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Thank you LCID: Labour Party make waves at the UN

23 June 2014

image-2By Jessica Toale

Last Monday, Tessa Jowell met with Amina Mohammed to present to her the global petition calling on the UN to ensure that a commitment to early childhood development is enshrined in the new global development framework after 2015.

This moment was the culmination of almost a year’s worth of work to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood development (ECD) to global development.  The petition has been a phenomenal success – it has been signed by over 12,000 people from 170 countries and endorsed by many global organisations and networks, and this is growing every day.

LCID and many of you reading this will have been supporters from the beginning –  LCID played an instrumental part in the launch of the petition at Labour Party Conference last September  and covered our visit to Malawi with Sightsavers last July. I can’t thank you enough for this support and for being part of this global movement for change.

image-3The same day Tessa presented the petition, she spoke at an official side event to the UN’s Open Working Group’s (OWG) Sessions entitled “Early Childhood Development: The Foundation to Sustainable Human Development for 2015 and Beyond.” The event was hosted by the Permanent Missions of Colombia, Ecuador and Italy, and sponsored by the Consultative Group on Early Childhood Care and Development, Open Society Foundations, SOS Children’s Villages and CINDE. Other speakers included former World Bank President James Wolfensohn, representatives of the host Missions, UNICEF and China Development Research Foundation.

We heard many examples of how a combination of political will, a legal frame that supports investment in ECD and support from civil society has shown positive results. The event gave us all the sense that it is possible to achieve a holistic agenda for early childhood and address the challenges of implementation and scale in all countries around the world. The clincher however was Jim Wolfensohn’s comment that unless we focus on early childhood development there will be no change in levels of poverty.

imageThe OWG “zero draft” did a remarkable job of painting a holistic picture of ECD including targets on child and maternal survival, nutrition, protection from violence and crucially a strongly supported Target 4.3 on access to quality ECD programmes under the Education goal.  Work has now begun to ensure that this target remains in the framework as the OWG begin to collapse their draft into a programme of global development.

This campaign and work to ensure that ECD remains on the agendas of politicians and policymakers in all countries will continue beyond September. Amina Mohammed also emphasised the need for donor countries to realise their 0.7% commitments whilst measures are put in place to help countries build the capacity and capability to implement a core of ECD interventions.

Thank you again for your support to ensure that we have the best provision for young children possible in the world’s new post-2015 development programme. We now have an opportunity which was missed in the formulation of the MDGs to ensure that children are not just surviving but also developing to their full potential – Young children truly are our most important stakeholders and ultimately will be be the stewards of this next generation of development goals over the next 15-20 years.

To keep the momentum going one of the first thing you can do is take part in the Guardian Global Development Professionals poll: Is added political pressure needed for early years development ?

For more information see Tessa’s Huffington Post blog here, Guardian article of the event here, and if you have not already done so please do not forget to sign the petition!

 

A video of the full event can be found here.

 

Undernutrition in the Land of Rice

6 June 2014

By Nic Dakin, MP for Scunthorpe

A year ago today the UK hosted an important conference on Nutrition and Food Security. Called Nutrition for Growth, the event showed that 165 million children around the world are chronically malnourished (stunted) and 52 million children are acutely malnourished. Its difficult to make sense of such big numbers, but on a recent trip to Cambodia the issue of nutrition became much more real to me.

Weight

Nick Dakin at the community health session, volunteers weigh each baby to check for satisfactory weight gain

Staying in Phnom Penh in February, our hotel was surrounded by building sites of skyscrapers and all the trappings of a booming economy. Cambodia has seen good rates of economic growth over the last 2 decades, yet there are high rates of maternal and child undernutrition.  Cambodia  is far from unique in this  – it is one of 43 countries with a child stunting rate over 30 percent.

Walking down the alley way of an urban slum area we visited community nutrition classes organised by UNICEF and the health ministry. Children ran around barefoot and dirty water stagnated under the shacks raised on stilts above the mud. Families without drinking water have to buy small quantities from one of the few neighbours who has piped water. The low access to water, and almost zero access to sanitation is one of the main reasons children get sick – and sickness can cause malnutrition.

The community health workers also explained to us that the diet given to children is poor – rice, rice and rice. Cambodia is a rice exporting country. “The poorest mothers just give their children rice, twice a day, and a thin soup of rice water with salt”. This does not give children the essential proteins, minerals and nutrients they need for healthy development. These micronutrients are particularly crucial during the first thousand days of life (from conception to age two).

Poverty of course is the root cause of undernutrition. In each house near we saw small piles of cloth from a local towel factory. Parents do piecework to earn the money they need just for rice and the piped water. We also saw a smart young man on a motorbike visiting some of the houses. He turned out to be a debt collector, Cambodia’s equivalent of a pay-day loan shark.

A new report published by RESULTS UK, Undernutrition in the Land of Rice  gives a brief assessment of the causes of ongoing high rates of undernutrition in Cambodia and some recommendations for agencies in Cambodia and for the global community.

Large sums were pledged at the Nutrition for Growth summit a year ago, both by the UK, and other countries, the World Bank and private foundations. DFID have just published a one year summary of what they have spent so far here.  Its an impressive document and they are to be commended on funding four new bilateral nutrition programmes since the conference.

Chart

Mothers attend community health session with their children

On this anniversary I’d like to see all donors make public their spending since last year, as DFID have done. There needs to be more transparency about what has been promised from the private sector and private foundations. For the children of Cambodia, and dozens of other countries, we need to be sure that pledges made a year ago in front of presidents and dignatories is now being translated into good quality nutrition spending that is reaching the poorest.

 

 

Photo credits: (C) Steve Lewis/Results  

 

Labour and Europe – development on the doorstep

12 May 2014

As the European elections draw closer, we have prepared a pack to help Labour MEP candidates and their teams talk about Europe and international development on the doorstep.

We include key messages on why a Labour Europe is good for international development, top facts about the impact of European aid, and also answers to the tricky questions our candidates get asked. Please take a look and let us know your thoughts.

LCID wishes all the Labour candidates the best of luck in their campaigning.

To view the pack, please click here: Europe and Development on the Doorstep – A support pack for prospective MEPs

 

Labour Call for Government Statement on Search for Nigerian Schoolgirls

8 May 2014

by Ian Lucas, Labour Spokesman for Africa

Over 200 girls have been missing in Nigeria for almost three weeks.

The blunt truth of that statement is shocking, and more abductions have since taken place.

In recent days, Boko Haram have claimed responsibility for the abductions from Chibok in a chilling statement. This, their latest heinous crime, has captured the attention of the international community in a way that surpasses even the many other harrowing crimes committed since their insurgency began over five years ago.

Despite reports that a small number of the girls have escaped, or since been released, the whereabouts of the majority of the girls is still unknown. Understandably there are grave concerns about their welfare – concerns which are growing daily.

News that eight more girls have been kidnapped, and reports today that up to 300 people have been killed in the northeastern Nigerian town of Gamboru Ngala, only underlines the severity of the situation.

It is vital that in the crucial days and weeks ahead, the UK government work with its international partners to add their weight and expertise to the search, and make clear what part they are playing in global efforts to assist the Nigerian government.

Yesterday, the prime minister rightly added his strong and unequivocal condemnation of the actions of Boko Haram today in the House of Commons.

Hours later, Downing Street confirmed that the UK intends to deploy a team of experts, to support the Nigerian-led effort to rescue the captured school girls.

Labour has called on ministers to make a fuller statement to Parliament, and in the days and weeks ahead, it is right that the international community stay focused on securing the release of these innocent victims of a wholly unjustified and horrendous attack that has truly shocked the world.

Burma: The Challenge for Labour

2 May 2014

By Jessica Toale

Saturday night in downtown Yangon, the Union Bar on the Strand is heaving with a mixed collection of expats. With an extensive cocktail menu, DJ’s on the decks and industrial chic exposed light bulbs hanging over the square bar, the scene would not be out of place in a swanky New York Midtown bar.

The atmosphere is electric. Groups of people talk excitedly about the burgeoning telecoms sector bringing 3G connection to millions of people, of being part of something unique, a hint of the Wild West in the air. Everyone wants a piece of the action.

But what does this seemingly rapid economic progress mean for Burma?

Burma is the largest country in mainland Southeast Asia with incredible mineral wealth, but it remains the poorest country in the region with around a quarter of the population living in extreme poverty. Outside the developed pockets of Yangon and Mandalay life for the average Burmese person is extremely different.

Burma’s contemporary political history has been mired in isolation and international condemnation owning largely to the actions of the military dictatorship. Recent moves to release political prisoners, including the indomitable Aung San Suu Kyi, has opened up the country somewhat to investment and foreign interest.

It is very easy to get carried away with the prospects for progress in Burma and the feeling of being part of something new and exciting. But of course rapid economic progress does not always guarantee rapid social progress or adherence to international human rights standards. News reports of the Government delivering electricity and water and sanitation projects to rural areas, introducing quotas on the proportion of Burmese nationals working in foreign-owned companies and hosting the 27th SEA Games are offset by long-standing and well-documented discrimination against Rohingya and other minority populations in Rakhine State and elsewhere. Indeed, whilst in Yangon we passed a displaced persons camp set up outside the High Court Building demanding recognition of their fundamental human rights – a visceral demonstration of the challenges of ensuring inclusive development.

The question of what type of development Burma wants for itself was a recurring theme on the trip.

  • For the average traveler, Burma is an expensive destination that lacks the levels of service or quality you would expect to find in other Southeast Asian countries. Despite an expanding airline industry, travel remains challenging and variable in quality.  Anecdote revealed that Burma is pitching itself as a luxury destination, and Yangon is desperate to avoid the fate of becoming another Bangkok.
  • The telecoms industry appears to be the most significant economic sector at the moment, and in fact I was continually surprised to see Buddhist monks whipping out their Huawei smartphones to take photos of passing tourists. But the development of this sector will raise issues around land acquisitions, human rights violations, allegations of corruptions and governance issues. With the increase in access to 3G and social media as a result, it will be interesting to see what impact the telecoms boom has on civic action and popular engagement with politics.
  • Finally, the level of environmental and heritage degradation as a result of rapid economic and population growth was already more than apparent. Despite some attempts to create conservation zones, particularly around Inle Lake and Old Bagan – areas that require foreigners to pay a Government entrance fee – air pollution, an overabundance of discarded plastic bags and botched restoration jobs were common in all areas.  Perhaps my perception had to do with it being the end of the dry season, but significant effort both nationally and regionally will be required to ensure that the country develops in a sustainable way.

The Labour Party holds a keen interest in Burma and has shown strong international solidarity with the Burmese people in their struggle for democracy and equitable and inclusive development.

But as a result of the mixed picture which characterizes development in Burma, we would be wise to consider a number of issues:

  • Politically, Aung San Suu Kyi is often held up as the shining light for the future of Burma. But as an international community are we putting too much faith in her? We have become rightly weary of creating more “donor darlings”, and whilst there is no doubt that she is a remarkable person who understands western democracy, her party, the NLD, as a political and opposition movement so lacks the capacity it needs to be effective. We have given some support to the NLD, but we should consider seriously what else can we do to support democratization efforts and capacity building at a grassroots level as well as a at high-profile politician level.
  • Economically, Burma is an underexploited market and therefore attractive to a number of investors. This reading largely neglects the level of Chinese investment in the country, particularly in Mandalay and the north. Recent visits and engagement of UK ministers and trade missions, however, raise serious questions about how we balance the desire for economic development and opportunities for UK interests with the conflict that this motivation poses to our commitment to human rights, tackling inequality and promoting global solidarity.

The democratization and development of Burma has the potential to be our new international cause and should be of great concern to nations and organization in the region and across the world. The Labour Party is well place to be a force for good in Burma’s transition and has a responsibility to be a friendly critic amongst those people we support.

Everyone is waiting for the elections in late-2015. Whatever the outcome it will be important for the trajectory of the country’s nascent growth and development.

Live Below the Line 2014

25 April 2014

Lord McConnell

Jack McThis morning I have started my Live Below the Line challenge for 2014.

It is sometimes hard to believe that people are still living on less than £1 a day in the 21st Century, but around 1 billion of our fellow human beings do. They and their children die too young, they suffer from terrible health problems, and many face horrific powerlessness in the face of abuse and violence. However, we can do something about it.

I am Living Below the Line on £1 a day for 5 days because I want to shine a light on this scandal, maintaining pressure on decision makers to take the actions that change these lives, and I want to do something practical too.

I have recently returned from Mexico City where I attended the First High-Level Meeting of the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), 15-16 April. Over 1500 development leaders came together to discuss the best ways to conquer extreme poverty. A new partnership, and new global goals post-2015 will be essential. But individual and collective action matters too.

For three years now, I have taken part in the Live Below the Line fundraising campaign. Over those years I have raised over £35000 for the Global Poverty Project, the campaign organisation who had initially established LBTL, for Welsh charity Positive Women and for Action for Peace and Development.

Together with Positive Women, the McConnell International Foundation developed a skills and training project called Tools for Life. We partnered young female carpenters from the UK with determined women affected by HIV in Swaziland who want to free themselves from dependency on external help. I visited them last August. The pilot was a huge success, and the women are now winning work and growing a business in a part of Southern Africa that seemed to be without hope.

From today 25th April to 29th April I am once again Living Below the Line for the second generation of Tools for Life. All donations to my fundraising will directly help Tools for Life and similar schemes.

Our mission against global poverty is far from done. This week I and many others will highlight this continuing disgrace, but with your support, I can also help do something about it.

Please donate what you can either by sending it to me (cheques payable to McConnell International Foundation, House of Lords, Westminster, London SW1A 0PW) or by visiting the campaign website where you can donate on-line: www.livebelowtheline.com/me/jackmcconnell

 

 

Mexico meeting on effective development cooperation: Flash in the pan or slow burner?

22 April 2014

By Claire Leigh, Chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development

At a meeting in Busan, Korea in 2011 the international development community met to discuss how to improve aid effectiveness. The major outcome of that meeting was the establishment of ‘The Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation’, a broad collection of donors, international organisations, aid recipients and middle income countries. The two innovations of this group were firstly that for the first time MICS (often both donors and recipients of aid) and recipient countries were brought to the table as equal partners, and secondly that the groups remit was to extend far beyond aid, to include development cooperation of many different types (knowledge sharing, private sector development, taxation etc).

Fast forward two years and the great and the good of the development community gathered last week in Mexico for the first ministerial-level meeting of the Global Partnership. The ministerial meeting didn’t get off to a good start in the preceding weeks, with chaotic organisation and a general sense among aid-watchers that the meeting had a somewhat underwhelming agenda.

In the end the meetings ran relatively smoothly, and participants by the closing ceremony were giving the event better marks out of 10 than anticipated, both for organisation and substance.

That said, the event lacked a clear focus on action, and I was frustrated by the lack of room for genuine discussion, with plenary sessions involving 1000+ people and moderated a glittering array of moonlighting news anchors. There was also a remarkable absence of discussion on the post-2015 agenda; One way to make the Global Partnership really meaningful would be to link it explicitly to the next set of global development goals, as the ‘how’ to its ‘what’. There was also not nearly enough time given to discuss achievements against the original Busan commitments. The progress report released alongside the meeting, despite being 140 pages or so long, could report little real change since 2011 and focused (rather depressingly) on welcoming the continued ‘commitment’ of GP partners to improving aid effectiveness.

The main agenda focused instead on the pet topics of the three co-chairs: Domestic Resource Mobilisation (Nigeria), South-South knowledge sharing (Indonesia) and Private Sector Development (UK). These are all important topics, but by moving the conversation away from the core Busan agenda of how to make aid more effective we missed the opportunity to give that agenda the boost it so sorely needs.

It might be that Mexico will be a slow burner. But last week it felt more like a flash in the pan.

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