United Nations Reform, and Conflict in Africa (Hansard, 2 February 2005)
HL Deb 02 February 2005 vol 669 cc247-308

3.56 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

rose to call attention to the report to the United Nations by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, the Millennium Development Goals Review, and to the causes of conflict in Africa; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I begin by thanking my noble friends on the Cross Benches for enabling the debate to take place at a moment when the report to Kofi Annan on peace and security is highly topical and at the beginning of a year in which all the subjects covered by the report will be high on the international agenda. At the outset, I declare an interest—albeit a non-pecuniary interest, as the members of the panel were not paid—as a member of the group of 16 that delivered the report to the Secretary-General at the beginning of December.

The background to the commissioning of the report is reasonably well known. Throughout the Cold War, the UN remained at least partially paralysed. It had no substantial role in the confrontation between the superpowers. Many wars raged between the proxies of those powers, with the UN unable to intervene. With the end of the Cold War, all that changed. Areas that were off-limits became on-limits. Iraq's aggression against Kuwait was reversed, with full UN authority. A number of regional and proxy wars were brought to an end through UN peacekeeping operations. However, no systematic attempt was made to rethink the UN's mission or consider what the main threats to international peace and security were in the post-Cold War world. Despite an attempt in 1982 to undertake a serious rethink of the way ahead, with Boutros Ghali's paper An Agenda for Peace, the UN's main stakeholders opted for muddling through.

Soon enough, muddling through brought its own nemesis. The proportion of successes to failures dropped sharply. Appalling events such as the Rwanda genocide and the Srebrenica massacre occurred under the noses of UN peacekeepers. Later, the organisation became paralysed in deadlock, first over Kosovo and then over Iraq, even though Security Council resolutions were being flouted.

There were two main weaknesses. One was a lack of effectiveness. Even when the Security Council voted ambitious if, often, also ambiguous mandates, it failed to provide the resources in men, money and political backing when the going got rough. The other weakness arose from disputes over the use of force under UN authority, which led twice to the UN simply being bypassed. When, in September 2003, Kofi Annan told the General Assembly that the organisation was at a fork in the road and that, in effect, it could no longer afford to go on just muddling through, he was neither criticised nor contradicted. The panel was established to provide the foundation for a fundamental rethink that should have taken place long ago.

Even since that call, we have seen yet another instance of those twin weaknesses—in Darfur. It was certainly right to look to the African Union for help in that crisis, but it was no good thinking that peacekeepers and human rights monitors could be conjured up out of thin air or sustained by the sort of ad hoc hand-to-mouth help that has so far been provided. Nor could a government who again and again broke the commitments into which they had entered be brought to honour them if the possibility of any coercive measure remained bottled up in a deadlocked Security Council.

The panel's analysis of the threats that we now face came to two very clear conclusions. First, the threats are completely different from those that we faced during the Cold War and, thus, require completely different responses. Secondly, the threat agenda is not just the narrow one from international terrorism and from the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, real though those two threats, and even more so any combination between them, certainly are. It extends also to the phenomenon of state failure and to the issues of poverty, pandemic diseases, organised crime and environmental degradation, which have not in the past been considered a direct part of the peace and security agenda at all.

The reasoning behind that second conclusion is clear but complex. It rests not only on the fact that in many parts of the world—in Africa and Latin America, for example—a narrow agenda is simply not accepted as representing the main threat, although that in itself has very important implications for the prospects of rallying the worldwide support without which terrorism and proliferation will not be successfully combated.

It is also because the interconnections between what in the past were misleadingly labelled as "hard" threats and those labelled as "soft" threats are multiple and inseparable. Failed states have provided havens for terrorism and opportunities for genocide. The incidence of state failure and strife is noticeably greater in states with very low GNP per capita. Pandemic disease threatens to destroy the very structure of states. The list goes on. So a broad threat agenda, not a narrow one, is the only approach that makes sense, as is one that does not seek to establish a hierarchy between different threats, but finds ways of addressing them all.

There is one other conclusion to be drawn from this threat analysis which is particularly relevant to the priorities being established by the Government—quite rightly in my view—for Britain's forthcoming G8 and EU presidencies. Just as it is essential to address poverty, disease and the environment as part of the peace and security agenda, it is equally essential to address the other components of the peace and security agenda—state failure, governance, terrorism and proliferation—as part of the development agenda. One without the other will simply not work, least of all in Africa which is the focus of so much attention.

When it came to charting the responses to those threats, the panel's approach was rigorously policy-driven. We recognised that institutional changes would be needed, but we were clear that they must be changes designed to fit the institutions to carry out the policies decided by the membership. Too often in the past at the UN, institutional tinkering has been a substitute for hard decisions on policy.

No policy decisions cause the international community more difficulty than those involving the collective use of force; none has led to deeper divisions. Hence the need to try to clarify and to rationalise those decisions. But let me be very clear at the outset. However necessary it may be for the Security Council from time to time to take such decisions on the use of force, that must always be a last resort. We on the panel spent a great deal more of our time and devoted many more of our recommendations to the comparatively neglected and unsuccessful area of prevention, to, indeed, avoiding the need for the use of force.

The guidelines that we propose for reaching decisions on the use of force—seriousness of threat, proper purpose, last resort, proportional means, balance of consequences—will we hope be adopted by the Security Council and the General Assembly. They will provide no push-button certainty; decisions will still have to be taken on a case-by-case basis. But they may bring greater predictability and thus some degree of deterrence. The same may be said of our endorsement of the responsibility to protect the individual citizen, a responsibility that falls in the first instance on the citizen's government but which, if that government prove unwilling or unable to exercise it, shifts to the international community acting collectively.

Nowhere is the need for stronger and more proactive preventive policies clearer than in the case of state failure. States do not usually fail suddenly and unexpectedly. They do so most often in stages, of which there is plenty of often neglected early warning. We have recommended the establishment, under the aegis of the Security Council, but reaching out well beyond its membership, of a peace-building commission which would manage the whole continuum from early warning through prevention to post-conflict peace-building where conflict cannot be avoided. The aim is to harness all the main instruments of international policy—financial, regional, the main donors and troop contributors—to a common cause and to avoid the dislocations, short attention span and policy voids that have so often occurred in the past.

The UN cannot do everything and it needs to work more effectively with regional organisations, particularly where, as is the case with the African Union, those organisations are active in the field of conflict prevention and peace operations. We are trying, therefore, to breathe life into a hitherto grossly under-utilised section of the UN charter—its Chapter VIII. We have proposed formal agreements between the UN and regional organisations, providing for exchanges on early warning and mediation, and for training and logistical support. We proposed a major programme for capacity building for the African Union. Most importantly of all, we have suggested that where the Security Council asks for or authorises a regional organisation to take on a peace operation, the provision of financial backing should be on assessed contributions from the whole membership.

The scourge of international terrorism is as real as that of war. The Security Council declared it a threat to peace and security as long ago as its summit in 1992. It is surely long past time to cut through the layers of obfuscation that have so far prevented the clear definition and outlawing of the targeting of civilian non-combatants. We have put forward proposals as to the basis on which that could be done. We have also recommended the adoption of a much wider counterterrorist strategy that would look beyond coercive measures, necessary though these are, and address the causes of terrorism as well as its symptoms.

The rules that seek to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are under great stress, particularly those that deal with nuclear and biological weapons. In the latter case of biological weapons, we have underlined the urgency of establishing an intrusive inspection regime, without which failure to prevent proliferation of those weapons is almost certain.

In the case of nuclear weapons, we have such a regime, but it needs strengthening. The International Atomic Energy Agency's additional protocol allowing snap inspections should become universal. The Proliferation Security Initiative to interdict trade in weapons of mass destruction material also needs to become universal. It is time to call a halt to the construction of new uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities, while recognising the right of countries with bona fide civil nuclear programmes to have guaranteed access through an International Atomic Energy Agency scheme to enrichment and reprocessing services.

If I have neglected the parts of our report that addressed the social, economic and environmental threats to security, it is only partly because of pressure of time. It is also because more detailed recommendations on that part of our agenda will soon be put on the table by the Secretary-General when he comes forward with his report on the millennium development goals over the first five years of their operation.

Our own proposals for increased funds to deal with poverty and disease, for early completion of the Doha development round of trade negotiations and for the engagement of post-Kyoto negotiations on the environment will no doubt be supplemented in that later document.

How then did we fit the institutional changes needed to those policy prescriptions? The enlargement of the Security Council to make it more representative is long overdue. We put forward two possible ways of doing that, both involving a Security Council of 24 members, neither involving the extension of the veto, one providing for additional permanent members and the other providing for longer-term elective members.

It is now for the UN membership to decide. It is crucial, however, that they do not allow the inevitable difficulties over reaching such a decision to frustrate or delay decisions on the other aspects of the report. We have made suggestions also for bringing greater focus and relevance to the work of the General Assembly, for making the Economic and Social Council more effective, and for bringing human rights back into the heart of the work of the commission bearing that title, in place of the diplomatic manoeuvring that has come to dominate its proceedings in recent years. We have proposed a number of ideas for strengthening the secretariat and the role of the Secretary-General.

I hope that I have not bored the House with this effort to set out the rationale and the broad thrust of the panel's main conclusions. I hope too that I have not deterred anyone from studying the report in greater depth. It is worthwhile because not only, dare I say it. is it the most ambitious proposed make-over of the United Nations since its foundation in 1945, it is also an overall approach which needs to be looked at in the round, not subjected to the death of a thousand cuts which has so often been the fate of earlier attempts at UN reform. It is a severely practical and realistic approach. We did not put forward any, what I would call, "blue skies" ideas—no abolition of the veto, no UN rapid reaction force, no Economic and Social Security Council. Some will regret that, but not one of our proposals needs more than a few months to bring it to decision if the will is there.

So what happens next? Well, that is up to the member states. No panel, however wise, can be a substitute for inter-governmental negotiations and decisions in this most inter-governmental of organisations. Governments will need time to consider the proposals; and meanwhile there will be, I hope, a vigorous public discussion, of which today's debate in this House is one modest part, to enable a better understanding of what is proposed and what is at stake. After that, the negotiations will have to be engaged on a number of different tracks, because different institutions with different decision-making processes are involved. The threads will then need to be drawn together at the time of September's United Nations summit gathering in New York.

I do not want to be too apocalyptic—that is contrary to all the instincts of the professional diplomat that I once was. Diplomats do not do apocalypses. But I do believe that if this opportunity is fluffed or fudged, the UN risks being increasingly marginalised. That would, I suggest, be disastrous for us all, from the strongest to the weakest, because so many of the threats we face can be countered effectively only by collective action, and collective action organised on a worldwide basis. My hope is that, over the next year, we will begin the building of a new consensus. I beg to move for Papers.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Judd

My Lords, I am certain that the whole House will want to congratulate and thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, not only on the powerful way in which he has put the case to us this afternoon, but also for the very important part he played in the deliberations which have led to such a significant report. The report is important not only for the United Nations, but also for our Government's current highly commendable preoccupations with the tremendous issues regarding Africa.

At the outset of my remarks I ought to declare my interest as a longstanding vice president of the United Nations Association, and make an apology. I am one of those who believes that noble Lords who participate in debates should, if possible, be present for the whole debate. However, I hope that noble Lords will understand that the Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, is meeting upstairs at the moment on some rather topical and crucial issues. Therefore I may not be able to be here the whole time, which I hope will be understood by my colleagues.

The first point to make is that the United Nations is us. There is a tendency to talk about the United Nations as though it was something separate. When there are weaknesses and shortcomings in the United Nations, it is incumbent on us all in politics to start by looking at ourselves in the mirror. How much importance do we really give to the UN in our deliberations on foreign affairs? How central is the UN to the deliberations of government on foreign policy? How important is the United Nations department within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

Global interdependence is no longer just an idealistic aspiration, it is an inescapable reality. That is equally true in the spheres of economics, environment and global warming, health, conflict and terrorism. The challenge to politics and governments is how we grapple with this reality. If we fail, I believe that we shall betray our children and grandchildren.

Perhaps a word at this point to our United States cousins is permissible. We may be encountering a potential tragedy. The US is the most powerful nation the world has ever known. I fear that the children and grandchildren of the present generation of American leaders may ask, "But what did you do with your power when you had it? Why did you not commit it to building strong multilateral institutions which are indispensable to humanity as a whole and, indeed, to the United States?". In that context, it is good that the report spells out specific priorities such as the critical urgency of the Kyoto Protocol and the immediate imperative for effective arms control, covering both small arms and nuclear, radiological, chemical and biological weapons, and that it couples that concern with an injunction to powers such as the United States and ourselves to lead by example rather than by what many elsewhere in the world may inevitably see as questionably patronising rhetoric and ultimatums. What we do in respect of our own arsenals will be vital to the credibility of what we say about the potential or developing arsenals of others.

The report grapples with the definition of "security". It recognises that security has become a much more complex issue than perhaps it was in the past. The IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation, along with environmental agencies, are all central to delivering security. Indeed, the issues with which they deal are central to the future stability of humanity. The question to ask, therefore, is how is all this work to be knitted together. I think that I shall join those who often say, "God forbid that the UN should try to run the international financial institutions". I understand that misgiving and share it in many ways, but I believe that the work of the international financial institutions and the environmental agencies has to be made politically accountable to those charged with ensuring global security in the Security Council, otherwise it is a nonsense and denies any understanding of how the concept of security has moved forward.

Enduring stability and peace cannot be imposed. I am sure that most of us would agree on that. They have painstakingly to be built. Human rights and social justice are their foundation stones. The redistribution of wealth and fairness in trade are essential, but the redistribution of power is indispensable. The dangers we currently face are rooted in an interacting matrix of the sinister, power-hungry and ruthlessly manipulative Bin Ladens of the world, the many millions of deprived and oppressed people in the world, the culturally alienated and all those who feel themselves excluded from the power structures, many of whom are highly articulate and very well educated. The great point about the UN is that it provides a forum in which all the world can be heard, not just parts of it. If we are to get peace and stability right. we have to ensure that the agendas of the international institutions are agendas that are owned by the international community as a whole—not just the agendas of the self-esteemed managers of the world, however enlightened they try to be.

Credibility for the international rule of law rests on UN authority, especially when action is being taken to enforce it, not as a legal formality but as a demonstrable manifestation of the widest possible global consensus behind that action. That is why some of us were so worried at the time of the Iraq war. I fear that without this international authority and consensus we face a road towards international anarchy.

The report also attempts to define terrorism. That is interesting because at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg last week we grappled with exactly the same problem. Surely the lessons of the last century and this century have demonstrated that one of the issues of terrorism we must all take seriously is that of state terrorism. Of course we all recoil at the absolute, unacceptable brutality and cruelty of Beslan and of 9/11 in the United States. We are all profoundly disturbed by suicide bombers, although we have to ask why young people allow themselves to be used in this way. What is their sense of hopelessness and desperation that leads them to be caught up in such despicable actions? But children, the frail, the elderly and everyone else caught up in a modern bombing operation, in crossfire, or in the indiscriminate bombardments in Chechnya and Palestine encounter the feeling of terror as well. When we approach the issue of the definition of terrorism, we have to he very careful about credibility of language.

My final point is simply this. The report refers to the importance of the Secretary-General and the secretariat. That is self-evident and crucial. One of the issues that we have to take seriously is how we select the Secretary-General; how the Secretary-General to undertake these immense responsibilities is found and appointed. I should like to hear more about that in the course of the debate.

4.20 p.m.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

My Lords, I apologise deeply to the House, and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for having been unintentionally late. I miscalculated my powers of speed. I should also explain that this is a Back-Bench speech. I did not expect to be where I am.

I was struck by the power, lucidity and honesty of the admirable report, in which the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has clearly played a significant part.

We need the United Nations. It is difficult to imagine a world without the United Nations and the many organisations it has created, but it is too large. Partly because of its size, the United Nations is often ineffective and sometimes corrupt. The reported failures in accountability by the coalition and private sector in Iraq today are disgraceful, but the UN's own internal audit report on the Oil for Food programme reveals an equally deplorable state of affairs. It identifies not only the failure to account for very significant sums but states that, One serious concern should be the under-pricing of oil and the over-pricing of humanitarian goods which both posed a threat to sanctions". It attacks the failure to implement previous audit recommendations. Only 11 out of 45 were implemented. Twelve were reported to have been implemented, but they had not.

The OIOS established 10 years ago does not seem to have been able to control all this. Too many other organisations were involved. One always comes back to that. The audit report demonstrates the extreme complexity and often inefficiency of an organisation which has, over the years, proliferated into an alarmingly complex world of its own, dominated by initials.

My chief interest, however, lies in the practical problems of peacekeeping and peace-enforcement capabilities referred to in Parts 3 and 4 of the panel's report. It is right to recommend increasing the involvement in decision-making of those who contribute most, both in money and participation in mandated peace operations. It records that the permanent members of the Security Council should pledge themselves to refrain from the use of the veto in cases of genocide and large-scale human rights abuses. Presumably that is what prevented action in Darfur.

In paragraph 219 the report refers to, The EU decision to establish high readiness, self-sufficient battalions that can reinforce UN missions", and, in paragraph 218, to the work of the panel of UN peace operations in 2000—the Brahimi report—in the context of strategic deployment stockpiles.

Finally, in paragraph 272, it refers to donor countries committing to, a 10-year process of sustained capacity building support within the African Union strategic framework". and states that member states should allow the UN to provide equipment support from UN-owned resources to regional operations, and to use the UN peacekeeping budget to finance regional operations and to provide equipment support from UN-owned resources.

As the EU is also committed to funding and arming the AU's projected African army, and supporting it logistically, it seems likely that the AU secretariat, which intends to be in charge of the African army, will be receiving support from both the EU and the UN. That could lead to some serious mismanagement.

It is already enough that our soldiers, airmen and sailors—for the other two services will necessarily be involved in any major battle group operation—are to be committed to what could be long operations when they are already wearing three hats: NATO, the EU and, we should not forget, our own national defence and our existing military commitments in Cyprus, the Falklands and Germany. If we are to see the UN budget for operations and for peacekeeping include UN participation in and support for regional operations in Africa—and, no doubt, in other areas should a crisis arise—we shall be looking at serious overstretch. I am more concerned as political correctness will probably require us to accept missions which may be politically virtuous but in practice do nothing to save people in trouble.

The Brahimi report stated bluntly that the secretariat should check whether a potential troop contributor could meet the requisite training and equipment requirements. If it did not, it should not deploy. It added that troop-contributing countries that cannot meet the terms of their memorandum of understanding should tell the UN and not deploy. It referred to, Soldiers without rifles or with rifles but no helmets—soldiers who had no one who could speak the mission language, who lacked common operating procedures, had differing interpretations of the key elements of command and control, and of the mission rule of engagement, and who might have differing expectations about mission requirements for the use of force". It referred also to the totally inadequate size of the backup staff in the UN headquarters to run operations or even provide simple administration, and the total absence then of training and joint planning for command and control. How has that changed in four years? I hope it has.

The Brahimi report also foreshadowed the creation of brigades, each of 5,000 troops, to be available within 30 days, which already had a common doctrine, training and arrangements for operational control. This is exactly what the EU has now offered. The panel's report, at paragraph 219, recognises that missions without the troop strengths to resist aggression will invite it. Sierra Leone and the Congo both offer examples of that.

The panel report also states that, Developed states have particular responsibilities in peacekeeping areas and should do more to transfer their existing force capacities into suitable contingents for peace operations". That will be very open-ended.

I welcome that honest approach but I have three concerns. First, how far has the UN moved since 2000 to provide that necessary headquarters and support staff? Next, as it is clear that the panel agrees with the Brahimi report that what is needed militarily can only or largely come from the developed countries, are we likely to see our brigades committed indefinitely into peacekeeping as well as peace-making? That is a long-term commitment and open-ended. There are only a very few developed countries which have the necessary military capacity and experience and we have already seen in the EU that, if only because most other countries have conscription rather than a professional army and spend nothing on defence, most of them are unlikely to be able to contribute a fully dedicated, experienced body of troops.

My final concern is that, given the almost entire absence of experienced, trained, professional people in this field at the command level in the UN, it would be a disaster if our troops were to come under UN command as distinct from working beside the UN. That command is only too likely to be severely under strength, inexperienced and to make its decisions for political rather than military reasons. I do not think that we can afford to commit troops to an inadequate system of command for an indefinite period.

I should have liked to have spoken at this stage about the failure of the UN in regard to Zimbabwe. I will merely say that the report recognises that the General Assembly has become out of touch and the Security Council has not always fulfilled its obligations I have the quotation but I do not intend to delay the House by looking for it.

This is an admirable report. It has addressed an extremely important problem very honestly and with great clarity. But I wonder whether the octopus can be controlled.

4.29 p.m.

The Archbishop of Canterbury

My Lords, I, too, welcome the opportunity that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has given the House of debating this admirable and timely document. I must declare an interest of sorts as chair of the panel of advice to the Anglican Communion Observer at the United Nations. I wish to begin in another place. I suspect that I am not the only Member of the House to have been deeply moved and challenged by this year's Holocaust memorial commemorations, particularly the event in Westminster Hall last week. Not only were these commemorations a reminder of the lasting cost and the deep tragedy which happens when the international community in dysfunctional mode betrays its responsibility to those most in need, they were also a reminder—a very vivid reminder—of those who frequently bear so disproportionate an amount of the cost of conflict.

I say this because I have in mind the 60 Holocaust survivors who lit candles during last week's commemoration. Anyone watching them would have realised that at the time of the Holocaust they would all have been children. The degree to which children continue to bear that disproportionate element of the cost of conflict, injustice and horror in our world is one of those factors to which I wish to draw the attention of your Lordships during this afternoon's debate.

The cost to children of conflict has to do, clearly, with matters such as disrupted education and destroyed infrastructure. It has to do with a heightened risk of disease, and it has to do with orphans, their care and their needs. But the particular issue I want to emphasise is that of the use of child soldiers in conflicts around the world.

At a recent count, there were some 300,000 child soldiers involved in civil conflicts around the globe. Children are frequently abducted, invariably brutalised and abused in diverse ways. Such children present a uniquely serious challenge for the rehabilitative process within their societies. They are very often regarded as dangerous and feral by their own societies because of the experiences they endured as combatants.

During the later 1990s, a steady tide flowed in United Nations circles of recognition and statement about this problem. The Office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict was created, a decision taken largely in response to heavy pressure from the NGOs most deeply involved in the issue.

In 1999, the Security Council passed Resolution 1261 on the subject, and in 2000, the General Assembly ratified the optional protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which specified the cost and the problems involved in child soldiering. By 2003, more than 100 signatories had been gained for this optional protocol. The International Criminal Court has recognised its responsibility for dealing with issues around the use of child soldiers.

However, this has been a sadly ineffectual story. It is one case of that general problem to which earlier speakers have alluded of holding to account those who sign international agreements. The problem of child soldiering is, happily, not primarily about abuse by government, although that happens in certain places, but the uncontrolled activity of rebel forces in many civil conflicts.

Does the report address this question? In one passage, it addresses it obliquely but significantly. I refer to paragraph 96, which speaks of the need to expedite agreements on the trade in small arms. I was particularly pleased to hear the noble Lord, Lord Judd, refer to the need for arms control not only in respect of weapons of mass destruction but for small arms as well.

The ready availability of small or light arms is one of the factors which facilitates child soldiering. That is an obvious point but one that none the less needs underlining. It is therefore a trade which needs particularly intensive monitoring, not only in respect of the arms but of the trade in small arms ammunition. I note with interest that last Friday at the United Nations, the German Government were instrumental in stimulating discussion on possible procedures by which governments might mark and source small arms ammunition, thereby making rather easier the monitoring of this trade.

There is a United Nations programme in place on this matter. What needs doing to implement it? I take this particular instance as one case in which the structures envisaged in the report open doors which show vistas in urgent need of development.

I note in passing the way in which the report underlines the significance of regional coalitions in implementing such agreements. My comments on the United Nations programme and its future will show why this might be of such significance.

In developing a policy which seriously addresses the small arms trade, the small arms ammunition trade and the overall problem of child soldiers and their rehabilitation into society, there are three areas worth considering within the context of the structures the report envisages. The report takes it for granted that there is need for better and longer term liaison between United Nations agencies and not only regional coalitions, important as they are, but also civil society groups, including faith groups. Without that grass-roots support, it is unlikely that policies of rehabilitation in particular can be effectively delivered. I hope that the peace-building commission envisaged by the report will have this very near the top of its agenda.

Secondly, there is an obvious need for a clear lead from government in the developed countries, including our own, on all the matters on which I have touched so far. Thirdly, there is an agenda around international law to be pursued. I have already mentioned the International Criminal Court; it might intensify or focus the ICC's responsibilities here to envisage a clear and agreed declaration of the use of child soldiers as specifically a war crime.

There has also been the more controversial proposal recently that the United Nations Security Council should consider establishing an issues-related tribunal which could deal with the question of the criminality of the use of child soldiers at every level. That is an innovation, and a risky one, but arguably justifiable and workable, given the tide of opprobrium towards this practice which has been flowing over the past decade or so and the huge accumulation of data on the matter which have moved into the archives of the United Nations as a result of the work of NGOs. This is the kind of work that only the United Nations is capable of undertaking. To undertake it adequately and effectively needs structures such as those proposed in the report, which is a timely and necessary contribution to the eradication of what is undoubtedly the most disgraceful and, sadly, one of the most intractable features of conflict in the world at the moment.

4.37 p.m.

Lord Dykes

My Lords, I express my gratitude, as I am sure other noble Lords will, in following the wise words of the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I agree strongly with virtually all the points he made. I express my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, as well. I am very grateful to him, as I am sure other speakers will be, for launching the debate on this very important report. Even if diplomats, such as the noble Lord and others on the panel who were not diplomats but officials and politicians, do not do Apocalypse, maybe they will be entitled to do Operation Utopia. We have reached the stage when that will be important.

In Part 4 of the report, which is headed: A more effective United Nations for the twenty-first century", we are reminded that the United Nations was not originally intended to be such a utopian exercise; it was meant to be a collective security system that worked. The United Nations Charter provided the most powerful states with permanent membership of the Security Council and the veto. In exchange, they were expected to use their power for the common good, and promote and obey international law. Some would say that they were like politicians: I confess readily that one did not pay enough attention to the minutiae and details of the activities of the UN until the shock effect of United States intransigence, when the Iraqi crisis developed in the Security Council. I shared the distress of many people at the way in which the United States reacted to the more restrained attitude of, for example, the French Government, and those in Germany and elsewhere, about what the United States was proposing to do with Iraq, as eventually happened, without United Nations authority.

So, for all sorts of reasons I have respect for the noble Lord, Lord Hannay—not only for that reason, but over many years. We shared many thoughts together when he was the UK representative in the United Nations before this assignment and a very distinguished ambassador to the European Union. I found on many occasions that I agreed with him.

I welcome very much the contents, detail and tenor of this report. It is naturally magisterial, which I believe is a very good thing. This is a complicated exercise and needs a lot of attention and detailed investigation and examination. It also has that underlying radical background; it is exquisitely cautious about not going too far, because these are the early days of a transitional stage. We have been going through stage two—if you take stage one as going to the end of the Cold War and stage two going from then to round about now. There is a seemingly general acceptance in all quarters of the urgent need really to get going on a modern reform of the UN and its structures.

I personally hope that that will mean a greater role for the General Assembly. I agree with the suggestion in the report of shorter agendas, as I believe that the General Assembly has lost its vitality. That is also mentioned in this excellent report. It needs revitalisation and revamping. A lot is at stake in trying to get it right, if the Security Council is to be the primary mechanism in the United Nations for getting decisions launched—particularly urgent decisions, peace-keeping operations and all the rest of the future apparatus—depending on the final outcome of the decisions made about this report, the way in which people deal with it in the UN and elsewhere, and the way in which other international bodies such as the European Union and NATO react to these suggestions.

It is a matter of making the United Nations more credible, effective and more seemingly and apparently fair to everybody in the world, and not just to a limited collection of the advanced and wealthy nations. which has hitherto been the case, for good or ill. One could say that post-1945, with a different kind of atmosphere in the United States, a lot of good came out of the fact that the United States was the overwhelming power, with probably well over 90 per cent of total output in the advanced western world at that stage, when Europe was absolutely in ruins. One might compare the good that the United States did then to the huge power that it has now, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, and whether that power will be used sensibly in future.

However, I believe that the Americans have learned some lessons from recent events. The United Nations had to catch up ex post, which is not always a very satisfactory position. to authenticate and certificate the operations in Iraq after the armed conflict had come to the then conclusion—although, as we know, there is an even greater conflict in Iraq now. But there was a possibility of the Americans coming to their senses and agreeing to be respectable and respectful—and I use that adjective deliberately—to members of the international community.

I share the aspirations expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and other noble Lords, that there is no sin, and no need for us to apologise, if we insist on a proper examination, investigation, scrutiny and specific detailed research into why terrorist campaigns are ever launched. That is just basic international common sense, and does not mean approval of those campaigns. Only a short time ago, it was impossible for us even to refer to that matter without people tut-tutting on a massive scale. The examination of what state terrorism means is increasingly important, too, unless it is going to be stopped by a more powerful United Nations structure and apparatus in future.

The United Nations must fairly represent the whole world. In a way, it is a bit akin to the achievement of universal franchise in one single country, and all the history of those processes for us in Europe. mostly in the last century and the one before it, rather than more recently. But in the rest of the world now, universal franchise in a different mathematical and structural sense, in the UN and for all the 190 member states, with the recent increase in the number of countries, is essential.

We have lots of lessons for the Americans and the British, as well as other countries, from Iraq and Iran in recent times, and, looking further back, from Vietnam. I visited that country twice and saw the mistakes that the Americans made there. There is also the crisis in the near east in recent times, and the American overuse of the veto vis-à-vis Israel, for obvious reasons—to protect Israel and ensure that it is a secure country. It was an impressive new country after 1948, which deserved its security and safety. None the less, it does have to become part of the solution to the near east crisis as it is now unfolding. That situation looks much more optimistic.

The millennium review is also extremely important. For the UK, there is a lesson to be learned. I refer to the wise words of my noble friend Lord Wallace, in the latest Chatham House publication on international affairs. He said that the special relationship no longer exists with the United States, and therefore the reality is that we can help to shape American policy in Britain only if we do so with other countries.

Armed with all these new thoughts for the future, and an ability to finance properly and support the UN in its modern form, giving a fair and balanced say to everybody—as well as looking very closely at the veto system, which I believe has many flaws and should be substantially changed, although that is referred to only in the margins in the report—we will begin to make progress. It is a difficult uphill road, even now. This report is only the beginning, but at least it is a very strong beginning.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Morris of Aberavon

My Lords, my generation was brought up to believe in the United Nations. The first political speech of any significance that I made was at the time of Suez, when our slogan was, "Law, not war". Against that background, I welcome the enormous work in the report of the high-level panel, and in particular I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, one of its distinguished members, for his work and for today's elucidation.

There must always be a way forward, otherwise a body, even the UN, will wither on the vine and become less and less relevant. Like our common law, it must adapt to meet today's challenges, which are not the same as those of 1945. We are reminded of the words of Harry Truman at the final plenary session of UNO's founding conference. He said: We all have to recognise—no matter how great our strength—that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please". The report claims that the notion that, all States should seek Security Council authorization … is not a time honoured principle … Our analysis suggests quite the opposite". I hope to deal with only one aspect of the report—the use of force. The US and ourselves were right to seek Security Council support for going to war against Iraq. Whatever the legalities of our position, it was politically prudent to seek fresh Security Council approval. It was a matter of regret that it was not obtained. I fear that the report is a little too complacent when it seeks to draw out some advantage or a lesson from that failure, in stating that although the Security Council did not deter war, it provided a clear and principled standard with which to assess the decision to go to war. I have doubts about that.

I turn to a problem with which I was associated when I was Her Majesty's Attorney-General. The report reminds us that in Kosovo paralysis in the Security Council led NATO to bypass the United Nations. I had to develop and hone a doctrine that had been enunciated in 1991, relating to the Kurds. On the evidence available, another human catastrophe was developing. NATO felt the need to act urgently. Perhaps it is too crude an analogy to compare the situation with having your house burgled, when there is no time to check whether the police authority will deploy its resources.

NATO had no hope of getting Security Council authorisation for action to avert the overwhelming human catastrophe that we foresaw; by then it would be over and done with. When challenged, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, dealt with the matter on 16 November 1998—and, if I may say so, with respect, correctly. Noble Lords will not be surprised that her views and mine coincided. She said: There is no general doctrine of humanitarian necessity in international law. Cases have nevertheless arisen (as in northern Iraq in 1991) when, in the light of all the circumstances, a limited use of force was justifiable in support of purposes laid down by the Security Council but without the council's express authorisation when that was the only means to avert an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. Such cases would in the nature of things be exceptional and would depend on an objective assessment of the factual circumstances at the time and on the terms of relevant decisions of the Security Council bearing on the situation in question".—[Official Report, 16/11/98; col. WA 140.]

From the tenor of the report, this is a contested view. The nearest guidance in the report is by analogy of action taken under Article 51 on self-defence, where the threat in question is not imminent but is claimed to be real such as the acquisition of nuclear weapons. The arguments on both sides are set out in paragraph 189. I fear that it would be too much of a strain to use the answer in paragraph 190 as guidance; that is, wait for the Security Council to cover the circumstances which I faced of an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe.

We believed that time was not on our side in Kosovo. It is in the public domain—not at my behest I assure noble Lords—that for 69 of the 70 days of that war I as Attorney had to approve each and every military target to ensure on the information available that we complied with the Geneva Convention. That I sought to do as best I could. The point is made in paragraph 200 of the report, regarding the rejection of non-intervention in internal affairs, that, genocidal acts or other atrocities, such as large-scale violations of international humanitarian law or large-scale ethnic cleansing … can properly be considered a threat to international security and as such provoke action by the Security Council". However, the report admits in paragraph 202 that as regards disasters in Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo and now Darfur: The Security Council so far has been neither very consistent … in dealing with these cases, very often acting too late, too hesitantly or not at all". I wish I had the confidence expressed in the report that the emerging norm for intervention is exercisable by the Security Council in all circumstances and, by implication, always and only by the Security Council, and that a future Attorney-General of this country will not have the burden of such cases as I had thrust upon me in my watch.

Given the emphasis in paragraph 94 on the UN working closely with regional organisations, does it help when the likes of NATO and not a powerful state takes action? Bearing in mind the words I quoted of Harry Truman, whatever the practical problems on the way, we must continue to pursue the ideas of the founding fathers. Because of that I commend the work of the high-level panel although I have touched only on a small portion of its work.

4.53 p.m.

Lord Dahrendorf

My Lords, first, I want to associate myself with those who have congratulated my noble friend Lord Hannay not only on securing this debate but also on his contribution to the report that we are debating. It is a subtle yet clear report that takes us a few steps further in the direction of an international order of law and liberty.

Given a few more minutes I would have wished to comment on the proposal for a peace-building commission, which I support, and on the need for more emphasis on the strictly humanitarian tasks of the United Nations, although the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury commented on those in a very moving and memorable manner. Instead, I shall concentrate, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, just did, on the critical issue of the challenge of prevention. We have to move beyond Westphalia; that is, beyond the assumption that there cannot be valid grounds for interference in the internal affairs of states.

In paragraph 203 the report makes an extremely important point: We endorse the emerging norm that there is a collective international responsibility to protect, exercisable by the Security Council authorizing military intervention as a last resort, in the event of genocide and other large-scale killing, ethnic cleansing or serious violations of international humanitarian law which sovereign Governments have proved powerless or unwilling to prevent".

I am one of those who supported military intervention in Iraq, not primarily because of the external threats issuing from the regime of Saddam Hussein, nor even because of the alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction, but because in my view the international community must not tolerate murderous tyrannies. At the time I referred to Germany a year before it started the Second World War as a case in point. Leaving aside for the moment what went wrong in the case of Iraq, it remains a matter of critical interest to create an international system that allows interference, if necessary by force. To an extent we have such a system. Poverty elimination by international action is in fact massive interference.

In some regions of the world interference beyond Westphalia goes much further. On another occasion in your Lordships' House I have praised the Copenhagen criteria of the European Union. They involve massive interference designed to strengthen democracy, the rule of law and the framework of market economies in accession countries. One day we will perhaps have such criteria for the whole world.

For the moment, however, we are concerned with the prevention of genocide, large-scale killing and gross violations of human rights. What can the international community do, and how? The report by the high-level panel is quite clear that it should act through the United Nations. Such action includes the use of force as a last resort under certain conditions which are spelt out in paragraph 207 and include recognition of the "balance of consequences". The report asks at paragraph 207: Is there a reasonable chance of the military action being successful in meeting the threat in question, with the consequences of action not likely to be worse than the consequences of inaction"?

For some of us that has now become the Iraq question. However, more importantly, it is recognised that in some cases what has come to be called "soft power" is not enough. The power of persuasion and even economic sanctions has to be backed up as a last resort by the "hard power" of military force. Even in the case of Iran, the success of European negotiators in persuading that Government to desist from their nuclear programme will ultimately depend not on their charm but on the perceived threat of intervention by the hard power of the United States or perhaps of Israel.

This takes us to the Achilles' heel of the report as regards prevention by force which is, of course, the Security Council. Somewhere along the line when meeting the challenge of prevention the UN Security Council comes into play. As we know from the somewhat unseemly process preceding the Iraq war, the Security Council is not evidently the guarantor of the principles to which I have alluded.

One must fear that much of the debate about reform of the Security Council will focus on secondary issues such as the number of its members. There will be no change in the veto powers of the Big Five, nor will there be new alternative routes to legitimise action if decisions in the council are blocked. The report has some sensible suggestions about what the Security Council should do when it comes to decisions, with large-scale life-and-death impact". The report states in paragraph 205 that those decisions should be, better made, better substantiated and better communicated". This does not alter the fact that the Security Council remains a brittle instrument.

Accepting this as a fact of life in the world as it is, we are left with alternatives of doubtful effect and limited relevance. I have felt for some time that it would be helpful in terms of international legitimacy if we had something like an OPCD, an organisation for political co-operation and development of the democracies of the world, in analogy to the OECD for market economies. In any case, it seems imperative that the three veto powers that clearly represent a free world sing from the same hymn sheet and vote in unison on critical issues concerning prevention. If in addition their case is "better substantiated and better communicated", it would help. Beyond that, coalitions of the willing will, for some time yet, remain one instrument in the prevention of gross violations of human rights.

The report that we are debating is a useful step forward, but it also reminds us how far we have yet to go to achieve the hope of a liberal world order.

5 p.m.

Lord Patel

My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, for securing this debate, and I congratulate him on the excellent report with which he was involved.

In the time available to me, I will restrict my comments to recommendation 8 of the report, which reads: International donors, in partnership with national authorities and local civil society organisations, should undertake a major new global initiative to rebuild local and national public health systems throughout the developing world". I will link this to the millennium development goal 5 targets of reducing maternal mortality by 75 per cent by 2015; for this is one area where there has been little, if any, progress.

Over 600,000 women a year die in pregnancy or childbirth. A further 20 million to 25 million end up with lifelong serious disability; some 2 million with obstetric fistula alone. If the developing countries were to achieve the millennium development goal 5 targets, countries such as Chad would still be at 75 per cent of the level England was at a century ago; and it has no hope of reaching Japan's current ratio even by the end of this century. The sad fact is that the poor countries of the world are nowhere near achieving the targets. As stated in the recent report Investing in Development, maternal mortality remains shockingly high in every region of the world, reflecting a low priority for women and poor access to care. The best evidence suggests that sub-Saharan Africa, south-east Asia, south Asia and Oceania are unlikely to meet their targets on current trends. Women in those countries have a right to safe pregnancy and childbirth. The solution is political, not new medical science, as recognised in the DfID strategy paper.

There is progress in countries where there is a political will; Malaysia and Sri Lanka are good examples. There are also some successful projects, such as those run by Columbia University's Averting Maternal Death and Disability Program, financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Much of the failure to make progress in the past five years and beyond has been due to the hitherto failed strategy of programmes of identifying women at risk of complications and death in pregnancy. A development of high-quality healthcare systems at district level is required. We also need to deal with emergencies. We need a system that is adequately financed and staffed with appropriately trained, adequate numbers of healthcare workers who are adequately rewarded: a service that is accessible and benefits rich and poor alike.

Importantly, the monitoring of the progress of development of such services should be an intrinsic part of the millennium development goal initiative, which currently it is not. The very structure and function of the health system must be considered. Health claims, claims of entitlement to healthcare and enabling conditions are assets of citizenship. Their effective assertion is an indication of how the operation of the health system helps to build a human rights culture and a stronger, more democratic society. In access to health services, wide disparities based on wealth, geographic area, urban or rural, race and other divisions must be eliminated. Health systems should be understood as core social institutions which are indispensable for reducing poverty and advancing the democratic development of human rights.

To increase equity, policies should strengthen the legitimacy of well-governed states, prevent segmentation of health systems, and enhance the power of the poor and marginalised so that they too can make equal claims to healthcare. Such an effective system is essential for saving the lives not only of women but of newborns and children under five. It is also essential for coping with other major killers in poor countries, including tuberculosis, HIV and malaria. Without such a system, even programmes such as anti-retroviral drug delivery systems will not work. To develop an effective healthcare system at district level, both the developing and developed countries need to address some key policy issues. For the developing countries, human resources are of paramount importance, for without adequate and appropriately trained healthcare providers none of the health-related millennium goals are likely to be achieved. Laws and practices that hinder capacity-building of healthcare workers, including salaries and career development and the use of skills of mid-level providers are all issues that need to be addressed.

Another issue is the funding of the system. In 2001, the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health determined that a basic package of primary healthcare would cost about 34 dollars per capita per year. In most poor countries of sub-Saharan Africa, health expenditure is in the range of one to 10 dollars per capita. Health funding clearly needs to be increased. To make services accessible, user fees need to be removed, which is a common problem in many countries. Developed countries need to do more by increasing development aid, and recent proposals on this are welcome. There needs to be increased allocation to the health sector, discouraging user fees for basic healthcare services; commitment to long-term investment; and removal of restrictions on the funding of salaries and recurrent costs. There is a need for donor funding to be better co-ordinated and aligned with national health programmes.

The UK is centre stage for pushing for some of these changes and in setting a new agenda to achieve health-related millennium development goal targets. DfID is well-respected internationally, and in this field it is considered the world's ideas department. I hope that the Government will take this opportunity.

5.8 p.m.

Lord Bramall

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hannay for drawing attention to this UN report. For a military man to concentrate more on strategy and organisation to meet specific challenges and threats in the future makes a welcome respite from the nitty-gritty of arguing ad infinitum about the mismatch between funding and current commitments. To do this, it became incumbent to read this long document, which has been as well and coherently written as is possible with such tricky inter-connected themes that must meet the points of view and susceptibilities over a wide spectrum of opinion.

The first thing that strikes me about this ambitious attempt is that it appears to be the antithesis of the doctrine set out with such clarity and utmost simplicity by President George W. Bush in his inaugural address. Ofcourse, there are sentiments in common, not least the need for better international control of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; but the President seemed to imply that about the only thing that really matters in securing a safer word was freedom—whatever that might mean in such a diverse, complicated world. It was, of course, perfectly clear what it meant on that courageously staged polling day in Iraq—and how good it was to see it, although it is not yet clear where that freedom will lead or how much it will provide the antidote to violence.

We are told that those who aspire to that freedom can rely on American support acting, by implication and some precedent, unilaterally and where necessary using whatever force is required. In contrast, the UN report emphasises shared collective responsibility, with the closest connection between the more obvious threats and the underlying social and economic conditions that prevail in various areas. The inherent weakness with the UN report is that, in recognising the sovereignty of individual states, it is dependent on their good will and funding to put into operation the collective security and other sensible measures that it proposes. That may take a while; meanwhile, they will be heavily dependent on existing alliances for implementation, such as NATO and the European Union, which could operate with a proper mandate outside their borders. Even the very useful criteria for legitimate use of military force—serious and presumably imminent threat, proper purpose. last resort and balance of consequences—would hardly have passed muster for the invasion of Iraq but, after 9/11, would certainly not have deterred the Americans from attacking.

The weakness and danger of the doctrine expounded by the President is that surely, in the 21st century with the UN and the Security Council firmly established and generally belatedly accepted as the mainspring of international law, no country—unless you believe that might is right—has divine authority. The President described it as a mission from beyond the stars arbitrarily, and circumventing the UN if necessary, to rearrange the pieces on an international scale to meet America's own goals—however worthy, albeit imprecise, those goals may be. Happily, the new American Secretary of State—echoing the previous one, I am sure—mentioned a return to diplomacy. I hope that, in practice, the policy will not turn out to be as disturbing to non-Americans as it first appeared. However, the snag is that if you have too much upfront military force backing up what otherwise would be purely diplomatic heavy breathing, a move towards an unnecessary war may become irreversible.

I shall revert to the high-level panel and how this country should be able to give its report a lair wind. Our Armed Forces are ideally organised and trained, with our Special Forces able to bring to justice or help host nations to bring to justice those accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. More generally, because of their wide combat experience, they can act as peacekeepers—which of course needs the tacit agreement of both sides involved in the dispute—or even peace enforcers under a UN mandate. The Royal Navy, operating in the same way, can make a major contribution in enforcing sanctions as part of the improved international arrangements for so doing.

It is undoubtedly important to tackle the causes of terrorism, genocide and interstate war, as well as developing better international co-operation—including sensible control of nuclear deterrents—for countering such things, all with the aim of controlling and avoiding major military conflict if you possibly can. The report says that the best way of achieving that is by working through the UN and obtaining the greatest possible consensus in the various areas. Our contribution of diplomacy and aid—which I hope is dynamic—intelligence, security and the military import of the passing on of expertise through training and advisers and, if necessary, the highly selective use of force would all have a part to play. That is the important lesson that I draw out of the report. All must work to a common strategy in close conjunction with one another, not least in Cabinet, to try to achieve the necessary funding.

The working in Whitehall may even need to be adjusted, because that co-ordination has let us down in the past. A common strategy is absolutely vital if we are to have a sensible dialogue with the Americans, to speak in Europe to try to induce a sensible common policy and, above all, to support fully the United Nations. Perhaps we need to change our organisation a little. Something more on the lines of the American National Security Committee, to which all departments would report and from which they would get guidance, might suit the bill a hit better.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, 13 October was the international day for disaster reduction. On that day, a new hoard game called "Riskland" was launched by the UN to help young people to respond to natural disasters. It may have been too late for the tsunami, but it could help many young people at risk in the future. Model United Nations in universities are another example of education. I mention education because it shows how far the UN is prepared to go in its duty of care towards our world that it can create one day for disaster reduction, another for children, another for micro-credit, and so on. But if there is no limit on the extent of our concerns, we must not be surprised if resources will not extend to all of them.

The high level panel has confined itself to the major issues, and so will I, while thanking my noble friend Lord Hannay for this opportunity. He himself appreciates that there are clear limits on the global outreach which even this report proposes. What concerns me is the lack of respect for the UN which is often the consequence of incapacity and failure.

Paragraph 87 refers to failures in Rwanda and the Balkans, but that section makes no mention, apart from Iraq, of the near east, where for decades the UN has had to act without a proper mandate. The treatment of UNRWA by Israel is a sorry story, showing how for historical reasons one state can occupy and oppress another in breach of successive UN resolutions. Of course, one major power can frustrate even its allies, as we have seen with the road map. The continuous humiliation of Mr Hansen's UN staff at the hands of the Israel Defence Force has shocked the entire aid community. Similarly, blue helmets have been no protection for Palestinian refugees. The world has already forgotten the terrors of Sabra and Chatila. The families there have not, and their conclusion is that the international community has counted for nothing.

I am surprised that the powder keg in the Middle East, which in many ways led up to 2001, has not been identified by the panel among the great failures. On the other hand, I regard Afghanistan as a qualified success, but it should not be measured by only the US definition of liberty. The US/UK view of democracy does not coincide with that of the United Nations or many of its members, which believe that the war against terrorism has been more about the defence of liberty in the West than the freedom of Afghans or Iraqis. Against that background, and recognising the role of the coalition and NATO's belated reinforcement of 1SAF, the UN can boast a real achievement. That is best seen in UNAMA's organisation of the presidential elections with a minimum of casualties, which gave Afghans a genuine sense of peace and even unity, not least during the election itself.

If the US and the UK had preserved the original international coalition that supported the war against the Taliban and taken a genuinely UN-backed force into Iraq—I take the point about UN legitimacy, but that is different—the subsequent climate leading up to the elections in Iraq last weekend would have been very different. The UN itself and the humanitarian agencies would never have been so identified with the enemy as the Ba'athists have been able to demonstrate. Here again, it was the failure not of the UN but of the so-called coalition that allowed that to happen. Much as I admire the achievements of our forces on the ground, who should have been truly multinational, the political atmosphere was so poisoned by the war of occupation that civilians have suffered disproportionately. Even aid workers with stretchers, as has happened for so long in Gaza and the West Bank, were sometimes seen as legitimate targets.

This brings me to the section in the report on Chapter 7 and collective security. Paragraph 194 states, rather lamely, that, the Council must be prepared to be much more proactive". It adds that states must, not reduce the Council to impotence", or, undermine confidence in the UN", but, work from within to reform it". That is fair enough, but the question is how?

In my view, to be effective, the council has to move closer, not further away from, its more powerful members. I am all for enlarging the council, whichever model is used, because that will reflect the changed circumstances since 1945—and, of course, I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd, about universality. But until there is more shared understanding of the world by all the present permanent members, including the United States, we are not so far away from the end of the Cold War. It would be most unwise to alter the balance of card-carrying members now and that has been recognised by the panel.

The realpolitik of world order will always be a step ahead—some would say a step behind—the desired international or UN framework and the veto, while it must be periodically reviewed, must reflect that reality. At the same time it is urgent to restore confidence in the UN and to give it the strongest mandate in the field of international development, where it can be most effective—as we have heard from my noble friend Lord Patel. Paragraph 249 sets this out admirably. Whether the issue is HIV/AIDS, immunisation, refugees or emergencies, the designated UN agencies have, on the whole, an excellent reputation with the aid community and we are going through a period where developed nations are becoming increasingly aware of their responsibilities. The UK's DFID and FCO have a clear opportunity to take a lead during the G8 and EU presidencies; although in the war against poverty, the PM and the Chancellor will have much to do just to bring the United States on side.

Finally, regarding peacekeeping, I return to my first point: that a new peace-building commission must not be tempted into every arena of potential conflict. You have to look only at the scale of the problem in some African countries such as the southern Sudan or Congo. That would be unrealistic and also looks rather bureaucratic. Thankfully, it will still be up to the Security Council to decide on priorities. The European Union will have a powerful and growing influence, but I personally feel that this report has too many expectations of what it calls "the principle troop contributors".

As the noble Baroness, Lady Park, said, the world's trained armies are already overstretched. I would like to see fewer troops and more civilian monitors. Let the UN membership improve its present performance by all means, but it cannot solve every problem which arises and we should not expect it.

5.23 p.m.

Lord Lea of Crondall

My Lords, I shall begin where the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, began his introduction to this excellent report by pointing out its two main themes—first, security and secondly, economics and poverty—and the connection between the two. I would go further and say that there is a trade-off. In a report on the west Balkans by the European Union Select Committee a couple of years ago, it was very obvious that there was, indeed, a trade-off. Some five billion dollars are spent each year, mainly by European countries, in the west Balkans and some one billion dollars are spent on development. Would it not be nice if they were the other way round? Perhaps it is facile to put it like that, but, in essence, that would be the most desirable solution in a broader context.

That argument has certain consequences. The aim is to get economic development going and increase the gross national product per head by some 7 per cent per annum. But the arithmetic shows that we cannot reach those world development goals. It is, of course, an ambitious target. Frankly. it will not be reached, but it focuses our mind on what is needed to attempt to reach it. For those people who do not like measuring economic growth per head, because it leads to unsustainability, that issue must be put alongside the need to address the unsustainable population growth in Africa and elsewhere. That is a question which the report probably ducked. We all understand the sensitivities of talking about sexual behaviour, but we cannot achieve a sustainable world with the current African population growth rates—albeit cut back by HIV/AIDS.

I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give broad support to the report—even at the UN, where they should suggest a two part procedure. First, to get the UN General Assembly to give the report broad support and secondly, to examine the trade-offs in detail. That two-part technique was used in the lead-up to the Earth Summit in Rio, in which I participated, in 1992. It was a condition for its success and the general agreement to get on with the climate change procedures which led up to emissions trading agreements and so on.

We must pass on the question of the composition of the UN Security Council, which is as difficult a topic as the composition of the House of Lords, and has as many interests that point in opposite directions. I shall leave that thought there. Germany and Brazil will, I guess, be successful candidates, but perhaps I may pick up a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, about the regionalisation of the UN. At the Earth Summit, due to the topic, it was the UN that recognised the EU as the main negotiating partner and, given the growth of the diplomatic service and so on that is envisaged under the European constitutional treaty, there will be more areas where it is the European Union that speaks.

There is an interesting example of the relationship between the EU and the three putative members of the Security Council—one without the veto, and Britain and France who have it—namely, the process begun by Joschka Fischer, de Villepin and Jack Straw on the question of Iran. We are now calling it the "EU three". That is tabloid journalism, but one can never be sure in the European Union, because they report back to the Council of Ministers and that may be a way of squaring the circle between the nation state and regionalism.

What is needed economically to achieve the 7 per cent target is an increase in foreign direct investment. Africa has 10 per cent of the world's population and only 1 per cent of foreign direct investment—and it is not growing. I was struck by a remark made by Kofi Annan on that subject. He is not normally a sound bite man, but he said that Africa's problem was, "not too much globalisation, but too little". The more I think about that, the more I think that that was a wise remark and certainly not the heresy that is perceived in such a remark by some people.

At the moment there is so much diversion of funds in both official aid and in foreign direct investment that money winds up in Switzerland. As someone quipped the other day, Switzerland is not a country which should be the primary recipient of aid". Perhaps we should all say, "hear, hear" to that. The sub-committee of the EU Select Committee of which I am a member, along with the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, once we have completed our current study of weapons of mass destruction, will carry out a study later this year on European Union and African Union relations, strengthening the peer group review and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that a mandatory inspection regime for biological weapons would be a step forward. There is a precedent for that in current custom and practice. 1 ran a World Trade Union study following Chernobyl. We agreed with Hans Blix, who is giving evidence tomorrow to our committee, mandatory safety inspections of RBMK reactors, to which we eventually persuaded the Russians to agree. So one can have many forms of interference in the internal affairs of member States. I have noticed how many contributors today have said that in one form or another.

In the time available, I want to say a few words on the remarkable Chapter 5 on weapons of mass destruction and non-proliferation. Coming up to the review of the treaty in June this year, I hope that the British Government recognise that at the conference table the majority of nations in the UN will go for that chapter as the default position. It is worth mentioning that they criticise current nuclear states for failing to address the question of disarmament, a commitment in the non-proliferation treaty. Pages 39 and 40 of the report indicate the view that we are approaching a point where the non-proliferation regime could become irreversible. Page 41 indicates the belief that it would be valuable if the Security Council explicitly pledged to take collective action in response to a nuclear attack or the threat of such attack on a non-nuclear weapons state.

I do not believe that this is the Achilles' heel, as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, said, but I ask Her Majesty's Government to act positively in reply to this debate.

5.31 p.m.

Lord Owen

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Hannay and his colleagues deserve our congratulations on the report. If for no other reason, the definition of "terrorism", which is long overdue, is excellent and I hope that it is endorsed by the General Assembly.

I shall concentrate on what I believe are the deficiencies in the report. A great opportunity was lost in failing to define "humanitarian intervention", very much along the lines expressed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon. I agreed with every word of his speech. We obtained UN Security Council cover for the much-needed humanitarian intervention to protect the Kurds—and they needed protection right up to the moment Saddam Hussein was toppled—but Kosovo stretched the interpretation of the charter far too much. The elastic was mighty tight and I do not believe that we should be placed in that situation again. An explanation of "intervention" would have been a great help and it is a great sadness that it did not arise.

Secondly, how on earth it will help the Commission on Human Rights—one of the most discredited entities in the UN at the moment—to have every single member of the UN as a member of the commission, I cannot understand. This is a commission—we are not asked to have a general assembly on human rights. It is right that the members should be experts, but they should speak from countries which have earned their place on the commission. It should be restricted. All members of the Security Council must be on the commission—that is a reality of power—but all other members should be voted on by the Security Council and subject to veto. In that way, we would have a much more effective commission. Then by all means it can make its detailed recommendations and have them discussed by the General Assembly. But the recommendation is a cop-out against what was requested by both Kofi Annan and by the late Sergio Viera de Mello, both of whom had great experience of this issue. It was a most disappointing recommendation.

On the Security Council membership, it made some sensible suggestions. It was right on there being no expansion of the veto. Five is more than enough, but it is an essential element in getting some realpolitik into the organisation. I hope that if, for instance, the African Union comes up with proposals for rotation to allow it to deal with the problem of Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa all bidding for membership, that will be accepted. I find it impossible to believe that Nigeria, the largest country in Africa and the richest, can be excluded. I understand the fashion which accepts South Africa and Egypt, but I do not believe that it is a realistic representation. The AU has appointed 15 Foreign Ministers to look at the whole question and I hope that they will make sensible proposals.

I want to deal with the question of how the Security Council can develop more collective coherence and discipline among its members. That is really the mess we got ourselves into over Iraq. There was not that self-discipline, responsibility or the necessary give and take.

We are seeing that in respect of Darfur and the recommendation, which I believe is right, that the Security Council should use its powers under the Rome Treaty to refer cases to the International Criminal Court. But the Government are coming under great attack for refusing to go along with the European Union and make a decision now on the matter. I believe that the Government are absolutely right. They are a member of the Security Council; they will have to negotiate this text; they will have to compromise; and they are absolutely right not to be mandated by the EU.

Here we are seeing one of the problems that we will face on the ratification of the EU constitution. Article III 305(12) is in my view impossibly drafted for anyone to interpret it effectively and still retain credible membership of the Security Council. The Government are refusing to be pushed into adopting an EU position. I believe that they want to be able to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court, but there must be negotiations on the text.

In that, we have been greatly helped by an article in today's Financial Times, by David Schefer, a former US ambassador at large for war crimes issues. He makes it clear that, a resolution could be written to confine the ICC's jurisdiction to Sudanese suspects and territory and a limited period. The resolution could recommend to the General Assembly that any UN finding for the ICC investigation of Darfur should be voluntary. It could also exempt from surrender to the ICC any multinational forces deployed to Darfur by nations not party to the ICC". These would be significant movements in the direction of the United States, but what is wrong with that? It happens to be a veto power and a realistic power. Those of us who have said that the way through for the International Criminal Court is to have more references to the Security Council must recognise that that is the kind of negotiation that should take place.

On the other hand, there is another proposal. It is that the African Union should come together and use the Arusha tribunal for Rwanda. I do not believe that that is a good proposal, but I can understand that it might have attraction for the African Union. It is worried about some of the courts in Europe and there were problems from the International Court on Yugoslavia the further it went from Yugoslavia to the Hague. There were difficulties. These are all important issues to be discussed and we must get around the problem. It is not only the United States that has not agreed to the ICC—Russia, China and India have not agreed to it. We must therefore take into the Security Council more of these powers. It will be necessary for Britain, France and Germany, if they come on to the Security Council as permanent members, to make it clear to the EU that we cannot be mandated and be effective members of the Security Council. We must go there and be ready to negotiate and we must develop the concept of the Security Council in its membership—permanent and rotating members—of a collective feeling of people who are trying to lead the world in a responsible way. In that spirit will come the use of force on issues over Iraq and Iran.

I agree so much with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. In my view, changes in the charter are not needed on the use of force. It is a delicate judgment. The basic fact is that the Security Council can do what it wants if it can get agreement—the question is how to get agreement. Here we must get a responsible spread of membership across the world. That is essential. It will probably be a bit too large, but there it be. We must then develop the collective will to help govern the world more coherently and constructively than we have done in the past.

5.39 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool

My Lords, the whole House is indebted to my noble friend Lord Hannay for the clarity which he showed when he introduced the report, "A more secure world: Our shared responsibility", and for the way in which he opened our debate today.

The high-level panel's report calls for a radical reappraisal of how we deal with conflict. In the case of Africa, this cannot come a day too soon. I want later in my remarks to follow up the comments made by my noble friend Lord Owen just a few moments ago on the referral of events in Darfur to the International Criminal Court.

Every day in Africa, some 30,000 children die of hunger; 20 per cent of African children do not live past the age of six; and, while many countries stricken by poverty climb towards prosperity, more than half the people in sub-Saharan Africa subsist on less than one dollar a day. Tackling these challenges will be impossible without first stopping the conflict and violence. These issues are inextricably woven together. Our record hitherto in preventing and policing conflict has been lamentable.

A few weeks ago, I visited a genocide site in Rwanda. More than 58,000 people were butchered at Muramba. International peacekeepers—a point alluded to by my noble friend earlier when he opened the debate—simply looked on. Rwandan officials told me that the peacekeepers later played volleyball on the volleyball court that was built over one of the mass graves. I saw the site where the French raised their national flag while the killings proceeded without impediment.

During the same period, the UN French diplomats worked with the then Secretary-General, Boutros Ghali, to withhold from the Security Council any information about the genocide. That abject failure to act was subsequently described by President Clinton as, the greatest regret of my presidency". Ten years ago, 1 million people died in the Rwandan genocide. Two of the most abused words are perhaps "never again". Too often they become a meaningless slogan. It was hard not to have that bitter thought and legacy in my mind as I went on to Darfur and visited the Democratic Republic of Congo. There, according to the United Nations, in the four years after 1998 more than 3.5 million deaths occurred from the beginning of the war up to 2002.

Listening earlier to the words of the most reverend Primate, who talked about the use of child soldiers, I recalled Amnesty's point that some 40 per cent of those involved in the militias in the Congo are children. Taken together—3.5 million dead in the Congo; 1 million in Rwanda; 2 million in southern Sudan; a further 70,000 in Darfur; and I million in Uganda—these 6 million fatalities must surely constitute deaths on a scale comparable with Europe's Great War.

In the Congo, the UN belatedly responded with its UN mission for the Congo (MONUC). Not only has it failed to disarm up to 10,000 lnterahamwe Rwandan genocidaires, still ravaging the east of the Congo and remaining as a threat to Rwanda itself, but MONUC was severely criticised only a month ago for its own depredations against civilians. Peacekeepers need to be properly trained, well led and disciplined.

Among its remedies, the high-level panel recommends the creation of a peace-building commission and the greater use of regionally recruited peacekeepers. But, without adequate funding and sustained capacity-building, these regional forces have no chance of success.

Let us take Darfur as an example. Sending a few hundred African Union soldiers into an area the size of France without proper training or, indeed, without giving them an adequate mandate might salve our conscience but it simply creates an illusion of an international response—an illusion is all that it is. Furthermore, if it fails, it runs the risk of discrediting the African Union—the very organisation that we want to see develop and succeed.

Meanwhile, in Darfur, the international community continues to dither. And where has that dithering in Darfur left us? Seventy thousand are dead; 700 villages have been razed to the ground; 1.8 million people are displaced; and 2.2 million people are dependent on aid. In a 244-page report published yesterday, the UN says that there were genocidal elements at work and that widespread crimes were committed against humanity, including the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war. Those are not historic events. A report published a few days ago by the BBC describes how: Up to 105 civilians are thought to have died in fresh fighting in Sudan's Darfur region … One village was practically destroyed in the violence and more than 9,000 people were displaced. a spokesman told a news conference in Khartoum". Of course, these attacks have been aided and abetted from the air by Sudanese government forces, who have armed the Janjaweed. During my own visit in the autumn, I detailed first-hand accounts of this kind of atrocity, and the Minister will recall that I gave her a copy of the report at that time. There were then some 50,000 dead, and the number has now risen to 70,000.

Yesterday, the UN's report said that civilians were thrown on to fires to burn to death. Others were partially skinned. Girls as young as eight were raped. In Kailek in south Darfur, it said that the commission has heard credible accounts that those captured by the assailants were dragged along the ground by horses and camels from a noose placed around their necks. Witnesses described how a young man's eyes were gouged out. Once blinded, he was forced to run, and then shot dead. The report also confirms attacks by government soldiers and the Janjaweed in which women and children were gang-raped.

The UN report identified, but withheld from publication, the names of six members of the central government in Khartoum suspected of having committed international crimes against humanity. It went on to identify a further eight local government officials and 14 members of the Janjaweed.

Today, we need to know three things from Her Majesty's Government. First, will we be using our vote at the Security Council to support the UN panel's recommendation that those responsible for these atrocities should stand trial at the International Criminal Court and to withstand the US proposal for a local tribunal? Although I understand the point made by my noble friend a few moments ago, I do not believe that it would be an adequate substitute. Perhaps we should be urging our American allies at least not to use their veto to prevent a reference to the ICC and to give it a chance.

Secondly, yesterday the US called for the imposition of oil sanctions against Sudan. It is right to do so and we should support that. We need to know from Her Majesty's Government whether we will, indeed, support that approach.

Thirdly, for many months many of us have argued about the need for a no-fly zone over Darfur. In a letter to the Prime Minister yesterday signed by Mrs Kinnock MEP, Michael Ancram MP and Sir Menzies Campbell MP, on an all-party basis they called for precisely that.

Last year in a Chapter 7 resolution, the Security Council demanded the disarming of the Janjaweed. That was supposed to have happened by the end of August but we are still waiting. I entirely agree with what the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, said about the high-level panel's document on threats, challenges and change. It is thoughtful and well argued, but I and many others will judge the United Nations by its actions.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was right to avoid being apocalyptic, but he is right also to underline the need for urgency—nowhere more so than in Darfur. On 1 January, the Prime Minister wrote in the Economist that, Darfur remains a catastrophe, and we cannot turn … away from it". He has shown considerable courage and leadership elsewhere in the world, and I hope that he will do all he can to use our influence in the Security Council to bring this carnage to an end.

5.47 p.m.

Baroness Whitaker

My Lords, we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for leading several debates on the report so energetically here and elsewhere. It needs to reach a wide audience.

The high-level panel's interesting recommendations on human rights structure have not been much commented on, but strengthening UN human rights machinery is of cardinal importance to peace and security as part of the early warning system, for conflict arises when the denial of human rights is acute.

The recommendation that membership of the Human Rights Commission should be 100 per cent of UN membership has been controversial. But surely the report has a point in that all states, particularly malefactors, need to be drawn within and committed to the commission's remit, without endless pinhead discussions about conformity with criteria. I know the excellent High Commissioner, Louise Arbour, wants that.

But I would add that chairmanship of the session is another matter. Could not that be limited to those who can demonstrate respect for human rights? To have Saudi Arabia, Cuba or Libya as chair is hardly serious. Indonesia's Ambassador to the UN is the current chair.

What the report proposes is very constructive—a standing expert panel, in effect a considerable strengthening of the independent element, which would counter the pressure of the inevitable geographical rotation and the intergovernmental realpolitik which bedevils UN human rights decisions.

The report also emphasises that the national head of delegation should be a prominent and experienced human rights figure. Can my noble friend assure me that this is always our primary criterion? I would also add that the members should be able to vote in secret.

Independent preventive expertise would also be strengthened by uniformly high-quality special rapporteurs, although the report does not go into this; and formal links could well be established between the new—and most welcome—special adviser on genocide to the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and his role should be clearly defined with respect to the preventive operations of the High Commissioner.

The report's further recommendations, which deepen the involvement of the High Commissioner with the Security Council and the proposed peace-building commission, also drive further the mainstreaming of human rights in the operation of the UN. The last recommendation, eventually to give the Human Rights Commission equal status as a charter body with ECOSOC, to which it currently reports, would return human rights to the original weight, in the words of the report, which it had at the founding of the United Nations.

All these, together with funding well above the miserly current 2 per cent of the UN budget, would advance human rights as the lever it ought to be to maintain peace and security.

Permanent sessions, in particular, would allow much more dynamic co-ordination with the separate human rights treaty bodies, including that on the rights of the child. Here I think we can build on the report. The relationship of the treaty bodies and the Human Rights Commission needs to be developed. Unlike the charter bodies, they depend on state ratification. But very many states do ratify them, even the poor performers, and they are, as constituted, powerful disincentives to conflict. Of course, they are flouted. We can all think of places where their implementation would have avoided conflict. The rights of the citizens of Darfur come to mind, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, might agree.

The treaties oblige a periodic national report, to be defended in front of the treaty committee—as I have done, which was a bracing experience. The period is presently only every five years, which could be shorter, and one suggestion from the treaty bodies themselves is that laggards could face an examination of their implementation of the treaty as a whole. The national report can be accompanied by a paper by NGOs and analysis by country specialists. This is crucial because their observations are independent of governments.

There is no equivalent of the moderating influence of a parliament at the UN. But there are the treaty committees and, just as the Select Committees can call our government to account, the treaty committees—better resourced, better publicised and cultivating a cult of independence—could dramatically highlight breaches of human rights.

So we do have, in principle, the framework for signalling early warning of violations which could summon the attention of the Security Council and which could formally be linked to the Security Council through the Office of the High Commissioner.

There is one other area of human rights where breaches are very conducive to conflict: minority rights. Here considerable strengthening at the centre is necessary. The UN Declaration of Minority Rights has very little machinery: one working group which meets very briefly once a year. I would support the minority rights group's proposal to add more capacity in relation to minorities to the Office of the High Commissioner, again as an independent adviser, and with conflict prevention expertise.

The UK is in a strong position to press for the implementation of the high-level panel's excellent recommendations on human rights, and for equal weight to be given to strengthening the human rights treaty bodies and the minority rights work, because of our record in both propagating and implementing human rights. Few other countries have the equivalent of the Foreign Office's human rights report. The UK is the third largest contributor, after the US and the EU, to the Office of the High Commissioner. so I hope my noble friend can assure us of support for further work.

5.54 p.m.

Baroness Greengross

My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, on securing this wide-ranging debate and for his role in producing the UN report. It highlights the importance of interconnectedness in development—in particular, the interconnection between extreme poverty and terrorism—and declared that a secure future for us all depends on alleviating such poverty. That is why the whole world has a collective responsibility to make sure that the pillars of development—security, equity and human rights—support all people's lives.

I wish to concentrate on the second of the four core threats identified in the committee's report, economic and social threats, especially in the context of Africa. I thank HelpAge International and declare an interest as one of its board members. Poverty is, of course, associated with civil war and violence. It is the poorest and least able to defend themselves who bear the brunt, and the consequences, of this violence. It is important that we consider how the chronically poor—those who are old, disabled, unemployed and very young—can benefit from action on this collective responsibility.

One quarter of the poor in the world live in sub-Saharan Africa. They are one in six of the general population, and one in three of the poor are chronically poor. The chronically poor are the majority of the 900 million people who will still be in poverty even if the millennium development goals are met by 2015. The chronically poor have benefited least from economic growth and development, and 100 million of those individuals are older people. Key features of chronic poverty include its duration, the difficulty of getting out of it and its intergenerational transfer. There is a clear need for targeted support in the form of cash and other material transfers, as well as incentives to support integration into the workforce through education and retraining.

I have spoken in other debates in your Lordships' House about the impact of demography. The developing world's older population is forecast to rise hugely. A concentration on the rights of children, so movingly described by the most reverend Primate, is right, but we must not forget that there can hardly be a child in the world with no family, no parents, grandparents or extended kin.

It is very old poor women who are attacked and evicted from property in Africa and Asia, often accused of witchcraft. It is older women bringing firewood to camps in Darfur who are raped and beaten and who have no protection, despite international agreements to protect the vulnerable across life's course. Action on the findings of the report must include support to older, as well as to younger, citizens in the poorest communities to help them to deal with these threats. We must not forget women of all ages who are widowed as a result of conflict and who, in many cultures, suffer appallingly. Figures show that it is in those countries with high poverty and conflict rates where there is exponential growth in the older population groups. That older population is left to pick up the pieces after the conflict, whether caring for orphaned children or helping to restore civil society.

Older people everywhere need and have a right to a secure income, food, a home, healthcare, water, sanitation, and legal protection. Globally less than 20 per cent of the older adult population receives any state benefit. Only a handful of developing countries provide a social pension, or state-supported cash transfers to their poorest older people.

Universal pensions are not especially expensive. They cost between 1 and 3 per cent of GDP according to the latest ILO projections in various countries of Africa. They are an effective investment that will generate economic stability and social cohesion. In middle-income countries such as South Africa, Namibia and Brazil, social pensions target the poor, especially women, redistribute wealth to the poorest families and regenerate local economies. In the Zambian cash transfer to poor families affected by HIV/AIDS, who are mostly older people, the payment is equivalent to one bag of maize a month, and is resulting in improved school attendance and better nutrition for children. DfID costings are that for the small investment of 19 million dollars per annum the poorest 10 per cent of all Zambians, many of whom are over 60, could receive a sort of "state pension" which would transform their lives and that of their families. By contrast, the World Food Programme wants to allocate 100 million dollars to food aid in Zambia next year, which many doubt will be effective or provide sustainable support for the poorest.

We have heard about the excellent Commission for Africa. It has embraced social protection as a priority concern. Universal cash transfer to the poorest older people and children should be at the heart of the future principles of future aid to Africa, and I hope it recommends this as a practical way forward. I hope also that when it reports it will clearly acknowledge the fact that it is the oldest and youngest—those under 15—which are the fastest growing population groups in Africa.

Another example of this is HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases. These affect especially, though not exclusively, younger people of reproductive age, leaving older women and men to be breadwinners and care givers to sick and dependent family members. In sub-Saharan Africa, one third of all households are headed by people over 55, of whom 68 per cent take care of one or more children under the age of 15. A study undertaken by the WHO in Zimbabwe in 2002 found that over 80 per cent of orphaned children were cared for by their grandparents. I hope the Minister can reassure me that Her Majesty's Government's HIV fund will support older carers in their essential tasks of supporting young dependants; help is needed for regular income, information about the disease, access to drugs and for emotional support.

Much good work is happening in Africa. In Tanzania, a broad consultation process in 2004 included older people and HelpAge International in a new cross-cutting issues group on vulnerability. As a result, the new poverty reduction programme aims to target people of all ages and abilities, and contains specific social protection and social inclusion goals to deliver legal rights, tangible health and education benefits and a social pension to 40 per cent of the poorest older people by 2010.

My final point relates to human rights. It is important that partnerships to achieve poverty reduction in the context of the Government's aid programme and the International Development Act show how we are supporting the progressive realisation of the core human rights obligations of poor countries. We must take a lead in supporting countries to ensure that all their citizens, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and ability, are enabled to realise their right to education, health and social protection.

Will the Minister tell me how the Government are progressing on their commitment to human rights and to older people in developing countries, in particular, in the context of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, which focused on the inclusion of older women and men in poverty programmes and HIV responses for example?

In conclusion, it is obvious that the world, the UN and especially Africa face many challenges. I applaud efforts, especially from our own Government and the Prime Minister, to take these challenges seriously and do more than express warm yet ultimately shallow words.

6.3 p.m.

Lord Cobbold

My Lords, I also wish to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, not only on instigating this debate but also on his part in the creation of this excellent and well-written report on the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations, with recommendations for reform—or should I say regeneration?

The report itself was the work of a panel of representatives from 16 countries and demonstrates that it is possible to reach agreement among nations and that the United Nations, for all its problems, is the world's best hope for long-term peace and security. As the report states: The United Nations was never intended to be a utopian exercise. It was meant to be a collective security system that worked".

In the 60 years since 1945 the world has changed. The threat of war between nations has been reduced and replaced by the threat of disproportionate damage achievable by an individual or a group of terrorists.

The United Nations has had its successes and its failures, and in the process has lost some of the prestige and certainties of those early years. A review of its role is therefore timely and even overdue. As the report says: What is needed today is nothing less than a new consensus between alliances that are frayed, between wealthy nations and poor, and among peoples mired in mistrust across an apparently widening cultural abyss". The report has many important recommendations. However, in the time available I wish to focus on just one crucial area of reform which is both urgent and I hope achievable, and indeed which seems to me to be an essential prerequisite for the longer-term achievement of many of the report's other recommendations. I refer to reform of the Security Council, which has been mentioned already by a number of speakers this afternoon. As the report says: The task is not to find alternatives to the Security Council as a source of authority but to make the Council work better than It has".

The Security Council was designed to enable the world body to act decisively. As the report says: It was created to be not just a representative but a responsible body, one that had the capacity for decisive action". The report continues that, with the passage of time, the threats and challenges to international peace and security have changed, as has the distribution of power among members. But the Security Council has been slow to change".

We have heard today from several noble Lords about the Security Council's failures of recent years. To be effective the Security Council must command universal respect, including from those committed to the path of terror.

Although unanimously agreed on the need for reform, it is significant that Security Council reform was the one area in the whole of the report on which the panel was unable to reach unanimity on the detail. Two alternative models for a revised council are put forward. They vary as to the number, type and geographical distribution of seats recommended. It is clear that agreement as between these two models, or indeed on a variation of either, will require serious and politically sensitive debate among the membership and may involve some modification of the existing veto arrangements.

I hope that national governments will rise to the challenge. This important report must not be allowed to be filed away and forgotten. The detailed arrangements for the reformed Security Council must be negotiated and agreed without delay. I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us this afternoon that reform of the Security Council, together with implementation of the other valuable recommendations in the report, will be treated as a government priority in the coming months, particularly in the context of the Government's presidency of the G8 and of the EU.

6.8 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, I echo the praise given by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for the report and for his lucid introduction.

I immediately pass on to making criticisms rather than give any more praise. I think that while the United Nations is a good idea it is an abysmal reality. Unless we face up to the fact that it has problems, we will not advance. One problem for any high-level panel with people from government on it is that it is always restrained from calling a spade a spade. You cannot actually name the culprits who cause the major problems. When on a committee you have members of two nations who recently defied the doctrine on nuclear arms—India and Pakistan—I do not know how much credence you can give to a committee which says that nuclear proliferation is a bad thing. Okay, it is a bad thing, so how are you going to prevent it?

The UN faces three deficits. The first is a democratic deficit. I shall not say very much about that because I think that the General Assembly is an inadequate body and that it should contain some people's representation. I shall say no more about that.

There is a legitimacy deficit, which is the most serious deficit. That is that the United Nations members have routinely violated the UN charter. The Security Council members—even the permanent members—have themselves indulged in actions that, if they were not veto powers, would have been condemned by the United Nations.

I take my stand with the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf. Like him, I supported the Iraq war and thought that the behaviour of some Security Council members in not allowing the implementation of a United Nations Security Council resolution was appalling. Had we gone down that path, we would not have had elections in Iraq last Sunday. We would have had still more mass graves all the time, while people mouthed pieties about how we should have more inspectors and a longer time for inspection for weapons of mass destruction. Like the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, I am on record as saying that in Iraq I was worried not about WMD or Iraq's threat to us but the fact that Saddam Hussein was the enemy of his own people.

There are two sorts of failed states. The first is where authority does not exist, such as occurred in Somalia. The other is where authority exists and is very powerful but is completely destructive of its people's rights. The United Nations has failed to handle either of those state failures. It cannot take a stand firmly enough to prevent human rights violations by a government. It must dither and delay and rub its hands in dismay. It is only when it is far too late, if at all, that the international community has acted. When it has acted, as in the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, the United Nations has often been the slowest member in the brigade defending human rights.

So we cannot just say that it is a great thing that we are more multilateral. Because of the respect that it gives to sovereignty of nation states, the United Nations has a fundamental defect in that it will not be able to react as rapidly as it can. Many members of the United Nations think of legitimacy narrowly in terms of whether the Security Council has a representative character. The whole debate about the Security Council and expansion of its membership has to do with that sort of urge. I have been in India for a month and you would have thought that there was no other problem with the United Nations than that India is not a member of the Security Council. But if India is to he a member, it wants veto power. Because it does not want to be treated as a second-rate country, it wants veto power. I have said to your Lordships before that we ought to have qualified majority voting. That would he a much better way to run the Security Council than we have right now. My small experience of the United Nations is through a peripheral organisation in a very minor capacity, but I have witnessed enormous hypocrisy about human rights. As part of the UNDP human development report, many years ago, I was part of constructing a human rights index. We ranked countries. Although everyone was very encouraging to us when we explained our methodology, when the actual ranking was issued, we were prevented from publishing. We were told that only regional averages of the human rights index could be published, making it totally and utterly meaningless. Then it was said not only that our results were methodologically flawed but that the UN DP had no mandate in human rights.

That is how the UN approaches its problems: by procedural legalities ignoring facts on the ground. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, graphically described how the failure in Rwanda was shocking to everyone concerned. I believe that there will be more failures. Although in the economic sphere, we have given up the notion of economic sovereignty of a country, we somehow still insist on it in the political sphere. The World Trade Organisation does not admit countries that do not follow certain practices, dismantle certain barriers and create a market. Again, as the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, said, why can we not have conditions of membership and expel countries from the United Nations? What is the problem? If you cannot expel anyone, the United Nations will always lack legitimacy.

I shall talk for a minute about the efficiency deficit. Appointments in the United Nations from the bottom up to the Secretary-General are not made on merit but on the basis of "Buggins' turn". Even concerning recommendations for the Human Rights Commission, the high-level panel says that there should be three experts from each region. Why? Why not have 15 experts from one or two countries? Why not pick the best people, not those who make us think that we are somehow represented? The issue is quality. That may make us feel good, but it creates an organisation that fails people. It is time to think and perhaps the high-level panel will exert some force in the matter. I therefore welcome it.

6.15 p.m.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for giving some of us the opportunity to discuss the millennium development goals. That is particularly timely in the context of their official five-year review later this year by the United Nations and also of the excellent recent publication and presentation to Mr Kofi Annan of the report entitled Investing in Development, by Jeffrey Sachs, along with many associated taskforce reports, all focusing on the millennium development goals (MDGs). The subtitle of that document, to which I shall refer more than once is, A practical plan to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

In the development debate a week ago in this House, the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, who I am pleased to see has been sitting here throughout our debate along with the Minister, told us that "in a few weeks" the Government would be giving their current assessment of the millennium development goals, presumably in the light of Jeffrey Sachs's report. I should like to talk about one particular aspect of MDGs: reproductive health. In my brief contribution to this timed debate, I shall mostly use the phrase reproductive health as a shorthand for the longer expression, sexual and reproductive health and rights.

As those who have followed this debate during recent years will know, many of us have pointed out how much of the MDGs can be delivered only if the process is supported and underpinned by the real and explicit help of reproductive health. Many of us have regretted that the omission from the MDGs of the agreed goal of the 1994 Cairo conference—that of universal access to reproductive health services—was serious and costly, in particular, in poverty reduction and women's health, as well as HIV/AIDS. That conference established the accepted use of the words "reproductive health".

There had been talk of now trying to advocate a ninth MDG to focus particularly on reproductive health, but I believe that that is no longer the best route, nor a practical aim. Instead, the review of MDGs is now the opportunity to modify the existing ones in order explicitly to incorporate sexual and reproductive health goals and indicators and to adopt a universal access indicator, which can be used as a vital measure of progress in the field.

The refreshing urgency of the Jeffrey Sachs report, Investing in Development, makes numerous mentions of reproductive health as being part, but only part, of what is required. In his desire to make things happen, Jeffrey Sachs lists a number of what he calls quick wins. On page 26, he says some elements of his package could be implemented immediately and, see breathtaking results within three or fewer years". He says that, with adequate resources, one of those quick wins includes: Expanding access to Sexual and Reproductive Health information and services, including family planning and contraceptive information and services, and close the existing funding gaps for supplies and logistics".

The report goes on to say that those quick wins are the ones with very high potential short-term impact that can be immediately implemented. It then says: The world cannot afford to let another year go by without investing in these simple and proven strategies". I am mentioning this report in some detail because it is to be the key basis on which revisions of the MDGs should emerge in September, and I hope that our Government can take that positively into account in their response to this report in the next few weeks.

I hope that we can achieve the integration of reproductive health into many parts of the MDGs, in particular the assertion of the aim of universal access to reproductive health. Later in the report, we are told: The current situation shows how devastating the neglect of sexual and reproductive health can be. The differences in reproductive health—between rich and poor and within and between countries—are larger than in many areas of healthcare … Sexual and reproductive health services should be integrated into a strengthened health system".

Along with the main report, there are 13 task-force reports, all of which, I understand, at least mention reproductive health. Those reports are on subjects such as gender, HIV/AIDS, the environment, water and so on. In some cases, a major consideration is unsustainable population growth.

As I hope I have made clear, reproductive health by itself is not a sufficient answer to all those urgent problems. But it is an essential integrated component of so many aspects of MDGs and its role must now be written more explicitly into the revision of MDGs now under way, in particular the entrenching of the aim of universal access to reproductive health.

In promoting this, I hope that our Government will continue to take a lead in this field. We are entitled to be encouraged by the record of DfID under the present Minister, Mr Hilary Benn. In the coming months of the MDG review, I hope that we can all build on the excellent work of Jeffrey Sachs to take action really to try to achieve those important goals.

6.22 p.m.

Lord Brett

My Lords, 1, too, express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for this debate and the valuable report from the high-level panel. Like other noble Lords, I shall concentrate on the millennium development goals, particularly one part of them. I declare an interest as the director of the International Labour Organisation for the United Kingdom and Ireland and a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalisation. It is on that experience that I base my contribution today.

Both the high-level panel and the World Commission identified the MDGs as central. The high-level panel also identifies poverty as part of that broader security threat. I wish to identify myself with the very powerful contributions of the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, and the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in respect of Africa, in particular.

I shall deal with one word: employment; it is the key to many of the answers that we need to find. The statistics are known to most people but not everybody. Half the world lives on roughly two dollars a day and a fifth lives on a dollar a day. More apposite is that half the world's unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 24. In both security and poverty terms, that is a major threat. It is a threat to political stability.

We heard movingly from the most reverend Primate and others about child soldiers. It is chilling to meet 11 year-olds in Uganda who cannot read and write but can strip an AK-47 better than the SAS could, and can kill with impunity—not because they want to but because they have been programmed. That is the kind of 11 year-old who becomes an unemployed 15 year-old. It is why unemployment in that area is a scourge that must be tackled. Those young people are also candidates for political extremism or fundamentalism; they are likely to be recruited into criminality; and they are certainly an aid to corruption. As part of the problem of unemployment, they also undermine good governance.

Why do I refer to the MDGs? There is not a word in the MDGs about employment. It is the dog that did not bark, to quote a noble Lord from the Liberal Democrat Benches speaking in the debate on the Statement. When the World Commission travelled the world finding out people's concerns on globalisation and poverty, the key word was jobs. Employment and self-employment are how people get out of poverty.

We also discovered, as will the millennium development review, that there continues to be incoherence within the UN system. The international financial institutions (IFIs) talk about policies of investment and growth but nobody carries that through to include a policy on jobs. We need to bring that into the centre of policy-making. That was a recommendation of the World Commission.

I was very pleased to see in the General Assembly towards the end of last year the endorsement of the report and its remittance to the review of MDGs, supported by some 74 countries and sponsored by the presidencies of the World Commission, Tanzania and Finland. I was pleased to see the European Union and in particular Her Majesty's Government as part of that sponsorship.

I do not think that we seek a ninth MDG. We want employment to be embedded in poverty eradication. There seems to be a belief in some economic circles that if you create the right macro-economic circumstances and trade systems, lo and behold, you will create jobs. However, we have seen in the past decade how you can have investment growth and jobless growth.

I seek the Minister's assurance that the United Kingdom, having endorsed the World Commission report and been instrumental in putting it in the review of the millennium development goals, will take forward the requirement to look not just at poverty and how it is undermined as regards assistance—I pay tribute to DfID for much of the work that it is doing—but how we place central to that the creation of employment and self-employment as a dignified way for people to get out of poverty.

6.26 p.m.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, in a probable general election year, it is inevitable that home affairs will tend to take priority both in the other place and in general public debate. Your Lordships' House, therefore, has an important role to play in raising its eyes and thoughts to the wider international horizon. I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for giving us the opportunity to consider and discuss this topical report.

The United Nations has a more vital role than ever in today's new world. The fact that it has survived at all throughout the turbulent years since 1945, with only minor tinkering and developments, is a tribute to the determined and able individuals who have served the United Nations in every capacity, as well as an acknowledgement of the need for a collective approach in a world of instant communication and with a global focus on all sorts of events, whether war, peace or poverty, which have been touchingly referred to in this debate, and affecting all parts of the world, whether Africa, the Middle East or the Americas.

The increase in the number of members of the United Nations in the post-Cold War world, and the growth in regional political and trade organisations throughout the world—I refer particularly to the European Union but also to Africa and other countries—do not mean that the United Nations has become unwieldy and irrelevant. Nevertheless, as clearly explained by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, a makeover is needed that will provide an overall approach and practical and realistic recommendations.

I therefore welcome the report, like so many noble Lords, and hope and trust that it will be considered as thoroughly and rapidly as it deserves by all governments, particularly our own, and, in the light of recent history, the United States. I feel sure that the Minister will be able to reassure us that the Government will use their best endeavours with their best of friends—the United States Administration—to ensure that the report is acted upon and not left to gather dust on some shelf.

Security matters have been well covered in this debate, and I do not consider myself an expert in that field. I would make only two points. First, with respect to responses to aggression and to the control of arms, I agree that a collective approach is the best way forward. The report's suggestions on streamlining that approach are to be welcomed. Secondly, Part 4 of the report outlines the regional approach to security and ways in which the regional organisations which have developed over the years may be strengthened. Those provisions, too, are to be welcomed.

I would like to raise two other, separate issues. The first is water. If war and the causes of war are matters for the Security Council and if, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, the panel had taken a long time to look at prevention, surely it behoves the United Nations to take a lead in dealing with the increasing threat of a total breakdown in water resources, with all the consequences that that will have for the poorest of the poor. Just as oil interests have led to conflict in the past, so too could water scarcity. I know that Boutros Boutros Ghali has pointed to that threat on a number of occasions. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that the Government will press forward with measures to prevent a lack of water.

The second issue relates to the ongoing debate about the so-called democratisation of the United Nations, to which the noble Lord, Lord Desai, referred. Ideas which have been put forward in the past include using the Inter-Parliamentary Union for such a purpose. The European Parliament recently passed a resolution on relations between the European Union and the United Nations and proposed, among other things, that an effort be made to launch, with regional and world parliamentary assemblies, a network of parliamentarians to discuss major political issues related to United Nations activity and all the challenges that the UN faces.

This seems to be a more sensible way forward than inventing something new, but, as far as I can see, the report remains silent on this issue, and I wonder whether the panel even considered it. The United Nations, I understand, cannot do everything or he everything, but in our making of a more effective United Nations for the 21st century, the democratic deficit should surely be remedied.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, 50 years ago, I was working in the third room of the United Nations department in the Foreign Office. My first task in that august building was to try to brief the British delegation to the Ninth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on what it should say to a special committee that had been set up to try to define "aggression". I am delighted to read in this report and hear in the debate that the definition of "terrorism" has been more speedily resolved than was that matter.

At that time, it still seemed possible to have an idealistic view of the United Nations and its future. Those words of Tennyson in Locksley Hall about the "Parliament of man" and the "Federation of the world" did not strike an all together incoherent note. We all realised that preventing those ideals being achieved was the fact that the Soviet Union had determined to use the United Nations like all other institutions or all other international mechanisms as a means of promoting international communism.

Without recalling past controversies, it is worth while to remember that, in 1946, the United States had proposed in the UN the complete internationalisation and control of all manifestations of nuclear energy and production. I suppose that realists would now say that that could never have worked, but, as a matter of fact, the entire scientific community in the West and all enlightened governments, including our own, supported that. I have the feeling that that rejection by the Soviet Union of the Baruch plan in 1946 was what AJP Taylor would have said was a turning point in world history around which world history failed to turn.

It would have been better if paragraphs 107-112 of the report, which is the section on nuclear matters, had been prefaced by some reference to that and also to the long years of UN debates and discussions on disarmament. The absence of a historical context is the chief weakness of the report; for example, in paragraph 146, Al'Qaeda is referred to as the first international terrorist organisation. What of the anarchist movement at the beginning of the 20th century? What indeed of the organisation of terrorists and guerrillas, financed by the Soviet Union and organised by Cuba, in the 1960s and 1970s?

Paragraph 203 calls for action if there is a humanitarian breakdown in a particular state. That section should have recalled that Theodore Roosevelt, in the corollary to the Monroe Doctrine in 1905, said that the United States had a duty to intervene in Latin America if there were some instance of brutal wrongdoing. Finally, it should be pointed out that, in the consideration of terror, we should realise that poverty or misery is not always, nor even as a rule, the prime motor of that reaction. ETA, for example—the Basque terrorist movement—is established in the richest part of Spain. I do not think that poverty has been a motor of the IRA in the past 25 years. In Al'Qaeda, all classes seem to participate. As I have said in this House previously, terrorists are usually men or women who are inspired or possessed by some common, semi-religious cause, even if perhaps poverty may have played a part at some stage in the formulation of that cause.

The way in which the United Nations was shaped in 1944–45 was the product of much interesting and intelligent discussion both inside and outside governments. That was quite lacking after 1990 at the end of the Cold War. The reason for that lack of speculation and discussion was simple: we had had 40 years of the Cold War and all statesmen and all people involved in international politics were much more exhausted than they seemed to be. That was a pity, because instead of intelligent suggestions for what the new world order should be like, as indeed this report constitutes, we had nothing more subtle than the assertion by the United States of its capacity to act as it wished. Indeed, there were times in 2003 when the United States spokesmen talked as if there was no need for them to consider any other authority at all.

Despite the comments of my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall to the contrary, I detect a considerable modification in the position of the United States, in acts anyway—for example. the likely role of the UN in working out the new constitution in Iraq—if not in words.

The report makes several very useful proposals for institutional change, to which my noble friend Lord Owen referred. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, made some interesting comments, particularly in relation to appointments within the organisation on merit. I have no doubt that realists will reject this idea, but could we not in some way connive to arrange for representatives of opposition parties to become involved institutionally in the United Nations?

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, touched on that. To realists, it may seem impossible. But we should not forget that one innovation in the European Community was that some countries would have a member of the opposition as a commissioner. My noble friend Lord Dahrendorf benefited from that custom. That idea would assist the present President of the United States' basically positive desire—echoing President Wilson, which should make it sound more attractive—for a democratic world. With modifications in certain circumstances, that should be one of our aims also.

6.41 p.m.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, this has been an excellent debate. I would very much like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, whom I have heard speak on several occasions in the past few weeks about this report, and from whom I hope to hear more. Earlier today, he said that the average age of members of the panel is more than 70 years old. I wish to encourage him and his fellow panellists to continue to be extremely active here and elsewhere to ensure that this report gets very full coverage. Unless we now take off from the report with open debate in all the major contributing states—contributing in terms of money and troops—this report, like so many before. will sadly fall as governments discover that they have other priorities.

I am very happy to note that Gareth Evans. one of the noble Lord's fellow panellists, will be coming to London in two and a half weeks' time. He will speak at the London School of Economics on 18 February. I very much hope that the noble Lord. Lord Hannay, will speak in Paris, The Hague, Berlin and various other places to ensure that the report is widely debated.

We have heard a number of people speak in different ways about the record of the United Nations since the end of the Cold War, which this report addresses. There are some very different perspectives. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that the UN is now in crisis or, perhaps, is close to collapse. One hears and reads more and more often in Washington that we should move away from the United Nations and have an alliance of democracies—an alternative, selective organisation.

There was an Unstarred Question debate in this House on 18 January that had much of the same critical and dismissive tone about it. From reading that debate, I note that, as there is in the United States an overlap between nationalism and dislike of the UN, in Britain there is an overlap between Euro-scepticism and UN-scepticism, although there is great confusion in that camp about the alternative—which is trust in the benevolence of the United States.

Considered dispassionately, the record of the UN for the past 15 years has been mixed. There have been some successes, as well as failures. It has been a very painful learning process, of which this report is the latest element. The failure of the United Nations to take on the interconnected conflicts in central Africa, of which Rwanda and Burundi are the worst, is perhaps the greatest failure—much larger even than the current Darfur crisis. But in East Timor and Cambodia the UN has been remarkably successful. In Bosnia and Macedonia, and even more in Kosovo, the game is not yet over.

The UN has managed to make progress on the climate change agenda. An international criminal court has been set up, although it is not yet fully effective. But progress is being made. The report draws lessons from that and makes a number of useful proposals to strengthen global governance further; namely, to reform the UN Security Council, to strengthen the secretariat, to deal with the problems of financing, and to deal with the problems of Finding troops and police personnel of a quality and in a timeliness that can be deployed elsewhere.

I am struck by the parallel between those who are disappointed that the European Union is not doing all that it should and those who think that the UN should be far better than it is. But to misquote Donald Rumsfeld, we have to work with the state system that we have, not the world order that we would like to have.

Undoubtedly, the UN suffers from a degree of corruption and a painfully slow decision-making process. So do all other inter-governmental organisations, a good many governments and many multinational companies—perhaps even some Church hierarchies, I would not dare to suggest.

Perhaps one may compare the present situation to that of the 1970s and 1980s. If one looks, for example, at the World Health Organisation, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the quality of the UN Development Programme, now, compared to then, clearly some very useful work is being done. I was sorry that this report made only glancing references to the other agencies within the UN system, which play an increasingly important role in strengthening a rule-based international order, although I recognise the need to be selective.

The International Atomic Energy Authority is now playing an extremely constructive and difficult role in relation to Iran and North Korea. The work of the World Health Organisation on the SARS problem was magnificent: a number of people who were involved early on caught the disease and lost their lives.

Noble Lords have touched on a wide range of specific issues in this debate—water, child soldiers, small arms trade and so on. I should like to pick out only a few themes: first, the need to hold the United States in global institutions, to which a number of noble Lords have referred. That is an enormous challenge for all of us. The international order that we now have institutionally is, after all, the legacy of President Roosevelt. It was his understanding that it was in the enlightened self-interest of the United States to build a multilateral order within which the United States constrained itself and so gained the benefits of a more orderly global system.

President Roosevelt also had a far broader understanding of freedom than his current successor. I was rereading the Atlantic charter and some of the speeches that he made in 1941 some weeks ago. He, of course, spoke not only about freedom for self-government and self-expression, but also freedom from want and from fear as part of any worthwhile definition of freedom. The sad rejection of so much of Roosevelt's legacy is part of what I think has gone wrong within American domestic politics, even though, oddly, those who are so determined to dismantle Roosevelt's welfare state, as well as his international legacy, appear to have adopted his wartime ally, Winston Churchill, as their great hero.

Therefore, on these Benches we support a shared European approach to hold the United States in these institutions. In the terms that this report has pointed out, the European Union is a regional organisation. It is the most effective regional organisation in the world. It contributes 40 per cent, collectively among its governments, of the UN's general budget. It contributes almost one-third of the troops in UN peacekeeping operations. Last year I calculated with one of my research students the number of troops from European states deployed in peacekeeping and peace enforcement operations over the past two to three years. Including deployments to Afghanistan, south-eastern Europe and Iraq, that commitment peaked at 85,000 and has been running at an average of 60,000 to 70,000. That is not a bad contribution to international order. The commitment includes Swedish, Finnish and other troops currently deployed in Sierra Leone, while others are involved in a whole range of peacekeeping operations—and of course Operation Artemis in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, which marks the first deployment of EU ready forces under UN authority in response to a request from the Secretary-General. The first troops were deployed within seven days. We should be proud of that effort.

I want to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Park, that I understand that European Union support for the African Union over the coming 10 years will necessarily take the form of training provision and logistical support, not a major assignment of European troops. But countries which lack transport aircraft, helicopters and logistical support need those elements if they are to be able to deploy.

We have to convince the United States that others are working to strengthen international order; that the United Nations is not just a talking shop wherein other countries can criticise the United States and contribute little. Happily, European countries now contribute a good deal but should be determined to contribute more.

We also have to make sure that we engage Asian states more actively. Japan has begun to contribute in terms of troops as well as its very substantial financial contribution. China has some engagement in Africa, although it is clear that we need to engage the Chinese Government more fully in this multilateral order. The same could be said for the Latin American states, including Brazil. That links closely with the proposals made in the report for the expansion of the UN Security Council.

However, I should say to some noble Lords that 1 have some doubts about the use of the term "international community", precisely because it suggests that some of us should be defining what the international order is about and leading others to it. I also have considerable doubts about the proposal made by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, for an organisation for the promotion of co-operation and democracy, in part because we do not yet agree with our American allies on what sort of democracy we wish to promote.

Lord Owen

My Lords, I did not mention that. It was a comment of the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire

My Lords, I apologise if I made a mistake. However, I did refer to the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf.

The report is absolutely right to stress that we need to hold on to universalism as a principle. We should not be excluding some countries. But I also strongly endorse the report's qualification of sovereignty, that Article 2(7) has now been heavily qualified by the responsibility to protect, the ability to maintain order and the need for intrusive inspection.

There is a bias in the expansion of the UN Security Council towards the major donors and contributors, which to me seems absolutely right. Part of the reason why the UN General Assembly does not work is because it now has too many micro-states which lack the capability or the capacity to give instructions to their representatives, so that they vote on a corpus basis without thinking about the consequences.

This is a subject that we need to talk about a great deal. There is an unavoidable tension between universality and credibility, as well as between democratic states, authoritarian states, and the weak and corrupt semi-states. The British responsibility, to which I hope the Minister will refer when she sums up the debate, is to take up and press forward this agenda with other European governments, and set out to persuade the United States that enlightened self-interest requires stronger global institutions.

6.54 p.m.

Lord Howell of Guildford

My Lords, all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate have expressed warm gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, and in this case that is more than a formality. We are accustomed to saying such words, but it is perfectly obvious that the noble Lord has made and continues to make a major contribution on these matters, both in his work here and at the United Nations. Frankly, it was a very good day for your Lordships when the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, joined us in this House. I say that even though some flak has flown around during the debate, which has by no means been totally uncritical.

Obviously we are all in favour of serious UN reform, and this most admirable report sets out the ways in which that might be achieved, dare I say, in an ideal world. However, one must be a little realistic about it. For me the biggest question is the one posed by the noble Lord, Lord Desai, in his remarks. Can the UN from here on out provide a satisfactory system of international law? Can it provide the guardianship or the evolution and development of the standards of international behaviour which we must have if this globe is to survive in one piece? One has only to pose such a question to realise how big it is. The realistic answer has to contain some doubt. That is for a simple and central reason, which is that the United Nations has to include everyone. Every single nation is included aside from certain very exceptional circumstances that we have heard about.

Many of these nations, possibly even the majority of nations represented at the United Nations, do not share our democratic values. They are not interested in what Condoleezza Rice described in an interview the other day as "outposts of tyranny". They are not interested in intervention in Zimbabwe or in Burma, and they were not very interested in the situation in Rwanda. The ethos for massive and decisive humanitarian intervention is not there.

It is no use blaming poor Mr Kofi Annan for this. It is not reasonable to suggest that it is the Secretary-General's fault. It is not his fault at all. Nor was it the fault of Boutros Boutros Ghali before him. I thought that he was an excellent Secretary-General. It was not his fault that the United Nations was behaving in line with the behaviour and attitudes of its members rather than creating a broad group which could be mobilised and carried forward by a brilliant Secretary-General. That cannot be done. Many of the criticisms we have heard levelled at Kofi Annan are really deplorable and are motivated by other considerations that have nothing to do with his own excellent qualities.

However, if one is looking for the faults, one need look no further than the UN Commission on Human Rights, which has been discussed at length in the debate. It is a travesty. The chair has been held by countries which have no concern whatever for human rights, under a system of rotation which no one seems to be able to stop. Some 25 per cent of the members of the commission are dictatorships with no interest in human rights outrages at all. Even looking at that aspect alone, one cannot recognise or accept that the United Nations as it is constructed today should be the only fount or cornerstone of international wisdom and morality. I share the disappointment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in the panel's idea for the UN Commission on Human Rights. It has suggested that it would somehow be improved if everyone joined in. However, I do not think that that would be a cure in any way. Indeed, it might make it a bit worse.

Even the most important permanent members of the Security Council are not going to co-operate that much in bringing about change. China has clearly indicated that it will not go along with UN resolutions of the tough kind that we would like to see taken as regards western Sudan or in many other places. That is regrettable, but it is understandable. It is only realistic to acknowledge that that is the case. China has other interests and another agenda today. It is voraciously hunting for oil throughout the Gulf, in Venezuela and in many other countries to feed its colossal economic growth. I am afraid that China is also deeply involved in the international arms trade—particularly in the small arms trade—a matter to which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke so movingly and tellingly earlier in the debate.

So, although one must hope that the UN will continue its efforts to deal with disarmament and to recast the crumbling non-proliferation treaty, one must hope also that it will take collective action on issues such as water, a point raised by my noble friend Lady Hooper and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. But to look for achievement of some of the more ambitious aims in the way of humanitarian intervention and security is to hope for too much.

What is the solution to the issue of Security Council reform? The panel has taken a very brave stab at it. It suggests two possible ways forward, and it is very welcome that those have been put on the table at all. There is no doubt in my mind that if it could be engineered for Japan and India to come to the top table that would make a major contribution and an improvement to the whole atmosphere and ethos of the Security Council.

Japan is now reasserting itself as what it calls a "normal" country. In fact, what that means is that it is reasserting itself as a global power, with a reach commensurate with its colossal economic power. It is developing a proactive diplomacy, undergoing a huge military make-over and developing a ballistic missile weapons system. None of these activities seem to have been noticed in the western press, but they change the whole geopolitics of Asia and indeed of the world. So it would make a terrific difference if Japan arrived. It is a matter to which we give lip service—more than lip service; we would like to see it happen—but it is not easy to envisage how it will happen.

Germany, too, is rightly saying that it feels uncomfortable about leaving representation at the UN to France and Great Britain and that it wants a seat. Indeed, the German argument is that there should be some kind of European Union seat at the UN which would better represent its positions. I believe that is now official German policy. I hope that we will not hear anything more about the idea of an EU seat.

The Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, told the House the other day that it is impossible for the EU to have a seat—and probably under the present arrangements it is—but it is a very bad idea for the obvious reason that a coherent European policy on the major issues of the day would not emerge and we would have a muffled effect instead of the more incisive views of the separate countries. That is clearly demonstrated by the events of the past two years.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, I feel that the chances of climbing this mountain and starting Security Council reform on the model suggested by the panel are not very good, although we should certainly try to seek ways forward.

So where do we go from here in search of the international consensus which we need and the development and establishment of agreed standards of international behaviour which we must have? In other words, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, put it, what next? I suggest that we would do better to start from looking at UN principles rather than at UN votes. The principles need updating in a terrorist age. Part 3 of the report does that and grapples with the central issue of the criteria for humanitarian intervention. The difficulty, I suppose, is whether the General Assembly, as constituted, will ever be ready to put them into practice. That question hangs in the air.

As I have indicated, I believe that the best hope is for the UN to proceed to build on its successes in collective action—particularly in the area of disarmament, although there is a long way to go—through its many agencies, some of which are not very good and some of which are extremely good and full of dedicated people.

But for security we shall have to rely on coalitions which go wider than just the American ambit and which are genuinely committed to democratic values. Whether the solution should be the one suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf—which the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, did not like—or the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Desai, that there should be a kind of admission charge and admission test for United Nations membership, I do not know. But merely trying to hive off inside the UN countries that are alleged to be pure democracies—an idea which the noble Baroness, Lady Cox, was airing the other night in the UN debate—is a dead end.

I know that it is the view of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that you could spend a whole decade arguing about what were the criteria that described a pure democracy, a less pure democracy and so on. To those who say it is merely a question of elections and votes, I would point out that one poll does not guarantee democracy, as we all remember very vividly from Weimar in the last century.

So, when it comes to security, we have to be content with building on ad hoc arrangements, as we did in Kosovo, in Bosnia and in other instances, while hoping that the UN will continue its good work in many lesser areas and will spread the democratic habit in the world, as it has done to a considerable extent.

I come back to a quotation which I have used before at the Dispatch Box from Dag Hammarskjold many years ago. He said that, the United Nations was not created to take mankind to paradise, but merely to save humanity from hell". I hope that it at least lives up to that task in the future.

7.6 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

My Lords, I, too, am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for initiating the debate. As your Lordships would expect of a first class diplomat, he gets top marks for his timing as the international community enters a new phase in the debate on reform of the United Nations.

Additionally, we look forward to a visit by the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, next week, when UN reform and the millennium development goals will be high on the agenda. I know that he will be very welcome and that his planned speech on the UN will be much appreciated.

Since November 2003, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, has been a member of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, and since the publication of the panel's report he has been very active in promoting the report and the need for United Nations reform. He has of course had a very distinguished career in the Diplomatic Service and later as the United Kingdom's special representative to Cyprus, but his input into this report and the very clear mark he has left upon it are as significant as anything he has achieved before.

The noble Lord's debate calls attention to three elements: the report of the high-level panel; the review of the millennium development goals; and conflict in Africa. These three themes are of course closely linked and I shall try to address all three in answering some of the issues raised today.

While the high-level panel report is ambitious, covering the full range of the United Nations' activities, it is based on the core premise that security and development are interlinked—that neither is possible without the other—a point very well argued by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross. The Government strongly endorse that view—and nowhere is there a stronger need for security and development than in Africa.

Of course, 2003 was a very difficult year for the United Nations, with the divisions in the international community over Iraq reflected in New York. In opening the General Assembly in September 2003, the Secretary-General's response was to launch the high-level panel, tasked with making recommendations on improving the performance of the United Nations in tackling threats to peace and security. This bold initiative demonstrates the Secretary-General's determination to tackle the problems which came so sharply into focus in 2003. I agree very strongly with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, about the role of the Secretary-General.

But this has also provided us with a very real opportunity to establish a more modern and more effective United Nations. I am very pleased that the panel has addressed the United Kingdom's priorities, which were set out in a paper submitted to the panel by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. The panel sets out an ambitious agenda for the UN which is more proactive and deals more comprehensively with the threats to peace and security by recognising the importance of conflict prevention and peace-building after conflict, a subject which we have had cause to discuss a great deal in the past year or 18 months. The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have both warmly welcomed the report.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, was completely right to point out the enormous scale of the issues inherent in United Nations reform and in the reform of its institutions. The panel makes recommendations to deal with the threats of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Crucially, in my view, it has grasped the nettle of exploring the circumstances under which the United Nations should authorise military action to prevent a threat materialising or to deal with humanitarian catastrophe. It also acknowledges the need to address the link between poverty and conflict, and recognises that environmental degradation, particularly climate change, is a threat that needs to be tackled with the same rigour and urgency as other global threats.

One recommendation of far-reaching importance is the peace-building commission. The high-level panel identified a gap in the United Nations' institutions, which is widely recognised. There is a clear need for more and better co-ordination within the international community when it comes to preventing conflict and planning for peace.

The proposal for a peace-building commission as a means to strengthen the UN's ability to deliver better conflict prevention, management and resolution is therefore one which Her Majesty's Government support, although I am bound to say that the well argued contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Park of Monmouth, about the necessity of acting within capability was very well made. I assure the noble Baroness that at present we envisage the commission playing a role in ensuring coherent, integrated planning for international engagement in a country. That process will have the added advantage of bringing together the UN agencies, of which some of your Lordships have spoken, and a broader set of key international institutions and regional partners to share analysis and thinking.

The responsibility to protect was the issue upon which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon and the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf, concentrated their remarks. The Government particularly welcome the panel's attention to, and endorsement of, a collective responsibility to protect against genocide, ethnic cleansing and other widespread humanitarian abuses.

The responsibility of the international community to protect the victims of abuse is clear—an issue about which the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke so powerfully. He highlighted the appalling problem of child soldiers and his concern that the issue was not properly addressed in the report. Personally, I have enormous sympathy with the points he makes, and believe that the international community—by which I mean the whole of the international community, not just the countries of sub-Saharan Africa—now needs urgently to address this issue. The question the most reverend Primate begged is when the international community should intervene militarily when conflicts arise. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, argued so persuasively, in 1994, the international community failed the people of Rwanda. We have a real responsibility to try to ensure that this never happens again. But as the terrible combination of violence and poverty in Darfur demonstrates, we still have no really effective mechanisms—the ones that we need—to help people to protect themselves, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, so vividly demonstrated in his contribution.

Since Rwanda, the United Kingdom has taken the lead in pushing for guidelines which would recognise that the Security Council and the UN have a responsibility to protect people subjected to this sort of violence. The Prime Minister suggested some in 1999, and we strongly endorse the panel's decision to address this controversial issue.

Member states of the United Nations are, of course, rightly protective of their own sovereignty. But Her Majesty's Government believe that there is a limit to that independence when a state begins to persecute its own people or when a state stands by to see one part of its population persecute and slaughter another part of its population. I am, therefore, very much of the view expressed so eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Dahrendorf.

Frankly, I believe that a prime example of this was the action that we, the United States and our allies in NATO took over Kosovo in 1999. As my noble and learned kinsman Lord Morris of Aberavon underlined in his persuasive speech, two things were clear in Kosovo. First, the humanitarian situation in Kosovo was something that none of us could ignore. Secondly, action through the Security Council was not possible. The United Kingdom Government realised that they could not stand by and do nothing. The action we took was decisive, and eventually it was successful. We acted to prevent an immediate and overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe. I believe that we should be ready to act similarly, should similar circumstances ever arise in the future. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Owen, who is very well versed in these issues, that it was not the lack of a clear definition of overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe that frustrated action in Kosovo; it was the lack of political will to act.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, argued that a United Nations properly reformed, properly revitalised and properly resourced would be a far better means of dealing with the international responsibility to deal with humanitarian catastrophe. But to do that, the Security Council has to overcome the reluctance that it has shown not only over Kosovo and Rwanda but that it is now showing over Darfur, and to act in cases where human life is lost or where thousands of lives are threatened on an unimaginable scale.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, highlighted the counter-proliferation issues. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, shared with us his concerns about omissions in the report. My noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall was also exercised on that point.

We warmly welcome the panel's work in this important area. It is extremely helpful to highlight the risks to global security from weapons of mass destruction, especially if they fall into the hands of terrorists. The United Kingdom can support most of the panel's recommendations. and follow-up will be for organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency or the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The panel report gives extremely useful impetus to the work that the United Kingdom is already pursuing in these fora on most of these recommendations. I think that we have worked very hard on these non-proliferation issues, although I am bound to say that our efforts have not always been crowned with success internationally.

My noble friends Lady Whitaker and Lord Desai highlighted the focus on human rights activity in the UN. We certainly welcome the emphasis that the panel report has placed on the issue, including an enhanced role for the Security Council for the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Human rights should he a central part of all the UN's activities and should not be considered in isolation. I agreed with much of the wisdom inherent in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, on human rights activities. However, I agreed with my noble friend Lady Whitaker that there should be real human rights expertise throughout the Commission for Human Rights delegations. It is, of course, for individual governments to choose their own head of delegation, but I assure my noble friend that our own head—our ambassador in Geneva, Nick Thorne—is fully expert in human rights issues.

Many noble Lords turned their attention to the Security Council. As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, indicated, the high-level panel also addressed this issue. But as the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, said, it was not by way of making a firm recommendation but by putting forward two options to contribute to the debate on the issue. Like the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, I believe that no one seriously argues that the composition of the Security Council does not need revisiting. He is right to argue that the council essentially reflects the world of 1945 rather than the world of 2005.

To preserve its legitimacy, the council needs to expand its membership to take account of the main players in the world today and to give stronger representation to developing countries. The British Government position on this is clear: we favour the creation of new permanent members, to include Germany, Japan and three representatives of the developing countries, among which we see Brazil and India as pre-eminent candidates from their regions. We also want wider non-permanent membership, again to include more members from the developing countries, from eastern Europe, possibly from the Arab nations. However, I am not quite sure that we are ready for the QMV model as argued by my noble friend Lord Desai.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, that we will participate actively in the debate on Security Council reform in the forthcoming months. We recognise that this is a divisive issue, on which individual member states will hold very strong opinions.

My noble friend Lord Judd argued for international consensus, the international observation of the rule of law, and international ownership of the UN agenda. Of course, we can all agree on that vision as an ideal. The problem is very much as articulated by the noble Lord, Lord Howell: the whole question is how we achieve that. What are the practical levers at our disposal which would give us a practical approach that would lead to nations being able to embrace that sort of approach?

Sometimes, the United Nations is, as we all know, paralysed by deadlock. The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, described that in his opening speech. It happened on Iraq and, as the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, argued, it happens all too frequently on the Middle East. In my almost eight years as a Minister, I have observed all too often that failure in the United Nations is not so much because of deliberate deadlock, but because of inertia. We believe that the 2005 summit represents a major opportunity for the international community to overcome its sometimes all too natural tendency to step back from the real issues confronting the UN and to develop real consensus on the key issues—not just of international conflict but the crucial ones of development, which can so often feed that conflict if not properly addressed. The noble Lord, Lord Patel. the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, and my noble friend Lord Brett concentrated on the millennium development goals, which were of course agreed at the United Nations millennium summit in September 2000. Since then, nearly 190 countries have signed up. The goals range from halving global poverty and hunger to protecting the environment, improving health and sanitation, tackling illiteracy and discrimination against women. The millennium review summit will take place in New York this September. It is a crucial opportunity to measure progress on the development goals through the report of the millennium project, and to address the security objectives covered by the high-level panel.

The Government have warmly welcomed the report of the millennium project published on 17 January. The report demonstrated that if the 2015 goals are achieved, 500 million people will be lifted out of extreme poverty. Aid is working; we can achieve the development goals, even in Africa, where progress is slowest. But we can do that only if the necessary resources are really made available. The report will be crucial in building international support for increased aid levels—because, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, said, on current rates of progress the halving of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa will be achieved not in the year 2015 but, horrifyingly, in 2150, 135 years later. The elimination of avoidable infant deaths will also not be achieved in 2015 but in 2165, 150 years later.

That is why the United Kingdom is proposing what the noble Lord, Lord Patel, called for—that is, an act of political will to tackle this issue, or an international finance facility. That facility is founded upon long-term binding donor commitments from the richest countries—countries such as ours. It builds upon the additional 16 billion dollars already pledged at Monterey. On the basis of those commitments, and more, it leverages in additional money from the international capital markets to raise the amount of development aid for the years up to 2015. Of course the responsibility for making faster progress rests with developed and developing countries. But the fact is that aid really works when there is enough money available. That may be a very simple and straightforward point, but money is what is needed to tackle poverty, and we need significantly to scale up the resources available for countries committed to poverty reduction.

There are countries that are making some real progress in that respect. As we saw, there are also targeted areas of immediate concern, which we see in the events such as the one that we have just experienced, in the aftermath of the tsunami. But crucially, we must also work on ensuring longer-term progress, which can come about only by ensuring that countries have the economies necessary to ensure prosperity, health and education for their own citizens. My noble friend Lord Brett is right: that means employment, too, as employment makes that prosperity possible.

One of the Government's policy changes that I, for one, am proudest of, was the decision to untie development aid from trade to help countries to develop their economies. We give aid because aid is not based on what we get out of giving that aid. Frankly, I believe that more countries need to examine their own policies, here in Europe and on the other side of the Atlantic, in that respect. As well as more and better aid, the United Kingdom is taking a lead in ensuring more debt relief and further progress on the Doha development trade round, which is absolutely vital for the economies of the developing nations. A successful outcome from the Doha trade round could reduce the number of people living on two dollars a day by 60 million in sub-Saharan Africa. 1t should move every European Union conscience that the EU still subsidises our cows twice as well as we support the poor people in the world.

Today, 27 countries are benefiting with 70 billion dollars-worth of unpayable debt being written off; 37 countries are now potentially eligible, with up to 100 billion dollars of debt relief now possible. Because of debt relief in Tanzania, 31,000 new classrooms have been built, 18,000 new teachers have been recruited. and the goal of primary education for all will be achieved by the end of the year. The United Kingdom is leading the way on 100 per cent bilateral debt relief. We will relieve those countries still under the burden of debt by paying our share—that is, 10 per cent—of their payments to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. We are encouraging other counties to follow our lead.

The UK will make a full contribution to the September summit and its preparations as a committed supporter of the UN, a firm believer in more effective multilateral action and the holder of the G8 and EU presidencies at the time. We see a particular correlation with our G8 presidency focus on Africa and climate change. We hope that the summit can bring collective agreement on other international priorities such as poverty, environmental degradation, terrorism, conflict prevention and, of course, proliferation.

I turn now to African conflict. I was grateful to my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall for addressing the issue of Africa and to the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Lord Alton, who also concentrated part of their remarks on the issue. Many of the panel's recommendations in the work of the millennium review summit are relevant to conflict in Africa. I noted the important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Owen, about international courts. We shall be using our EU and G8 presidencies to try to make progress on some of the difficult issues facing that continent. This House will be aware of the Prime Minister's Commission for Africa, a demonstration of the United Kingdom's commitment to resolving the problems of that continent. I know from my recent visits to the Magreb counties how seriously the commission is viewed, based on consulting the nations of Africa, and how enthusiastically those countries in the region are responding to the consultation exercise.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, argued, resolving conflict and promoting peace and security in the continent remains a fundamental challenge for the international community, and this Government are committed to addressing it. Of course, economic weakness in Africa remains an obstacle to long-term development, caused in part by lack of inward investment and by corruption, as my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall said. Only 1 per cent of all international investment goes into the whole of the continent of Africa. But there are some signs of progress, not least through the NePAD endeavour, and success stories are emerging slowly and painfully—in Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal, Namibia and Rwanda, which are all committed to good governance, which is so necessary to make the economic progress needed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, asked about older people caring for victims of HIV/AIDS. We are looking, as others are in the donor community, at the balance between prevention and treatment. I shall try to write to the noble Baroness further on the important points that she raised on that.

The noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, mentioned the very important points around reproductive health. He knows that the Government support his view on the importance of the issue. He knows, too, how sensitive the issue is in the international community, but it is nevertheless one on which we should continue to work hard. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, for the important points that she made about the role that access to water plays in conflict around the world. We saw that all too clearly in Iraq, in how the Saddam Hussein regime treated the Marsh Arabs.

This has been a very wide-ranging debate with a blend of vision and wisdom that has lifted our sights beyond individual national interests to the collective interests of those with whom we share this small and fragile planet. A number of your Lordships remarked on the relative roles of the rich and powerful countries as compared with those of the poorer more vulnerable countries, particularly in respect of the United States. Those points were covered by my noble friend Lord Judd, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, the noble Lords, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton and Lord Dykes, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, in his excellent contribution. However, that begs a huge question for all of us. Governments can be wise and visionary but they also have clear responsibilities to those who put them in power and those whom they lead. All governments put the security and prosperity of their own nations first; that is what all governments do.

For some that position is very clear-cut. The bigger, the richer, the more powerful the country, the clearer it perceives its individual national interest to be. The fact is that smaller, poorer, weaker nations must rely on others and have to make alliances for trade and defence. However, I sense from the debate that this world picture is going through yet another cycle of change and that the global threats, whether of terrorism, climate change, WMD, regional conflict or civil war now have to be met by global solutions—international co-operation, shared science, shared technology, enforceable treaties and fair trade. Now even the biggest and most powerful must learn the art of compromise through international mechanisms, however flawed those mechanisms may be. As the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said, all the agencies such as the UN, the WTO and the WHO need our support, our money, and they need the best we have to offer in brain power if they are to be the real instruments for change that we need.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I hope that the UN will be more respected because I hope it will reform. I hope that it will raise its sights above the narrow interests of those who have the biggest voices. I hope that others will follow our example in divorcing aid from trade, cancelling debt and making some real, tangible efforts to indicate a way forward. This Government will continue to argue, persuade and he committed to every opportunity available to us this year to pursue those issues vigorously.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick

My Lords, I would like to begin by thanking very warmly all noble Lords who participated in this debate. It has been an excellent debate. I would particularly like to thank the three Front Bench spokesmen who made such thoughtful and prescient contributions. I would like to say a special word of appreciation to the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who made a magnificent contribution and brought to our debate the moral dimension that it requires.

I thank noble Lords for, and am slightly overwhelmed by, all the plaudits that came in my direction. I was reminded of the fact that the president of the Security Council always gets a script from the secretariat which says, "Thank the ambassador for his kind remarks", which some presidents of the council interpret as indeed thanking the speaker for his kind remarks even if he has spent the previous 20 minutes berating them. I did not need to make such a fool of myself today as I can genuinely thank noble Lords for their remarks.

Our debate today, and a debate that took place in another place in Westminster Hall very recently, constitute just about the best message that we could send to the Secretary-General when he comes here next week. We thereby demonstrate that we take these issues seriously and that we regard them as matters which must be discussed before they are decided. That constitutes a great contribution for him at a time when he himself is confronting a sea of difficulties.

I wish to address two points. One concerns the United States' role and the other concerns human rights. On the United States' role, I am a firm believer that the United Nations needs the active participation of the United States and cannot possibly afford to dispense with that. I believe equally strongly that the United States needs the United Nations and that it cannot meet all these challenges and threats on its own.

What has to be done now in this debate, which I hope is also going on in the United States—I believe that it is as I participated in it myself in Chicago last week—is to remind oneself of the historical context. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, stung me slightly when he said that the panel did not have a historical vision as we did, among other things, think quite a lot about the interesting contrast between the situation now and that pertaining in 1945. Many people in the United States ask why they need the United Nations as theirs is the most powerful country in the world. In 1945, of course, the United States was incomparably more powerful in relation to the rest of the world than it is now. It represented more than half the world economy and it knew—although no one else knew except the government of this country—that it had deliverable nuclear weapons. Yet at that time the United States signed the charter; indeed, it did the most of any country to write the charter. It did not do so as an act of idealism, although idealism was there; it did so because of hard national interest. It decided that it was in its national interest to put its faith in collective security. In a way we have to recreate that situation. It is no good thinking that the United Nations can be so designed as to tie down the United States, like Gulliver was tied down with thousands of tiny threads, and then everything will be fine. It will not work. We have to convince the United States by our powers of advocacy and by listening also to its concerns that it is in its interest as much as in our interest that the United Nations succeeds.

As regards human rights, we all recognised when we put forward the proposal that the Commission on Human Rights should be a universal body that this was counter-intuitive. It has not surprised me that quite a few people have criticised it; it is perfectly legitimate to do so. As always in these matters of policy, you have to look at the alternatives. The alternative, which was to try to make out of a restricted membership criteria that would exclude certain people and promote others, would, as a speaker in the debate said, tie the whole of the UN and the Commissioner for Human Rights up in knots for several years and probably not result in any different membership from the present one. The proposal for universal membership was and is supported by the Secretary-General and supported very powerfully by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour. Therefore, one has to look more at the machinery that we suggested should be inserted alongside the commission itself; that is, the panel of qualified human rights experts who would be put forward by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and not by the members of the Commission on Human Rights though they would take the formal decision on it. That could bring a new dimension to the very discredited discussions of that commission.

We must not give up on the United Nations as a vehicle for delivering better performance on human rights. The efforts that those who have a bad performance on human rights go to to avoid being criticised is perhaps the best tribute that there can be to the potential influence and power of the United Nations, if only we can make it work better.

I conclude by saying that the United Nations, like other international organisations, has to adapt or be marginal. I hope that this year will be the year in which it goes through a profound adaptation. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, before we start the next debate I advise the House that Back-Bench speeches are limited to seven rather than six minutes.

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