HC Deb 27 April 1998 vol 311 cc39-40W
Sir Alastair Goodlad

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development who will represent her Department at the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development meeting on freshwater management; and what new policy initiatives her Department will promote. [39453]

Mr. Foulkes

The UK delegation to the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) will be led by my colleague the Minister for the Environment. He will be accompanied by the Department for International Development's (DFID) Chief Natural Resources Adviser who will provide support in relation to DFID issues.

A key theme of this year's session of the CSD, which began on 20 April in New York, is freshwater.

The UK will promote a clear objective of securing access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation for all, the reduction of water related diseases and greater food security through sustainable management of water contributing to the elimination of poverty.

We are supporting this objective by increasing our assistance in the water sector and ensuring that this support is used more effectively. To this end, we are continuing to promote the importance of meeting international targets in this area and the need to develop appropriate indicators to monitor progress.

Official Development Assistance can meet part but not all of the funding requirements. It can be focused on priority areas of meeting basic human needs and building capacity. It can also be used to help developing states to establish appropriate policy frameworks and to mobilise finance from other sources.

Mr. Foulkes

We remain seriously concerned about human rights in Afghanistan, especially the rights of women and girls. The UK continues to advocate respect for these rights in the relevant international fora and in direct contacts with the Taliban and other groups inside Afghanistan.

At the start of our EU Presidency the UK proposed and gained agreement for a new Common Position on Afghanistan. The Common Position commits the EU to work for the protection and promotion of equal rights for men and women in Afghanistan, including access to education and health facilities. In addition the United Nations Strategic Framework for Afghanistan, which has the full support of the UK, includes as one of its four main strategies the protection and advancement of human rights, with particular emphasis on gender issues.

DFID directly supports a number of UK NGOs who provide education services within Afghanistan. The projects are aimed at both boys and girls but pay particular attention to providing education for female students. The details are:

We aim to encourage development of a broad range of partnerships, in particular with the private sector, which can better generate and manage the additional funds required. We recognise the importance of recovering all the costs for water systems to be viable and sustainable, but this must be linked to transparent and well targeted subsidies to protect the poorest who cannot pay full costs. This can lead to the mobilisation of resources and greater access to basic water and sanitation services for poor people—essential if we are to meet goals of universal access to these services.