On 28th November 2013, Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the outcome of the talks held earlier this month regarding the proposed Geneva II peace conference on the conflict in Syria.
The Bishop of Wakefield asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, much as I am encouraged by the recent UN announcement that the Geneva talks are to take place on 22 January, I would welcome the Minister’s reassurance that this was born not out of an understandable desperation and frustration, but that there is a real and clear diplomatic plan for progress. Am I right in assuming that the Free Syrian Army, which is one of the largest rebel groups taking part in the war in the moment, will be represented at those talks?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: Our view is that it is important that the date for Geneva II was set, and I am the sure that the whole House welcomes that it has been determined. Her Majesty’s Government’s view is that the national coalition and the current Syrian national coalition, led by President Ahmad Assi Jarba, will be central to the delegation representing the opposition at the talks.
On 27th November 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, received an answer to a written question on the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to allocate additional resources to support the implementation of commitments outlined in the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and, if so, what will be the main focus of those resources.
Baroness Northover: The UK is currently considering how best to support the Peace Security and Cooperation Framework (PSCF). DFID is engaging with the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Oversight Mechanism for the PSCF to ensure those that represent local populations, such as civil society organisations, are consulted during implementation. This will include ensuring that there are on-going opportunities for these organisations to provide feedback from the Congolese people affected.
On 26th of November 2013, the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Tanzania regarding allegations of human rights violations at the North Mara Mine.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as the joint leader of the Wakefield-Tanzania Diocesan Link.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, the UK’s high commissioner to Tanzania visited the North Mara mine in March 2013 to raise concerns directly about the alleged human rights violations with African Barrick Gold, the mine owner, and also discussed a range of issues with the local authorities. We are, of course, working closely with the Tanzanian Government on improving respect for human rights and also encouraging them to sign up to the voluntary principles on security and human rights in the extractive sector. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield raises concerns about human rights abuses in Tanzanian mine”
On 25th November 2013, the Labour Peer Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent rape and violence against women and girls. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, following a debate that I was able to secure on a related issue back in March, more than 60 bishops around the country are today supporting the campaign to end gender-based violence, and are visiting on this day a large number of projects up and down the country to support the cause. I apologise that, in the rush to get here, I have no white ribbon. Could the Minister inform the House what additional action the Government are taking to implement the agreed conclusion from this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on the ending of violence against women?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I congratulate my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on his role in ensuring that 135 countries have signed up to the agreement on the use of rape as a weapon of war. This is a significant development, and shows that these arguments are not just confined to this country. Discussions that we are having here have raised awareness throughout the world.
On 21st November 2013, the Bishop of Derby, the Rt Revd Alastair Redfern, and the Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, took part in a debate on human rights, led by Lord Alton of Liverpool. The Bishop of Derby spoke about the role of women within society and religious institutions. He particularly focused on the objectification of women in magazines and the treatment of women in India. The Bishop of Wakefield spoke of the need for a greater engagement on the subject of the right to the freedom of religion, calling on the Government to develop a more positive approach towards religious freedom.
The Lord Bishop of Derby: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Alton, on securing this debate, and I also associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Selkirk.
Many of the pictures painted are dramatic and challenging, and I invite the House to think a little about the context that we are in and how we might approach some of these huge issues. The Government have identified six key priority areas, including women and freedom of religion, and those are the two things that I will look at in particular. We are in a world where we have ideals and fall short of them, and need to negotiate between the two. Continue reading “Bishops of Derby and Wakefield take part in debate about Human Rights”
On 19th November 2013, Crossbench Peer Baroness Boothroyd asked Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have received relating to the creation of a humanitarian aid corridor in Syria. The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd and the Rt Hon. Richard Chartres, asked a supplementary question.
The Lord Bishop of London: My Lords, I think that everybody recognises the complexity of the situation, but just over a month ago, the UN Security Council itself called unanimously for humanitarian pauses. What contribution have Her Majesty’s Government been able to make diplomatically pursuing the possibility of more humanitarian pauses to bring relief to some of the civilians caught up in the fight?
Baroness Northover: Again, that is a case in point. The right reverend Prelate makes a good point in referring to those humanitarian pauses which were politically agreed but not delivered. That is the challenge. This is a very complex situation with many groups fighting each other, and enormous efforts are being put in—not least by UN special envoy Brahimi at the moment—to try to push forward some kind of agreement, but it is immensely difficult.
“It is not surprising that the violence and insecurity that now plagues this country has hampered the delivery of humanitarian aid. As a result, local faith groups and a few national and international NGOs are the primary responders” – Bishop of Wakefield, 18.11.13
On 18th November 2013, Conservative Peer Baroness Berridge led a short debate to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the security and humanitarian situation in the Central African Republic and the Great Lakes region of Africa. The Bishop of Wakefield, the Rt Revd Stephen Platten, took part in the debate, focusing his remarks on the need to sanction the perpetrators of violence in the Central African Republic and the urgent need to tackle sexual violence in conflict.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I warmly congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, for securing this debate and for introducing it with such clarity of purpose. Those of us of a certain age will remember graphically the tragedy of the Congo, going all the way back to independence itself. This was followed by the Katanga breakaway movement and the instability there, and the subsequent tragedies made the entire Great Lakes region a terrible, open wound on our common humanity. As we know, that conflict, which began all those years ago, continues in a number of countries. Continue reading “Bishop of Wakefield urges proactive response to crisis in Central African Republic”