Baroness Goudie’s reply to the Queen’s speech at the House of Lords 19 November 2009

Mary GoudieMy Lords, I welcome the gracious Speech and the speeches of noble Lords across the House who spoke yesterday. I want to mention a few items today: the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill, Afghanistan, the international aid Bill and the G20. I declare an interest as patron of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and a member of the executive committee and board of Vital Voices Global Partnership. I congratulate all in this House, in the other place and in the NGOs who have been involved in the very important cluster munitions Bill. Cluster bombs are air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapons that eject smaller sub-missions. They have been used extensively in recent conflicts around the world in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Lebanon and are still active in 31 countries. I ask the Government to put pressure on those countries which have not ratified the convention to do so, to stop the killing and maiming of innocent civilians.

I support the Prime Minister and the Government in their commitment to our strategy in Afghanistan, which is vital to Britain's national security. Along with the international community, the United Nations and the World Bank, we are the third largest donor and have committed a further £510 million over the next four years to enable the people of Afghanistan to develop their government and society.

Today, President Karzai has been sworn in for a second term. As part of his new presidency, I ask the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and Douglas Alexander to insist that the president leads the fight against corruption at every level to ensure its eradication, and to ensure that he has regular meetings with Members of both Houses. To date, I am informed-I know-that he has not had positive meetings with elected female Members of either House. Female Members of the House do not have offices in Kabul, their offices are in their constituencies, so it is very difficult for them to form any caucuses among themselves or with male Members of either House. He must also promote education of girls and women's rights.

I welcome the Government's commitment to the international development Bill, which will make a binding government commitment to spending of 0.7 per cent of gross national income on international development by 2013. That Bill puts beyond doubt the Government's determination to deliver on our long-held international development commitments, particularly at this time of global economic downturn, to meet the millennium development goals and to ensure a flow of aid to developing countries.

In June next year, the G20 will be meeting in Canada. The G20 has continued to play a crucial role in tackling the international financial economic crisis that we face. The global economy cannot recover or be rebuilt if half the world is left behind, or if half the world remains at risk of falling even further behind as a result of the global economic crisis. All recommendations emanating from the next G20 summit must be considered and developed, with a particular focus on the inclusion of women at all levels of decision-making and all aspects of economic empowerment.

To ignore women would not be smart economics. Invest in women and improve the world. Further, I ask the Government to request that two further items be on the agenda: maternal health-every woman must have the right to a safe birth-and that rape no longer be a tool of war.

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