The British government’s claims that its new development strategy would make it a “force for good” will be put to the test if it helps end the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, a select parliamentary committee said on Friday.
Failure to act would be “devastating” to the claim that the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) could lead the world by combining diplomacy and development, MPs said in their report on the humanitarian situation in Tigray.
Ethiopia launched a military offensive against the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front six months ago but, despite early claims of victory, the conflict has turned into guerrilla warfare and fighting has escalated again.
Sarah Champion, chair of the Commons international development committee, said: “The risk of the conflict escalating is real and that is why the UK must take urgent action. We cannot bury our heads in the sand; it is our moral duty to help find a solution and put an end to misery and fear. ”
“This will be the first real test of the FCDO’s new combined diplomacy and development strategy. The UK can use its development and diplomatic strengths to help end the current unrest and violence and find a peaceful and lasting solution. The consequences of not acting will be devastating. “
The committee said the government needed to use its ties to Ethiopia and work with the UN and the African Union to end the conflict and human rights abuses. He also said the government should push for an end to alleged restrictions on access to aid, while sanctioning anyone identified as blocking humanitarian support.
More than 1.7 million people have been displaced within Ethiopia by the fighting, according to the UN, and there have been widespread reports of rapes, massacres and attacks on health facilities.
In response to criticism of the merger of the Department for International Development into the Commonwealth and Foreign Office, the government claimed that combining diplomacy with its relief work would make the UK a “force for good”.
“The FCDO must do everything in its power to ensure humanitarian access and sanction those who attempt to obstruct the delivery of vital food, water, medical care and shelter,” said Champion.