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House of Commons International Development Committee: The humanitarian situation in Tigray (Tenth Report of Session 2019–21)

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UK can lead international response to addressing horrors in Tigray using its combined development and diplomatic prowess within the FCDO

The International Development Committee (IDC) has today said that the UK’s response to the deeply concerning humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region will be an early test of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, where it’s combined development and diplomatic strengths can be utilised to end the violence and suffering.

Over the last few months, fighting has intensified between Ethiopia’s Federal Government – and those loyal to it – and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. There have been deeply concerning reports of possible war crimes and horrific cases of atrocities such as extrajudicial killings, rapes and other forms of gender-based violence. There are also allegations that Eritrean forces are behind some of the human rights violations.

Diplomatically, the UK Government should apply pressure on the Ethiopian Government to put an end to the fighting and remind it of its obligations under the UN Genocide Convention.

With the FCDO absorbing DFID’s humanitarian strengths, a diplomatic solution must be sought in tandem with a development one. The IDC heard evidence that humanitarian access is being seriously hampered in Tigray, with the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP) stating that due to the limited access, the full extent of the horrors in Tigray are unknown. The IDC has therefore urged the FCDO to push for unimpeded access to the region and to act quickly when the situation on the ground becomes clearer to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to meet people’s basic needs – including food, water and shelter.

Should the FCDO identify any actors found to be obstructing the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies, it should consider using UN Security Council mechanisms to bring sanctions against them. It should also work with the appropriate authorities to ensure that independent monitors can access the region to secure evidence of crimes committed to bring those responsible to justice.

In addition to the immediate response and providing urgent humanitarian assistance, the FCDO should work with donors to create a ‘plan of action’ that will draw on previous humanitarian crises to find a lasting solution for Tigray. In creating the plan, the FCDO must engage local communities to properly learn what is needed on the ground, and it must be properly funded to restore basic services.

International Development Committee Chair, Sarah Champion MP, said:

“We cannot begin to imagine the terror faced by communities in Tigray as fighting has led to a humanitarian disaster. How they must be feeling on a daily basis – the constant fear of systematic rape, extra-judicial killings, the use of hunger as a weapon of war – is just too much to comprehend. This is a terrible humanitarian crisis on top of the challenges the region already faces from desert locusts, climate change and covid-19. The risk of conflict spreading is real and that is why the UK must take urgent action. We cannot bury our head in the sand – it is our moral duty to help find a solution and an end to the misery and fear.

“This will be the first real test of the FCDO’s new combined diplomacy and development strategy. The UK can utilise its development and diplomatic strengths to help end the current political unrest and violence and find a lasting, peaceful solution. The consequences of a failure to act will be devastating. The easing of some of the restrictions on access show that diplomatic efforts can work; the FCDO must do everything in its power to ensure humanitarian access, and bring sanctions against those who try and obstruct delivery of vital food, water, healthcare and shelter.

“The UK is at its core a country of humanitarians. We cannot allow this suffering to continue and the UK Government has a duty to use all the tools at its disposal to end the suffering of those living in Tigray.”

Some of the Committee’s recommendations today are:

The UK Government should use all diplomatic means at its disposal to help end the conflict, working multilaterally through the UN and the African Union, and bilaterally with the Ethiopian Government, neighbouring states, and those involved in the conflict.
The UK Government should use its relationship with Ethiopia to ensure its Government protects the population from violence and ensure immediate protection of communities in the region from human rights abuses, including sexual violence.
The UK Government should bear in mind its obligations to take appropriate action in line with the UN Genocide Convention should the Ethiopian Government fail to take the actions it needs to take to protect its people.
The UK Government should work with the appropriate authorities to enable access for independent monitors to Tigray to ensure that evidence of the crimes that have been committed is secured and to bring those who are responsible to justice.
The FCDO should embed an atrocity prevention strategy in its updated country strategy for Ethiopia and neighbouring states.
The UK Government should work with the Ethiopian Government and the relevant regional authorities to ensure humanitarian agencies have unimpeded access to communities in need in Tigray and neighbouring regions.
The FCDO should monitor OCHA’s situation reports to rapidly identify unmet needs so that it can respond quickly and flexibly to provide support. The FCDO should assess whether its current humanitarian contribution is adequate to ensure the basic needs of communities.
In accordance with UN resolution 2417 (2018), the UK Government should explore whether to use the mechanisms of the UN Security Council to press for penalties such as sanctions against actors found to be obstructing the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies and using starvation as a weapon of war.
The FCDO should create a plan of action, applying its learnings from other crises and working with other donors on a properly funded response to restore basic services to Tigray. Local communities must be engaged in the creation of the plan to identify needs on the ground. It should also identify long-term development challenges likely to be created by this conflict (such as food security) and take proactive action to prevent future problems.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Committee membership is as follows: Sarah Champion MP, Chair (Lab, Rotherham), Richard Bacon MP (Con, South Norfolk), Brendan Clarke-Smith MP (Con, Bassetlaw), Theo Clarke MP (Con, Stafford), Pauline Latham OBE MP (Con, Mid Derbyshire), Chris Law MP (SNP, Dundee West), Ian Liddell-Grainger MP (Con, Bridgwater and West Somerset), Navendu Mishra MP (Lab, Stockport), Kate Osamor MP (Lab, Edmonton), Dr Dan Poulter MP (Con, Central Suffolk and North Ipswich), Mr Virendra Sharma MP (Lab, Ealing, Southall).

Specific Committee Information: indcom@parliament.uk 020 7219 1223

Media information from Chloe Jago: jagoc@parliament.uk / 020 7219 1034 and 07710 064583

Committee Website: www.parliament.uk/indcom

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