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.
In this first post, they talk about Human Rights, Health, Education and Justice.
You can listen to the full post here.
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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.
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.
It looks, thankfully, like DFID has survived the brunt of austerity savings made since the financial crash of 2008. While backroom costs have been cut, the government has stuck to its commitment to earmark 0.7% of Gross National Income for Official Development Assistance. Though critics instinctively point to the development budget in suggesting where we need to cut public spending, the truth is there is a rare consensus among the main parties that our spending on overseas aid plays a valuable role.
And there is good reason to arrive at such a conclusion. Despite public misconceptions about the amount Britain spends on aid (over a quarter of Britons think it is one of the government’s main outlays), the DFID budget is 1.1% of public spending; we spend more every year on soft drinks. The return on this is substantial – the money goes a long way. As an illustration, by 2015, UK aid will secure schooling for 11 million children – more than we educate in the UK but at one-fortieth of the cost.
A rethink in our approach to the way we do aid means that another critical claim of development assistance – that it ends up in the wrong hands – is unsubstantiated. The UK can be proud of its role in promoting ‘smart aid’, which makes development efforts more transparent, more accountable, and more demanding than ever before. An independent body evaluates the effectiveness of development initiatives, ensuring consistent value for money. Funds are pulled at the first suspicion of corruption.
Perhaps more fundamentally, ‘smart aid’ has revolutionised the thinking behind the development process itself, as well as the procedures involved. Short-term alleviation may sometimes be appropriate in times of crisis, but it often fails to address the underlying causes of poverty. In contrast, aid is now helping lay the foundations for sustainable economic growth. Increased focus on infrastructure, healthcare and education provision, and agricultural reform works to catalyse economic potential, offering a long-term solution as opposed to a short-term patch-up. For too long we have seen developing countries subsumed by borrowing, with unbalanced economies leaving them prone to price fluctuations and dependent on debt relief. ‘Smart aid’ is playing an important role in changing this, and a continued commitment to the DFID budget will go a long way in addressing the root causes of poverty.
To assume our interests are entirely separate from the goals of the developing countries with whom we are working is also misguided. Our money is helping to combat the oppression of women worldwide. It is well documented that global poverty disproportionately affects women: DFID has focused especially on reducing often extreme gender imbalances. This has a profound effect, not just for the women themselves, but for the wider communities in which they live. If we are serious about working towards a world where men and women have equal chances, there are few other ways that could promote and advance the cause so effectively, and for such relatively small sums.
The aid budget is also spent tackling global warming – both its causes and its symptoms – in areas of the world that are currently most severely affected, and face deepening problems for generations to come. A carbon-intensive, ecologically destructive developing world will prove extremely problematic down the line – these are global issues that will impact on us all. Helping create sustainable economies fully utilising environmentally friendly technologies is surely the kind of world we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.
Britain has, in many ways, pioneered the 21st century development project. Our pledge to safeguard 0.7% GNP to foreign aid forms part of an international agreement that was signed in the UK in 2005, to global acclaim. Some countries have matched us, and others designate an even greater percentage to foreign assistance, but Britain’s role in pressing the moral case for it has been central in advancing the idea. And DFID’s work in the field stands out as an example against which others measure themselves. DFID is a world leader in enhancing knowledge around development. Funding for its research, which is carried out on an unparalleled scale, is untied: money follows talent to create knowledge that benefits humanity.
As we head into party conference season, then, it is a sign of DFID’s success that all three of the main parties will be making the case for continuing the great work that Britain has done in combating extreme global poverty. And it’s important, with the rise of inward-looking politics in parts of Britain, and in a broader context of austerity that looks set to stay for the foreseeable future, that we keep making this case. A fairer, more prosperous world will, ultimately, be for the good of everybody.
Thank you all who attended our events at conference this year.
We had a great few days and it was fantastic to meet so many LCID members and supporters.
Below are a few highlights from over the last few days:
Rally for Internationalism:
Qatar fringe, focusing on workers rights
By Fionnuala Murphy, International HIV/AIDS Alliance
More than 70 countries around the world currently criminalise homosexuality, with punishments including life imprisonment, flogging and the death penalty. The last two years have brought a particularly virulent wave of criminalisation. Russia, Nigeria and Uganda have all introduced new laws which ban private and public expressions of homosexuality, while last December the Indian Supreme Court overturned an earlier High Court ruling that section 377 of the Indian Penal Code did not apply to same sex acts among consenting adults.
Criminalisation seriously undermines LGBT people’s human rights, and it also stands in the way of an effective HIV response. Globally, men who have sex with men are 19 times more likely to contract HIV than other men, and transgender people are up to 49 times more likely to become HIV positive than the general population. In countries where it is a crime to be gay, these populations are often afraid to come forward and access HIV prevention, testing or treatment for fear of being stigmatised, turned away or even reported to the police.
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has worked with LGBT communities since 1994, supporting groups in Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring about step-by-step change. In Uganda for example we have provided support and funding over the last five years to strengthen the national network, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG). With assistance from partners in India, we have worked with SMUG on a monitoring framework which has since enabled them to demonstrate unprecedented levels of violence, arrest and other human rights abuses against LGBT people since the Ugandan parliament voted for the Anti Homosexuality Act in December 2013. Using data from the framework, SMUG and other petitioners recently persuaded the Ugandan High Court to hear a constitutional challenge against the Act. On August 1st, the Court declared the new law illegal.
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance has also supported LGBT organisations in Uganda and other countries to improve their advocacy skills and to build links with the international community. Through our own advocacy, we have urged donor countries including the UK to adopt long term strategies to advance LGBT rights, and to ensure consequences for governments or individuals that incite hatred or violate LGBT people’s rights.
Our latest briefing, Challenging Criminalisation of LGBT People, calls for multi-sectoral approaches which build coalitions between civil society, trade unions, the health sector, faith groups, businesses and others. In partnership with Brunswick we have brought together a number of major multinationals, several of whom now plan to establish a global group of businesses against homophobia.
Labour has a brave track record on LGBT rights. The last Labour government introduced civil partnerships, banned discrimination in employment, goods and services and equalised the age of consent. Labour also has an outstanding record on international development and on HIV. In its 2005 manifesto, Labour included a pledge of universal access to HIV treatment. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown went on to secure support for this target at the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland, saving millions of lives and revolutionising the global AIDS response.
Building on this proud history, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance is keen to explore how a Labour government could work with other sectors to challenge the rise in state-sponsored homophobia around the world. We are hosting a panel debate at next week’s Labour Party Conference which will bring together MPs, civil society, the private sector and the trade union movement.
The debate is a rare opportunity to hear directly from Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. Frank will be joined by Pamela Nash MP, Chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS and Shadow DFID Health Spokesperson, and Kerry McCarthy MP, Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, alongside Maria Exall, Chair of the TUC LGBT Committee and Richard Meredith, Co-Head of Brunswick’s Crisis Advisory Group.
The panel debate takes place today, Tuesday 23 September, 12.45-14.15, in the Global Development Hub at Charter Gallery, Manchester Central, inside the secure zone. Lunch is provided. For further information, please contact Leila Zadeh: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International HIV/AIDS Alliance is a unique alliance of national civil society organisations dedicated to ending AIDS through community action.