2 Lord Harries of Pentregarth debates involving the Department for International Development

Wed 4th Jul 2018

India: Scavenging

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Tuesday 6th November 2018

(5 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Asked by
Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of India about the continuance of manual scavenging.

Lord Bates Portrait The Minister of State, Department for International Development (Lord Bates) (Con)
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My Lords, Her Majesty’s Government are not presently making representations to the Government of India on manual scavenging. The Department for International Development has been working to eradicate the abhorrent practice for many years. Advocacy organisations that have received DfID support have helped to strengthen the manual scavenging Act 2013, and DfID’s urban work is supporting sustainable, safe and clean cities for all. The UK is exploring the possibility of further work to eradicate manual scavenging.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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I thank the Minister for his reply. The Government of India have indeed passed the manual scavenging Act 2013, but still 800,000 Dalits—the former “Untouchables”—are trapped in this degrading occupation and far too many deaths occur among them. Since January 2017, for example, there has been one death every five days among those cleaning out the public sewers by hand because of the toxic fumes. So will Her Majesty’s Government encourage the Indian Government, first, to implement the law that they have passed and, secondly, to devote some of the vast resources and technical ingenuity shown, for example, in the space programme to developing mechanised methods of cleaning out the public sewers?

Lord Bates Portrait Lord Bates
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The noble and right reverend Lord is absolutely right to raise the importance of this issue. It is inextricably linked to the caste system in India, and we have made consistent representations about the treatment of minorities. We believe that the manual scavenging Act, which provides for compensation, as well as education and retraining to help people into better jobs, is the right way forward and that it should be upheld. We will continue to work for that across all the areas in which we are involved in the Indian subcontinent.

South Sudan

Lord Harries of Pentregarth Excerpts
Wednesday 4th July 2018

(6 years ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth Portrait Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB)
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My Lords, there was a flicker of hope on 20 June when President Salva Kiir and the rebel leader Riek Machar met in Addis Ababa and agreed a ceasefire from last Saturday but, as we have heard, it was quickly extinguished when fighting broke out between the two warring factions on Monday, with 18 civilians reported dead and 44 injured. As usual, it was civilians who suffered. Observers of what has been happening in South Sudan since the outbreak of fighting were not at all surprised.

The suffering in South Sudan is appalling and the need for continuing humanitarian aid is urgent. I shall not repeat the figures we have heard. We are all aware of the awful situation. Everyone is agreed that the political priority must continue to be establishing a stable and lasting peace so, when the key actors appear so reluctant to make this happen, the international community must continue to persevere through all setbacks, whatever the temptation to despair—and there is a big temptation. There will be lots more setbacks, but we must persevere.

Continuing pressure must be put on Salva Kiir and Riek Machar to control the forces under their command and reach a lasting long-term agreement. To this end President Kiir’s proposal to extend his term of office for a further three years is totally unacceptable, and his proposal for elections soon is no better when so many members of the population are displaced from their homes. A proper system needs to be in place to record incidents where the ceasefire has broken down or where human rights abuses have taken place. Gender-based violence, looting, the burning of villages, torture and the use of food as a weapon of war have all been reported and amount, in some cases, to allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity. It must be clearly stated that, however long it takes, perpetrators will be brought to justice. Meanwhile targeted sanctions against key players known to have offended need to be in place and the process of setting up a hybrid court in South Sudan needs speeding up.

These things cannot just be accepted with a shrug of the shoulders as an inevitable accompaniment of civil war. They take place with depressing frequency but remain a breach of the moral and legal order which the international community, through the UN, has a duty to uphold. As the Human Rights Watch interactive dialogue with the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan put it:

“We urge the Human Rights Council to renew the mandate of the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and ensure it has sufficient resources to continue its indispensable work to collect and preserve evidence of serious violations of human rights and identify those who may be responsible”.


Unfortunately, to date, little progress has been made on establishing the South Sudan hybrid court, which is provided for under the August 2015 agreement. The commission called for establishment of the hybrid court to be expedited. The African Union commission should move forward in establishing the court without the South Sudanese Government, which is permitted under the peace agreement. If progress is not made, the International Criminal Court remains the global court of last resort and the necessary steps to grant it jurisdiction over the conflict should be pursued. As Ambassador Joanna Wronecka, chair of the UN South Sudan sanctions committee, said:

“There must be a tangible cost for the continuation of violence”.


Whatever can and must be done in relation to Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, there is a groundswell of feeling that the only real hope for the long term is to bring more women and more younger people into the process. It has been well argued that buying off elites to stop the fighting has not worked, and is not working. This is a process in which military commanders are offered promotion or posts in the Government for laying down their arms, which they do only for a short period. Perhaps some of this is necessary as a short-term expedient but it cannot get to the roots of the problems in South Sudan.

The majority of the population of South Sudan are young—51% are under 18—and their future is at stake. The older generation has let them down badly. There is a tiny glimmer of hope in that at least one young person was brought in by each team in the recent high-level revitalisation forum talks, and women have started to make their voices heard in discussions. But women need to be much more prominent at all levels. They are a real key to the future. More widely, civil society—not least the churches—has a key role in building the institutions of the future, without which there can be no stable political order. One of the implications is that more resources need to go into building peace at local levels, using civil society rather than warlords. The international community—in particular the key African states—needs to insist on this as a precondition of continuing support.

The humanitarian situation is appalling, as we have heard a number of times during the debate. Particularly upsetting is the way that access to aid is being blocked in so many areas; it is also being blocked by bureaucracy. Aid agencies report that their workers there are having to pay taxes locally, including on their cars, and that it is very difficult to get licences to operate their cars.

It is important to note that, while a few aid workers in some parts of the world have besmirched their agencies by their behaviour, aid workers, not least in South Sudan, are often in an exposed and vulnerable situation, with their lives at risk. More than 100 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan in recent years. The international community needs to insist on the removal of all these hindrances, physical and bureaucratic, to aid actually getting through.

Finally, to further these key objectives, it is vital to have adequate peacekeeping and monitoring forces on the ground—to deter warring parties from fresh outbreaks, to record violations of the ceasefire, and to record human rights violations. The African Union, under the UN, is the body responsible for having forces in South Sudan to help with the task. In the past there seems to have been prevarication and delay. Is the Minister able to say which forces, from which countries and in what numbers, are now in position in South Sudan and what reports have been received on how effective they are being?