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Foreign Office Questions

30th October 2018

Harriett Baldwin answers questions from MPs in relation to her Africa portfolio.

Sexual Violence in Conflict

Dr Caroline Johnson (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con)
1. What diplomatic steps he is taking to tackle sexual violence in conflict throughout the world. [907343]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
The UK Government continue to lead global efforts to end the horror of sexual violence in conflict. We have developed tools to improve the chances of justice for survivors and in June secured sanctions against seven Burmese military officials. We will host an international conference in 2019 to galvanise the world into further action.

Dr Johnson
Given that the recent UN taskforce report highlighted appalling examples of sexual violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma, I welcome the announcement that the Secretary of State made on his recent visit to Rakhine of increased support to victims of this terrible crime, but what can be done to increase the resources available to other conflict regions?

Harriett Baldwin
I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming the announcement and highlighting the work of that team of experts, who have now been deployed, I think, to 26 countries on a wide range of cases, have helped to train 17,000 people to make sure that evidence is secured and have worked extensively on this important issue in a range of situations around the world.

Wes Streeting (Ilford North) (Lab)
The use of sexual violence was an ugly characteristic of the Sri Lankan civil war under the stewardship of Mahinda Rajapaksa, and now the very same man is back in office, illegitimately, as the Prime Minister of that country. Will the Minister now, and the Foreign Secretary shortly during topical questions, condemn unreservedly the turn of events in Sri Lanka and make sure we never see a return to those dark days of appalling human rights abuses under the Rajapaksas?

Harriett Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise this issue, which I know has captivated the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Pacific. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Foreign Secretary will be calling the President today, I think, to discuss this very matter.

Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and The Weald) (Con)
What diplomatic actions are being taken to assist with the return of the 113 Chibok girls who were seized from their school by Boko Haram in 2014, four and a half years ago, and are still missing? Tragically, many of them will have suffered terrible, horrific sexual and physical violence.

Harriett Baldwin
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. As many will remember, that campaign is now four years old, yet 113 of the girls have still not been returned. The UK consistently offers its support for the Nigerian Government’s efforts to return these girls to their homes, and we stand ready to do more if requested.

Chris Elmore (Ogmore) (Lab)
The Minister will be aware that there are many Rohingya children living in refugee camps in Bangladesh. Will she set out in more detail what she is doing to support these boys and girls, who are at extreme risk of sexual violence?

Harriett Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman is right to widen the question to the extensive part of the population affected by this terrible crisis. He will know that, from a humanitarian point of view, the UK is contributing £129 million to address it, including through the kind of psychosocial support he refers to.

Liz McInnes (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab)
In recent years, the UN Population Fund has operated fearlessly at the frontline of conflict, helping hundreds of thousands of girls and women who have suffered sexual violence. Does the Minister agree that it is utterly reprehensible that Donald Trump has eliminated US funding for that agency to the tune of $700 million? Is that not one more demonstration that the current US President could not care less about women and their rights?

Harriett Baldwin
I am happy to be answerable at the Dispatch Box for the actions of the UK Government, and I can assure the hon. Lady that the UK continues to support this important work and, in fact, to do more on things such as access to safe family planning around the world.


Topical Questions

Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park) (Con)
T8. The Government can be proud of their world-leading commitment to ensure protection of 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030, but can the Foreign Secretary confirm that the forthcoming international oceans strategy will have that goal at its centre and that it will set out a plan for ensuring that our own blue belt of marine sanctuaries is set to the global gold standard? [907375]

The Minister for Africa (Harriett Baldwin)
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his tireless championing of this agenda. I can confirm that the UK will be supporting it. I can also confirm that we are on course with the blue belt programme to deliver over 4 million sq km of maritime protection around the UK’s overseas territories by 2020.


Mohammad Yasin (Bedford) (Lab)
T3. For at least nine months, the Met’s war crimes unit has been assessing material from the Rwandan authorities relating to five men living in the UK likely to have committed genocide offences in Rwanda in 1994. Their extradition to Rwanda was blocked in 2015. How much longer will these men await justice? [907370]

Harriett Baldwin
We are well aware of the reports to which the hon. Gentleman refers. I can assure him that, should there be any issues in terms of action that the UK can take in this regard, it stands ready to do that, should the situation require our intervention.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con)
May I ask the Minister for Africa what diplomatic support the Foreign and Commonwealth Office can give to the English-speaking community in Cameroon, which is being quite widely oppressed at the moment?

Harriett Baldwin
I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important situation. I was in the Anglophone region of Cameroon earlier this year. We are following with great concern the reports we are hearing that the situation has not got any better since I visited. We are urging the President, who has recently been re-elected, to follow through on his assurance that he would engage in meaningful dialogue to address the concerns of the people living in that region.


Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab)
T9. What are the Government doing to secure the release of South Sudanese civil society activist and Cambridge PhD student Peter Ajak, who has been detained without charge for 94 days in the notorious Blue House prison in Juba? [907376]

Harriett Baldwin
I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s work as vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Sudan and South Sudan. This is a serious situation. We continue to advocate the freeing up of political space and the freeing of political prisoners, as some of the cost-free things that the Government of South Sudan could do to show willing in terms of the peace process declared on 12 September.


Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP)
What discussions have the Government had with the Government of Ukraine regarding internally displaced people and food insecurity, particularly in the illegally occupied Donbass region?

Harriett Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman was there recently, I understand. He will be aware that, through the Department for International Development, we do have a programme of humanitarian assistance there, but Russian aggression continues to destabilise the area. In fact, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary recently spoke to Foreign Minister Klimkin to emphasise our commitment to and support for Ukraine, including through Operation Orbital.


Alex Sobel (Leeds North West) (Lab/Co-op)
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources is meeting now in Hobart. What progress has the UK delegation made in securing a marine protected area for the Weddell sea, which is absolutely vital to stop run-away climate change?

Harriett Baldwin
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the important talks that are taking place. The UK is very much a co-proponent and keen advocate of the proposal currently under discussion. We strongly support this marine protection work, not just in the Weddell sea.


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