HL Deb 02 November 2001 vol 627 cc185-6WA
Lord Moynihan

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What specific policies they are pursuing to assist women in Afghanistan. [HL817]

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

We have for a long time been extremely concerned about human rights abuses in Afghanistan, as well as the suffering of the Afghan population due to the longstanding conflict and the current drought. DfID strongly supports the common programming approach under the United Nations-led Strategic Framework for Afghanistan. This is intended to provide a principled, co-ordinated and coherent approach to humanitarian assistance. One of its key themes is the protection and advancement of human rights, with particular emphasis on gender.

Since 1997, we have provided over £32 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghans. This has included help to refugees in Pakistan and Iran who have themselves been so generous to millions of refugees over many years. The programmes that we support are carefully designed and monitored to ensure that women and girls benefit.

DfID has set aside an additional sum of £40 million to respond to the current crisis affecting Afghans in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries. Our top priorities are to: meet immediate life-saving needs within Afghanistan (such as food, water, healthcare, and shelter); help both refugees in neighbouring countries and the local population with similar practical support; and strengthen the capacity of the international humanitarian agencies to deliver relief aid.

These funds are being made available now through UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and NGOs. Those agencies will continue to focus on the rights of Afghan women and girls, both inside Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries.

DfID recognises that a durable solution to the crisis in Afghanistan ultimately requires a comprehensive approach, which addresses both the long-standing underlying factors as well as the immediate consequences of the war. It is important that the Afghan people—through the active participation of civil society—drive this process forward to develop their own vision for a peaceful, stable and prosperous future. It is the responsibility of the entire international community to ensure that the women of Afghanistan are fully involved in this process.