HL Deb 15 June 1999 vol 602 cc19-20WA
Lord Desai

asked Her Majesty's Government:

How the Assistance to support Stability with In-Service Training (ASSIST) programme performed in its first year; and whether, as a result of this performance, any changes to the programme are envisaged. [HL2996]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)

The ASSIST programme was established on 1 April 1998 to replace the UK Military Training Assistance Scheme (UKMTAS) with the main purpose of refocusing support to the Government's priority of promoting respect for human rights and good governance.

Notable results in the first year included: a course in China run together with Save the Children Fund, designed to fight child trafficking; direct human rights training for the Russian military; a workshop on conscientious objection in Novograd; and a women and children protection course in the Philippines.

The transition to new objectives made a good start in FY 1998–99 with 84 per cent. of spending being compatible with the new ASSIST criteria. For the next financial year, as pre-existing commitments reduce, we shall be increasing this percentage and further refining the ASSIST criteria.

New objectives will include:

The addition of an objective to promote the re-establishment of appropriately structured and armed forces in post conflict situations (internal and external) and in newly democratised countries;

Promotion of the security of the Overseas Territories;

The inclusion of training for peacekeeping in accordance with UN guidance;

Co-operation with NGOs and other representatives of civil society on security sector assistance;

Increased emphasis on counter proliferation and combating small arms trafficking;

Enhancement of the professionalism of the armed forces has been withdrawn as an independent objective within the criteria.

We have set up an ASSIST Challenge Fund to be used for flagship projects. To enable greater continuity and planning, we have agreed that ASSIST will continue for at least three years. We are also liaising with the MoD and DfID to ensure that ASSIST's programmes complement those departments' programmes in related areas.

A copy of the new ASSIST criteria will be placed in the Library.