Owen Smith MP, candidate in the 2016 Labour Leadership contest, blogs for LCID on his commitment to international development – @
Anyone in any doubt about the right-wing agenda of this new Tory government should take a look at two of Theresa May’s lesser commented-on appointments over the summer – that of Priti Patel as International Development Secretary, and her Special Adviser Robert Oxley – formerly of the Brexit campaign and the ideological Taxpayer’s Alliance.
Both Patel and Oxley have spent years attacking the very department that they now lead, arguing for the aid budget to be redirected, cut or even scrapped – and even at one point suggesting that DFID should be abolished or reformed. Even more shockingly they appear to be willing to undermine the cross-party consensus on the 0.7% aid target to spend a small but guaranteed proportion of our income on supporting education, health and responding to disasters around the world. They must be stopped.
Establishing DFID, leading the way on both the quality and quantity of our development assistance, and while abandoning the type of policies that led to the Pergau dam scandal – was one of the proudest achievements of the last Labour government. An achievement that literally saved lives around the world, and showed the type of outward looking internationalism that Britain and Labour should represent.
It is clear that there is a moral case for international development assistance – and focusing this on those who need it the most. Who can say that we should turn by and walk on the other side when so many children remain unable to go to school, when millions face the threat of HIV/Aids, Malaria or TB, and when women and girls often bear the brunt – not least in conflict zones. And as we see the effects of climate change and disorganised war and conflict impacting on many more – we also have to prepare for the challenges of the future.
It’s why the agreement of the Sustainable Development Goals was so important – recognising that tackling poverty and injustice requires concerted action in many areas, and in the richest countries domestic policies as well as their international action – not least when it comes to sustainability, climate change, taxation and corporate behaviour overseas. I want to see a Labour government that leads the way in delivering the goals domestically and internationally.
But as well as the moral case – international development is clearly in our national interest. Whether it is the tragedy of poverty and conflict driven thousands drowning in boats in the Mediterranean – or the threat of instability and poor governance in countries across Africa and the Middle East leading providing the space for extremism to grow – we ignore these challenges at our own peril. There is no zero-sum game between our Defence, Development and Diplomatic efforts around the world. We must ensure there is coherence and collaboration to ensure a safer, fairer and more just world for all.
But I believe there is something more fundamental at stake. Many understand the need for charity – but only Labour has historically recognised the need for justice – whether for garment workers in Bangladesh, women fleeing rape in the DRC or the refugees of Syria. We need to address the immediate impacts – but also the economic and political structures that drive injustice, poverty and conflict – for example through global tax transparency or fair trade. DFID and our aid budget have been at the heart of that fight for justice since 1997, and I will fight tooth and nail as Labour’s Leader to ensure the Tories don’t take an ideological axe to its work – and pledge to put tackling poverty at home and abroad at the heart of my programme as Labour’s next Prime Minister.
As with previous leadership contests in 2010 and 2015, LCID will not be endorsing a leadership candidate in the current contest.
However we have asked candidates to sign the International pledge for 2016 Leadership candidates.
We are delighted that Owen Smith MP has signed the pledge and agreed to uphold the principles it contains.
We are awaiting a response from Jeremy Corbyn MP.
International pledge for 2016 Leadership candidates:
- I believe tackling poverty and inequality is what Labour governments are for. Any government I lead will take a ‘whole government’ approach to global justice, ensuring that our policies on tax, trade, climate change, home affairs, education, business regulation, defence, and security deliver for the world’s poorest people.
- I back British aid. I will ensure we spend 0.7% of GNI on aid and spend it well, focusing our aid exclusively and explicitly on tackling poverty and inequality, even in the hardest to reach places.
- I want DFID to be a development department, not just an aid administrator. I will ensure DFID is an innovative, independent department with a seat at the cabinet table and representation on all the relevant cabinet committees
- The Government I lead will pursue an ethical foreign policy and champion a progressive approach to humanitarian intervention in line with our international obligations, such as the UN’s Responsibility To Protect Civilians commitment.
The Labour Campaign for International Development has decided to suspend our membership scheme until after the conclusion of the Labour Leadership contest, as have a number of other socialist societies. If you would like to find out more information about LCID, including our planned events at this year’s conference, you can sign up to our mailing list here.
If you joined LCID before 12 January 2016, you can vote in the leadership contest so long as you register to do so by 8th August. You can register to vote here.
As with previous leadership contests in 2010 and 2015, LCID will not be endorsing a leadership candidate in the upcoming contest.
We believe Labour is an internationalist party with a proud record of fighting injustices around the world, from supporting Indian independence, to the anti-apartheid struggle, to leading action to protect civilians in Sierra Leone and Kosovo. As Robin Cook said, we must never ‘turn a blind eye to how other governments behave and a deaf ear to the cries for help of their people’.
The next Labour Government must learn from the many successes and failures of our foreign policy decisions. Every situation is different, but we will always be guided by our internationalist principles and by our international obligations such as the Responsibility To Protect Civilians, which we signed up to with each and every government in the U.N. in 2005.
This principle acknowledges that when a government either wilfully fails to protect the security of its citizens, or is unable to do so, the international community has a clear obligation to intervene, choosing from a wide range of actions including diplomatic means, sanctions and in the most extreme cases, military operations.
Through our development work and following any direct interventions we will always stand ready to support communities and countries to rebuild with a long term development plan to secure safety, stability and prosperity for their people.
The merits of any actions we take or decline to take must always be carefully considered and scrutinised. The lessons of Iraq will be important in those considerations – so too must be the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Syria. The next Labour Government must make the case for an ethical foreign policy and champion a progressive approach to humanitarian intervention.
We have always believed that all people matter, that global inequalities are no less our concern than those we fight at home and that we have moral obligations that reach beyond our borders to people we will never meet and places we will never visit. We will never shirk these responsibilities and will always work to further progressive Labour values on the global stage.
Glenys Kinnock, LCID Co-President
Rachel Reeves, LCID Co-President
Alison McGovern, LCID Vice-President
Gareth Thomas, LCID Vice-President
Ivan Lewis, LCID Vice-President
John Battle, LCID Vice-President
Seb Dance MEP, LCID Vice-President
Stephen Doughty, LCID Vice-President
Stephen Timms, LCID Vice-President
Hilary Benn, LCID Honorary Member
Susan Elan Jones
By Mike Kane, Shadow Minister for International Development and Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East – @MikeKaneMP
Whatever side of the EU Referendum Debate you sit on it is hard to deny that being able to work collaboratively with some of the world’s strongest economies, to pool financial, institutional and technological resources enables us to make much more significant inroads into tackling global poverty than it would if the UK simply acted alone.
As ActionAid UK’s Chief Executive, Girlish Menon said in a recent blog on the subject: “To end poverty we need stronger, not weaker collaboration.”
I am proud of the UK’s commitment to International Development over many years and successive Governments. The last Labour government helped 3 million people out of poverty a year, and 40 million children into education, tripled aid, dropped the debt, and built international coalitions to secure agreements that were right for Britain and the world. Had we sat outside the EU would those achievements have been possible on the same scale? I do not believe they would.
As a Shadow Minister for International Development I was involved in the campaign to enshrine in law our 0.7% commitment to development aid spending. British aid makes a huge difference to millions. But it is amplified by being a member of the European Union which is the world’s largest aid donor. An example of how working collaboratively with the EU increases the effectiveness of our aid budget is in relation to global reach. The UK has aid agencies which operate in 28 countries around the world – include our partners in the European Union and that figure rises to 150.
Kevin Watkins, Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute is right to point out in his recent article for The New Statesman that the EU Referendum debate so far as failed to address some of the important questions about our role and place in an increasingly interconnected world. Even those who don’t adhere to the view that we have a moral obligation in relation to international development understand than in an increasingly unstable and insecure world efforts to tackle global poverty and end conflict have positive benefits beyond the countries in which they are made, including for the UK.
It’s not just about money, cooperation and global reach, of equal importance is the ability to pursue shared policies which go beyond international development yet impact significantly on the developing world. Progress on global tax justice has been led by the European Union but there is still much to do. We need to rework broken OECD tax rules and mandate the UN to develop a set of rules that ensure big businesses pay their fair share of tax in every country they do business in. Achieving this without the influence and leverage of the European Union is highly unlikely.
For me personally, as a former CEO of an organisation that built movements that mobilise the power of people to take action, I fear the impact of a UK exit on the influence of Civil Society. Through the European Union the UK’s excellent network of NGOs have built the capacity of Civil Society across Europe. This has enabled civil society influence over key decision in relation to issues like climate change and tax transparency.
It’s time the debate on the EU Referendum dealt with the reality of the world as it today. A world that if we fail to address the challenge of global poverty will become increasingly unstable. A challenge that we will be much less able to address whilst sitting on the outskirts of the European Union.
Like everyone, we are devastated at the loss of Jo Cox MP. As her husband Brendan said, Jo believed in a better world and she fought for it every day of her life. And the world is a better place because of Jo. From her time at Oxfam to her campaigning as an MP for the protection of the Syrian people, Jo used her remarkable energy, conviction and intellect to bring real change to peoples lives.
We are hugely grateful to everything Jo and Brendan have given to the fight for social justice, including their support for LCID from the very beginning. There was so, so much more we wanted to do to support her work and campaigning. We owe it to her to carry forward the issues she championed, especially the need to properly protect civilians in Syria and elsewhere. We will struggle to win change without her skill and tenacity, but we will give it our all. That is surely the best way to honour her memory.
On Monday 13th June, a parliamentary debate was called regarding The Mail on Sunday’s petition to stop the spending of a fixed 0.7 per cent of the UK’s gross national income on foreign aid, which had become law in 2015.
The debate was triggered when the petition received over 100,000 signatures. Despite concerns that the debate would therefore have an overwhelmingly negative tone the anti-aid brigade may have been disappointed that the MP who moved the motion for the House to consider the e-petition, Steve Double (Con, St Austell and Newquay), in fact repeatedly defended the achievements of UK aid.
It was a particularly well attended debate for one not held not in the main chamber but in the smaller Westminster Hall. In total 13 Labour MPs spoke strongly in favour of the fixed spending on aid and, with the room full to capacity, some MPs who wished to were not able to speak at all.
The fact that no one spoke explicitly against the 0.7 Act is very positive. However there was criticism around the need for greater transparency and accountability from across both parties. As LCID we have a job to do to continue to demonstrate the achievements of aid, to rebuff criticism and to demonstrate that Labour values are relevant to the development approach taken by the UK.
Thank you to the Labour MPs who spoke and attended:
Ms Diane Abbott MP
Mr Ian Austin MP
Mr Richard Burden MP
Mr Stephen Doughty MP
The Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP
Mr Mike Gapes MP
Ms Sharon Hodgson MP
Dr Rupa Huq MP
The Rt Hon David Lammy MP
Ms Liz McInnes MP
Mr Albert Owen MP
Mr Toby Perkins MP
The Rt Hon Joan Ryan MP
Mr Andy Slaughter MP
Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds MP
The Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP
Mr Stephen Twigg MP
Ms Catherine West MP
Mr Phil Wilson MP
Ms Catherine McKinnell MP