HL Deb 08 July 2002 vol 637 cc434-6

2.45 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation meeting held recently in Rome.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Amos)

My Lords, the declaration of the World Food Summit, which was held in Rome on 10th to 13th June, sets out a number of areas which are important to the achievement of the millennium development goal of halving the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015. The declaration highlights the need for poverty reduction as the key to reducing hunger. A copy of the declaration is available in the Library.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that helpful reply indicating the detailed information on this matter. However, in the light of the rather unwelcome presence at the FAO conference of Mr Robert Mugabe, does she agree that since he is responsible for the catastrophic fall in agricultural production in his own country—which will affect the whole of southern and central Africa and add to the horrific problems of the growing drought—there is a case for tougher restrictions on his movements and those of his unpleasant colleagues, who seem to be travelling freely around Europe and the world at present? Does she support the making of laws to that end in the European Parliament this week?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we have discussed this topic previously. The travel ban contains within it the possibility of individuals from Zimbabwe travelling to attend, for example, UN conferences. Noble Lords may know that Fidel Castro, for example, who is not permitted to enter the United States, has attended 41 UN meetings.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market

My Lords, does the Minister agree with the sentiments expressed by her colleague in another place, Clare Short, that the organisation is old-fashioned and in need of improvement? Does she agree also with the comments made by representatives of the poorer countries that the whole event had been a waste of time?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we are concerned that this meeting took place only five years after the previous meeting. We should have preferred it to be a plus-10 rather than plus-five meeting. We are engaged in trying to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the FAO. To that end, we have provided nearly £13 million to the organisation, including nearly £3 million in extra budgetary resources in 2000. We have also committed resources to the World Food Programme in relation to immediate humanitarian emergencies across the world.

Lord Carter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the FAO estimate only last autumn that the number of malnourished people in the world will fall from 800 million—including 160 million children—to 600 million by 2015, a reduction of 25 per cent? Is she now saying that the original target is to be restored; namely, halving the number of starving people by 2015? If so, that is a change since last year.

Baroness Amos

My Lords, we remain committed to the original target. That has always been the provision. The figures are a cause for concern. Noble Lords will know, for example, that in terms of reaching the poverty target in Africa, the indicators are going backwards, not forwards. We also question the basis of some of the figures published by the FAO. It examines food availability, not who is hungry, and why. That said, we accept that we need to do more and will continue to do so. We have recently published a strategy document, Eliminating Hunger.

Baroness Sharpies

My Lords, what does Fidel Castro have to do with the Question on the Order Paper?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I could ask the noble Baroness what Zimbabwe has to do with the Question on the Order Paper. The noble Lord, Lord Howell, asked a specific question about the travel ban on Mr Mugabe. In answering that question I made it clear that in agreeing the travel ban, the EU recognises that it is bound by international obligations that allow individuals to attend international UN meetings. That applies in this instance, as it applies in the instance of Fidel Castro. He is under a travel ban to the United States, but he has attended UN meetings there 41 times.

Baroness Whitaker

My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the DfID document Eliminating Hunger? I imagine that she may be. If so, would she agree with it that poverty reduction initiatives which focus on food security and trade reform are really the best way to eliminate hunger?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that it is critical that we look at issues to do with hunger and food security in the round. That means looking at trade policy, education, health, issues to do with the economy, governance, peace and security, democracy and social protection.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, has the Minister had a chance to look at the report in today's newspapers about the perilous situation in Botswana, where more than one in three of the population has now been diagnosed HIV-positive? Was the AIDS pandemic that is sweeping Africa discussed at Rome? If so, what was the outcome?

Baroness Amos

My Lords, I am not aware of whether that subject was discussed at Rome. However, our paper on Eliminating Hunger looks specifically at the impact of HIV/AIDS. As I said before, the issue cannot be looked at in isolation.