Debates between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon during the 2019 Parliament

Wed 22nd May 2024
Wed 15th May 2024
Tue 26th Mar 2024
Tue 15th Jun 2021
Thu 25th Mar 2021
Tue 23rd Feb 2021
Thu 11th Feb 2021
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Thu 21st Jan 2021
Thu 15th Oct 2020
Mon 13th Jul 2020

Israel and Gaza

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 22nd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, ultimately, who governs Israel will be a matter for Israelis. On the noble Baroness’s point about the hostage families, we are extending extensive support to them by facilitating engagement, including in private meetings with key negotiators.

On the issue of statements by Israeli Ministers, I and the United Kingdom Government are clear on what needs to happen. The prevailing view of one Minister within the Israeli Government is not necessarily the view of other Ministers within that same Government. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that the current Government in Israel do not believe in this two-state solution; it is a stated policy of the Prime Minister and the current Government. That does not stop us engaging quite directly on this important issue and making the case in advocacy that, ultimately, as I say repeatedly, that will be the time for the realisation of the two-state solution, and of peace and security for both peoples, while equally recognising that the long-term future is an interdependency between Israelis and Palestinians to ensure the long-term prosperity of those two nations.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I recognise His Majesty’s Government’s position to wait for the second report into allegations of UNRWA staff involvement on the 7 October terror attack before making a final decision on the new funding, once our current allocation has expired at the end of this month. UNRWA supports 3.7 million Palestinians, 2.3 million of whom live in Jordan, and hundreds of thousands of whom live in Syria and Lebanon. If there is no further commitment to aid, refugees who have nothing to do with 7 October or the situation in Gaza are going to suffer as a result. In order to avoid this scenario, will my noble friend consider exploring the option of restoring the funding for UNRWA’s activities outside Gaza or outside the Occupied Palestinian Territories as an interim measure, pending the second report?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On my noble friend’s second question, our funding structures do not allow for that differentiation. We are waiting for the OIOS report—the oversight report—which is due this month, because it is specific to the abhorrent events of 7 October. However, this has not stopped us extending humanitarian support into Gaza, which is now well over £100 million. Last week, I met the head of the World Food Programme, Cindy McCain, when she was in London; earlier today, I met the executive director of UNICEF, Catherine Russell, to focus on how we can extend the best level of support. However, I agree with my noble friend, though I know that there are others who have differing perspectives. There are mitigations which are required, and UNWRA is addressing them. Philippe Lazzarini is very much focused on this, and I have seen the detail of some of the direct mitigations he is putting in place. I agree with my noble friend about the important role that UNRWA plays, both within Gaza and in neighbouring countries.

UNRWA

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 15th May 2024

(1 month, 4 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord about the importance of ensuring that aid reaches Gaza, particularly those who are most vulnerable, the women and children. That is where the Government have been focused since the tragedy of 7 October, but even in advance of that. We all know the challenges Gaza faces; that is why we have advocated so strongly for the reopening of the Rafah crossing. I know it has been closed since Israel’s Rafah operation, including to important fuel supplies into Rafah, which need to be secured to ensure the facilitation of hospitals.

On the advice that the Government receive, of course there is a precedent, and we look at advice on a revolving basis. The Foreign Secretary receives advice from various sources, including assessments of adherence to IHL, and will then give his view accordingly.

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Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, the healthcare system in Gaza has collapsed, and the last functioning hospital in Gaza, the European Hospital, has had staff leaving in droves as the IDF start active combat in Rafah. No aid is going through to Gaza and the field hospital which we are supporting is able to provide only urgent care. Children are unnecessarily losing their limbs. I ask my noble friend: will the Government take another look and see whether there could be, and whether we should have, a pathway open for children with serious wounds, so they can be given specialist care which can only be afforded to them in the specialist hospitals which we are lucky to have in this country?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I first pay tribute to my noble friend. Also, I am sure I speak for everyone in your Lordships’ House, irrespective of perspective on this conflict, in paying great tribute to those within agencies, particularly the voluntary agencies, who have allowed for UK medevac and those serving in the UK field hospital and others, for the courage, commitment and principle they show in bringing support to the most vulnerable.

On the issue of medevac, my noble friend will know that we have worked with other countries, including the UAE and Egypt, in facilitating that for those who are in most acute need of it. I also recognise the important proposal she has put forward. We want to ensure that those in urgent need, particularly children and the most vulnerable, are provided with that support. The best way that we can achieve this, as I say time and time again, is to stop the fighting, get the aid in, ensure the facilitation of all the medical services and get the hostages out. Human suffering does not look at religion, race, colour or any other creed; it looks at humans, and we must put humanity at the core of everything we do.

NATO: French Nuclear Weapons

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 9th May 2024

(2 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we have reached agreements through established channels, including the Lancaster House agreement. When we go back to exchanges going back to John Major’s time with the then president of France, there are established channels across defence and security. These are vital, and we need to ensure that they are strengthened at this crucial time for Europe.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, President Macron warned in a recent interview, commenting on European security:

“Things can fall apart very quickly”.


Nowhere is this surer to happen than in the western Balkans region—and that would have a devastating effect on the people of the region and the wider security, and it would enable Russia to open a second front somewhere else. Does the Minister agree that the European force, EUFOR, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, will soon need to be reinforced by NATO troops?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My noble friend has great insight on this issue, and I agree with her on the importance of ensuring stability in the Balkans. We do not want to see any repeat of the tragic and abhorrent war that ripped apart Bosnia-Herzegovina. The threat is very clear from Russia, as are the increasing threats from the likes of Mr Dodik when it comes to Republika Srpska. We need to stand together in support, both politically and militarily, to see what can be done, and not just across the Balkans. As my noble friend knows, we are engaged directly in support in Kosovo as well.

Israel and Gaza

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 26th March 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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This is an important first step in the diplomacy. There has been an incredible challenge at the United Nations Security Council in getting an agreed form of words. There was a resolution about a week ago which was rejected and vetoed by Russia and China. In front of us now is an important first step in recognising that the release of hostages is necessary for a peaceful resolution. It is an important first step to ensure a ceasefire for the period of Ramadan, leading to a sustainable ceasefire and to getting aid in. If we start building on those first steps, I am hopeful. I have immense hope—one thing I have learned in life is that one should never give up hope.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and all the diplomats for their heavy lifting. Yesterday’s passing of the UN Security Council resolution was a chink of light for the hostages and their families, and for the starved and hungry in Gaza. Yet it has already been interpreted in a different way here and in the United States. The White House spokesperson, John Kirby, said that the UN Security Council resolution is

“a nonbinding resolution. So, there’s no impact at all on Israel”.

I understand that His Majesty’s Government’s position is different, so can my noble friend indicate how we will overcome this difference of interpretation?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for her remarks. She is right: there has been speculation on this and whether the words are binding or non-binding. We are very clear that there are two elements here: Chapter VII and Chapter VI. This was made under Chapter VI, but there is a convention that goes back to 1971 which confirms that decisions passed by the UN Security Council are binding.

Gaza: Hunger Alleviation

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 18th March 2024

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they plan to take to alleviate hunger in Gaza, following the latest report of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, which found that 30% of Gaza’s population are currently experiencing catastrophic hunger and that famine is imminent.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that the desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating rapidly, and we are doing everything we can to get more aid in as quickly as possible, most importantly by land but also by sea and air. We have trebled our aid commitment to the Occupied Palestinian Territories this financial year to just under £100 million. Given that delivering aid through land routes continues to prove challenging and is being blocked, we are working closely with Jordan and other partners to open a Jordan land corridor and are now also working with partners to operationalise a maritime aid corridor from Cyprus. We are clear that Israel must take action to open up more land routes and support the UN to distribute aid effectively, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and my noble friend the Foreign Secretary are pressing Israel directly on this. We have said that there must be an immediate stop in fighting now, progressing to a sustainable ceasefire. Everyone needs to act, and that is what the UK Government are doing.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his reply. The bar to declare a famine is high. It means that at least 20% of the population is affected, with about one out of three children acutely malnourished due to outright starvation or the interaction of malnutrition and disease. It means that families are deploying every coping strategy available and are still starving to death. The Famine Review Committee said that:

“All evidence points towards a major acceleration of deaths and malnutrition”.


The UN relief chief has said that humanitarian access to Gaza

“is treated as optional, or indeed wielded as a weapon of war”.

This famine can still be prevented. The IPC calls for an immediate ceasefire

“together with a significant and immediate increase in humanitarian … access to the entire population of Gaza”

to ensure the provision of food, water and medicine and to restore health, water, sanitation and energy. Ad hoc and small aid deliveries, however well meaning, are not enough to meet the scale of this manmade disaster. Will the Government do everything possible, using every legal route, to press Israel to open up border crossings and allow a sustained supply of aid relief to enter the entire Gaza Strip by road? Otherwise, a preventable famine will take place on our watch, and with full warning.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that, as we have all said from various parts of your Lordships’ House, land routes are the most important and need to be utilised; indeed, all border crossings need to be fully operationalised. The delivery of aid through maritime and air, while important, delivers only a fraction of what is required. We are talking about more than 2 million people who need food, medicine and basic nutrition. I read the report briefly, and we agree with some of the recommended actions about restoring humanitarian access to the entire Gaza Strip. We agree with the calls to stop the deterioration of food security, health and nutrition, and for the restoration of health, nutrition and WASH services, and we stand ready with other partners to do just that. I have been to the Erez border point near Gaza and have seen the backlog of trucks. That issue needs to be resolved right now. Both the Foreign Secretary and I stressed that point to Minister Gantz when he visited recently; indeed, Minister Gantz heard that point very clearly from across the pond in the United States as well.

Darfur: Risk of Genocide

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 18th July 2023

(12 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises the important issue of the displacement of refugees. We have already made a series of announcements of support for the stability of Sudan and its near neighbours. At the moment, alongside our £5 million commitment to help the urgent needs of refugees and returnees in South Sudan and Chad, we have, through the Development Minister, made a further commitment of £21.7 million, which we announced specifically for humanitarian aid for Sudan as part of our contribution at the UN Horn of Africa conference. We will continue to assess the key issue but, going back to other questions, the challenge is not just about providing money and support, it is about ensuring that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, two decades ago in Darfur, systematic rape was used as a weapon of war as part of ethnic cleansing and genocide. No one has been held accountable and those same crimes are being repeated today. Can my noble friend tell the House what concrete steps we are taking so that this time around documentation is sufficient so that we reach accountability, not as an aspiration but as a reality?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. I am sure she will acknowledge the steps that we have taken to ensure that the testimonies of those who have survived sexual violence in particular, but other crimes too, are fully documented. Often there are representatives of well-intentioned INGOs in the field, but their collection of evidence can sometimes negate the impact of allowing a successful prosecution.

The concrete steps that we have taken include, as my noble friend knows, the Murad code, which allows not for a time-limited period but ensures that evidence can be collected and sustained, to allow for successful prosecutions. Indeed, that is why we are working closely with international courts such as the ICC, and the prosecutors specifically, to ensure that the connection between testimony collection and prosecution is very live.

Situation in Russia and Ukraine Recovery Conference

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 26th June 2023

(1 year ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I do not believe that I or any member of His Majesty’s Government or His Majesty’s Opposition have ever said that the end objective is instability and the implosion of Russia. I have stated very clearly that that is in no one’s interest. When the Statement says that the war can be ended now, that is exactly what it means. Mr Putin can make that call to the Russian troops and to others, including the mercenary Wagner Group, if they are supporting them. Let him make that statement. A very clear peace plan has been articulated by President Zelensky and we have made it clear that, ultimately, that negotiation begins and ends with Ukraine. As allies and friends of Ukraine, we stand united in ensuring that those objectives are delivered.

There has been a consistent position. It is not often that I can quote His Majesty’s Opposition, but we are very much at one on the end objective, as are the Liberal Democrat Benches. Both sides can speak for themselves, but it is a consistent position. The war can end now if Mr Putin withdraws his troops from the eastern Donbass and Crimea, which was illegally annexed. Ultimately, the return of all sovereign territories includes Crimea. However, that negotiation and peace process is ultimately the responsibility of Ukraine; as a partner and ally of Ukraine, we will be led by its objectives.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, the potential destruction of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, which is currently occupied by Russia and reportedly mined, is deeply concerning. The Kremlin has already used the plant to issue severe threats to Ukraine, raising the stakes in the region. Despite the efforts of the IAEA, negotiations with Russia to establish a safety perimeter around the plant have been unsuccessful. Does my noble friend agree that, after this weekend’s drama, it is even more urgent to address this issue and that no effort should be spared to create a safety perimeter around the plant? What efforts are we making to ensure that this happens?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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I agree with my noble friend. As others have expressed, this weekend’s events have made very clear the instability within Russia and the nuclear challenge, through both threats and that particular plant. We are looking at Zaporizhzhia’s positioning and have seen the insecurity and instability around it. We continue to work directly to support the efforts of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and I know that my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been speaking directly to Mr Grossi. From our perspective, which is led by the objectives of Ukraine, Russia must immediately restore full control of the ZNPP to the competent Ukrainian authorities and, on the issue raised by my noble friend, ultimately ensure that the IAEA has full access to all nuclear facilities to make sure that safety and security measures can be put in place. We welcome its recent confirmation that there is no immediate risk to the plant, but that is a moment in time; security and stability must be returned and the IAEA must be given unfettered access.

Kosovo and the Western Balkans Region

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 6th June 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait The Minister of State, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) (Con)
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My Lords, we are working closely with international partners to de-escalate the situation in northern Kosovo and encourage a return to dialogue. The noble and gallant Lord, Lord Peach, visited Kosovo on 30 May and met political leaders, the commander of NATO’s KFOR mission and other key actors. The Government use a number of diplomatic, programme and other tools to encourage and support crucial rule of law and human rights reforms across the western Balkans.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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I thank my noble friend for his update and pay tribute to NATO soldiers, including our own. The incident which resulted in 30 NATO peace- keepers being injured appears to have been a co-ordinated attack supported and inspired by Belgrade, yet both the United States and the EU seem to have chosen to ignore Belgrade’s hand in this flare-up and have imposed, and threatened to impose, sanctions on Kosovo. It remains unclear what our Government’s position is on this matter. I would be grateful if my noble friend could clarify it.

I would also welcome a swift increase in the number of NATO troops in Kosovo. However, I am deeply concerned that right now in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where the threat of Kremlin-backed secession is real, our ability to deter any such act is wholly inadequate. What consideration has been given to increasing our contribution to NATO HQ in Sarajevo or to Operation Althea?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I believe I speak for the whole House when I join my noble friend in paying tribute to the incredible work done across the world by both NATO troops and those deployed through key missions. The situation in Kosovo is of course very alarming, although the latest report I have is that it is calmer. There is direct engagement by our key partners; we are working closely with the EU and the United States in this respect. Their representatives are on the ground speaking to both sides. We have also called for a four-step de-escalation.

Both sides have a role to play. Kosovo should perhaps now enable its mayors to work from locations outside municipal offices until such time as these issues can be resolved. Importantly, Serbia needs to reverse its decision to raise the level of readiness of its armed forces. The read-across to Bosnia-Herzegovina is very clear. Of course, I know that my noble friend engages consistently and extensively in that area. The UK fully supports EUFOR and KFOR in Kosovo; my right honourable friend the Minister for Armed Forces recently announced our continuing commitment to KFOR in Kosovo.

Iran: Toxic Chemical Agents

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 9th March 2023

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The right reverend Prelate raises a very important point: the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the enrichment of uranium towards having them is very much at the heart of our approach. He may know that, yesterday, the E3 made a statement directly on the visit of the IAEA’s DG, Mr Grossi, who was in Iran. What is really worrying at the moment is that the levels of enrichment which now prevail in Iran have, according to the latest reports in the region, reached about 83.7%. This is fast approaching the very level which would allow for nuclear weapons to be produced. We call again on Iran publicly, as we did yesterday, to desist from this practice because not doing so is creating a precarious situation—not just in the region but globally.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, in a debate in the Moses Room on 23 February, the Minister promised to take back the concerns of your Lordships’ House regarding the closure of the BBC Persian radio service. Given the importance of the BBC in reporting this appalling attack on schoolgirls, can he tell the House what response he received from the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor on ensuring that the decision to shut down BBC Persian is reversed?

Afghanistan: Women and Girls

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 7th September 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I totally understand the point that the noble Lord raises. He and I have discussed this matter, and I shall continue to work directly with him and other colleagues, because it is important that we encompass all expertise to ensure safe passage for all vulnerable minorities, including the LGBT community.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, as the Taliban consolidate their power, we see them making promises to western media and western Governments. Considering that the civic space in Afghanistan has been shut down, that journalists, reporters and NGOs have dispersed, and that 36 million live in Afghanistan, many of whom are women, does the Minister agree with me that an international UN-mandated mechanism must be established so that the Taliban know that someone is watching and documenting this, and that promises made are promises kept?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend rightly points out a particular issue. What the Taliban desire the most is international recognition; that is why it was right that we worked with France to ensure the UN Security Council resolution, so they are basically held to account for the promises they have made. I assure her that we are working directly with UN agencies on that very issue.

Ethiopia

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 15th June 2021

(3 years ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that the issue of population growth must be addressed, not just in the region we are currently talking about but across the world. We believe that prioritising girls’ education for 12 years is part and parcel of finding that long-term resolution. We are working with all agencies to find a resolution and the African Union, as well as the UN, has an important role to play.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, yesterday in the other place the Minister for Africa stated:

“a high level of sexual violence is being directed at children”—[Official Report, Commons, 14/6/21; col. 41.]

in Tigray. This comes on top of the report about barbaric gender-based violence unleashed against the Tigrayan population as a whole. Can my noble friend tell the House, eight months later, how many of the UK team of experts set up to collect evidence of sexual violence, in precisely these kinds of situations, have been deployed to Ethiopia or to neighbouring countries to ensure that evidence is collected and perpetrators are eventually brought to account?

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 17th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend—I am sure she is already aware—that we have put the issue of gender-based violence at the centre not just in terms of planning the handover to Rwanda but at the heart of the work we are doing within the G7 and our presidency, and we will continue to do so. In terms of our own commitment to fighting gender-based violence in the Commonwealth, preventing sexual violence and girls’ education, they will remain priorities during our continuing role as Chair-in-Office.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2013, heads agreed to work

“to improve the monitoring and documentation of cases of sexual violence in armed conflict without fear of reprisal and empower victims to access justice”.

Can my noble friend tell the House what efforts have been made for this commitment to be renewed and treated as a priority for the Commonwealth nations?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, in part I think I have already addressed my noble friend’s question. The issue of sexual-related conflict and preventing it across the world remains a key priority alongside, more broadly, gender-based violence and girls’ education. This is all part of addressing the core challenges we face, not just within the context of the Commonwealth but across the world.

Yemen

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 25th March 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con) [V]
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My Lords, sadly, the short answer is yes. The UK has already contributed £2.5 million to fund this mission, but it is for the Houthis to facilitate the mission’s access and deployment.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, we know that the only way to avert famine in the long term is to end the conflict and create a peace in which all members of society can prosper. A lasting peace requires justice and accountability for the many crimes committed in Yemen. I welcome the establishment of the International Accountability Platform for Belarus. Does my noble friend agree that such a platform is also needed for Yemen to ensure that justice and accountability become more than just aspirations in that country?

Yemen: Aid Funding

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 3rd March 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we take extremely seriously the point that the noble and right reverend Lord has raised about arms export licensing. Indeed, our rules ensure that we focus specifically on international humanitarian law. If we look at what the United Kingdom has done over the last five years, we see that we have provided more than £1 billion in aid. However, I concur with what he says: we must ensure that we focus on the most vulnerable in what are very challenging circumstances for our budget, and that is exactly what we are seeking to do.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My noble friend will be aware that 80% of the population of Yemen rely on humanitarian support, and that a child dies every 10 minutes from diarrhoea, malnutrition or other preventable causes. The situation in Yemen today is as dire as it has ever been since the conflict started in March 2015. What consideration has been given to this dire situation—[Inaudible.] I ask the Government to reconsider—[Inaudible.]

Belarus

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 23rd February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s second question I will revert to the House once I have confirmation as to the way forward. On her first question, we are working very closely with our EU partners, including at the Human Rights Council and at the OSCE, and we continue to engage directly with the likes of France and Germany on this matter.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, yesterday 17 year- old Nikita Zolotarev was sentenced to five years in a correction colony, having been beaten up and having had law enforcement use an electric-shock baton on him. Can my noble friend tell the House what specific steps the Government are taking to work with the United States and our EU allies to respond to these abuses aimed at children and teenagers?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that we are working not just with the United States but, as I said in response to a previous question, with our EU allies on this issue. We need to bring direct pressure on the Belarus Administration, which we have done at the highest level through sanctions. However, we also continue to implore Russia to ensure that the elections which were held previously can be held again, and in a fair and transparent way.

Myanmar

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 11th February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the Statement and the update he has offered. There are immediate actions which must be taken. I draw his attention to those being taken by New Zealand. It has suspended all military and high-level political contact with the country, including a travel ban on its military leaders. At the same time, we must look at this moment of crisis and recognise the depth of the challenges in Myanmar and to its fragile democracy. Progress will be impossible without action on a range of fronts, including on racial discrimination and violent conflict, true inequality and underdevelopment. I hope that our engagement with Myanmar will move beyond this immediate crisis to look at the endemic problems that the country has been suffering from.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I take on board what my noble friend said about the military and the need to look at the situation regarding the arms embargo. As she will be aware, the UK is a long-standing supporter of an arms embargo on Myanmar and, together with our EU colleagues, we played a key role in the embargo imposed following the 2017 Rohingya crisis. Since we left the EU, we have transitioned that into domestic law. My noble friend also made a broader point about the importance of stability in Myanmar. We are working in the region, particularly with ASEAN, which has an important role to play in this respect.

Yemen

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Lord that we are working very closely with the United States on this. We agree that it is important to bring this crisis of humanitarian suffering to an end and work very closely in this respect. On arms sales and export licences, I assure the noble Lord, as I have done previously, that we will not issue any export licence where there is a clear risk of serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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The claim that the United Kingdom and other countries providing arms to Saudi Arabia were potentially “aiding and assisting” war crimes by the country’s forces in Yemen is a heavy charge to be laid on our country. The Government have indicated that they do not intend to mirror the actions taken by the United States and suspend defence exports to Saudi Arabia. Will they reconsider their decision not to mirror the actions taken by our closest ally, the United States, and suspend defence exports to Saudi Arabia as part of an attempt to end the Yemen conflict?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have already in part stated the Government’s position in answer to the previous question. Yes, we have an ongoing defence relationship with Saudi Arabia, but it is not just about exports; we also provide valuable training courses, advice and guidance. We have a strong relationship. I assure my noble friend that the issue of international humanitarian law is at the forefront in any exports to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or any other country.

Alexei Navalny

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 21st January 2021

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I do agree with former Secretary of State Pompeo’s words. That is why we work very closely with the United States in dealing with the issues and challenges that Russia brings to the world.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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Alexei Navalny’s latest investigation into what he has called the world’s “biggest bribe”—Putin’s sprawling palace at the Black Sea—is a reminder that corruption is endemic in autocracy and that tackling it undermines the rule of strong men such as Putin. With that in mind, will the Government continue to encourage greater transparency over Russian financial activities around the world, including in the United Kingdom, and take steps to combat money laundering? Can my noble friend the Minister update us on the progress that has been made on this since the Intelligence and Security Committee published its report last year?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I apologise: some of my noble friend’s questions were not quite clear. However, I believe that she referred to the ISC report on Russia. As she will know, the Government’s response was published immediately after its release. Russia is a top national security priority for the Government, and we will introduce new legislation concerning the security services and law enforcement. As she will be aware, the Government are currently looking at how our sanctions regime can be further extended to deal with corruption and illicit financing.

Foreign Policy: UK-EU Dialogue

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 14th January 2021

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I have already alluded to that, but I assure the noble Baroness that we engage regularly. As a Minister responsible for human rights, I engage personally with the European Union human rights lead, Eamon Gilmore, and will continue to do so.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, just before Christmas, and after 16 years, the United Kingdom left the EU-led military mission to Bosnia-Herzegovina. Separately, there are reports that the FCDO expects to cut expenditure on its western Balkans programme from the current £80 million to under £50 million or possibly even £35 million. Can my noble friend the Minister confirm that these reports of cuts are true and, if so, can I urge the Government to reconsider this step, which would have a damaging effect on our influence in the region and with our allies and risk being interpreted as yet further proof that the United Kingdom is turning its back on the EU and the western Balkans?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, we continue to engage on the Balkans. On the specifics of my noble friend’s question, I shall write to her.

International Human Rights Day

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness and I have had many a conversation on this issue. Of course, the instigation of the national security laws has caused great concern, including about the appointment of judges, which now sits with the Chief Executive. That is a concern. I cannot say what the future holds; that would be mere speculation. What is important is that we continuously remind the Hong Kong authorities of the importance of the independence of the judiciary.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, as we mark Human Rights Day, hundreds of political prisoners, many of them women, are incarcerated by our ally and trade partner, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. One of them is Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been in prison since 2018. As I speak, she is appearing in front of a terrorism court in Saudi Arabia. I know that the UK Government have raised the case with the Government of Saudi Arabia, but can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what answer was received and what steps will be taken next? Will Ministers use the opportunity of a new Administration in the United States to work actively to secure Ms al-Hathloul’s release and that of other activists like her?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I share my noble friend’s concern. I and my right honourable friend the Minister for the Middle East and North Africa have consistently raised the issue of human rights defenders, particularly women human rights defenders. At least five women human rights defenders remain in detention in Saudi Arabia. We raise these cases. My noble friend makes a practical suggestion; again, with a new Administration coming in, we continue to look at how we can work constructively with Saudi Arabia in raising these concerns on a regular and consistent basis.

Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Tuesday 3rd November 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, in a few seconds, global Britain means our place in the world, whether through multilateral institutions such as the UN, through the Commonwealth or, indeed, through our bilateral relationships. The UK has strong influence and strong partnerships, and we will strengthen those partnerships and friendships going forward. On our overall positioning, I am very optimistic about the outlook for the UK in the global world. The results of the FCDO merger demonstrate why.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I regret that the publication of the integrated review has been postponed. We live in an era of extraordinary unpredictability that cannot be addressed by ad hoc reviews. Will the Government therefore consider introducing a legislatively mandated quadrennial defence, foreign policy and security review to ensure that we have an automatic and regular review of MoD and FCDO strategy and the threats facing our country, as is the case in the United States?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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Noble Lords have ample opportunity, as do Members in the other place, to question and challenge the Government, whether in defence, development or diplomacy, and that will continue.

Afghanistan

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 15th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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The noble Baroness is quite right to raise these issues. As Minister for Afghanistan, this is a central concern for me, particularly with the Afghan peace talks under way—although they have stalled. I assure her that these issues remain the key priority in the support and the training we give through the schools and education programme, and the Girls’ Education Challenge fund. We continue to prioritise this as we move through the current talks and for future programmes. Child marriage is of course not unique to Afghanistan, but is found in other parts of the world. Education and education for girls remain essential to tackling it.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the official figures for women reported to have tested positive for or to have died from Covid-19 in Afghanistan are significantly below the equivalent figures for men. That does not match with the experience of other countries, suggesting that Afghan women are not receiving adequate attention or treatment, and many may be suffering and dying in their own homes. Can my noble friend tell the House what steps the Government are taking to contribute to reducing barriers to healthcare for women in Afghanistan, and how they expect women’s access to healthcare to be impacted by the withdrawal of international forces?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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On my noble friend’s second point, this poses a massive challenge for countries continuing to have a presence there, and indeed for donor countries such as ourselves that are engaged in humanitarian programmes. She is right to highlight the challenge. To be candid with her, I recognise and understand it. The challenge will be how the security situation prevails with any new governance arrangements in Afghanistan, to ensure that the achievements we have made, including in providing health support to women, are sustained and strengthened in the months and years ahead.

Protecting Civilians in Armed Conflict

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 12th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, the integration of the two departments is a major step towards ensuring that our diplomacy and development objectives are fully aligned. We continue to remain committed to ensuring that resolving conflict and a commitment to peace will be the major objectives of the new FCDO.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the paper rightly stresses the importance of effective and independent monitoring and reporting for accountability. Can my noble friend the Minister tell the House whether it is still the Government’s policy to establish an independent international mechanism to investigate alleged crimes of sexual violence in conflict and what concrete progress has been made in the past two years on this?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, while paying tribute to the work of my noble friend, let me assure her that within the context of the PSVI which I lead on for the Prime Minister, it is about strengthening justice for the survivors of sexual violence in conflict and to hold the perpetrators to account. We are seeing progress. In a survivor-centred approach, we have recently seen progress through the appointment of survivor champions. The PSVI conference, which unfortunately had to be postponed, was also focused on bringing together the expertise and insight needed to ensure that we have a centre of excellence where all the best practices can be brought together.

Iran: UN Arms Embargo

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 8th October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, this issue was looked at in great detail by my colleagues at the Department for International Trade, including the Secretary of State. As I have said already, we have a very rigid arms export regime, and that continues to apply to all countries.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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Does my noble friend agree that damaging and destabilising activities are undertaken in the region by many states, including some UK allies, and that the way forward is not unilateral action by the United States—or anyone else—but a collective diplomatic endeavour to establish, over time, a regional security co-operation regime based on the principles of international law and negotiated primarily by the countries of the region themselves?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, I agree with my noble friend on the intent to get all regional partners engaged on this matter. That is why we believe that on issues and areas such as Yemen it is important, in order to reach political settlement, for all parties to be at the table. We continue to employ our resources to help that happen, but equally we require regional partners to think very carefully: their continued intervention in other countries adds to the destabilisation of that region.

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 3rd September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, in advance of the announcement of the new merged department but also during the current pandemic, this Government have repeatedly outlined, and put money behind, their priority of standing up for the most vulnerable. The Gavi summit, led by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, was a very good example of that. I assure the noble Baroness that the work that DfID has done over many years is recognised, and we are now leveraging the full potential and strength of our development leadership alongside the strength of our diplomatic network.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative was given an amber/red score in the latest review by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact, which raised concerns about the lack of funding, strategic planning and long-term programming. Will the Government ensure that the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative is put at the heart of the work of the new department and that the initiative receives all necessary support so that the United Kingdom meets the commitments that we made at the 2014 global summit?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con)
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My Lords, as the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, I assure my noble friend that this remains very much at the heart of our work. As I have mentioned to her previously, I am keen to ensure that there is a long-term, three-year rolling strategy that ensures that we build on what we have achieved on this important agenda.

Libya

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Monday 13th July 2020

(4 years ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, our intervention in Libya was right because of the humanitarian crisis that was pending in Benghazi. Unlike the noble Lord, I take the view that the UN Security Council does play and will continue to play a very important role.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, for years the countries of the western Balkans have been major manufacturers of small arms used in Libya with weapons being purchased by foreign Governments, some of them our allies, and supplied to Libya’s warring factions. What steps have the Government taken or will take to stop that flow of arms to Libya? Will they seek to impose UN sanctions and travel bans on those who are in clear breach of the UN arms embargo under UN Security Council Resolution 2510?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, I assure my noble friend that as penholders on Libya we will continue to make that case. She is right that there have been abuses of the arms embargo in Libya, but I make it clear that all member states must respect international law and call on the Security Council to take seriously any reports of violations. We must act to ensure that those who are not adhering to the embargo do so and respect international law.

Hong Kong National Security Legislation

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Thursday 2nd July 2020

(4 years ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My Lords, as part of the agreement we signed, special status was granted through the BNO route. We have made an offer respecting, regarding and upholding our obligation to them. However, there are many people who love Hong Kong and will want to remain there. That is why it is important that we continue, in parallel, to implore the Chinese authorities to create the conditions so that all Hong Kongers who wish to, irrespective of whether they qualify for BNO, can remain and prosper in Hong Kong.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his answers so far. History teaches us that when you have two autocratic regimes, as we now have in China and Russia, the only way for there to be some balance in the world is for western democratic nations to join together. Will my noble friend tell the House what concrete steps his department has taken to bring this kind of coalition about?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My noble friend is quite right to raise this issue. We continue to work through the UN Security Council, where, as she may know, this issue was specifically discussed in May. As I have already alluded to, we have discussed and agreed a statement this week in the context of the UN, through its Human Rights Council. There is also the statement and support that we have received from the G7. It is important that democracies come together. We will continue to work in this regard to ensure that the UK fulfils its obligations to those in Hong Kong, while respecting that we still believe that the agreement signed should remain in force for the period intended, which was 50 years.

Covid-19: Refugee Camps

Debate between Baroness Helic and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
Wednesday 20th May 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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I can assure the noble Baroness and all noble Lords of our commitment to Resolution 2504 and the need for an extension of the humanitarian corridors that currently operate in the north-west of the country.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, according to UNHCR, we need to pay urgent attention to the protection of refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls during this pandemic. They are among those most at risk: doors should not be left open to abusers and no efforts should be spared to help women surviving abuse and violence. What specific steps are the UK Government taking to ensure that refugee women and girls in camps do not become victims of abuse at this time?

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon
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My noble friend is quite right to raise this issue. I recently engaged in a virtual call with Pramila Patten, the SRSG on preventing sexual violence in conflict for the UN. I will be having further discussions on this to ensure that we give maximum support to girls and women who suffer because of conflict—and the Covid crisis brings this into focus.