Lord Oates: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have held ministerial-level discussions with European Union member states about the current economic crisis and food emergency in Zimbabwe.
Earl Howe The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords: My Lords, international partners, including EU member states. Her Majesty’s ambassador to Zimbabwe last met her counterparts from the EU, the United States, Japan, Switzerland, Canada and Australia on 26 February. The UK has committed £49 million to provide humanitarian assistance to the 57,000 Zimbabweans most in need of food, including through cash transfers.
Lord Oates: I thank the Minister for his Answer. As he will be aware, the situation in Zimbabwe is now absolutely desperate. This is principally as a result of the disastrous failings of the Government of Zimbabwe, compounded by drought and cyclones. Does the Minister agree that, in addition to the restrictive measures against individuals who abuse human rights and continue to loot the country, we also need a positive offer to give hope to the Zimbabwean people in their struggle for political and economic justice? Will the Government therefore work with our European and other international partners to agree an economic rescue package—a Marshall plan—that would be made available to any Zimbabwean Government who met specified criteria, including restoring democratic civilian government, upholding the rule of law and demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of its people, rather than the personal enrichment of its Ministers?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I acknowledge the noble Lord’s long-standing and close interest in Zimbabwe and its people, and I agree that we must continue to give hope and encouragement to all those who want to see genuine political and economic change in Zimbabwe. However, we have to face the reality that no package of external support will deliver for the Zimbabwean people without fundamental reforms, as he rightly says. Therefore, the onus must remain on the Government of that country to demonstrate true commitment to change. So far, we have seen limited progress.
Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, the fact remains that Zimbabwe is still a very dangerous place for people to live and, as the noble Lord highlighted, security forces there are using draconian laws. Last week, President Trump went to Congress to extend sanctions. What are the Government doing with the EU and the US to build a stronger alliance to force the sort of changes to which the noble Lord has alluded? Will the Government also consider using their new powers under the Magnitsky clause to try to target those responsible for these human rights abuses even more effectively?
Earl Howe: My Lords, we will review our sanctions regime in connection with Zimbabwe at the end of this year, when we come to the close of the transition period. The noble Lord is absolutely right that we are seriously concerned about human rights in Zimbabwe. There are abductions, arrests and assaults on civil society and opposition activists. The country remains one of the UK’s 30 human rights-priority countries. We provide extensive financial and technical assistance to civil society organisations in their efforts to hold the state to account on issues related to human rights.
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