HC Deb 23 July 2002 vol 389 cc833-4
3. Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend)

What plans he has to meet the African Union to discuss the role of the New Partnership for Africa's Development in strengthening democracy and human rights. [69579]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Denis MacShane)

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, along with the Minister with responsibility for Africa, my noble Friend Baroness Amos, hold regular meetings with leaders of the African Union, and the Government are active in supporting the New Partnership for Africa's Development in all its contacts with those leaders.

Mr. Griffiths

We have just discussed the tragic example of Zimbabwe, where Africa's democracy and human rights are being flouted in an almost unprecedented way. However, there have been successful elections in countries such as Sierra Leone, and others such as Angola and Sudan are emerging from terrible civil wars. In the light of those examples, will my hon. Friend ensure that our Government and the EU will provide the fullest support to strengthen democratic structures, and to ensure that human rights are observed as part of the package for improving the economies of those countries?

Mr. MacShane

The answer is yes, but let us welcome the African Union itself. The union's declaration on the principles governing democratic elections in Africa includes free and fair elections, free association and impartial electoral institutions. If only those principles had been observed in Zimbabwe, the tragedy that we have just discussed would not have taken place. It is for Africa to shape its own future; it is not for the west to impose any particular values or ideas. We welcome what the African Union is doing.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire)

Does the Minister agree that the New Partnership for Africa's Development would stand a greater chance of success if the Presidents of South Africa and Nigeria, among others, wholeheartedly condemned the abuses of democracy and human rights, and not least the current sheer theft of assets in Zimbabwe?

Mr. MacShane

I rather think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did just that. However, the African Union would have had a much greater chance of success if the Leader of the Opposition had made even just one reference to Africa in his keynote speech on international affairs at Chatham house earlier this year. Given that the shadow Foreign Secretary is not on holiday in Florida, I hope that he can explain to the Leader of the Opposition where Africa is.

Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)

Given the terrible situation in. Africa in relation to HIV/AIDS, what role does my hon. Friend believe that the partnership can play in tackling the spread of this dreadful disease?

Mr. MacShane

That is undoubtedly the biggest single challenge facing Africa, and it is one to which this Government—along with partners around the world and in Africa itself—have pledged real material resources. The issue will of course be raised at the forthcoming Johannesburg summit on sustainable development. I can think of no greater current challenge to humanity than ridding Africa, in particular, of the scourge of HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk)

What encouragement can the hon. Gentleman give the people of southern Africa, where there is now so much suffering, that the worthy objectives of the African Union—to promote peace, security and stability on the continent—will be translated into concrete commitment by member nations? What actions does he foresee the international community taking through NEPAD to ensure that those objectives are met?

Mr. MacShane

At the G8 summit in Kananaskis, there were commitments to a serious development partnership. I think it is fair to say that the Government have been working more seriously than any western or northern Government in supporting the world summit in Johannesburg on sustainable development. We are trying to break down the trade barriers against African goods in both the European Union and north America. Our commitment is to trade and economic growth, providing the material basis for a more secure and peaceful future for all the peoples of Africa.

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