By Alison McGovern MP, Shadow Minister for International Development
Recently, the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls has received widespread publicity and anger from across the globe. These issues must not fade from the public eye. Just because the news agenda moves on, the suffering does not lessen, and the careful work to return the girls (and all those abducted) to safety must continue.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigerian finance minister recently joined members of both houses of parliament, hosted by Mr Speaker Bercow, and Gordon Brown who, in his role as a United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education has worked with the Nigerian Government on the Safer Schools Initiative, which seeks to provide a safe environment for girls to go to school in the country. Ngozi’s speech, was clear about the complexities involved, however and the wide consequences of the actions of the terrorist organisation behind the kidnappings.
All children getting to school is vital for countries such as Nigeria that has seen significant recent economic growth. Therefore, it is imperative that we do not let the inexcusable actions of Boko Haram make girls across Nigeria – and indeed all of Africa – feel so insecure at their schools that they simply cannot attend their lessons. As a consequence, the Nigerian government has put together their Safer Schools Initiative, in an effort to provide perimeters of fence around schools, alarm systems, sanitary facilities and basic commodities that were to be shown to be painfully lacking in many schools across Nigeria.
Girls and women have every right to wish to take part in the economic development of their country. Without access to education, they will be unable to fulfil their potential, and live out their dreams and aspirations.
So this campaign is of utmost importance. Labour is an advocate for this right to education, and our work in establishing DFID has underpinned the UK Government’s role in resolving this crisis. We will continue to speak up for all children unable to go to school, wherever they are in the world. And only when all children can learn should this campaign cease.
IPPR Legislating for 0.7% aid
Monday 14th July
16:00 – 17:00
IPPR offices, 4th Floor, 14 Buckingham Street, London WC2N 6DF
Why should Britain spend more as a proportion of GNI on overseas aid that any other G8 country? Having met the UN’s 0.7% target, why should the UK now lock that spending level in through legislation?
Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore will explain why and discuss how he is building cross party consensus to back his recently introduced Private Members Bill.
Please register here to confirm your place.
LCID Parliamentary Panel 70 years on from Bretton Woods: Time for a new era of economic cooperation?
Date: Monday 14th July 2014
Time: 6.30pm – 7.45pm
Location: Committee Room 6, Houses of Parliament
- Chris Leslie MP, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
- Alison McGovern MP, Shadow Minister for International Development
- John Christensen, Tax Justice Network
- Petra Kjell, Bretton Woods Project
- Kitty Ussher, Tooley Street Research (Chair)
Less than a month after the D-Day landings, delegates from the forty-four Allied nations met in New Hampshire to create a new economic settlement for the post-war world. The economic planners who signed the Bretton Woods Agreement on 22 July 1944 understood the vital role that economic cooperation had to play in rebuilding a war-ravaged world.The economic challenges that the world faces today are different but stark: economic growth is failing to lift millions out of poverty in the developing world; a global youth unemployment crisis stretches throughout the world; and we face a catastrophic threat from climate change. None of these challenges will be successfully tackled by economies acting in isolation.
This high-level panel event will question what have been the lessons of the Bretton Woods model of economic cooperation and consider how its institutions have fared. The event is open to members and non-members alike; please register your attendance by email so we can keep track of numbers. Please leave 30 minutes to enter through security into the Houses of Parliament and use the Cromwell Green entrance.
By Dr. Graham Giles MBE, LCID Executive Committee
Labour Affiliates can punch above their weight on matters of moral responsibility by standing together, not least on the future aid budget. Christians on the Left are providing resources to help local church groups up and down the country to become more active in local and national politics. Labour Campaign for International Development has launched its door-step guide to give PPCs a really positive narrative about the values of British aid. In his ‘CotL’ blog Rev Graham Hunter reminded that our historic heroes built coalitions of conscience to speak up for the interests of the downtrodden, marginalised and powerless. We seek, he wrote, ‘to build a broad coalition to campaign for the goals of historic Christian Socialism, namely, equality, justice, the fight against poverty, and the battle for human dignity’. On this LCID and CotL stand shoulder to shoulder.
I took two hours out recently to watch the movie “Belle”. Dido Belle was the 18th Century illegitimate mixed-race daughter of Lord Chief Justice Mansfield’s nephew Admiral Sir John Lindsay and an African slave Maria Belle. Set at a time of legal significance when a court case is heard on what became known as the Zong massacre. Children, women and men were thrown overboard from a slave ship and the owner filed with his insurance company for ‘cargo’ losses. Lord Mansfield ruled on this case in England’s Court of King’s Bench in a decision which contributed to the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies. After the first trial, freed slave Olaudah Equiano brought news of the massacre to the attention of anti-slavery campaigners, who worked unsuccessfully to have the ship’s crew prosecuted for murder.
An 1839 book on coalitions of conscience that achieved the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, included an account of the Zong killings. This influenced the artist Turner, who displayed a painting The Slave Shipat the Royal Academy 1840 summer exhibition. Turner depicted a vessel from which slaves had been thrown into the sea to be devoured by sharks. Details in the painting, such as shackles worn by the slaves, were influenced by illustrations in the book. Guilded frames in English galleries contain uncomfortable truths. Johann Zoffany’s portrait of Dido Belle with her white cousin Lady Elizabeth, and Turner’s ‘The Slave Ship both demonstrate that progress in social behaviour and international convention have not been easy voyages for Britain. The fight goes on, not least to stem the tide of human trafficking, racial intolerance and social isolationism.
Dido Belle was obliged to dine alone in a mansion to avoid offending guests at the Earl’s table. We still need vocal alliances for social justice, to challenge conscience, humble hubris, and energise international economic ethics. Nationalism and white-supremacy are not quite silent yet. An English Boadicea was caught on the evening news declaring ‘they should remember who puts food on their tables’. Our political messengers cannot preserve public favour by means of ambiguity. International Development is a hot issue it’s not a hot potato. Overseas aid and enlightened internationalism require coherent collaboration between Labour movement affiliates to guarantee that our leaders do not stand silently by. Boat people and victims of exploitation in 2014 need our British better conscience to behave generously. When good people remain tight-lipped evil euphemisms triumph.
By Mike Smith, LCID’s Executive Committee
2015 will be a decisive year, not just because the General Election gives Labour the chance to regain power, but because it is the year when global leaders decide both what will replace the Millennium Development Goals and look to agree a new deal on climate change. The stakes couldn’t be higher. The Labour movement has always recognised that our commitment to social justice and that the need to end poverty doesn’t stop at our shores. Now is the chance to put forward a bold and distinctively-Labour foreign and development policy platform.
What should this foreign policy approach encompass? The Labour Campaign for International Development has put forward some compelling ideas to the party’s ‘Britain’s Global Role’ policy commission. Our submission outlined three practical themes: making social justice Britain’s number one foreign policy priority; an activist Britain, showing leadership on the world stage to bring other countries with us; and ensuring that Britain’s domestic policies are in line with our development objectives, rather than undermining them.
Of course, anyone can produce fluffy statements of intent, but LCID have gone further outlining a wide number of innovative and deliverable policies. Importantly, these draw a link between Labour’s vision of Britain under the next government, and the role the UK should play in the world. For example, LCID has called for a Labour government to lead a global campaign for universal health coverage – the NHS as a priority at home, universal health as a priority abroad. We have called for a future Labour government to work for an ambitious and fair deal on climate change – green investment and jobs at home, with a bold climate agreement a key foreign policy priority. And there’s even scope for extending Labour’s vision of responsible capitalism into aspects of a coherent foreign policy – limit zero hours contracts in the UK, but also commit to supporting the UN’s framework on promoting human rights in business in all countries.
Linking Labour’s domestic priorities to a foreign policy platform is not only the right thing to do to help build a fairer world, but also provides another layer to Labour’s story about the values it believes in and the type of country and world the party wants to build.
With the 2015 General Election only 10 months away, now is the time for the party to put forward a serious foreign policy and development strategy. This would be a welcome shot in the arm to the party’s credibility to govern. Not because voters raise these issues on the doorstep – we all know they don’t – but because it demonstrates that Labour are ready to govern what is still one of the most important countries on the international stage. This foreign policy vision, backed up with hard policy proposals, would also contrast with the Coalition government’s approach over the last 4 years. A handful of standalone positives aside (realising the commitment to 0.7% aid spending and the leadership shown on preventing sexual violence in conflict spring to mind) it feels increasingly difficult to discern what Britain’s approach is, or what our country stands for in international affairs.
If Labour wins power next year, Ed Miliband will lead the country with the 7th largest economy in the world, the 2nd largest aid budget and the 4th largest defence budget. He will lead a country that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a strong voice in the G7, G20 and (fingers crossed!) the European Union. Labour Governments have a proud record of working for people suffering injustice around the world. The party should use this summer to show why and how the next Labour Government would fight for the poorest and most vulnerable abroad, as well as at home.
By David Jepson, Bristol West CLP
For too long the development of policy in foreign affairs and international development has been left to an elite. Labour has to hand a huge untapped pool of knowledge and experience within our communities, including faith groups, diasporas, people who have worked or volunteered in the field and others.
During a visit of the Labour DFID team to Bristol, an event was organised to focus on just that topic.
Around 40 people turned up at 9.30am in a church hall on a weekday morning to take part in a meeting chaired by Gavin Shuker MP and also attended by Alison McGovern, MP as well as local MP Kerry McCarthy and Bristol West PPC Thangam Debbonaire. Participants in the meeting included those with direct knowledge of a wide range of countries including Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, India and came from a wide variety of backgrounds.
A clear message was that if international development policy and delivery was to become more effective, it was important to listen to such voices. Issues raised included the roles of large international NGOs and also the state in recipient countries, in delivery of development support. There was a questioning of the use of the very term “aid”, and discussions about the importance of human rights and tackling poverty, the need to see development support as part of the same response to a neo liberal model of the world economy that sees workers in the UK on very low wages and zero hours contracts. The importance of ensuring positive balanced and positive coverage in the media, political debate and through education in the UK was also raised amongst many topics.
Good though the meeting was and it was welcomed by those who took part. However, a key issue is how to build this process into policy development. It was mentioned that some countries have committees representing diasporas to feed into policy on a formal basis. How can Labour channel such knowledge, experience and commitment into it’s policy development process.
It has been agreed that there will be a follow up to the event in Bristol after the Summer break. Let hope this is part of a wider process of community level engagement.
David is a member of LCID and has organised an informal discussion group on international development issues, in Bristol, for several years.
By Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Whenever development hits the press, the Tory right hit the roof. Yesterday’s papers were full of reports that this government might finally give in to pressure and fulfil its commitment to legislate to spend 0.7% Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance. Naturally, the usual suspects have been telling anyone who will listen, just how upset they are.Another bruising row looms within the Conservative Party. and the one thing we know about David Cameron and his backbenchers is that from Europe to the greenest government ever, when the Prime Minister is put under pressure by his party he folds like a deckchair.
The Labour party has been demanding that Ministers keep their promise to legislate on 0.7% for years. It was a Labour government that put this country on the road to fulfilling that historic commitment, it was Labour whose pledge to legislate forced the other two parties to follow suit, and it is Labour that has shouted loud and most often about this government’s failure to do so.
Indeed, it was Labour’s Mark Hendrick, MP for Preston, who first forced the issue with this Coalition government by presenting his own Private Members Bill to legislate on the UK’s aid commitments.
We have always led the way in development – and that is a fact of which the party is rightly proud. The last Labour government helped 3 million people out of poverty a year, and 40 million people into education, tripled aid and dropped the debt, and built international coalitions (David Cameron, take note) to secure agreements that were right for Britain and the world.
Global development has been a tremendous success over the last two decades but there is much more to do. This generation has the power to eliminate aid dependency for good. We could enable a billion people to lift themselves out of poverty and prevent half a million a year from dying on their first day.
With real commitment we can help empower the powerless, and help give millions more the chance to live their life to its full potential.
So for Labour enshrining our commitments to the rest of the world in law isn’t a short term political device, it’s about making sure that no future government – even one at the mercy of the Tory right – can quietly turn their backs on the world’s poor.
Lib Dem MP Michael Moore was right this week to declare he would use his Private Members Bill to carry on Mark Hendrick’s work, and seek to force this government into keeping its promise. I am pleased that the government has so far signalled that they will not stand in his way.
But there’s still a lot to do. Ministers still refuse to sponsor government legislation. That means there will be less time to force this Bill through and without the rules that help ensure government business is voted on, there is a real danger that just one Tory backbencher could use parliamentary processes to stop the Bill progressing. Just ask Mark Hendrick – that’s what the Tories did to him.
A new Private Members Bill is no guarantee of new legislation. There are just ten months until the next General Election, and with the summer break fast approaching time is running out fast.
With this Bill, a vote in Parliament can save lives across the world. British aid makes a huge difference to millions – we should be proud of what our generosity can do for those in need and what it says about us as a country.
That’s why Labour will do everything we can to ensure that this Bill becomes a law. We know that the Tory right will do everything they can to hold us back, but whatever they do, the Labour party will not turn our back on those in need.
By Alastair Osborne, LCID Scottish Officer
International condemnation of the abduction and murder of the three young Israeli teenagers was rightly swift and universal. However, little has been reported about the Israeli army’s brutal crackdown against Palestinians in the wake of those abductions and killings. We should condemn all attacks on civilians from whatever quarter they come. However, Palestinian civilians, many of them children or teenagers themselves have borne the brunt of Israel’s actions. An entire population, living under illegal Israeli occupation, is being collectively punished. And now a Palestinian youth has been found murdered in a forest in east Jerusalem in what is suspected to be a revenge attack – an ‘eye for an eye’.
In the West Bank, during the week of 19-25 June 2014 alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 5 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 14 others, including 4 children. Hundreds of houses were raided and ransacked. Israel has said it is set to double the number of Palestinians it imprisons without charge or trial. Over the course of that week, Israeli warplanes launched 18 airstrikes on civilian objects and military training sites in the Gaza Strip. 18 Palestinian civilians, including 7 women and 4 children, were wounded.
The Israeli Cabinet is split in several directions over how to respond. There are those who advocate the ‘eye for an eye’ response; others who, if not exactly turning the other cheek, call for restraint; while the most extreme elements view the ‘eye for an eye’ approach as for wimps. It was Gandhi who famously said “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”
There has got to be a recognition that the structural violence of occupation is at the root of this escalation. Until Israeli occupation is ended, and Palestinians control their own destiny, this suffering will continue and incidents like those I describe will continue.
It is against this depressing background we should view the current investigation of the International Development Select Committee into DFID’s bilateral aid programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Part 1 of their investigation covering Syria has been published but the Palestinian Report is to follow later.
DFID has a large bilateral programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the provision of direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. It planned to spend £94 million through this programme in 2013-14, of which £31m was targeted on education. Other major areas of focus are poverty, hunger & vulnerability (£28.5m), governance (£21.4m), health (£11.7m) and wealth creation (£3.1m).
The Committee is investigating:
- The effectiveness of DFID’s programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
- Whether DFID is focusing on the right sectors and working with the right organisations;
- Whether DFID’s funding to the Palestinian Authority aids the twin goals of state building and achieving a negotiated peace;
- Whether DFID should consider funding projects involving Israeli-Palestinian joint working, and/or working with MASHAV, the Israeli development agency.
If, as Gandhi said, ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’, it also creates a hellish environment within which to try to deliver our development goals. Whatever the Select Committee’s investigation concludes, it is time for the UK Government to step up their efforts to end the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and to ensure that there are clear economic and political consequences to Israel’s on-going occupation and colonisation through settlements.