by Ben Simms is Director of STOPAIDS and writes here in his personal capacity as an LCID Member
Today is World AIDS Day, an opportunity to remember the 1.5 million people who died of AIDS in 2013, and the 39 million who have died in the last 30 years.
World AIDS Day is also an opportunity to remind ourselves of one of Labour’s proudest moments in government. Ten years ago, as Labour were planning the 2005 G8 Summit in Scotland, AIDS related deaths were at their peak, with 2.4 million people dying in 2005 alone. Just 700,000 people were accessing treatment.
Ten years on, 13.6 million people are alive today thanks in large part to the commitment to deliver Universal Access made at Gleneagles.
With renewed leadership, financial and political commitment, a further 21 million lives could be saved by 2030. And if we achieve that we will be looking at the end of AIDS as a public health threat.
This is surely a prize worth having, and a success story worthy of silencing even the most diehard critics of overseas development.
The response to AIDS is a story that resonates naturally with Labour as the party that founded the NHS, went on to put global health at the centre of an independent Department of International Development, and is now setting its sights firmly on Universal Health Coverage for people of all nations.
To achieve this goal Labour must take the initiative and drive the discourse on international development at the General Election. Ending AIDS will require ongoing UK investment, but UK leadership must go beyond aid. We will need to overcome the structural and systemic barriers which impact on the health and wealth of developing countries. To achieve this, three lessons (at least) need to be learnt from the past decade responding to HIV and AIDS.
First, Labour need to look at access to medicines. Between 2000 and 2011, the total cost of treating someone living with HIV has fallen from $10,000+ a year, to just $350 a year. Not because of the goodwill of pharmaceutical companies, but because, in defiance of them, we have seen the growth of competition from manufacturers of generic medicines. Labour must take a strong stand against initiatives such as the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and other trade agreements that pose a threat to future access to medicines in Europe and the developing world.
Intrinsically related to this, as the current outbreak of Ebola reminds us, we need to prioritise non-commercial funding of R&D for diseases of the poor. Until we do people will continue to die in their millions from diseases we could cure, but choose not to.
Compulsory reading this World AIDS Day will be the ‘Access Denied’ report launched today by Pamela Nash MP as Chair of the APPG on HIV and AIDS. The report highlights multiple access to medicine challenges facing the next wave of the AIDS response.
Second, Labour needs to define and measure its commitment to Universal Health Coverage in ways that ensure every person has access to quality healthcare. We have learnt from 30 years of responding to HIV and AIDS, that having a fully staffed clinic and a well-stocked pharmacy mean nothing if you are a gay man, transgender woman, sex worker or drug user and are prevented from accessing services because of fear, stigma or persecution. This World AIDS Day, we should turn out thoughts to Uganda in particular, where its parliament are on the cusp of re-introducing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that would make it illegal to run an LGBTI-sensitive health service.
Third, if we are serious about wanting countries to develop and fund a greater proportion of their own healthcare, Labour needs to be serious about addressing the underlying drivers of global poverty and inequality. Our development policy must reflect the complexity of the modern world – where inequality within countries is greater than between. There is a need to build a new model of responsible capitalism to replace that which has savaged the developing world and resulted in the greater flow of resources from south to north – for example through corporate tax evasion and the flow of health workers.
All of the above will require Labour to adopt a strategy for global health in government. But it must be a strategy built on the lessons of how we have responded to HIV and AIDS, one that embraces a vision of overseas development which never forgets the impact of effectively targeted funding, but also remembers the foundations of a better society are social justice and human rights.
Thank you to all LCID members who voted in our elections. Our AGM has just finished and the results ratified – congratulations to our new Executive for the year ahead!
Dr. Graham Giles MBE
Graham du Plessis
Thank you again to everyone who voted and who stood. We will be meeting soon to plan for the year ahead – and will be in touch soon with details of what we pledge to do in the run up to the 2015 general election – and how you can get involved!
In ten days time, on Friday 5th December, MPs can vote for a final time to enshrine in law Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7% of our GDP in law.
Thanks to you, the bill passed it’s 2nd reading back in September. Labour MPs made up the majority of MPs voting for the bill – we are grateful to all of them for their support, and to all of your who contacted them urging them to vote. Now we need your help again to ensure the aid bill passes it’s 3rd and final reading in the House of Commons.
Together with the creation of DFID, debt relief, and leading global efforts to try and secure fair trade and climate deals – the trebling of aid is one of Labour’s proudest achievement. By 2010 our aid was helping to lift 3 million people out of poverty, get 40 million children into school and help 3 million children access lifesaving HIV and AIDS drugs. It was a Labour Government that in 2005 set us on course to spend 0.7% by 2013.
The Tories promised to match our manifesto pledge to enshrine Britain’s aid spending in law, but they have failed to table the bill, and it is only a matter of time before Cameron caves in pressure from his backbenches and UKIP (as he has done on so many issues). Friday’s Private Members Bill vote is the final chance to get the law passed before the next election.
We need just 100 MPs to vote for the bill, but because it is on a Friday, many MPs will be back in their constituencies. We need your to help persuade them to stay and vote for what is a unique opportunity to protect our aid budget from being cut.
Please contact your MP today by phone, email (you can find their details here) or by tweeting them with the hashtag #turnupsavelives.
Passing this bill will secure a piece of our Party’s legacy – and ensure that in the coming years we in Britain continue to provide our fair share in the fight to make poverty history.
Thank you, and see you at our AGM tomorrow (6.30pm, House of Commons Committee Room CR15).
The LCID team.
Mary Creagh – David Cameron made meeting the 0.7 per cent aid target a symbol of the change he claimed to bring to the Tory party – a change that lies in tatters -
Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, responding to comments from Philip Hammond rejecting the bill to write the 0.7 per cent aid target into law, said:
“On every issue, from Europe, to green energy, as soon as the Tory right wing raises its head, the Tory leadership folds like a deckchair. David Cameron made meeting the 0.7 per cent aid target a symbol of the change he claimed to bring to the Tory party – a change that lies in tatters as they bang on about Europe and stand up only for a privileged few. “
“David Cameron should now state if he will support the 0.7% bill in December, and if he does, slap down his Foreign Secretary. At a time when Ebola is devastating West Africa and conflict rages in Syria and Iraq, this is not the time for another broken promise.”
Will Martindale, Labour’s MP candidate for Battersea
As Battersea’s parliamentary candidate I am only too aware of the need to tackle tough social problems in Battersea: Since 2010, there have been seven shootings and a fatal stabbing in the estate behind Clapham Junction.
That this happens in one of the richest cities in the world, in our community, deeply angers all of us and I will do everything I can to help end youth gang violence.
But if we have problems at home why do I believe we have to support international development abroad? We don’t. It is a choice.
Imagine getting on the bus home in London one night from work. You sit down next to Mary, a heavily pregnant woman who starts telling you she’s expecting Alice, a beautiful baby girl, to arrive in two weeks’ time.
Suddenly she bursts into tears and tells you she can’t afford medical care for the birth. She begs you to pay for a midwife so she can deliver Alice safely. Now you are embarrassed. What would you do? Ask if she is British? Mary says she’s Rwandan. So do you reassure yourself that charity begins at home and refuse her the money? Mary is probably corrupt anyway.
One year later you see Mary again on the bus. There is no sign of Alice.
Of course it’s an absurd story. In January my wife Shalu gave birth to our beloved daughter Aurelie. It was the happiest day of my life. Amongst all the joy and emotion it never crossed my mind we might not be able to get medical assistance with the birth.
The story is absurd because every person in Britain, however poor, whatever their background, whatever they have done, has the National Health Service.
Every year one million children like Alice in developing countries die on the first day of their life. Most of them would have lived with basic medical care. But will throwing aid at the problem help? Yes.
I saw this myself when I volunteered in Rwanda helping families of genocide victims to access health care. Thanks in part to Labour’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals, six million fewer children under the age of five died in 2012 than 1990. International aid may not be perfect, but it works. But it is still a choice.
Perhaps supporting international aid despite our problems at home says more about our values than anything else. I am proud British people chose to support international development in countries they may never have visited, for people they may have never met. I believe access to social justice should be determined not by nationality, but by need.
In our world the biggest determinant of a person’s success in life is the country of their birth. I dream my daughter Aurelie will see a world where her success is determined not by being born in a rich country, but by the content of her character.
For more on the work of Rwanda Aid, click here.
“We have a choice, turn inwards or engage with the world.”
As Ed Miliband said at this year’s party conference, Labour is an internationalist party – it is in our DNA, a proud part of our history. LCID exists to keep internationalism a key part of our future, and ensure the next Labour government makes Britain a global leader in the fight against poverty and inequality once again.
Thanks to our members and supporters, LCID is now an affiliated socialist society. We’ve got exciting plans to host a conference in early 2015 that will bring together the internationalist parts of our movement to debate how a future Labour government can ensure Britain remains a progressive powerhouse, leading global efforts for a fairer, safer, more prosperous world. And we’ll also be campaigning in key marginal seats, those where development is of interest to swing voters (such as university towns) to ensure that Labour government gets to power to deliver that progressive agenda.
Nominations are now open
The LCID Executive Committee will be a vital part of this strategy in 2015, and we are holding our annual elections in November. We are opening nominations today and inviting members to put themselves forward for election.
We are keen for anyone who is interest to stand, but you need to be a member to both stand and to vote. Not a member? Go to lcid.org.uk/join and join today.
We are looking for 15 LCID members to take us forward with a range of skills and experience that might include some of the following:
- Helping deliver a day conference on internationalism in early 2015
- Electoral campaigning
- Building our membership (we’d like to at least double our numbers)
- Building alliances and working across the labour movement – such as Trade Unions, CLPs, Coops and other Socialist Societies
- Financial and organisational governance
- Communications such as social media and blog editing
Nominations are encouraged from a broad range of members to reflect the diversity of our membership, including in terms of gender, ethnic origin, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity. LCID is also keen to maintain a balance between those who work within the sector and also passionately interested members from the wider movement.
Executive Committee members are expected to make a significant contribution through their agreed area of responsibility and joint projects. The Executive meets every month with additional Advisory Board meetings where appropriate. Dialling in to meetings enables members to participate from across the UK and nominations are particularly welcome from the devolved nations.
If you think you could help us take forward our mission as part of a team, please submit your nomination, along with a statement no more than 80 words, to email@example.com before 8pm on Wednesday 12th November.
Online voting will take place between the 13th and 25th November and successful candidates will take office at the close of the AGM the following day, held in the House of Commons on Wednesday 26th November at 6.30pm.