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I Don’t Just Believe in British Social Justice – I Believe in Universal Social Justice

29 October 2014

Will Martindale, Labour’s MP candidate for Battersea

As Battersea’s parliamentary candidate I am only too aware of the need to tackle tough social problems in Battersea: Since 2010, there have been seven shootings and a fatal stabbing in the estate behind Clapham Junction.

That this happens in one of the richest cities in the world, in our community, deeply angers all of us and I will do everything I can to help end youth gang violence.

But if we have problems at home why do I believe we have to support international development abroad? We don’t. It is a choice.

Imagine getting on the bus home in London one night from work. You sit down next to Mary, a heavily pregnant woman who starts telling you she’s expecting Alice, a beautiful baby girl, to arrive in two weeks’ time.

Suddenly she bursts into tears and tells you she can’t afford medical care for the birth. She begs you to pay for a midwife so she can deliver Alice safely. Now you are embarrassed. What would you do? Ask if she is British? Mary says she’s Rwandan. So do you reassure yourself that charity begins at home and refuse her the money? Mary is probably corrupt anyway.

One year later you see Mary again on the bus. There is no sign of Alice.

Of course it’s an absurd story. In January my wife Shalu gave birth to our beloved daughter Aurelie. It was the happiest day of my life. Amongst all the joy and emotion it never crossed my mind we might not be able to get medical assistance with the birth.

The story is absurd because every person in Britain, however poor, whatever their background, whatever they have done, has the National Health Service.

Every year one million children like Alice in developing countries die on the first day of their life. Most of them would have lived with basic medical care. But will throwing aid at the problem help? Yes.

I saw this myself when I volunteered in Rwanda helping families of genocide victims to access health care. Thanks in part to Labour’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, six million fewer children under the age of five died in 2012 than 1990. International aid may not be perfect, but it works. But it is still a choice.

Perhaps supporting international aid despite our problems at home says more about our values than anything else. I am proud British people chose to support international development in countries they may never have visited, for people they may have never met. I believe access to social justice should be determined not by nationality, but by need.

In our world the biggest determinant of a person’s success in life is the country of their birth. I dream my daughter Aurelie will see a world where her success is determined not by being born in a rich country, but by the content of her character.

For more on the work of Rwanda Aid, click here.

Help lead LCID through 2015

28 October 2014
The LCID Exec at Labour Party Conference in Manchester

The LCID Exec at Labour Party Conference in Manchester

“We have a choice, turn inwards or engage with the world.”

As Ed Miliband said at this year’s party conference, Labour is an internationalist party – it is in our DNA, a proud part of our history. LCID exists to keep internationalism a key part of our future, and ensure the next Labour government makes Britain a global leader in the fight against poverty and inequality once again.

Thanks to our members and supporters, LCID is now an affiliated socialist society. We’ve got exciting plans to host a conference in early 2015 that will bring together the internationalist parts of our movement to debate how a future Labour government can ensure Britain remains a progressive powerhouse, leading global efforts for a fairer, safer, more prosperous world. And we’ll also be campaigning in key marginal seats, those where development is of interest to swing voters (such as university towns) to ensure that Labour government gets to power to deliver that progressive agenda.

Nominations are now open

The LCID Executive Committee will be a vital part of this strategy in 2015, and we are holding our annual elections in November. We are opening nominations today and inviting members to put themselves forward for election.

We are keen for anyone who is interest to stand, but you need to be a member to both stand and to vote. Not a member? Go to lcid.org.uk/join and join today.

We are looking for 15 LCID members to take us forward with a range of skills and experience that might include some of the following:

  • Helping deliver a day conference on internationalism in early 2015
  • Electoral campaigning
  • Building our membership (we’d like to at least double our numbers)
  • Building alliances and working across the labour movement – such as Trade Unions, CLPs, Coops and other Socialist Societies
  • Financial and organisational governance
  • Communications such as social media and blog editing

Nominations are encouraged from a broad range of members to reflect the diversity of our membership, including in terms of gender, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. LCID is also keen to maintain a balance between those who work within the sector and also passionately interested members from the wider movement.

Executive Committee members are expected to make a significant contribution through their agreed area of responsibility and joint projects. The Executive meets every month with additional Advisory Board meetings where appropriate. Dialling in to meetings enables members to participate from across the UK and nominations are particularly welcome from the devolved nations.

If you think you could help us take forward our mission as part of a team, please submit your nomination, along with a statement no more than 80 words, to elections@lcid.org.uk before 8pm on Wednesday 12th November.

Online voting will take place between the 13th and 25th November and successful candidates will take office at the close of the AGM the following day, held in the House of Commons on Wednesday 26th November at 6.30pm.

Their sacrifice was not in vain

27 October 2014

As Camp Bastion, is handed over to Afghan security forces, the last British base, a very many column inches will be given over to covering the mistakes made in the Afghanistan intervention.

453 British troops gave their lives (their names are here) and 2,188 were injured in battle. We must never forget their sacrifice. But we must never let ourselves believe that their sacrifice in vain.

Mistakes were undoubtedly made. But let us also reflect on some of the transformative successes achieved in the country. An evil regime that terrorised and repressed civilians, especially women, was deposed. 13 years on, Britain has helped achieved the following:

- nearly 6 million children now attend school, up from 1 million in 2001, nearly 40% of them are girls, which would have been unthinkable under the Taliban control

- access to primary health care has increased from 9% in 2003 to over half of the population now

- maternal mortality has halved since 2001 and life expectancy for Afghans is at its highest ever level

- Afghanistan’s $18 billion GDP is seven times higher than 10 years ago and Afghan Government revenue has grown eight fold since 2004 to $2 billion in 2012

- a written constitution, a democratically elected government and a system of local democracy now exist –

- Afghans now have an unprecedented voice in how their country is run, nationally and locally

Ebola must never again be allowed to claim lives for want of basic healthcare

9 October 2014

This week, Jim Murphy  wrote in The Guardian on the need for the UK to take a lead in the fight to eradicate Ebola, ensuring universal health coverage becomes a reality.

His full comments are below:

 

One million people could die from the Ebola outbreak in the next four months. That’s the verdict of the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection, an organisation respected internationally for its sober analysis. When they predict a million could die, they are not choosing a big number to garner attention, they are saying it because it is possible.

So far, the international response to this human tragedy has been inadequate. In the starkest terms, communities are being ripped apart, local health provision is close to collapse, and many of the health workers needed to fight the virus are instead becoming infected and dying themselves.

The facts alone are terrifying: five people infected every hour, the number of new cases doubling every three weeks and a fatality rate of 70%. As always, though, while the scale of this crisis is vast beyond our comprehension, the true impact is devastatingly personal. The screams of bereaved parents are becoming a fixture on our nightly news.

William Pooley, the British health worker who contracted the disease while fighting the outbreak, has spoken of what life is like on the frontline. Anyone who heard him tell the heartbreaking story of the gruesome deaths of a young brother and sister in his care cannot fail to have been moved by his tears.

Last week’s Defeating Ebola conference in London came not a minute too soon. The window to halt Ebola before it runs completely out of control and shatters communities is closing. Yet the reality, as Médecins sans Frontières’ Vickie Hawkins has made clear, is that we know how to defeat Ebola – isolate the disease, treat those affected, and break the chain of transmission – but our problem is a lack of resources, expertise and ability on the ground.

So, while we can be genuinely encouraged by the extra support and manpower pledged at the London conference, those promises won’t start to make a difference until they materialise as a reality in west Africa.

Three things are urgently needed: frontline assistance in tackling the disease; community mobilisation to inform the public, and counter damaging rumour and misunderstanding; and support to deal with the indirect victims of the outbreak, those in need of medical care not immediately related to Ebola, such as malaria and diarrhoea. In addition, every effort must be made to expedite the production of a vaccine, and neighbouring countries must be helped with preparedness and contingency planning.

The UN estimates that responding to this crisis will cost $1bn (£626m) – but only if it is confined to the three states already dealing with the disease. And that is the key.

As always, prevention is better than cure. That’s true for those neighbouring states, and it will be true in the future. What matters now is stopping Ebola and ending the crisis, but the lesson for the future is clear: there is no substitute for adequate local health cover.

It was the fundamental lack of proper health coverage in some pockets of rural west Africa that allowed this outbreak to grow unchecked for so long. Now it is a global crisis.

In the UK, we have one physician for every 360 people. In Sierra Leone, it is one for every 45,000 people; in Liberia, it is one for every 70,000.

A cross-party parliamentary report last week concluded that the Ebola crisis shows health services must be strengthened. Now, across the world, from the World Bank to Bill Clinton, there is a growing consensus that this outbreak must awaken the world to the need for universal health coverage.

In the words of the former US president Bill Clinton: “If ever there was a case for using more of our government aid money to build efficient, smart and reliable comprehensive health systems in countries that don’t have them, this is it.”

There are many reasons universal health coverage is so important – 3 million people dying every year from easily preventable diseases. A million die on their first and only day. But this epidemic provides a further powerful example of what can flourish beyond the reach of decent healthcare.

So, as the world prepares to agree the next set of development goals next year, it is clearer than ever that universal health coverage must be placed at their heart. The sustainable development goals will set the path for global development until 2030, and basic healthcare for all must be given top billing.

The UK should be at the forefront of those making this happen. The country that gave the world the NHS should champion the right of other countries to have the chance to build their own robust health systems.

Development is fundamentally about power and the powerless, and there is no greater example of those imbalances of power than an epidemic that would have been caught and tamed had it emerged in any community with adequate basic healthcare.

So now we need, first, to defeat this deadly virus and then to work to ensure that it doesn’t return.

No one should die for want of the basic healthcare that many in the rest of the world take for granted. Over the next 15 years we can make that ambition a reality – and save and change millions of lives in the future. Through the UN, the richest nations in the world have to sign up to that deal of universal healthcare, before it’s too late.

Community broadcast: Human Rights, Health, Education and Justice

7 October 2014

GrahamLCID Exec member Graham Giles started what he hopes will be a series of community broadcasts about International Development on Unity 101 Radio.

In this first post, they talk about Human Rights, Health, Education and Justice.

You can listen to the full post here.

About Unity 101 Community Radio

Cultural Media Enterprise Limited is an independent locally based voluntary organisation, operating as Unity 101 Community Radio. Our philosophy is “By the community, for the community and to the community”, and our aim is promote and broadcast the music and culture of Asian and minority ethnic communities in Southampton. A culturally sensitive programme will meet the training, skills, and capacity needs of our volunteers and listeners, so as they are better able to participate more fully in a cohesive society.

LCID’s submission to the International Development Select Committee

2 October 2014

This month LCID made a submission to the UK Parliament’s International Development Select Committee on “Beyond Aid: The Future UK Approach to Development”.

Our submission starts with the broad approach to development that we believe is right. We look at why we think the Government’s current focus on poverty relief is not enough. We set out an alternative approach to development that is pro-rights, pro-equality and multilateralist.

The Inquiry looks at policy coherence and so we go into some detail on how this can be achieved – both within our aid policy and across all UK Government policies that have a global impact. We start with coherence of objective and then look at Government mechanisms for coherence of delivery.

We establish five key priorities for UK aid, in order to achieve a world that is not only less poor but more peaceful, sustainable and just: targeting poor people consistently; prioritising the rights of women and girls; ensuring that policy is consistently pro-climate; promoting decent work and access to employment; reducing conflict and fragility.

Beyond aid, we look at other areas where greater coherence is required:  responsible capitalism, tax regulation and evasion, tackling climate change and improving life in fragile states. We look at why these issues matter to people in developing countries; people who are inevitably impacted by them.

We then set out what’s needed in Government to achieve this, including genuine leadership from No.10 and keeping DFID as a full department of state with a Secretary of State at the cabinet table.

You can read our full submission here.

Guest post: Beyond aid, ending global poverty is about politics

30 September 2014

Martin Drewry is Director of Health Poverty Action,  he writes here in a personal capacity 

Ending global poverty is not about providing aid. It is about politics. The solutions to mass poverty lie in tackling its unjust causes, not relieving its symptoms through charity. Deep down, anyone who works in development knows this.

Yet if this is the case, why does the aid budget dominate development discourse so disproportionately? And – most importantly – how should a Labour government address this?

Health Poverty Action, along with 12 other African and UK NGOs, recently published figures that show the relative significance of aid as a financial resource flow to sub-Saharan Africa.

The research reveals that Africa is losing $192 billion to the rest of the world each year. This is across a range of areas – such as debt payments (often following irresponsible loans), repatriation of profits by multinational companies, illicit financial flows, and the costs of adapting to climate change that Africa did not cause. When compared with all the inflows into Africa – including loans, foreign investment and remittances – the continent suffers a net loss of $58 billion to the rest of the world each year.

And the total sum of aid it receives? A mere $30 billion.

This means the amount the rest of the world takes from Africa each year is roughly 6 and a half times the amount it gives back as aid. Yet this vital fact gets lost amid all the rhetoric about aid – which paints, instead, a distorted picture of an impoverished Africa reliant on the charitable generosity of its northern benefactors.

This in turn leads to growing public animosity towards the aid budget, especially at a time of domestic austerity. It can generate the same kinds of public emotions and perceptions that fuel the rise of UKIP. Why do they still need our financial support after all these years? What’s wrong with them? Why should we spend all our resources supporting foreigners?

If people know the truth, the emotions and perceptions generated lead to a totally different place. Why is the rich world still ripping of the world’s poorest after all these years? Why hasn’t it been stopped? It’s outrageous!

This understanding puts ordinary people in the UK on the same side as ordinary people in Africa, after all, they get ripped off by the powerful too . It also directs the political debate away from how generous we can continue to be, towards how we create a fairer world. In short, it puts the real solutions to mass poverty onto the public and political agenda.

A Labour Development policy that truly distinguishes us from the other parties must stop this focus on aid and charity. It must instead expose the truth about the rich world’s financial relationship with Africa, and set out an inspiring agenda to tackle it.

The Labour Party can do this, it’s what we live for. And we have done it before.

It was a Labour government that took an international lead on the issue of debt cancellation – one of the few times in history that a government has dramatically placed one of the key structural causes of mass poverty at the heart of its development policy.

And we can still think that way. Ivan Lewis, in a 2012 Labour conference speech, called for “Big global economic and social change” and set out a “social contract without borders” based on social justice. This was followed by the Post-2015 Vision for Labour Equality 2030, delivered in a rousing speech: “Progressives didn’t come into politics to explain the world as it is but to change the world.”

The notion of development as the pursuit of social and economic justice was similarly championed by Jim Murphy when he set out the role of DFID under Labour – in a speech encouragingly subtitled Development and Power. This was echoed in Labour’s recent policy consultation document, again emphasising development as an issue of justice and human rights.

Yet, despite all of this, the idea of development as primarily a question of how much aid we give through DFID is still central to most Labour policy communications. Indeed, aid occupied the top spot in the list of Labour responses in the policy consultation, and dominated Jim Murphy’s recent contribution to an event on tackling global inequality. In a recent campaign action organised by Health Poverty Action, members of the public wrote to Ed Miliband. They were calling for an end to this misleading and illogical discourse. They asked, instead, for Labour to set out a radical agenda to tackle to true causes of global poverty. The response they received was a letter thanking them for contacting him about the 0.7% target, and re-assuring them of Labour’s commitment to it.

This is obviously embarrassing – but it’s not the first time a political aide has failed to read a lobbying letter properly. What’s more worrying is the immediate assumption, as soon as development is mentioned, that the letter to reach for is the one about aid levels. The Labour Party I believe in can do better than that.

Continually portraying aid as the cornerstone of the UK’s relationship with Africa doesn’t help us electorally either.

26% of the UK public wrongly believes the government spends more on aid than education or pensions. At the same time a Com Res poll for Christian Aid shows that 74% of the UK public want action on our network of tax havens.

A Labour manifesto that really distinguishes us from the other parties must move firmly beyond the role of DFID. It must drop the irrational focus on aid, and instead communicate a social and economic justice-based agenda – coordinated, across-government -that tackles the true causes of mass poverty. It must be absolutely explicit that, under a Labour government, the UK’s primary contribution to ending global poverty will be to address the policies and practices that create it – including the roles of tax havens and corporate tax dodging, the effects of unregulated markets and unfair trade policies, the behaviour of large corporations, and the effects and causes of climate change.

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