HC Deb 15 May 2002 vol 385 cc684-6W
8. Mr. Dalyell

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development pursuant to her oral statement of 17 April 2002,Official Report, column 558, on Afghanistan, what action she has taken to provide farmers with a chance of making a living by planting crops other than poppies. [54745]

Clare Short

There is no quick or easy solution to the problem of drug cultivation in Afghanistan. We are supporting long-term development and poverty reduction strategies in order to create an environment in which a reduction in the opium poppy crop can be sustained beyond the next harvest.

9. Mr. Lloyd

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress is being made with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. [54746]

Clare Short

Good progress is being made with the reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Interim Afghan Authority has prepared a national development framework and draft budget. Major investment and advisory projects are being designed in key sectors. The Afghanistan0 Reconstruction Trust Fund has been established. Preparations are well advanced for the Emergency Loya Jirga next month that will appoint a Transitional Authority for the coming two years. Meanwhile, humanitarian assistance continues to be provided. Recovery activities are gathering pace, although it will take some time for the benefits to be felt by ordinary Afghans. Refugees are returning to Afghanistan in increasing numbers. But the security and political situation is still fragile. Much remains to be done: reconstruction will require a long-term effort.

At the Tokyo conference in January, donors pledged $4.5 billion in aid over the next two and a half years. The agreed objective was to support the establishment of a secure and stable sovereign state based on the rule of law, able to absorb returning refugees, no longer a haven for international terrorists and drug traffickers, and in stable relationships with its neighbours based on mutual respect and non-interference. The continuing necessity of humanitarian relief was recognised.

The conference also emphasised the need for close coordination between international donors and the Afghan Interim Administration. Donors have participated in multi-donor missions covering a range of areas, including health, education, agriculture, public finance, transport, infrastructure and community development.

The UK is playing its part, in the political, military and development arenas. Our leadership of the International Security Assistance Force has helped to bring stability to Kabul, establishing the authority of the Interim Administration. We have provided support for poppy crop eradication. We have disbursed around £60 million since 11 September through direct contributions to multilateral agencies and quick impact projects. We have plans in hand for further expenditure of about £40 million this financial year. It is clear that this year, and perhaps next, the majority of this assistance will need to continue to fund humanitarian and recovery programmes. As now, this will include direct contributions to UN agencies and NGOs, quick impact projects to kick-start the recovery process and to underpin the Interim Administration until the Emergency Loyal Jirga, practical support to the political process, and help to establish the Afghan Authority for Assistance.

For the longer term reconstruction effort, we believe it will be important to avoid overburdening the Transitional Authority with many bilateral programmes, each funded by different donors with their own procedures and reporting mechanisms. For that reason we will channel much of our assistance through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund. We intend to commit at least half of our Tokyo pledge—£100 million—to the fund. We have already paid in our first contribution—the first donor to do so. We are encouraging other donors also to maximise their contributions to the fund, which we believe should be the main source of funding both for the reconstruction programme and for any quick impact recovery work.

Our bilateral technical assistance is deliberately focused on support for capacity building in the Ministry of Finance and Central bank, in conjunction with the World bank and IMF. We also plan to support security sector reform, drawing on funds from the Global Conflict Prevention Pool.

17. Miss McIntosh

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on humanitarian aid to Afghanistan. [54754]

Clare Short

The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan remains serious. However, although some areas remain inaccessible due to volatile security conditions, the United Nations is now able to access 80 per cent. of the country, humanitarian aid is being delivered in significant quantities, and agencies are adapting their programmes from the provision of relief to include recovery activities. Since October 2001, the international community has contributed over $750 million to Afghanistan to meet humanitarian and recovery needs, as identified by the United Nations in its Immediate and Transitional Assistance Programme.

Mrs. Spelman

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how many refugees have returned to Afghanistan from (a) Iran and (b) Pakistan in the last six months; and what proportion of these have been provided with adequate food and shelter when they return. [55891]

Clare Short

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that approximately 820,000 people have returned to Afghanistan from Iran and Pakistan in the last six months: 145,000 from Iran and 675,000 from Pakistan. Approximately 535,000 (65 per cent.) of those have returned with assistance from UNHCR as part of their assisted voluntary return programme. As well as transportation, returnees taking part in UNHCR's programme receive plastic sheeting, a repair kit, blankets, kitchen equipment and other relief items. Assisted returnees also receive an emergency ration of 150kg of wheat from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

Mrs. Spelman

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what proportion of the poppy fields used for drug cultivation in Afghanistan have been destroyed. [55890]

Mr. MacShane

I have been asked to reply.

According to the Interim Administration a total of approximately 16,000 hectares of opium poppy have been destroyed so far. This is equivalent to approximately 74 tonnes of heroin which is up to three times the estimated UK annual consumption. The amount destroyed represents about a third of the crop in the main poppy-growing areas. Eradication continues in regions where the harvest starts later.

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