Africa's Struggle: Security, Stability and Development

October 10, 2005 - nr.17
Summary

On 31 January 2000, the Advisory Council on International Affairs was asked to produce an advisory report on ways to promote peace and stability in Africa, which is one of the key objectives of the Netherlands’ Africa policy memorandum.

The sheer size of the African continent and the complexity of the problems surrounding security and stability means that an effective solution cannot be limited to a single policy area. While it would be naïve to assume that the goals of ministries that focus primarily on domestic Dutch interests, such as the Ministries of Economic Affairs and of Agriculture, can always be harmonised with international activities, efforts must nevertheless be made to achieve greater coherence. The AIV feels that the government should at least make a start by trying to achieve cohesion in the formulation and implementation of policy, initially between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and the Ministry of Defence.

The AIV recommends a coherence test or report to encourage the other relevant ministries to become more aware of the importance of poverty reduction in Africa. An effective policy for the least developed countries in Africa will benefit from an understanding of which elements of the policies of the aforementioned ministries improve conditions for the poorest of the poor, and which do not. A coherence test or report can help to chart the consequences of such policy, avoid its negative effects and boost its effectiveness for the least developed countries.

It would also be unrealistic to expect the Netherlands to provide an effective answer to the immense problems confronting Africa, especially since its existing development cooperation policy in this sphere is directed mainly at countries that are already pursuing good governance and good policy. The recommendations formulated in this advisory report therefore relate primarily to standpoints and views that the Netherlands can put forward in a multilateral context, unless it is expressly indicated that the Dutch government can perform the activity concerned bilaterally.

In this advisory report, the AIV calls for continued international, European and Dutch involvement in Africa, partly in the light of the various links which the Netherlands and Europe have with the continent. The report should be seen as a plea for concentrated efforts by the Netherlands in these multilateral fora to make Africa more secure and more stable.

Most of the 27 major conflicts that took place throughout the world in 1999 occurred in Africa. Around a fifth of the African population lives in countries affected by armed conflicts. One in every 150 Africans is a refugee. The AIV acknowledges that state-building in Africa is an important prerequisite for the growth of security and stability. A weak central government can make conflicts more likely. In Africa, conflicts and violence are sparked off by various combinations of political, economic, socio-cultural and other factors. The breakdown of security and stability is also linked to problems of food security, poverty, economic decline, scarcity of natural resources, environmental degradation, social inequality and human rights violations.

The causes of the conflicts and oppositions within and between African countries are extremely wide-ranging. Armed conflicts and wars are difficult to bring under control

 

once they have started: even when a conflict is over, there is a significant risk of a new conflict flaring up near the site of a previous struggle.

The AIV believes that one of the main causes of conflict is the weakness of state structures in Africa. Despite enjoying formal recognition by the international community, many African states have no effective and recognised authority over their own populations and lack properly functioning institutions. In the worst cases, this leads to the collapse of centralised structures, creating what are known as ‘failed states’. In such cases, Africans can transfer their primary loyalty to their own ethnic, religious or cultural grouping, with all the associated risks of polarisation and political nepotism.

In countries where civil society is weak but the ‘failing state’ has not yet led to extreme situations, political parties function less as instruments of parliamentary supervision than as vehicles for the acquisition and exercise of power. Democratisation is therefore about more than simply holding elections. Yet despite this, during the 1990s, donors spent most of their funding to promote democracy on sending international observers to elections.

The AIV believes that the Dutch government should place the monitoring of elections more in the broader context of support for democratisation processes in Africa. The basic aim should continue to be to ensure that civil and political rights in the country concerned are adequately respected and that the security situation allows elections to be held. In addition to election monitoring in the strict sense, the AIV also recommends that the Dutch government provide support for the technical and logistical preparation and implementation of elections. This could include help with the deployment of local observers, the supply of ballot papers and ballot boxes, the distribution of information to voters, and the training of staff at polling stations.

Support for, and involvement in, preparations for elections are a more effective way of evaluating how they are run and of identifying electoral malpractice early on. The experience gained in providing support for elections can be deepened by appointing an official working party to supervise this assistance. The AIV also recommends that the

Minister for Development Cooperation submit periodic reports to Parliament and evaluation of Dutch involvement in election monitoring. These evaluations should be included in reports to the House. Such professionalisation of the election monitoring process ties in well with the European Union’s proposals to improve the planning and coordination of election monitoring activities by the member states.

In view of this lengthy process, the key aim of which, according to the AIV, is to help build democratic institutions which are firmly embedded in African civil society, the AIV recommends great caution when considering the provision of financial support to political parties. Funding can perhaps instead be given to the International Parliamentary Union to help it to create the right circumstances for political parties in African countries to call their governments to account through the parliamentary process.

Support for Security Sector Reform is a key aspect of efforts to strengthen parliamentary democracy and institution-building, although the policy is still in its infancy. In their bilateral relationships with African countries, donors must try to help the military and police forces to be more receptive to outside control, primarily by the parliament of the country concerned. MPs also need to be able to conduct better and more effective supervision.

 

In the interests of good governance and good policy, the Netherlands should do more to help bring the armed forces and police under the control of the civil and democratic authorities and to encourage the development of instruments to make them more accountable. These institutions should be professionalised to increase their focus on respect for human rights and martial law and to separate the provision of external security, provided by the army, from internal security, provided by the police. MPs should also be trained to supervise these forces, especially their budgets (i.e. their financial allocations).

Small arms play a significant role in conflicts in Africa; it is these weapons that claim so many lives and make it possible for children to take part in the armed struggle. The Netherlands is committed to taking further steps, within the UN and the European Union to combat the spread of small arms. The EU action programme to combat the proliferation of small arms was launched at the Netherlands’ instigation. The United Nations will be organising a conference in 2001 on the illegal production and trade in small arms. Following this conference and the evaluation, during the same year, of a three-year ban by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the production, import and export of small arms, a decision can be made to see whether new initiatives are required.

The AIV has already issued general recommendations on combating the proliferation and use of small arms. With regard to the African context, it has advised the Dutch government to include the question of controlling the trade in, and supply of, ammunition to African countries on the agenda of the UN conference on illegal production of small arms in 2001.

Various combinations of economic factors in Africa, such as stagnating growth, high unemployment, declining commodity prices and an escalating debt burden, all provide a breeding ground for instability and conflict. Access to natural resources is a key factor in the link between the economy and the potential for conflict in Africa.

The AIV therefore believes that as part of its efforts to prevent conflict in Africa, the Netherlands should take steps to ensure that no population group within African countries is systematically excluded from the distribution and benefits of natural resources. If this appears likely to happen, then the government of the country concerned should be called to account and asked to provide systematic reports.

Conflicts are frequently financed by the proceeds of the smuggling of, and trade in, diamonds, gold and drugs. It is important that the G8 nations, which account for the lion’s share of the global trade in diamonds, acknowledge the urgency of the problem of the illegal trade and have pledged their commitment to assisting the regional enforcement of laws and regulations in Africa. The United Kingdom’s decision to demand certificates of origin before processing diamonds should also be given support. The UN Security Council has issued a presidential declaration asking the Secretary General to appoint a panel of experts to investigate the illegal exploitation of commodities from the Democratic Republic of Congo and the role this may be playing in the ongoing conflict there.

The Netherlands should continue to actively support recent initiatives to stamp out the illegal trade in diamonds and to improve the quality of certificates of origin. In doing so, it can exploit the involvement of civil society in Africa, and in particular the experience of one or two NGOs in this area. The AIV also believes that the Netherlands should continue to support international and African efforts to combat trade in hard drugs.

Existing social structures in Africa are under pressure. Large-scale migration leads to the unravelling of traditional social structures and increases instability.

The AIV feels that the Netherlands’ efforts to help alleviate the problems caused by migration should not be restricted to the national level, central governments or the major cities, but that they should also target smaller towns and rural areas where migrants seek refuge - and those areas which people are leaving. More attention should be given in development programmes to the creation of jobs in new emerging cities and non-agricultural sectors.

The spread of HIV and the consequences of Aids are having severe demographic repercussions, and this can in turn harbour the seeds of conflict. In 2000, the Netherlands allocated around USD 40 million to the International Aids Vaccine Initiative.

In addition to supporting general measures to combat Aids, the Netherlands should also continue to call for greater openness on sexuality and Aids, including within the armed forces of African countries. The information that is already being disseminated to military personnel in this regard by the DPKO, UNFPA and UNAIDS, among others, should be encouraged and supported by the Netherlands.

The AIV recommends that the Netherlands strengthen its various existing care mechanisms for Aids sufferers and their relatives (extended families, child-headed families, orphanages) within a sector-wide approach. Job creation programmes should take account of the care that participants must - or have had to – give to relatives with Aids.

Youngsters who grow up under the threat of Aids, inadequate educational and other provisions and extended armed conflicts frequently fall prey to the temptation to use violence themselves.

The AIV recommends that the Netherlands give high priority to the growing number of marginalised youngsters in Africa, given that they are particularly susceptible to recruitment by militias and criminal organisations. The AIV believes that the Netherlands should therefore do more to help generate employment for young people in Africa, with a view to offering them an alternative to participation in armed conflicts and the prospect of a brighter future. The Netherlands is already co-funding organisations in South Africa which organise employment and training for marginalised youngsters.

In early 2000, the UN working party reached agreement on an optional protocol to the UN Treaty on the Rights of the Child concerning the deployment of children in armed conflicts. In the past, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration DD&R programmes tended to be introduced into post-conflict situations. Now, however, these programmes are also used as a means of preventing conflicts and escalating crime.

The Netherlands should therefore also continue to cofinance DD&R programmes specifically targeted at youngsters in Africa, as an instrument for conflict prevention and in countries affected by serious crime.

The relationship between gender, security and conflict is many-sided. Although women are generally prevented from participating in armed forces and militias, their rights are frequently seriously violated during conflicts, for example through systematic rape. Yet women can play a positive role in conflict prevention and conflict resolution and in the rebuilding of communities ravaged by war. They can also acquire a more autonomous economic and social status during a conflict.

The AIV therefore feels that the Netherlands should continue to give explicit and systematic attention in its Africa policy to the role of gender in relation to questions of security and stability. This means, among other things, that the Netherlands should continue to assist the prosecution and sentencing of those who are guilty of rape, as is currently being done by the Rwanda tribunal. A larger financial allocation should therefore be earmarked for UNIFEM, and local gender and security projects should be funded.

The signing of a formal treaty marks the start of the post-conflict phase, centring on reconstruction and reconciliation. The bridging of both economic and social and political differences at this stage is crucial. One possibility is to exploit common traditions and institutions for conflict mediation.

The AIV believes that the Netherlands can contribute to peace processes in Africa by supporting socially embedded reconciliation campaigns and by involving civil society in these campaigns. The emphasis must lie on encouraging the population and local organisations to accept the peace treaties with a view to restoring peace and social cohesion. Women’s organisations should be included in these efforts.

All the OAU member states have now signed the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. A characteristic of the Charter is the inclusion of collective rights, such as the right of peoples to political and economic self-determination, to peace and security, to development and to a habitable environment.

The AIV recommends that the Netherlands provide financial support to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in a way that boosts the Commission’s independence. Due to the important role played by the Commission, such support will promote the further development, refinement and enforcement of the African Charter for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

In the interests of good governance and good policy, the Netherlands should devote more attention to the need for an independent judiciary and legal profession to promote the stability, security and development of African countries. The Netherlands should also support campaigns to increase awareness of the need to respect human rights. The rights of refugees and of displaced persons deserve special protection.

The AIV believes that the Netherlands should closely monitor the activities of the various African national commissions for the promotion and protection of human rights and, if requested to do so, should provide support to those commissions which are sufficiently independent and satisfy the Paris Principles.

International political involvement in Africa has changed since the end of the Cold War. The UN has found it difficult in recent years to get peace operations in Africa off the ground. Dutch participation in UNMEE appears to be the exception to the rule.

The AIV feels that the chief way in which the Netherlands can pursue an effective policy on security and stability in Africa is through multilateral fora such as the UN and the European Union. Outside these fora, the Netherlands can try to work with like-minded donor countries in consortia and coalitions. However, the AIV does not see the combining of forces with like-minded donors as a fully-fledged alternative to existing multilateral fora, but rather as a springboard for the forging of coalitions within the United Nations and the European Union.

EU policy on Africa has traditionally concentrated on development cooperation. The recent Cotonou Convention (signed on 23 June 2000), the successor to Lomé, has been allocated a budget of EUR 14.3 billion for the first five years. One of the new Convention’s aims is the gradual integration of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) into the global economy. In addition to political dialogue between the EU member states and the ACP states concerning human rights, democratisation and the constitutional state, the signatories can now also discuss conflict prevention, organised crime, drugs, the arms trade and the repatriation of illegal immigrants. Civil society and the private sector are also specifically included in these discussions. European Union member states must also coordinate their respective policies on Africa. In May 2000, the Netherlands included ‘conflicts in Africa’ on the agenda of the General Affairs Council. The ministers also agreed to work with other donors, the World Bank and interested African countries to seek ways of disarming, demobilising and reintegrating the combatants. The EU is willing to provide financial assistance for the repatriation of refugees and for the recovery of the most severely affected regions.

The WEU developed activities aimed at increasing peacekeeping opportunities in Africa. Many of these activities, for example with regard to the provision of advice on mine clearance, will end in 2001.

The AIV believes that the Netherlands should ensure that when the WEU activities come to a close, those activities pertaining to Africa which are found to have had positive results, should be transferred to the European Union.

In 2001, the government included a peace fund in its budget, to be used to finance activities aimed at strengthening the peacekeeping capacity of developing countries. It will mainly provide incidental contributions to short-term activities. The peace fund will be allocated an annual NLG 15 million.

In order to increase the capacity of African countries to promote security and stability throughout the continent, the Netherlands should continue to provide support for African regional initiatives through the transfer of knowledge, experience and capital. This can be done either through an extra allocation to the peace fund or via the regular flow of development aid.

In 1991, the former Nigerian head of state, Olusegun Obasanjo, put forward a proposal for a Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA). The AIV believes that it is less important to replicate the OSCE model itself than to introduce the underlying perceptions and ideas of the OSCE into the political discussion in Africa.

The Netherlands has elected to become Chairman-in-Office of the OSCE in 2003. It should use this opportunity to launch initiatives aimed at introducing the principles and ideas underlying the OSCE into the political discussion in Africa. With this in mind, it should seek to promote a dialogue between the OSCE and OAU.

According to a reply from the government to questions tabled in the House of Representatives of the States General, less than 50 of the Netherlands’ development budget is currently spent on Africa.

The AIV feels that the Netherlands should honour its pledge to the UN Secretary General to allocate 50 of its development aid to Africa.

Advice request

Dear Professor Lubbers,

On 17 August 1999, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation presented the Lower House with a memorandum on the main lines of Dutch policy on Africa. Its two main development objectives are to promote security and stability, and good governance and good policy. During the discussion of both the Africa memorandum and the budget, it became clear that the Lower House supports this emphasis. We are now writing to request recommendations on one of these two objectives: the promotion of security and stability in Africa.

The memorandum on Africa states that African countries and organisations themselves should bear primary responsibility for conflict prevention and control. At the Organisation of African Unity's July 1999 summit in Algiers, African heads of state endorsed this principle. The Africans themselves hold the key to peace on their continent. This does not however imply that the Netherlands should take a wait-and-see approach to the complex problems there. At least four arguments suggest the Netherlands should support African efforts to attain peace and stability.

First of all, devoting more attention to conflicts in Africa is in our own interest. Instability in Africa affects Europe's security. Consequences could include increased numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, and the export of criminal activity (drug-related crime in particular). The loss of current or potential trading partners would also affect Europe. During the Cold War, conflicts in Africa were part of the power struggle between the First and Second Worlds. The collapse of that bipolar structure has led to a new political situation in which conflicts are more difficult to control. Security policy in European and North American capitals still looks mainly to the east and to the Balkans in particular. We should not, however, lose sight of the many conflicts raging in Africa.

A second argument for supporting peace and stability in Africa is that many African countries and organisations lack the financial and/or institutional capacity needed to intervene in time when a crisis looms. Various studies have shown that intervention early in a conflict, before violence breaks out, is more effective and cheaper than intervention after a situation has escalated. Furthermore, it is more difficult and dangerous to reserve action for the later stages of a conflict. Regional cooperation, economic and otherwise, can help to prevent or reduce conflicts.

A third argument for Dutch support is based on the fact that as much as half our funds for bilateral development cooperation are spent in Africa. Development cooperation and politics are inseparable. Security and stability create a positive climate for development, and socioeconomic development in turn fosters security and stability. This justifies a broad, integrated and coherent approach of the kind we advocated in the memorandum on Africa and in the spirit of the UN Secretary-General's report on the causes of conflict.

Finally, closing our eyes to Africa's wars and its many refugees is unacceptable from a humanitarian perspective. Why intervene in conflicts in Kosovo and East Timor but not in Africa? The media's lack of interest is no excuse.

 

 

THE FRAMEWORK FOR DUTCH POLICY ON PROMOTING SECURITY AND STABILITY IN AFRICA

Several basic principles determine the framework for the Dutch contribution to a 'security policy' for Africa. First of all, as the memorandum on Africa indicates, to ensure that policy is effective, the foreign affairs, defence and development cooperation ministers must make a coordinated and coherent effort to carry out that policy in the context of political, economic and development relations, each on the basis of his or her own responsibilities and instruments. A variety of instruments, including diplomacy, peace operations, observer missions, demarcation, arms embargoes, sanctions and humanitarian aid, should all contribute to a coherent policy that is adjusted according to each individual situation.

The second basic principle is that policy should be pursued both bilaterally and multilaterally (the latter in the European Union, the United Nations, the international financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation and African regional organisations, and in cooperation with other donor activities). Each of these channels has advantages and disadvantages and the challenge is to find the right mix of instruments for each specific country and situation. Very different channels may be appropriate in different cases. Experience has frequently shown that because of its status as an 'impartial' partner in Africa, and as a major donor, the Netherlands is often able to enter into significant dialogues with African governments and organisations (as part of a 'Group of Friends', for example).

The third principle underlying Dutch policy derives from the results of recent studies into the causes of conflict, which have deepened our insight into how violent conflicts arise. For instance, one conclusion of a recent study by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations 'Clingendael', entitled 'Causes of Conflict in the Third World', was that factors such as a country's institutional capacity, the degree to which power is distributed and changes in access to economic resources can play an important role in precipitating or preventing conflict. Good governance, security and stability are inextricably bound together. The OECD Development Centre shares this view.

The fourth principle is that current African conflicts have changed since the Cold War. More and more, intrastate conflicts have taken the place of inter-state wars. The traditional view of conflicts, which focuses exclusively on the state as actor, cannot be applied to the current situation in Africa. A broader approach should be taken, in which security is seen as 'the absence of threat to acquired values'.

Finally, according to Stephen Ellis, researcher at the African Studies Centre political power in Africa is largely determined by contacts with the outside world. Factors such as ownership-oriented approach to development cooperation and the Netherlands' choice of partners within an African country can therefore affect that country's internal power relations and the security situation in the region in question.

QUESTIONS

An AIV report responding to the questions stated briefly below could be very helpful in working out the further details of Dutch policy on Africa.

1. What is the AIV's view on the development of security and stability in Africa?

2. How should security and stability in Africa be promoted?

3. What contributions can international partners and the Netherlands in particular make to the promotion of security and stability in Africa?

4. Which aspects of Dutch policy could be made more coherent?

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Jozias van Aartsen

Minister of Foreign Affairs

on behalf of the Minister of Defence and the Minister for Development Cooperation

Government reactions

Sub-Saharan Africa Department
Bezuidenhoutseweg 67
2594 AC Den Haag

To the Acting Chairman
of the Advisory Council on International Affairs
Professor F.H.J.J. Andriessen
Postbus 20061
2500 EB DEN HAAG

Date   7 March 2001

Author   A.P. Hamburger

Subject:   AIV advisory report "Africa's Struggle: Security, Stability and Development"

 

Dear Mr Chairman,

We have read with great interest the report "Africa's Struggle - Security, Stability and Development" prepared by the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV). We feel that the report presents an accurate picture of the highly complex nature of efforts to promote peace and stability in Africa, and accept the various recommendations it makes in almost every regard. Many of these proposals endorse existing policy as set down in the Africa Memorandum and other documents, and the report can therefore be seen as an encouragement to the government to continue its present course or to explore its existing policy in more depth.

We would like to take this opportunity to respond to various points raised in the report, partly in view of the forthcoming parliamentary debate on Africa on 14 March. These points will be covered in the order they are dealt with in the final chapter of the report ("Summary and Recommendations"). Since the advisory report was also requested on behalf of the Minister of Defence, we will be consulting with Mr de Grave and, if necessary, preparing a further response.

The report rightly emphasises the need for increased coherence in the government's Africa policy and for a study of the effects of Dutch policy on the poorest groups in Africa. The coordination and cohesion of that policy is being improved by various bodies and at various levels. This applies in the first instance to the Cabinet itself, where the Minister for Development Cooperation makes a direct contribution to policy on Africa as a full Cabinet member alongside the Minister of Foreign Affairs as coordinating minister for foreign policy. Other examples of increased coordination and coherence within the Cabinet include our common policy on agriculture and our joint instruction for the WTO summit in Seattle. The Netherlands is ahead of many other Western nations in this regard.

Other, more recent, examples of initiatives at the leading edge of stability and development are the debate concerning the availability and affordability of medicines to treat HIV/Aids in developing countries (this was also raised by the Prime Minister during his recent visit to South Africa, partly at the instigation of the Minister for Development Cooperation) and the debate on access to the EU market for the least developed countries ("Everything but arms"). The AIV's recommendation that a start should be made on "trying to achieve cohesion in the formulation and implementation of policy, initially between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and the Ministry of Defence" is reflected in the coordinated and integrated interdepartmental approach to the conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea (financing the peace process, participation in UNMEE, agreements governing development ties). The joint mission to these countries by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defence and the Minister for Development Cooperation is another example of this approach.

At sub-ministerial level, government policy is coordinated by the Development Cooperation Coordination Committee and the International Affairs Coordination Committee (CORIA), while security and development aspects for the main conflict regions are coordinated by 'task forces' which meet frequently.

We are committed to pursuing an ongoing search for coherence within policy and to improving our understanding of which policy measures do and do not work. We will use our growing experience of policy coherence to decide at a later stage whether there is a need for specific instruments, such as the coherence test proposed by the AIV.

We fully endorse the AIV's recommendation for continued international, EU and Dutch involvement in Africa and for concentrated efforts by the Netherlands in multilateral fora to make Africa more secure and stable. Most of these efforts are of course pursued through the European Union and the United Nations. Recent examples include the initiative of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to hold regular, in-depth discussions on conflicts in Africa (including the conflict in the Great Lakes region) in the EU General Affairs Council, and the initiative launched during the Netherlands' presidency of the UN Security Council to conduct extra debates on security and stability in Africa (chaired by the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation respectively). Other multilateral bodies, such as the Bretton Woods Institutions and the Global Coalition for Africa, have also played a direct and indirect role in this sphere, and the Netherlands is also actively involved in these fora.

We fully concur with the view that support for elections should involve more than just election monitoring. The Netherlands has in fact provided - and continues to provide - a far broader range of assistance to a variety of African countries than merely financing independent observers. We also feel it is important not to limit aid to the election day itself, but to make it available during preparations for the elections as well. Such assistance would include more support for logistics and public information campaigns. We are anxious to look more closely at ways to improve the supervision of electoral support, its evaluation and the submission of reports to Parliament.

We endorse the AIV's recommendation for greater restraint in the provision of direct financial aid to political parties in Africa. However, we have recently made a contribution to the Institute for Multiparty Democracy, which provides support only with the agreement of the relevant governments. The AIV's recommendation that the Dutch government should fund the International Parliamentary Union is logical, but we also support other organisations that are directly or indirectly committed to strengthening the parliamentary process in Africa, such as Parliamentarians for Global Action and the Global Coalition for Africa. We additionally contribute funds to the World Bank Institute, which teaches MPs from developing countries how to 'read' budgets.

In relation to this, the AIV advocates support for Security Sector Reform, partly to help strengthen parliamentary democracy in Africa. As the report correctly points out, this process is still in its infancy. We have asked the AIV for advice in this area and are also in contact with the United Kingdom, which has more experience in this field. A careful weighing up of pros and cons, especially in post-conflict situations, is an absolute prerequisite, but the need to anchor all aspects of the security sector into a transparent and democratic system governed by effective parliamentary control is beyond question.

We fully endorse the need to combat the distribution and use of small arms in Africa, given the role that these weapons play in triggering and perpetuating conflicts there. The Netherlands has raised this issue in the UN Security Council and is again playing an active role - including within the EU - in preparations for the UN conference on arms reduction to be held in July. The conference has a broad title - "Conference on the illicit trade of small arms and light weapons in all its aspects" - and as such will also address issues cited by the AIV, including ammunition. The Minister of Foreign Affairs raised the issue of small arms at the summit of EU-SADC Foreign Ministers at the end of 2000, with the result that delegates agreed on closer cooperation in this area. The problem was also discussed during the Netherlands' presidency of the Security Council in September 1999.

We naturally share the conviction that income from the exploitation of natural resources should be distributed as fairly as possible among the population. This is in fact one of the cornerstones of Dutch development policy, the main aim of which is to help reduce poverty. We also attach great importance to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) which are drafted by the developing countries themselves under the auspices of the World Bank and with the direct involvement of civil society. The PRSPs are primarily geared to help developing countries to channel their own resources to the appropriate quarters.

We are taking rigorous steps to support activities designed to prevent income from specific natural resources (such as the sale of diamonds) from being used to finance arms and conflicts. We have, for example, given active support - including financial allocations - to the UN expert groups studying the misuse of such revenue in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone.

The Netherlands is involved in the preparation of an international certification system for diamonds, which included attending a recent preparatory conference organised by the United Kingdom, and has voiced strong support for the EU General Affairs Council resolution on the subject.

We are eager to consider the AIV's recommendation that the Netherlands should provide more support for international and African efforts to combat the illicit trade in hard drugs. We believe that all such measures should take place in a multilateral framework wherever possible.

With regard to the AIV's comments regarding efforts to help generate employment and the impact this can have on migration patterns, the various measures we propose are set out in the policy document "In Business against Poverty" which was presented to the House of Representatives of the States-General by the Minister for Development Cooperation and the Minister of Economic Affairs, and which was recently debated in Parliament. Other measures were announced in a letter of 2 March from the Minister for Development Cooperation to the House of Representatives concerning urban poverty reduction in response to the Dijksma motion

Aids is justifiably given considerable attention in the AIV report. The consequences of the disease have been and will continue to be disastrous for substantial parts of Africa. The Netherlands is already practically the biggest international donor to efforts to combat Aids, mainly via support for organisations such as UNAIDS and UNFPA. In bilateral terms, Dutch policy is geared towards the mainstreaming and inclusion of the Aids issue in the sector-wide approach which is increasingly characterising Dutch development cooperation, since the fight against Aids covers a much broader area than health care alone. The urgency of the Aids problem is also being discussed at political level with African countries. It was included in the recent discussions between the Dutch Prime Minister and the South African President Tabo Mbeki, which underlined the importance of a broad approach covering both preventive and curative measures. As mentioned earlier, the Prime Minister expressed the Netherlands' support for South Africa's attempts to use the scope provided by the WTO/TRIPs to reduce the exclusive rights of patent-holders over certain drugs in the interests of public health. This is obviously crucial for the fight against HIV/Aids. The four Utstein ministers also held high level talks on Aids during their joint visit to Tanzania.

We share the AIV's belief in the need to conduct an active and effective policy to prevent conflicts and violence, and to focus above all on the problem of marginalised youngsters. The steps we are taking to this end are wide-ranging, and include support for peace initiatives (for example in Sudan), reconstruction activities (e.g. in Mozambique and Rwanda), youth programmes (e.g. in South Africa), and international peace processes (such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Sierra Leone), as well as the provision of direct aid to UNMEE. One of the key instruments in conflict prevention is the preparation and implementation of the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) Programmes, to which the Netherlands is prepared to make a substantial contribution. However, we much prefer to see the effective international coordination of such programmes, ideally under the auspices of multilateral organisations such as the World Bank or UNDP. The Minister for Development Cooperation asked for specific attention to be given to this issue when she chaired an open debate on the subject in the Security Council in November 2000. During the debate, the Minister argued that lack of funds should never be permitted to stand in the way of these programmes.

Here, too, job creation plays a key role in conflict prevention, as outlined above, and we again refer you to the measures set out in "In Business against Poverty".

We share the AIV's view that the Netherlands can contribute to reconciliation programmes, and that it should seek both to involve civil society and to focus attention on the special status of women as victims of conflicts and as key figures in reconciliation initiatives. We have launched a reconciliation programme of this kind in Sudan and are funding similar activities in other countries. The Netherlands is already the biggest donor to UNIFEM, which the AIV mentions in its report.

The Netherlands plays a highly active role in promoting respect for human rights in Africa. It does so both in its policy dialogue with African countries and in its support for various activities, including measures to strengthen the position of NGOs in Africa. A memorandum on human rights is currently being prepared. The Dutch government is already making a financial contribution to the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights.

We fully endorse the AIV's belief in the need for an independent judicial authority and legal profession, and the Netherlands is in fact already providing support for the development of this sector in a number of African countries. Given the nature of the judicial system in Africa, which differs markedly from that in the Netherlands in that it is largely based on the French or British justice systems, opportunities for bilateral assistance are somewhat limited.

We note that the report does not cover the need for an independent media, which is at least as essential as an independent judiciary.

The report rightly states that an effective Dutch policy aimed at promoting security and stability in Africa should be pursued primarily through multilateral fora such as the UN and the EU. It is after all important not to overestimate the Netherlands' capacity to unilaterally influence peace and stability in Africa to any significant degree. We must act in conjunction with others. With our membership of the Security Council behind us - a period during which, incidentally, Africa was given considerable attention - our input over the coming period should now primarily be channelled through the EU, although we shall still be maintaining close contacts with Security Council members. This year, cooperation between the EU and Africa will be further highlighted by a ministerial meeting organised as a follow-up to last year's Cairo Summit. Security and stability will again be one of the key discussion topics. Our aim is to ensure that EU measures are genuinely effective and are not hampered by red tape and needlessly conflicting agendas. We hope to achieve this through discussions in the General Affairs Council and the Development Council. Outside these fora, we are taking measures - as recommended by the AIV - to work with like-minded countries in coalitions and consortia, generally as a first step towards broader consensus within the EU or the UN. Conferences of like-minded donors, along the lines of the Utstein group, have often proved fruitful in the past. The Strategic Partnership with Africa also plays a significant role in this regard, since it enables a discussion of Public Expenditure Reviews, among other issues, including the monitoring of defence spending.

We wholeheartedly support the AIV's recommendation for continued aid for African regional initiatives to promote security and stability, and are indeed providing such aid. Examples include support to ECOMOG and various ECOMOG member states, activities undertaken in the context of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), support for the IGAD secretariat, support for the former South African President Nelson Mandela and the former Botswana President Ketumile Masireas as mediators in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively, and contributions to the OAU (including to assist conflict prevention), plus the direct training of African military observers.

The question of whether the principles and ideas underlying the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should be introduced into the political debate in Africa, as recommended by the AIV, will be studied more closely. Basic conditions and circumstances in Europe (both during and since the end of the Cold War) and Africa are very different, and the cohesion between political and economic policy which is so crucial to Africa's development has still not been fully fleshed out in the OSCE. It may therefore initially be better to await autonomous proposals from Africa, such as the suggestion by a group of African heads of government for a Millennium Programme for the Recovery of Africa and the plans for an African Union which have been compiled under the auspices of the OAU. Both will require careful consideration throughout the year.

The AIV's final recommendation that, in line with proposals by the UN Secretary General, 50 per cent of the Netherlands' development budget should be spent on Africa, is being and will continue to be upheld by the Netherlands (see the Africa Memorandum). We are already quite close to achieving this target, but are to some extent dependent on broad political and public support before we can fully realise this priority, which by definition implies a reduced emphasis on other parts of the world.

 

Interim Minister of Foreign Affairs

Minister for Development Cooperation

Press releases

No press release has been published for this advice.