Government forms civilian disaster response group

British construction experts are helping rebuild prisons in disaster-struck Haiti as part of a new aid network launched by the Government today.

More than a thousand professionals from the UK are ready to deploy to countries emerging from conflict and crisis under the new Civilian Stabilisation Group.

Deployed with less than 24 hours notice, they will bring reconstruction and stabilisation expertise in fields ranging from law enforcement to building local institutions, a spokesman for the scheme said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: "This 1,000-strong Civilian Stabilisation Group will further strengthen our ability to offer rapid help in rebuilding countries after conflict or disaster."

The group will boost the civilian effort in countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Kosovo, Georgia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The unit is deploying civilian experts to help the Haitian government in its efforts to rebuild prisons and help the World Bank identify priority needs.

Mr Brown added: "The new Civilian Stabilisation Group will combine the skills and energy of people both inside and outside government - helping bring the stability and humanitarian assistance that is urgently needed, but also hope for the future through reconstruction and development."

Sheelagh Stewart, head of the group, said: "The unit is the Government's centre of expertise and best practice in stabilisation, responding to the complex challenges of fragile and conflict-afflicted states.

"This is about getting the right people to fragile countries fast enough to reduce threats to their stability."

The magnitude 7.0 tremor which struck Haiti in mid-January killed more than 200,000 people and left more than one million people in need of aid.

The UK Government is deploying a prison building expert and a project manager to help re-establish the basic functioning of at least three prisons over a three to six-month period.

Shadow international development secretary Andrew Mitchell dismissed today's launch as "classic Labour smoke and mirrors", pointing out that only a couple of dozen members of the unit are actually in action abroad.

In response to a parliamentary question from Mr Mitchell last month, International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said there were 23 civilian experts deployed in Afghanistan, two in the Democratic Republic of Congo and one in Kenya.

There were also two members of the Civil Service Stabilisation Cadre in Afghanistan. At least two more were due to be deployed to Afghanistan in the coming weeks, while others had recently returned.

Mr Mitchell said: "It is deeply disingenuous of the Government to trumpet their thousand-strong civilian stabilisation force, when only a tiny fraction of them are actually out on the ground making a difference.

"This is classic Labour smoke and mirrors. Instead of spinning up eye-catching, headline-grabbing announcements, they should focus on ensuring that our efforts in Afghanistan are properly supported by effective poverty reduction and development."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea