HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc210-1W
Ms Shipley

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what action he is taking to ensure that the protection of children's rights is incorporated into the international communities action regarding Afghanistan. [23045]

Mr. Bradshaw

The Bonn Agreement states the commitment of the participants in the peace talks to promote national reconciliation, lasting peace, stability and respect for human rights in Afghanistan.

The international community is fully committed to the restoration of the rights of children in Afghanistan. The Government fully support the work of UNICEF and other NGOs working to achieve this.

UNICEF's operations to date have focused on immediate relief requirements. 1.7 million children remain in need of urgent assistance. The international coalition has made it clear that the humanitarian action in Afghanistan is as important as miliary action. The Taliban were one of the main obstacles to getting humanitarian relief through. Now that their grip on most of the country has gone, many more aid convoys are reaching the people who need them.

Under the Taliban, women were not allowed to teach. When the Taliban came to power in 1996, in Kabul alone, 100,000 girls and 150,000 boys were forced to leave school. The provision of education will be key to the protection of children's rights in Afghanistan. UNICEF is currently planning for the start of the next school year in March. They hope to get 30,000 teachers and as many children as possible back to school then.

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