by Lord Jack McConnell, LCID Vice-President
The Labour Party has internationalism in our core. We have always wanted a world free from want, and where people can live at peace with the planet, and each other. Yesterday in New York, the new Global Goals were agreed: a road map to end extreme poverty and to peaceful sustainable development.
Launched by the UN at the start of the new century, the Millennium Development Goals were meant to tackle the worst extremes of ill health and poverty. But they were never designed to tackle root causes. And with their time coming to a close, there is now the opportunity to transform global development and security – making sure no one is left behind.
Global poverty has been halved in 20 years, more children go to school, most people now have access to clean water, deaths in childbirth have been slashed. The last Labour government helped achieve this by transforming Britain’s approach to international development. But still 1 billion live on less than a pound a day; UNICEF reports that every five minutes, somewhere across the globe, a family loses a son or daughter to violence; women perform two-thirds of the world’s work, produce 50% of the food, but earn only 10% of the income and own only 1% of the property; and more people have a mobile phone than use a working toilet.
The Global Goals for Sustainable Development follow the MDGs but they are much much more. 17 Goals including quality education and health care, protecting the environment, peace and justice, and jobs – ambitious, for all.
The Goals are fundamentally about inequality and sustainability, but they are also about tackling the great fears of the 21st century. Fundamental to tackling these fears is the need to end extreme poverty; to ensure women and men have the same rights and opportunities; to prevent conflict and to recognise those marginalised as a result of their physical condition, their identity, their sexuality or their location have the same basic rights as others.
The Global Goals are the result of a unique process, engaging countries and peoples across the globe. Because of this process, these goals will have greater shared ownership than ever before, and action can start now. The key difference to the MDG’s: the Global Goals are universal. All goals apply to all countries. All goals are to be implemented in all countries. All goals are to be financed and reported on by all countries. All countries are accountable. With this universality and the aim to transform, has also come a promise: leave no one behind.
As we agree these goals, I am struck by three important priorities.
First, we need an consistent effort to investment in capacity: taxation authorities; fair and transparent courts and justice systems; strong parliaments that hold governments to account; reliable, independent data collection; and effective government ministries. And a willingness in the nations where the vast majority of the extreme poor live, to respect accountable institutions that put people before those in power.
Next, peace and security. Those most at risk of violence or war have the worst lives and the greatest needs. They must not be left in the ‘too difficult’ box. Building peace is essential if development is to reach everyone.
And perhaps most importantly of all is gender equality. The world cannot move forward whilst half of its population is held back. We need to universally empower women and girls so that we can build the better world that we want to see.
This is a special moment. A real chance to change the world. Let’s grab it with both hands.
Dear LCID members,
We hope you can join us for our Rally for International Development at this year’s party conference, which we are hosting in partnership with BOND with Beyond2015.
We have a fantastic line-up of speakers including Hilary Benn MP, Stephen Twigg MP, Seb Dance MEP and Linda McAvan MEP. The event will be an opportunity to celebrate the new global Sustainable Development Goals and to reflect on ‘what next’, to ensure that the goals are implemented and that momentum is sustained.
And if that’s not enough to tempt you along, drinks will also be provided!
The reception will take place on Monday 28th September, 17.45 – 19.15, in the ‘International Development Hub’, Hall 7, Brighton Hilton Metropole Hotel.
You need to register to attend, by signing up here. Please note that you can only sign up if you have a conference pass, as the event will take place within the secure zone.
We are looking forward to seeing you there.
The LCID team
First published by BOND, 16 SEPTEMBER 2015
Corbyn’s shadow cabinet: old consensus or new divide?
You won’t have been able to pick up a paper, turn on the TV, or open Twitter since the weekend without noticing the seismic shift in British politics: Labour’s most rebellious backbench MP has become its leader.
So, what do we know about him and does that matter to international development? In a nutshell, the answer to the first question is: a little, and the answer to the second is: a lot. Here’s why…
Despite having views that are wildly different from almost any other leading politician of a major party, he is now formally the Right Honorable Jeremy Corbyn and the Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition. For all the furore around his election, Jeremy Corbyn is just one person on a mission to turn the tide of British politics. His new shadow cabinet is the first ripple in the water. How they work together and what they do will determine if they can turn that tide.
On paper, his team could not be more supportive of development, but there’s more to it than that. Corbyn, like Ed Miliband and David Cameron, is a defender of the 0.7% aid budget and a supporter of international development.
Corbyn’s new shadow international development secretary, Diane Abbott, is also a firm supporter of the aid budget and of development. Abbott has campaigned against UK-based consultants earning exorbitant fees for working on development projects.
Yvette Cooper decided not to join the shadow cabinet formally, but she will continue to spearhead the party’s liaison with local councils taking in refugees. As shadow home secretary, and as recently as last week, she criticised the government for trying to use £1bn of the aid budget to house refugees in Britain. Today, Cooper’s successor, Andy Burnham, held back on that line of assault in his debut in the role, saying that he supported the use of aid money in this scenario. It is also unclear who the shadow junior DFID ministers will be, including the shadow to the new joint development, Home Office and communities minister with special focus for syrian refugees.
Abbott will certainly have something to say about it, which will be determined, in part, by this week’s prime minister’s questions. It will be Corbyn’s first stand-off against David Cameron. Although he has invited ordinary party members to submit their questions, he is likely to choose those which hammer Cameron as hard as possible.
Given that the first piece of legislation Corbyn had to oppose as leader was the Trade Union bill, that will be almost certainly be on the agenda. But I suspect he will focus on the current refugee crisis, and not just because it is so topical, but because it matters to him: he chose Saturday’s rally as his first public address as leader.
Corbyn thinks the UK should do more for the refugees and when he attacks the PM for the government’s inadequate response, Cameron will point to the £1bn of the aid budget he is allocating to the issue. That, in turn, politicises the aid budget. So, despite years of consensus that have grown over 0.7%, it is quickly becoming a key part of broader political debate.
There is another consensus that has been blown open by Corbyn – that austerity (to varying degrees) is a necessity. New shadow chancellor John McDonnell shares Corbyn’s disdain for austerity. And that, more than anything, matters for development because it pushes a reset button on the political status quo.
That might be a good thing, that might be a bad thing. What is certain is that the foundations of many politically economic agreements, including 0.7%, were built on that shared economic ground.
With the 0.7% act enshrined in law, the need for political consensus around UK spending on aid seemed less urgent, but the refugee crisis has reminded us why it is more important than ever to continue to build overall support for development. The challenge for us is doing that in an increasingly political arena, and on fractured ground.
Crowded House’s single, Help Is Coming, has been re-released and profits will be donated to Save The Children to help its vital work in Syria and Europe where the refugees are fleeing to escape the conflict. The money will help thousands of children in need of food, safe water, medicine, shelter and psychological support.
By Gordon Brown
First posted by The Guardian, 9th September 2015
If the tiny, lifeless body of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy whose body washed on to a beach in Turkey, has finally shamed Europe into offering sanctuary to Syrian refugees, just what will it take to shock the entire world into dealing with a problem 100 times bigger?
While the European commission still struggles to find agreement on a quota of 40,000 refugees, there are 4 million Syrians holed up in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon desperate for food, shelter, healthcare and schooling for their children.
The 1.1 million Syrians now in Lebanon have increased the country’s 4.5 million-strong population by one quarter. It is the equivalent of 16 million refugees descending on Britain’s shores or 80 million crossing the border into the United States. The impact of that in either country would be almost unthinkable.
“Why have you abandoned us?” a Syrian refugee girl desperate to go to school challenged me when I recently visited a Beirut refugee centre, where hundreds of mothers and their children were crowded into one room.
There I met 10-year-olds working in factories for wages that cover only a roof over their heads, girls who had been living on the streets at risk of being trafficked, and girls of 12, 13 and 14 who feared being forced into early marriage.
Most families were living in shacks, and many looked as if they were going without basic nutrition. Their healthcare needs were barely being met. But for the mothers, some three and four years into their exile, their critical and repeated question was: “How can my children get an education?”
No government should truly be asked to absorb what has been forced on an already troubled and divided Lebanon, but to his country’s great credit the Lebanese education minister wants to offer a school place to every single refugee child.
The plan is quite simple and involves operating double shifts in their schools, which is possible because the refugees are spread right across the country. In the morning and early afternoon, Lebanese children will be taught in French and English. In the afternoon and early evening, in the same classroom, Syrian children are taught in Arabic.
In the past year, thanks to fundraising around the world, 105,000 refugee children have been enrolled for school. In the new term, starting just a few days from now, enough has been raised to educate 140,000. But we need to cater for 510,000 children in Lebanon, at least 215,000 in Jordan, and upwards of 400,000 in Turkey.
What is missing is not the classrooms or the trained teachers but the money to pay for them. For $500 a year, or $10 a child each week, we can provide school places that would allow parents and children to do what they would prefer to do – to stay in the region.
And so, while the crisis may seem overwhelming, we need not be overwhelmed; and in reply to those who ask, “What can we do?” we can point to a detailed plan, to be unveiled at the UN later this month, which starts by taking 1 million child refugees off the streets. I will ask the international community to build on the $100m we have already raised with another $250m immediately.
Over the past few days, I have consulted King Abdullah of Jordan, the Lebanese and Turkish governments and Tony Lake of Unicef. In the next few days, at the invitation of the Lebanese government, I will visit Beirut again.
To its credit, the UK government has already given £20m to this plan. But it runs counter to its, and Europe’s, interests to cut the international aid budget in this troubled region as Britain tries to cover the new costs of refugee support within the UK. Instead we should be increasing it, so that parents don’t think the only chance of a future for their families is sailing out in flimsy boats on death voyages but are assured there is support much closer to home.
We have to provide both a home for refugees here and help for the millions struggling for survival on Syria’s borders. And cutting international development aid to the region would be counterproductive. It would not solve the problem but exacerbate it, forcing more to leave; and it would cost more.
Eglantyne Jebb, who started Save the Children to help child refugees after the first world war, said the only international language the world understands is the cry of a child. But from her own experience of visiting neglected orphans, the author JK Rowling feared that: “No one is easier to silence than a child.”
In the next few weeks we will find out whether, instead of becoming the lost generation, millions of children will finally be heard.
By Mary Creagh
First published in The Guardian, 8th September
I am in Lebanon with Birmingham-based charity Islamic Relief to see the frontline of the refugee crisis. All summer there have been daily reminders of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war. The harrowing picture of Syrian toddler Alan al-Kurdi, lying lifeless on the beach close to Bodrum in Turkey, reminded the world of the experience of millions of people escaping conflict in Syria and Libya.
Every day brings new tales of horror. People fleeing death at the hands of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and Islamic State are dying needlessly because of the west’s indifference and inertia. In Lebanon’s refugee camps I met families who have fled Assad’s barrel bombs and Isis’s terror.
The Assad regime imprisoned Iman, a 65-year-old grandmother from Aleppo, for more than two weeks. She told me how she had bravely returned to Syria after her son was killed, to rescue her five grandchildren. They now live together in a shack made of breeze blocks, cardboard and plastic sheeting on rocky land.
Hadia’s husband, a Red Cross volunteer, was killed in Syria. Four of her children are still trapped in Homs. The UN had offered to take her and her younger children to Germany. She refused to leave because her mother could not go with her.
I met Imad, who lost an eye when terrorists blew up the Baghdad cafe where he worked.
At a Baptist church north of Beirut, it was humbling to see Islamic and Christian charities working together to help Christians in need. Yousif told me the story of how he fled Mosul with his four children when Isis took over the city.
I promised these refugees I would share their stories to help people in Britain understand why they had fled their homes. They are refugees, not economic migrants.
Towards the end of 2014, Lebanon took in 10,000 Syrian refugees a day. That means every two days the country was offering shelter to as many refugees as David Cameron wants to take in five years.
Britain has a proud history of giving sanctuary to people fleeing persecution. In the 1930s, Britain took in 70,000 Jewish people. During the Balkans conflict we offered shelter to 2,500 Bosnians and 4,000 Kosovar Albanians. We must honour that legacy.
Cameron’s promise to take 20,000 refugees is a welcome U-turn. But it does not match up to the scale of the crisis we are facing. His five-year timescale is simply too long for desperate people to wait. More than 4 million Syrians have left their homes and crossed the border – with more than 1 million in Lebanon alone. Another 7.6 million have been internally displaced.
The UK government is failing to engage with the crisis on our doorstep – countries such as Hungary, Italy and Greece are struggling to cope with the number of refugees arriving. Britain has a responsibility to offer support – including taking some of the refugees who are already in southern and eastern Europe. It needs to urgently bring together local authorities and NGOs to work out a plan for accommodating Syrian refugees.
There has been an outpouring of sympathy from the British public. The government needs to show real leadership and step up to its responsibilities. Having escaped Assad and Isis, the refugees I met deserve a second chance at life.
It’s time to act. Cities and towns across Britain are ready to make refugees welcome. The Prime Minister should no longer stand in their way.
by LCID Vice-President Alison McGovern MP
Sometimes people find themselves doing things that would have seemed impossible only a short time before.
A mother, clambering onto a rickety boat in the pitch black, clutching a child. A father giving the last of his family’s possessions for a single train ticket. What must a person have to go through before the impossible becomes the inevitable?
It is a question for us as well, and for our Government.
When I asked the Prime Minister in June about vulnerable Syrian refugees, David Cameron said he was convinced that we as a nation had fulfilled our moral obligations.
As late as July the talk was of more dogs and higher fences. Just a few days ago we woke up to dead children on a Turkish beaches and Ministers were still mouthing platitudes about ‘working with partners’.
Now it seems that the awful scenes across Europe and the Mediterranean have brought a change of heart from our Prime Minister with his announcement that the UK will take an extra 20,000 refugees over the next five years.
This is a start but it does not go far enough. People need our help now, not in five years time.
Other countries across Europe are rising to the challenge and welcoming refugees. The German state of Baden-Wuttemberg has even come to a special arrangement to take thousands of Kurdish refugees directly from their homeland, bypassing the normal asylum process. This localised approach is one we should look at here too if our Government does not go far enough. I know there are towns and cities across the country that would step forward to play their part if given the chance.
The inaction of our Government in the face of this tragedy shamed our whole nation. As Yvette Cooper argued so strongly last week, this is simply not the British way. Despite the repeated assertions, it is clear that we are far from taking our ‘fair share’ of refugees.
Our fair share. Nothing about this situation is fair if you are a child caught up in conflict. There is nothing fair about losing all chance of an education or living a normal life. There is nothing fair about running for your life, only to find the door to sanctuary closed in front of you.
We must help.
The Government needs to get a grip. Hand-wringing and excuses will simply not cut it any longer, there needs to be a tangible plan put in place to start taking in the refugees as soon as possible. The Prime Minister should also commit to excluding refugees from his migration targets as a step towards breaking the insidious coupling of humanitarian aid and immigration in the public consciousness.
This has gone far beyond any concerns about immigration caps or quotas. It is a moral obligation, not a political calculation.
In 1623, one of our greatest British poets, John Donne, wrote that “No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the Main” but he might as well have written that for us right now.
It’s time to act. Cities and towns across Britain are ready to make refugees welcome. The Prime Minister should no longer stand in their way.