it needs strengthening. The International Atomic Energy Agency's additional protocol allowing snap inspections should become universal. The Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict trade in weapons of mass destruction material also needs to become universal. It is time to call a halt to the construction of new uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities, while recognising the right of countries with bona fide civil nuclear programmes to have guaranteed access through an International Atomic Energy Agency scheme to enrichment and reprocessing services.

If I have neglected the parts of our report that addressed the social, economic and environmental threats to security, it is only partly because of pressure of time. It is also because more detailed recommendations
 
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on that part of our agenda will soon be put on the table by the Secretary-General when he comes forward with his report on the millennium development goals over the first five years of their operation.

Our own proposals for increased funds to deal with poverty and disease, for early completion of the Doha development round of trade negotiations and for the engagement of post-Kyoto negotiations on the environment will no doubt be supplemented in that later document.

How then did we fit the institutional changes needed to those policy prescriptions? The enlargement of the Security Council to make it more representative is long overdue. We put forward two possible ways of doing that, both involving a Security Council of 24 members, neither involving the extension of the veto, one providing for additional permanent members and the other providing for longer-term elective members.

It is now for the UN membership to decide. It is crucial, however, that they do not allow the inevitable difficulties over reaching such a decision to frustrate or delay decisions on the other aspects of the report. We have made suggestions also for bringing greater focus and relevance to the work of the General Assembly, for making the Economic and Social Council more effective, and for bringing human rights back into the heart of the work of the commission bearing that title, in place of the diplomatic manoeuvring that has come to dominate its proceedings in recent years. We have proposed a number of ideas for strengthening the secretariat and the role of the Secretary-General.

I hope that I have not bored the House with this effort to set out the rationale and the broad thrust of the panel's main conclusions. I hope too that I have not deterred anyone from studying the report in greater depth. It is worthwhile because not only, dare I say it, is it the most ambitious proposed make-over of the United Nations since its foundation in 1945, it is also an overall approach which needs to be looked at in the round, not subjected to the death of a thousand cuts which has so often been the fate of earlier attempts at UN reform. It is a severely practical and realistic approach. We did not put forward any, what I would call, "blue skies" ideas—no abolition of the veto, no UN rapid reaction force, no Economic and Social Security Council. Some will regret that, but not one of our proposals needs more than a few months to bring it to decision if the will is there.

So what happens next? Well, that is up to the member states. No panel, however wise, can be a substitute for inter-governmental negotiations and decisions in this most inter-governmental of organisations. Governments will need time to consider the proposals; and meanwhile there will be, I hope, a vigorous public discussion, of which today's debate in this House is one modest part, to enable a better understanding of what is proposed and what is at stake. After that, the negotiations will have to be engaged on a number of different tracks, because different institutions with different decision-making processes are involved. The threads will then need to be drawn together at the time of September's United Nations summit gathering in New York.
 
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I do not want to be too apocalyptic—that is contrary to all the instincts of the professional diplomat that I once was. Diplomats do not do apocalypses. But I do believe that if this opportunity is fluffed or fudged, the UN risks being increasingly marginalised. That would, I suggest, be disastrous for us all, from the strongest to the weakest, because so many of the threats we face can be countered effectively only by collective action, and collective action organised on a worldwide basis. My hope is that, over the next year, we will begin the building of a new consensus. I beg to move for Papers.

4.12 p.m.


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