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0.7% aid law passes – thanks to Labour, and you.

9 March 2015

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Just a few minutes ago the bill to enshrine our country’s aid spending in law passed it’s final hurdle. It’s been voted through both Houses of Parliament and will soon be on the statute book.

Ten years after Labour first put Britain on the timetable to reaching the 0.7% target, and five years after Labour first proposed to enshrine our aid promise, the bill will soon be law.

It was touch and go at times, but Labour Peers were able to see off attempts by Tory Peers to wreck the bill in the House of Lords – including by their former Chancellor and the PM’s own father-in-law. It only got through the House of Commons because of Labour’s supportmore Labour MPs voted for the aid law than all the other Parties combined.

This victory belongs to all of us – Labour Party members, our representatives in Parliament and former Government Ministers alike – many of whom have been pushing for this moment for decades. Thank you to them. And thank you as well to every LCID supporter who encouraged MPs to vote for this bill – 1 in 4 of the Labour MPs who voted for the bill were LCID members or encouraged to attend the vote by LCID.

The law secures a key piece of our Party’s legacy – and ensures that in the coming years we in Britain continue to provide our fair share in the fight to make poverty history.

Change does not happen by chance – it happens by choice. We’ll be celebrating this victory, but then we’ll be doing all we can to help return a Labour Government in May so we can build on this achievement and help transform even more lives for the better. Poverty is political – fight it with us and come along to #DevelopmentDoorstep on 28th March!

Thank you again,

Charlie, Laura, Joe, David, Bethan, Sarah, Mann, Farah, Suzanne, Laura, Stuart, Billy, Namaa, Ake, and Mike.

2015: A Year of Opportunity for Women’s Rights

8 March 2015

Nowhere in the world are women and girls equal – violence affects women and girls in every corner of the globe, women are often excluded from fully and equally participating in decisions that affect their lives, and they often do not have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights. However as a new report by Womankind Worldwide evidences, 2015 is a year of opportunity for women’s rights. Progress on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action – agreed in 1995 and seen as the most visionary and comprehensive framework on women’s rights and gender equality – is being reviewed. Furthermore, global discussions on the Post-2015 development framework (the follow up to the Millennium Development Goals) will culminate in autumn in a new development framework that will dictate funding priorities for years to come. And in October there is a 15-year Global Review of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 – which recognises women’s right to full and equal participation in peacebuilding. As an incoming Labour government, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to accelerate progress towards the achievement of gender equality and women’s rights.

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and persistent abuses of human rights, with 35% of women experiencing at least one form of violence in her lifetime. Violence is rooted in gender inequality, including the patriarchal social norms related to male authority, acceptance of wife beating and female subordination. Recent years have seen an increase in commitments to tackle violence against women and girls. However, progress towards supporting survivors of abuse and preventing violence remains unacceptably slow. In addition, there is a worrying trend towards focusing on types of violence, for instance sexual violence in conflict. This obscures the interconnected nature of violence and risks the transformative approach needed to end abuse. As an incoming Labour government, we will have the opportunity to champion a robust indicator on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls in the Post-2015 framework. We can advocate a move beyond rhetoric and make a life without violence a reality for women and girls across the globe.

Women’s equal and meaningful participation and influence in decision making at all levels, and in both formal and informal spaces, is fundamentally a question of social justice – women have the right to participate in decisions which affect their lives. Despite this, only one in five parliamentarians are women, women account for only 13 of 193 heads of government and in local government women make up only 20% of elected councillors. Based on current trends in representation, women will not be equally represented in parliaments until 2065, and will not make up half the world’s leaders until 2134. Whilst women’s national level formal political participation is important, it is at the local level that many of the decisions that affect women’s rights take place. It is this context that makes the prioritisation of women’s participation at both national and local level so crucial. The Labour Party has an excellent track record of supporting women’s participation through all-women shortlists and has committed to a 50-50 cabinet on entering Number 10 – we therefore have both the legitimacy and experience to take forward women’s participation domestically and internationally.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights are a critical part of women’s rights. The ability of all women, including young women and adolescent girls, to exercise their reproductive rights to make free and informed choices about their fertility, and about whether and when to have children is a central component of gender equality. Access to contraception, based on informed choice, empowers women and girls to decide when to have children and can transform their position in the household, community, school, the labour force, political sphere and wider society. Pregnancy, unsafe abortion and childbirth remain the leading causes of death and disability among women of reproductive age in many countries today. Almost 800 women die every day in pregnancy and childbirth, largely from preventable causes. The Labour Party has long taken a right-based approach to development – this approach is critical to the achievement of women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights, including access to safe abortion.

There is a growing body of research demonstrating that women’s rights organisations and women’s rights movements are important catalysts in interventions to promote greater gender equality, realise women’s rights and prevent violence against women and girls. Women’s rights organisations are particularly well placed to increase women’s consciousness and agency and have pioneered a range of effective models for mobilising and empowering women to come together to know and claim their rights. Despite their enormous value add, many women’s rights organisations are struggling to survive in the current aid environment marked by changed aid modalities, increasing competition for funding, and the heavy demands of the ‘results agenda’. The Association of Women’s Rights in Development’s (AWID) found in its global survey of 1119 women’s organisations from over 140 countries that 35% of organisations sampled experienced a significant budget shortfall, with one-fifth of organisations facing the threat of closure; and only 28% of women’s rights organisations surveyed received core funding and nearly half had never received core funding. We have a history of recognising the innovation, knowledge and experience of civil society organisations. A new Labour government can build on this recognition by providing flexible, core and long-term funding for women’s rights organisations.

2015 is a year of opportunity for women’s rights and it is a Labour government which can champion and secure the commitments needed to secure a future where gender equality is a reality for women and girls across the world

This Fairtrade Fortnight let’s Keep it Co-op

7 March 2015

by Karin Christiansen, Co-operative Party General Secretary and LCID Advisory Board member

This Fairtrade Fortnight, I wanted to share our Co-operative Party campaign to Keep it Co-op.

The Co-op was the first retailer in the UK to sell Fairtrade bananas and the first retailer in the world to carry the Fairtrade mark on its own brand products.

Its this commitment to Fairtrade, along with its support for progressive causes and because its owned by its members and not shareholders, that leads many of us go out of our way to shop at the Co-op.

But the Co-op could be about to break the century-old political link with the Co-operative Party which together with the Labour party has worked to support fair trade aboard and at home. The Co-op Party used its political representation to ensure that 590 Town Halls signed up to become Fairtrade Towns.

The Co-operative Party has launched the Keep it Co-op campaign which calls on the Co-op Group to keep the link and stay true to its ethics and progressive values.

You can support the campaign and check if you are one of the 2.6 million people who can vote to keep the link by visiting keepit.coop.

Thank you.

Keep It Co-op

 

Mary Creagh on the right role of the private sector in development

5 March 2015

Mary Creagh, Labour’s Next Development Secretary – speech on the role of the private sector in development

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In nine weeks, voters here in Cambridge will have a clear choice over the future direction of international development.

Five more years of a Tory government that treats the aid budget as charity.

Or a Labour government that will fight for justice for the world’s poorest.

Labour’s plan for development has three clear priorities.

First, we will renew Britain’s commitment to fragile and conflict affected states.

This Government’s target-driven culture has failed to focus on the difficult tasks of peacebuilding and nation-building.

A Labour government would tackle these challenges through long-term partnerships with developing countries

Second, we will lead the global fight against inequality.

We will ensure that the Sustainable Development Goals tackle the growing gap between the haves and have nots.

Our focus is on healthcare, climate change and human rights.

Healthcare, because Ebola has shown that the best way to protect against disease is to build a resilient, government funded health service.

Climate change because we know it hits the poorest hardest.

Human rights because we want women and girls and the disabled to participate fully in society.

LGBT communities to be free to love and marry whom they wish; and protection for indigenous peoples

And third – my focus today – is to ensure the private sector fully contributes to the success of developing countries.

Because without a thriving economy, without small and medium sized enterprises, and without long-term investment by the private sector: there will never be a world without aid.

This government thinks there is a simple answer: throw hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers money into opaque private sector investment funds.

For example, the government increased its funding to the Private Infrastructure Development Group from £43m in 2010, to over £700m over the last three years.

This scale up has been criticised by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee.

In separate reports they slammed “weak oversight and a failure to achieve value for taxpayers money.”

Labour will work in a different way with businesses.

We know there are no quick fixes to create the conditions necessary for companies to thrive.

Economies are the result of the complex interaction of individuals, families, the state and firms.

Trust, traditions, institutions, rule of law, workers’ and consumers’ rights, banking all matter.

Businesses are vital to eradicating poverty and inequality.

But companies make choices about how they operate. We want to support them to make the right choices.

The right choice to treat workers with dignity and respect.

The right choice to ensure supply chains are ethical and sustainable.

And the right choice to pay tax where they operate.

First, workers’ rights.

One of the first acts of this Government was to cut DFID’s funding to the International Labour Organisation.

Labour will reverse this ideologically-driven decision – by reallocating within planned spending.

We will support trade unions to ensure the voice of workers is heard by government and companies alike.

There is no better route out of poverty than a job.

Labour. It’s our name.

But not just any job.

Not work that enslaves people.

Not work that keeps children out of school, trapped  in poverty.

Not work that is an affront to our common humanity and human dignity.

Every 15 seconds a worker dies from a work-related accident or disease

That’s over two million people a year.

168 million child workers.  A scar on the conscience of the world.

Some performing backbreaking work on family farms.

Some are sold into prostitution.

Others sew sequins onto clothes for pennies.

We cannot wait for another Rana Plaza disaster to clean up fashion’s dirty secret.

1,200 people killed – many making clothes for British shoppers.

And two years on the victims compensation fund is still nine million dollars short.

No more fashion victims.

Workers must have access to decent work, decent pay and rest breaks, and the freedom to join a trade union.

The right to negotiate pay and conditions, must be universal.

The last Labour government set up the Ethical Trading Initiative to encourage industry to work with unions and NGOs better to understand and address workers’ rights issues.

The ETI now has 84 members who employ over 10 million workers.

And in opposition, Labour MPs have strengthened the Modern Slavery bill.

We secured mandatory reporting by companies of what they are doing to eradicate slavery in their supply chains.

The public cares about how their food is made.

They need the tools to know about how their clothes and gadgets are made.

Labour will collaborate with governments, companies and NGOs to put an end to people working in lethal conditions and doing unacceptable work like manual cleaning of latrines.

Companies are often hesitant to be the first to make improvements which could leave them at a competitive disadvantage.

Governments – by setting clear standards – can ensure they all move together.

Governments can enact living wage legislation and inspect workplaces suspected of mistreating their workers.

And they will go a long way to tackle child labour if they make education compulsory.

Second, Labour will support sustainable supply chains.

The horse meat scandal showed us the scale and complexity of modern supply chains.

The desire for quick profits in the extractive and timber trades has left developing countries worse off.

Their natural resources forever depleted with little benefits to show.

In the worst cases resource extraction fuelled conflict

In government Labour established the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to shine a light onto companies’ oil, gas and mineral operations.

Because nobody wants a blood diamond on their engagement ring.

Companies know that they are responsible for the environmental and social sustainability of their activities.

And given 200 corporations account for around a tenth of the world’s output – their improvements can quickly have a large impact.

A national approach to supply chains is not enough in a globalised world.

We need an international approach that follows the supply chain across borders.

Businesses know that if they don’t have sustainability at the core of their business then they don’t have a sustainable business.

Labour will do more to champion sustainable supply chains.

We need to change market conditions and create market incentives for suppliers.

Fairtrade accounts for over £1.7bn of revenue each year in the UK alone.

We will work with the EU and others to extend such schemes and to incentivise companies that want to do the right thing.

DFID must use its existing budget to do more to help the bodies that certify good business behaviour.

I want to hear proposals to deepen and broaden their reach.

This might include improving production techniques or sustainability.

I also want government to look at how it can better fund tripartite groups in developing countries.

Companies, workers representatives and civil society groups should work together to shine a light on supply chains and how to improve them.

We will help those who already do this to communicate it to the public to give people a clearer choice over what they buy.

Finally, taxation.

Only when countries have a tax base that enables them to provide basic public goods – health, education and the rule of law – will the private sector thrive.

States need the capacity to enact and enforce modern tax laws and to collect tax revenues.

This government has not done enough in this area.

In government, Labour showed what is possible.

Working in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, we invested £20m to create the Rwandan Revenue Authority.

In its first year it collected £60 million pounds, three times our initial investment.

Last year it collected £713 million pounds – over £2m pounds a day.

Labour will at least double the funding for Britain’s support to such interventions.

DFID must do more to assist developing countries to ensure companies pay their taxes.

This means tackling corruption, and stopping race-to-the bottom tax competition.

In government Labour acted with cross party support to bring in the Bribery Act to tackle corruption.

We made it a crime to bribe, to be bribed and to bribe foreign public officials.

This has forced companies to audit their activities and has changed the way companies behave around the world.

Ed Miliband has made clear that tax dodging by UK based companies will be treated seriously  – unlike recent cases under this Government.

This costs both the British economy and developing countries billions of pounds.

Developing countries lose three times as much every year in tax receipts as they receive in combined global aid.

This scandal is why Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, has led a High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows with the African Union and UN.

African leaders are sending a clear signal that they plan to clamp down on the loss of more than $50bn dollars of tax revenues a year from Africa.

Labour will clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance in our first Budget.

We will close loopholes, increase transparency and bring in tough deterrents.

We will work to secure a multilateral agreement to force companies to publish what taxes they pay, and where.

And if that is not possible, we will discuss with businesses the best way to introduce a public country-by-country reporting format on a unilateral basis.

The UK will lead by example by compelling the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies to stop companies hiding behind a wall of secrecy.

Ed Miliband has put them on notice: they will have six months to open their books or face being placed on an OECD blacklist.

We will ensure that changes to UK tax rules are assessed for their impact on the poor.

For too long, developing countries have been left out of discussions on tax evasion.

Labour will ensure that they have a seat at the table.

The private sector is essential to development.

It is time for companies to put corporate social responsibility at the heart of their boards, and to work in partnership with governments and donors.

Companies do well when countries do well, when people do well and when they have a secure sustainable supply chain.

Governments setting and enforcing the regulatory environment, and encouraging the private sector to make more sustainable investments.

It means a living wage, and end to child and bonded labour, and a dignified route out of poverty.

It means upholding the highest environmental standards.

And it means paying taxes when and where they are due.

A common aim for sustainable and inclusive growth.

A Labour vision for growth.

I hope that in 62 days time we will have a Labour government to make this a reality.

It’s time to repeal the remittances “Super Tax” on Africa

4 March 2015

First published on the World Bank website, 3rd March 2015

By Dame Tessa Jowell and Dilip Ratha

Remittances are the shining light of development policy. While debate rages in austerity-hit Western capitals about spending on aid, remittances cost tax-payers nothing. Remittances to developing countries are worth nearly half a trillion dollars – that’s three times the level of aid – and they’re rising fast, quadrupling since the turn of the century. And remittances work. It’s hard to imagine a more efficient targeting system than people sending money home to their own families and the facts bear that out; remittances are linked to improved economic, health and education outcomes. And as if those benefits weren’t enough, remittances are a huge driver of financial inclusion, acting as a gateway to banking for the people sending and receiving them.

But people sending money home to many parts of the world, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, are paying far too much. They face what is, in effect, a remittances ‘super tax’. A worker sending $200 from London to Lagos can pay fees of over 13%, more than fifty percent above the global average. And within Africa it’s even worse, sending money from South Africa to Malawi could cost upwards of 20%. Of course we all expect some fees for financial transactions but there is strong evidence that these costs are excessive and are restricting the poverty-zapping remittances that reach poorer countries. Reducing fees for sub-Saharan Africa to the global average for instance would mean an extra $1.3 billion reaching families in the region.

And we’re not moving nearly fast enough to reduce fees on remittances. We’ve known about the issue for a while; the G8 committed in 2009 to the ‘5×5 goal’ of reducing the global average fee for remittances to 5% within 5 years. But despite some progress, we’re still at close to 8% globally and 12% for sub-Saharan Africa. Indeed, if the cost of sending remittances could be reduced by just 5 percentage points relative to the value sent, remittance receipts in developing countries would receive over $20 billion dollars more each year than they do now. That amount of money could educate 18 million children and buy enough vaccines to prevent 8 million children dying from diseases like malaria.

To fix this situation, we need action on three fronts.

First and foremost, we need to increase competition in the global remittance market and empower migrants by helping them make informed choices about the services they use. This is probably the most effective way to drive down costs and will require action at all levels and in countries that are net senders and net recipients of remittances.

Regulation of international money transfers is complex, and has been tightened in some areas because of understandable concerns over illicit flows of money from criminals and terrorists. But there are things we can do while maintaining those safeguards.  One is to require higher standards of transparency from money transfer companies on how they charge – on exchange rates, fees and taxes for both sender and recipient – so that it’s easier for consumers to shop around and know what they’re getting. Another is for governments to unpick exclusivity agreements which tie particular banks to particular money transfer companies. And a third way to boost competition is to reduce restrictions which prevent post offices and micro-finance institutions, which are much more accessible in many rural parts of the world than mainstream banks, from performing money transfers. None of these actions alone will reduce fees overnight, but together they would increase choice and help push costs down over time.

Second, we need to encourage technological innovation. Mobile money is already transforming the financial sector in many countries: you can now use your phone to buy a round of drinks in Nairobi, or pay Ebola health workers in Sierra Leone, or give farmers access to weather insurance in Tanzania.  Emerging technologies have the power to extend direct person-to-person, phone-to-phone money transfers across national and currency borders, lowering costs at the same time. We need to back these innovations and let the best thrive. Again, it’s about striking the right balance of protecting consumers while letting new technologies emerge, and it might take some creativity on the part of regulators to get it right.

Third, we need to keep up the political pressure for reform. We know that remittances are a large and growing part of the development landscape. And we know what we have to do to make them even more effective. Reducing the cost of remittances comes down to political will – this is a global issue and it needs a collective global response.

And we’re seeing early signs that when the case is made strongly the money transfer companies listen. For example, in London a group of companies are committing to a first ever World Remittance Day where they will commit to a day with ‘no fees, no margins’ on all transfers as a signal of intent to lowering costs in the future. This is accompanied by financial education and inclusion for Londoners; in a city where around one in three are foreign born, the potential impact is huge.

That’s the really good news: we know what we need to do. If we can unite on this issue we can repeal the super-tax on remittances and improve the lives of millions of families around the world.

Beyond Aid – Labour’s vision

4 March 2015
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Beyond Aid event

Last night LCID hosted the launch of Beyond Aid, a new pamphlet edited by Glenys Kinnock and Stephen Doughty MP. With contributions from a range of experts, the pamphlet has some great insights on what Britain can to do continue its global leadership in international development.

Shadow Secretary of State Mary Creagh kicked off the event, setting out her commitment to international development under a Labour government, and emphasising in particular the importance of tacking climate change, universal healthcare and human rights.

Glenys Kinnock spoke first on the panel, reminding the audience of the importance of treating development as a political issue, as justice not charity, and as something we must keep fighting for. As the various contributions to the pamphlet make clear, she said it is Labour’s values that underpin the party’s approach to development, including solidarity and mutual care across borders.

Stephen Doughty spoke about what this values-driven approach means for government: how do we move beyond DFID to build policy coherence across departments, and how do we ensure that there is positive benefit for international development of all government policies, domestic and international? In a fascinating Q&A he took this theme further, looking at British companies, British NGOs, British civil society, and how we all share a responsibility for determining Britain’s role in the world. How do our companies behave? What impressions does this behaviour send to the world? 

Mary Riddell strongly endorsed the new pamphlet. She emphasised how important it is for Labour, and the left, to keep making the case for international development at a time when politics has become quite introverted and parochial. Moving beyond the contributions in the pamphlet, she suggested tackling corruption and responding to humanitarian crises as development issues on which the British public can and will engage – if only the left can make the case forcefully enough. 

Jason Hickel provided a brilliant challenge to the panellists, and the pamphlet, and reminded us just how far we have to go to really make a difference to global poverty. Countries still pay far more servicing debts than they receive in aid. Trade policies are too often skewed against the poor. Wages globally remain hugely unequal between developed and developing countries.
While domestic issues dominate the election, the pamphlet and last night’s event are fantastic reminders of the scale of the international challenge that awaits the next government.
It is the most important year for international development in a decade, with major summits on the Sustainable Development Goals and how we finance them, and a long-awaited opportunity to reach a global agreement on climate change.

Labour achieved a huge amount when last in government:  we created a world-leading development department, secured debt cancellation and prioritised human rights and climate change alongside economic growth. Even during the global financial crisis, we stood by our commitments and delivered progress for the world’s poor.

But in the last five years, global cooperation has stalled in some cases and been thrown into reverse in others. The poorest people in the world are paying the price and so is Britain. The UK is dampening its ambitions in the world at precisely the time when a huge leap forward is required.

If Labour gets back into power, we want Britain to be a progressive powerhouse again.

We as LCID have set out our asks of the next Labour government, which we have fed into the manifesto process. You can read them here. 

Over the last few weeks we are pleased to have seen the Labour leadership paying more and more attention to these crucial issues, committing to reducing poverty and inequality, and tackling climate change. As Ed Miliband said, “More than ever Britain and the world need leadership on tackling poverty, inequality and climate change. This is about ensuring the next generation can do better than the last in this country and around the world.”

Last night’s event showed the strength of support for international development within and beyond the Labour movement. Just as importantly it demonstrated the energy to keep challenging how we approach international development, how we fight better and harder for justice and equality. 

We’d like to say thank you to all those who contributed to the pamphlet, to Jessica Toale and Elliott Perkins for their work to support it, to all the panellists, to Ben Jackson for chairing the event, and to everyone who attended and joined us for the debate on Twitter at #BeyondAid

Beyond Aid: Labour’s ambition for a radical development agenda

4 March 2015

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Beyond Aid

Last night we were delighted to host the launch of a new development pamphlet entitled “Beyond Aid: Labour’s ambition for a radical development agenda”

Edited by our Honorary Presidents Glenys Kinnock and Stephen Doughty, the pamphlet draws on expert opinion from different backgrounds and sectors and aims to spark debate about, and offer a renewed ambition for, a radical development agenda and what the UK’s role should be in shaping it.

Thanks too to BOND’s Ben Jackson for chairing, and to Mary Riddell from the Telegraph and Dr Jason Hickel from the LSE for joining the panel.

Click on the image above or on this link to download the report.

LCID’s Manifesto

This pamphlet sits alongside LCID’s manifesto asks. In ‘A Labour Approach to Development’ we set out our asks ahead of the 2015 election. The document was submitted to the National Policy Forum’s ‘Britain’s Global Role‘ policy consultation last summer.

This ideas contained in this document are our own ideas for what Labour’s internationalist vision should be in the coming years.

What makes us so proud of Labour’s record is not only the amount of money we spent in international aid, as transformative as that was, but the leadership we showed at summit after summit – from our hosting of the G8 and G20 Summits to Ed Miliband’s own herculean efforts staying up all night in Copenhagen to try and secure a global climate deal.

The purpose of our manifesto, therefore, is to propose the ways in which Britain can once again become a global leader and progressive powerhouse under the next Labour Government.

Join us!

Like what you’ve read? Join the Labour Campaign for International Development here!

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