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The next Labour Government must fight for the poorest abroad, as well as at home

9 July 2014

By Mike Smith,  LCID’s Executive Committee 

2015 will be a decisive year, not just because the General Election gives Labour the chance to regain power, but because it is the year when global leaders decide both what will replace the Millennium Development Goals and look to agree a new deal on climate change. The stakes couldn’t be higher.  The Labour movement has always recognised that our commitment to social justice and that the need to end poverty doesn’t stop at our shores. Now is the chance to put forward a bold and distinctively-Labour foreign and development policy platform.

What should this foreign policy approach encompass? The Labour Campaign for International Development has put forward some compelling ideas to the party’s ‘Britain’s Global Role’ policy commission.  Our submission outlined three practical themes: making social justice Britain’s number one foreign policy priority; an activist Britain, showing leadership on the world stage to bring other countries with us; and ensuring that Britain’s domestic policies are in line with our development objectives, rather than undermining them.

Of course, anyone can produce fluffy statements of intent, but LCID have gone further outlining a wide number of innovative and deliverable policies.  Importantly, these draw a link between Labour’s vision of Britain under the next government, and the role the UK should play in the world.  For example, LCID has called for a Labour government to lead a global campaign for universal health coverage – the NHS as a priority at home, universal health as a priority abroad.  We have called for a future Labour government to work for an ambitious and fair deal on climate change – green investment and jobs at home, with a bold climate agreement a key foreign policy priority.  And there’s even scope for extending Labour’s vision of responsible capitalism into aspects of a coherent foreign policy – limit zero hours contracts in the UK, but also commit to supporting the UN’s framework on promoting human rights in business in all countries.

Linking Labour’s domestic priorities to a foreign policy platform is not only the right thing to do to help build a fairer world, but also provides another layer to Labour’s story about the values it believes in and the type of country and world the party wants to build.

With the 2015 General Election only 10 months away, now is the time for the party to put forward a serious foreign policy and development strategy.  This would be a welcome shot in the arm to the party’s credibility to govern.  Not because voters raise these issues on the doorstep – we all know they don’t – but because it demonstrates that Labour are ready to govern what is still one of the most important countries on the international stage.  This foreign policy vision, backed up with hard policy proposals, would also contrast with the Coalition government’s approach over the last 4 years.  A handful of standalone positives aside (realising the commitment to 0.7% aid spending and the leadership shown on preventing sexual violence in conflict spring to mind) it feels increasingly difficult to discern what Britain’s approach is, or what our country stands for in international affairs.

If Labour wins power next year, Ed Miliband will lead the country with the 7th largest economy in the world, the 2nd largest aid budget and the 4th largest defence budget. He will lead a country that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, and a strong voice in the G7, G20 and (fingers crossed!) the European Union. Labour Governments have a proud record of working for people suffering injustice around the world.  The party should use this summer to show why and how the next Labour Government would fight for the poorest and most vulnerable abroad, as well as at home.

Policy from the grassroots

7 July 2014

By David Jepson, Bristol West CLP

For too long the development of policy in foreign affairs and international development has been left to an elite. Labour has to hand a huge untapped pool of knowledge and experience within our communities, including faith groups, diasporas, people who have worked or volunteered in the field and others.

During a visit of the Labour DFID team to Bristol, an event was organised to focus on just that topic.

Around 40 people turned up at 9.30am in a church hall on a weekday morning to take part in a meeting chaired by Gavin Shuker MP and also attended by Alison McGovern, MP  as well as local MP Kerry McCarthy and Bristol West PPC Thangam Debbonaire. Participants in the meeting included those with direct knowledge of a wide range of countries including Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uganda, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, India and came from a wide variety of backgrounds.

A clear message was that if international development policy and delivery was to become more effective, it was important to listen to such voices. Issues raised included the roles of large international NGOs and also the state in recipient countries, in delivery of development support. There was a questioning of the use of the very term “aid”,  and discussions about the importance of human rights and tackling poverty, the need to see development support as part of the same response to a neo liberal model of the world economy that sees workers in the UK on very low wages and zero hours contracts. The importance of ensuring positive balanced and positive coverage in the media, political debate and through education in the UK was also raised amongst many topics.

Good though the meeting was and it was welcomed by those who took part. However, a key issue is how to build this process into policy development. It was mentioned that some countries have committees representing diasporas to feed into policy on a formal basis. How can Labour channel such knowledge, experience and commitment into it’s policy development process.

It has been agreed that there will be a follow up to the event in Bristol after the Summer break. Let hope this is part of a wider process of community level engagement.

 

David is a member of LCID and has organised an informal discussion group on international development issues, in Bristol, for several years.

Labour’s effort to enshrine UK aid in law is far from over

4 July 2014

By Jim Murphy, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Whenever development hits the press, the Tory right hit the roof. Yesterday’s papers were full of reports that this government might finally give in to pressure and fulfil its commitment to legislate to spend 0.7% Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance. Naturally, the usual suspects have been telling anyone who will listen, just how upset they are.Another bruising row looms within the Conservative Party. and the one thing we know about David Cameron and his backbenchers is that from Europe to the greenest government ever, when the Prime Minister is put under pressure by his party he folds like a deckchair.

The Labour party has been demanding that Ministers keep their promise to legislate on 0.7% for years. It was a Labour government that put this country on the road to fulfilling that historic commitment, it was Labour whose pledge to legislate forced the other two parties to follow suit, and it is Labour that has shouted loud and most often about this government’s failure to do so.

Indeed, it was Labour’s Mark Hendrick, MP for Preston, who first forced the issue with this Coalition government by presenting his own Private Members Bill to legislate on the UK’s aid commitments.

We have always led the way in development – and that is a fact of which the party is rightly proud. The last Labour government helped 3 million people out of poverty a year, and 40 million people into education, tripled aid and dropped the debt, and built international coalitions (David Cameron, take note) to secure agreements that were right for Britain and the world.

Global development has been a tremendous success over the last two decades but there is much more to do. This generation has the power to eliminate aid dependency for good. We could enable a billion people to lift themselves out of poverty and prevent half a million a year from dying on their first day.

With real commitment we can help empower the powerless, and help give millions more the chance to live their life to its full potential.

So for Labour enshrining our commitments to the rest of the world in law isn’t a short term political device, it’s about making sure that no future government – even one at the mercy of the Tory right – can quietly turn their backs on the world’s poor.

Lib Dem MP Michael Moore was right this week to declare he would use his Private Members Bill to carry on Mark Hendrick’s work, and seek to force this government into keeping its promise. I am pleased that the government has so far signalled that they will not stand in his way.

But there’s still a lot to do. Ministers still refuse to sponsor government legislation. That means there will be less time to force this Bill through and without the rules that help ensure government business is voted on, there is a real danger that just one Tory backbencher could use parliamentary processes to stop the Bill progressing. Just ask Mark Hendrick – that’s what the Tories did to him.

A new Private Members Bill is no guarantee of new legislation. There are just ten months until the next General Election, and with the summer break fast approaching time is running out fast.

With this Bill, a vote in Parliament can save lives across the world. British aid makes a huge difference to millions – we should be proud of what our generosity can do for those in need and what it says about us as a country.

That’s why Labour will do everything we can to ensure that this Bill becomes a law. We know that the Tory right will do everything they can to hold us back, but whatever they do, the Labour party will not turn our back on those in need.

‘An eye for an eye’

2 July 2014

By Alastair Osborne, LCID Scottish Officer 

International condemnation of the abduction and murder of the three young Israeli teenagers was rightly swift and universal. However, little has been reported about the Israeli army’s brutal crackdown against Palestinians in the wake of those abductions and killings. We should condemn all attacks on civilians from whatever quarter they come. However, Palestinian civilians, many of them children or teenagers themselves have borne the brunt of Israel’s actions. An entire population, living under illegal Israeli occupation, is being collectively punished. And now a Palestinian youth has been found murdered in a forest in east Jerusalem in what is suspected to be a revenge attack – an ‘eye for an eye’.

In the West Bank, during the week of 19-25 June 2014 alone, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 5 Palestinian civilians, including a child, and wounded 14 others, including 4 children. Hundreds of houses were raided and ransacked. Israel has said it is set to double the number of Palestinians it imprisons without charge or trial. Over the course of that week, Israeli warplanes launched 18 airstrikes on civilian objects and military training sites in the Gaza Strip. 18 Palestinian civilians, including 7 women and 4 children, were wounded.

The Israeli Cabinet is split in several directions over how to respond. There are those who advocate the ‘eye for an eye’ response; others who, if not exactly turning the other cheek, call for restraint; while the most extreme elements view the ‘eye for an eye’ approach as for wimps. It was Gandhi who famously said “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind”

There has got to be a recognition that the structural violence of occupation is at the root of this escalation. Until Israeli occupation is ended, and Palestinians control their own destiny, this suffering will continue and incidents like those I describe will continue.

It is against this depressing background we should view the current investigation of the International Development Select Committee into DFID’s bilateral aid programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Part 1 of their investigation covering Syria has been published but the Palestinian Report is to follow later.

DFID has a large bilateral programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the provision of direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority. It planned to spend £94 million through this programme in 2013-14, of which £31m was targeted on education. Other major areas of focus are poverty, hunger & vulnerability (£28.5m), governance (£21.4m), health (£11.7m) and wealth creation (£3.1m).

The Committee is investigating:

  • The effectiveness of DFID’s programme in the Occupied Palestinian Territories;
  • Whether DFID is focusing on the right sectors and working with the right organisations;
  • Whether DFID’s funding to the Palestinian Authority aids the twin goals of state building and achieving a negotiated peace;
  • Whether DFID should consider funding projects involving Israeli-Palestinian joint working, and/or working with MASHAV, the Israeli development agency.

If, as Gandhi said, ‘an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind’, it also creates a hellish environment within which to try to deliver our development goals. Whatever the Select Committee’s investigation concludes, it is time for the UK Government to step up their efforts to end the occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, and to ensure that there are clear economic and political consequences to Israel’s on-going occupation and colonisation through settlements.

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

 

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