Westminster Hall debate on the future of DFID

On Wednesday, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi secured a Westminster Hall debate on the future of DFID.

He said he had secured the debate because of “deep concerns about the future of the Department for International Development and its funding, and threats to our proud tradition as a distributor of aid to the most impoverished places on the planet.”

Here are some of the key quotes from the debate:

“DFID is respected and admired in all the places where it operates. Wherever the UK aid logo appears, it shows the world how much the British public care. Since the passage of the International Development Act 2002, all overseas aid must be spent with the explicit purpose of reducing global poverty. That is an important piece of legislation, because it makes clear the distinction between aid and trade: one is not a quid pro quo for the other.” – Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

 

“Over the course of this Parliament, aid spent outside DFID has tripled—something the cross-party International Development Committee has criticised. Most of that money is channelled through organisations such as the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which is constituted of many dubious programmes by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, often based on training and equipping militaries rather than alleviating poverty or creating long-term peace.” – Lloyd Russell-Moyle

 

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“The previous Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, called the establishment of DFID in 1997 a “colossal mistake”. This month, he endorsed a report by the Henry Jackson Society that calls for a dilution of DFID’s role in alleviating poverty, with a diversion towards broader international policies such as peacekeeping. He told the BBC’s “Today” programme: “We could make sure that 0.7 % is spent more in line with Britain’s political commercial and diplomatic interests.” Commercial interests? What could he possibly mean by that? My hon. Friend Dan Carden has made it clear that he believes this is the opening act in a move to downgrade DFID and to slash overseas aid. It is hard to disagree that that is the Secretary of State’s secret agenda.” – Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi

 

“Things were already bad enough, but they have been made considerably worse by the Secretary of State feathering her leadership ambitions and sending signals to Tory Members rather than focusing on poverty alleviation. We need look no further than her recent speeches; even senior civil servants in her own Department cannot identify any of the changes in policy from those speeches. In recent months, her office has said that our commitment to 0.7% is “unsustainable”, and it would like aid spent on building UK battle ships to “take pressure off a stretched fleet”. That is not part of a rules-based system. We have heard that CDC profits should be counted as aid, which in anyone’s book is double counting and is against the rules-based system. We have even heard threats of leaving the Development Assistance Committee if it does not agreed to all our demands. Finally, there was nothing but silence when another leadership contender, Boris Johnson, backed a plan to decimate DFID and the Department for International Trade—a barmy proposal to reduce the aid budget and to spend the remainder on propping up the BBC. In no terms is that aid spending.” – Lloyd Russell-Moyle

 

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“When my hon. Friend Dan Carden asked the Secretary of State why we should trust her to spend the UK aid budget when she makes those sounds off, even though she is not acting on them, she said: “They should trust me as the Secretary of State and as someone who has been an aid worker.” It is astonishing that the Secretary of State’s defence is not one of policy or action but a personal anecdote that she happened to be a gap year worker for one year, 30 years ago, in Romania. That demonstrates clearly how much we need DFID to be governed by people who understand what aid is about. The joint Ministers of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and DFID do, but those at the top do not. We need someone at the top who does not wave red rags at the Conservative party.” – Lloyd Russell-Moyle

 

 

“There are three compelling arguments both for Britain sticking to its 0.7% level of funding for international development assistance, and for retaining the Department for International Development.

First, there is a moral argument. We are one of the richest nations in the world. Surely we have a responsibility to help those in other countries who, through no fault of their own, live in terrible circumstances.

Secondly, it is surely in our country’s interests to try to support countries around the world in becoming stable, so their populations do not have to flee either to our country or to neighbouring countries. We should help them become stable so that their economies can grow, and they can have strong public services of the sort we would recognise. Given that conflict is much more likely to break out in a country where there has recently been conflict, if we continue to want to reduce the amount we spend collectively on peacekeeping, it is surely sensible to put in the hard yards by providing development assistance to help those countries get strong, effective Governments who are respected by people of all opinions.

The third argument is about soft power, which others mentioned. As a result of its huge commitment to international development, Britain is highly regarded at the United Nations. It was always highly regarded in the European Union and in a whole series of other international forums because of the work it did on development assistance, and the knowledge that everyone in the Government was committed to maintaining and enhancing the role of the Department for International Development and the aid budget.” – Gareth Thomas

 

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“Since DFID was established 22 years ago, it has become a global leader in international development. Every year it spends UK aid in ways that make tangible differences to people’s lives the world over. DFID has helped some of the world’s poorest people realise their right to health and education. It has provided emergency life-saving aid for people caught up in major humanitarian crises and has led the way in bringing gender equality into the mainstream through its development work. The UK public should be proud of the development work that their money has supported over recent decades, but all too sadly they do not hear the success stories of UK aid and the work of DFID. Instead, they hear a loud and vocal anti-aid lobby, which does its best to discredit the work, as many Members today have mentioned.

The charge against the country’s aid programme is spearheaded by a small number of major media outlets, who revel in spinning and stirring the few occasions when UK aid programmes might not have worked as we had hoped. They are hell bent on driving a hysterical hatred of the UK’s work to end global poverty. The anti-aid media narrative is a serious problem, but even more worrying are attacks from a number of Tory Members, which have many guises. I will mention three of them.

First, there is the straightforward misspending and diverting of aid away from poverty reduction. Last weekend the Guardian reported a letter sent to the Chancellor from 23 international development agencies, raising their concerns about the way Ministers are spending aid. They warned him that aid is being diverted away from the poorest countries in order to promote commercial and political interests. From using aid to help UK companies expand their businesses overseas, to suggestions that aid be spent on UK naval ships, we are seeing more aid than ever being spent on projects that no one sincerely believes are about reducing global poverty. Those attempts do nothing but feed into the idea that the UK aid programme is a waste of UK taxpayers’ money.

Secondly, there are blatant attempts to dissolve the Department altogether. It is no secret that the former Foreign Secretary wants to see the Department dismantled. Earlier this month, he threw his weight behind a report that said DFID should be folded back into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and that the UK’s aid budget should be slashed. Such a move would be a disaster for the country’s aid programme. It is only DFID that has the specific and sole purpose of poverty alleviation and a dedicated staff working to achieve this goal. Merging the Department with the FCO—or any other Department for that matter—would dilute the agenda and see more money diverted away from poverty towards other foreign policy interests.

We can learn from Australia, where the international development department was merged with the foreign office, with a number of negative knock-on effects. The country’s strategic vision for aid was lost, the Government witnessed a brain-drain of development expertise and an estimated 2,000 years of collective experience left the department.

We already know from our own experience, where almost one third of our aid is spent outside DFID, that only DFID meets the highest spending standards. The Aid Transparency Index, the only independent measure of aid transparency among the world’s major development agencies, rated DFID “very good”, while the FCO’s aid spending was rated “poor”, according to the same measure. Likewise, the ONE Campaign recently launched an aid index that rates aid spending by different Departments. It found the FCO to be “weak” on its ability to keep aid focused on poverty, and that no other Department spends aid as well as DFID.

The third threat, which is related, is the worrying challenge to our aid and development work presented by the persistent undermining of the very concept of aid. The Secretary of State has made clear her desire to change the definition of aid. She recently launched a consultation on her plans to reduce the amount of public money that needs to be spent on aid by counting profits from private investments towards the aid budget. There are no two ways about it—aid is either spent to alleviate poverty and the causes of poverty, or it is invested to make a profit. The Labour party rejects any attempts to commercialise the UK aid budget.” – Dan Carden

 

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The full debate can be read here: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/whall/?id=2019-02-27a.152.0

Civilians must be protected in Sudan protests

You might have seen it on the news.

After years living under a dictatorship responsible for gross human rights violations, protests erupt in cities around the country about poor living standards and demanding “Freedom, peace and justice.”

The regime responds brutally, intimidating protesters and imprisoning, beating, and tear gassing them.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the security services start using live bullets, and deliberately targetting doctors for treating the injured. Doctors, yes doctors, being shot and killed or maimed.

Syria, right? But no, this depressing chain of events is, in fact, now being played out in Sudan.

It’s almost as if Omar al-Bashir – wanted by the international criminal court for charges of war crimes for the genocide that took place in Darfur 15 years ago – has picked up the phone to Bashar al-Assad to ask for the instruction manual for how to crush protestors – and get away with it.

We must learn the lessons of Syria, where Assad has used chemical weapons, killed half a million civilians, tortured thousands, and caused 6 million to flee the country, with almost complete impunity from the international community.

Security forces fired tear gas at demonstrators as they marched (AFP/GETTY)

Protectiving civilians in conflict is one of LCID’s campaigns. We acknowledge it is a controversial subject, including amongst Labour members. Rightly, we worry about whether intervening in another country’s affairs will do more harm than good. Every situation is different, but we must 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 timely and decisive action from a wide range of approaches, including diplomatic means, sanctions and (only) in the most extreme cases, military operations.

Following that principle, it crucial that the UK Government and the international community responds urgently to what is happening in Sudan and makes clear to President Bashir that human rights abuses against protestors will not be tolerated. The situation in Sudan is still developing and any response must be based on expert analysis of the circumstances on the ground. But we must not just sit back and watch Assad’s playbook be copied and pasted before our eyes by Bashir, with all the shocking loss of life and physical and physcological abuse that would entail.

Given what happened in Syria, given a UN Security Council that includes Trump, Putin, and China (with all it’s economic interests in the country and support for Bashir), and given we are distracted by Brexit, I’m not particularly hopeful that anything will be done. It shames us all that the international community is not supporting those who stand up for freedom, peace and justice. I hope I’m proven wrong.

David Taylor is the founder and current Vice-Chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development.

The war in Yemen – 3 ways the UK must act

The war in Yemen is the largest humanitarian disaster on the planet today – and it’s one that’s almost entirely man-made. Some estimate that almost 60,000 people have been killed since March 2015, and thousands more injured. Over 17 million Yemeni people cannot be sure of having enough to eat each day, leaving the country on the brink of famine. More than half a million people have had to flee their homes.

All sides have shown disregard for Yemeni civilians, including Saudi Arabia, who are backed by the UK Government and are using British-made bombs. The Saudi-led coalition intervened on behalf of the democratically elected government, authorised by a UN resolution, but the Saudi’s conduct has been appalling, with indiscriminate airstrikes hitting hospitals, schools, weddings, and grain silos. At one point 60% of civilian deaths were the responsibility of the Saudi-led coalition.

More disgraceful still is that this Government knows this and yet has continued to license UK weapons sales – almost £5 billion of them – to the Saudis. The Tories have shown fragrant disregard to the Arms Trade Treaty, a treaty that Labour helped support through the UN when we were last in government. That treaty requires arms sales to be suspended if there is even a risk – yet alone an occurrence – that arms risk being used in a violation of humanitarian law. We’ve long passed that point in Yemen.

By and large Labour has been at the forefront of holding the Tories to account on Yemen, from the frontbench to dogged campaigning by Labour MPs on key select committees and on the backbenches (including our very own Vice-President Stephen Doughty). A few Labour MPs legitimately worry about threats from the arms industry that jobs will be lost if arm sales are suspended. Given that the UK arms industry is the second biggest in the world, they are surely bluffing. I don’t want to see anyone lose their job – but we have a clear moral obligation here to prevent more civilians from dying in Yemen, and to uphold international law.

We are a long way from an end to this horrid conflict. There is at least a precarious ceasefire in the key port city of Hudaydah, and reports at the weekend suggest that talks could soon take place in Jordan between both sides to discuss the state of the economy. It’s vital both occur if people are to have any hope of getting the supplies of food and medicine they so desperately need.

The Tories will defend themselves by pointing to the efforts they’ve put into the recent ceasefire and the amount of UK humanitarian aid they’ve given to the crisis. It is absolutely essential that such aid continue, but doesn’t make up for their failure to stop licensing arms sales. They must:

  1. Use our influence at on the UN Security Council to push for a ceasefire across Yemen, not just Hudaydah.
  2. Suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
  3. Commit to ensuring that all perpetrators of violations of international law must be held to account, through independent investigations.

As Labour members we can help by asking our MPs to call on the government to do the above, and by joining charity campaigns on Yemen – you can sign petitions by Oxfam and Save the Children, and if you can, donate to charities operating in the country.

It is time Britain begun to un-do some of the damage, and help push instead for a lasting peace in Yemen.

David Taylor is the founder and current Vice-Chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development.

Kate Green: We should use foreign aid to create work opportunities for refugees

Kate Green MP blogs oh how foreign aid can create opportunities for refugees

“I brought everything from my house, everything I could fit in the car and carry. I even brought my tea mug with me.” These are the words of Maher Mahmoud Al Haresh, a Syrian refugee I met in Jordan last week. Small details like Maher’s mug make us realise how much we have in common with one another. But Maher is one of almost 80,000 refugees living in Za’atari refugee camp, and one of 760,000 living in Jordan, and he and his family live a life that in most ways could not be more different from my own.

Despite the admirable generosity of the Jordanians, who have welcomed Syrian refugees to their country, in my visit to the camp last week, I felt again and again the sadness and emptiness that the refugees in Jordan (and other countries in the region) experience. Having fled unimaginable danger at home, they are safe, but cannot imagine the future with optimism, and their day-to-day life remains unbearably hard. Like many of the others in Za’atari, Maher is unable to work, his wife and eldest child are seriously unwell, his children’s education suffers, and there is little hope of the family returning to Syria soon.

Aid agencies like Oxfam, UN officials and representatives from DfID on the ground are doing all they can to address this situation, doing their best to create employment opportunities for women and men in the camp. But while Syrian women’s participation in the labour market was relatively high before the conflict, cultural barriers and a very low female employment rate in Jordan, combined with more traditional views of gender roles that war has provoked, plus poor public transport and infrastructure, mean it’s been necessary to create gender-specific projects for women and men to work inside the Za’atari camp.

Nesma AlNsour/Oxfam

The projects we saw were uplifting. With my fellow parliamentarians Lord Alf Dubs and Tim Loughton MP, I visited a social enterprise where women are making trendy tote bags out of old tents – the very canvas that provided shelter in the early days of the camp’s existence, before tents were replaced with the cabin-like structures the refugees now call home. Oxfam helped the women to set up the workshop, and the bags are now being sold all over Europe, with proceeds being used to support the refugees. Meanwhile, Oxfam has worked with a refugee who previously ran his own successful recycling business in Syria to establish two recycling plants in the camp staffed by male refugees. Women peer educators have conducted community outreach work to encourage families in the camp to sort and recycle their waste. This project also generates income for the camp inhabitants, while improving its environmental impact.

Inspiring though they are, these projects are small scale, employing dozens of refugees in a camp of tens of thousands. Some of the younger refugees have never worked. I met a 20-year-old man who had come to the camp at age 14. He can’t go home for fear of being conscripted into the Syrian army. He’s not allowed to leave the camp to find work in Jordan, and there’s no work for him to do in the camp. Meanwhile, his 50-year-old mother, a qualified teacher in Syria, acts as an informal childminder for her neighbours’ children, but she too cannot get formal work in or outside the camp.

It’s easy for us to be critical of Jordan for restricting refugees’ right to work. After all, we too in the UK apply unreasonable restrictions that offer only the most limited employment prospects to asylum seekers, despite our high employment rate. In Jordan, the picture is different: unemployment is high, so protective employment policies may appear to make more sense. But the answer to Jordan’s economic challenges lies not in shutting refugees out of the workforce, but in recognising their potential to help to grow its economy, while rebuilding their self-esteem and dignity that come from having a job to do.

And the refugees have much to offer. The main avenue that runs through the camp, known as the Champs-Élysées, is lined with food stalls, mobile phone shops, hair salons and bridal gown boutiques – a sign of their entrepreneurial drive and desire to build something out of nothing. Others are highly qualified professionals – like the teacher I met – but whose expertise and knowledge is going to waste.

That’s why one of the messages I’m bringing back to the UK government from my visit is that we need to think much more creatively about how we use the power of our aid and influence to encourage economic and employment opportunities for Syrian refugees in Jordan. In particular, we should think about how we can boost employment opportunities for women, as we know that when women thrive their children do well, and for young people, which could avoid the loss of a generation that may otherwise never have the chance to work. These themes are of course very familiar to me from UK domestic policy, where I’ve seen again and again that maximising employment among women and young people benefits not just the individual employees, but their families, communities, the economy and society as a whole.

As with Maher’s tea mug, there’s a common thread between the lives of the refugees desperate to work in Za’atari and the lives of those I’ve met who are shut out of the labour market here at home. That’s why I’ll be pressing our government to promote solutions – like access to education, tailor-made back to work employment programmes, real living wages and a right to work for all who want to – for Syrian refugees in Jordan; the very solutions that I’ve long campaigned for in the UK too.

Kate Green is MP for Stretford and Urmston.

Uganda’s Forgotten Crisis: Why Labour must call for Britain to remain a force for good in the world

Libby Smith is Head of Advocacy at The Coalition for Global Prosperity

Barely a day goes by where we don’t see horrific pictures showing the devastating impact of war splashed across our front pages. We are facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II and yet Uganda, home to over 1 million refugees, rarely makes the front pages.

A daily exodus of mostly women and children are fleeing armed conflict, hunger and sexual violence in South Sudan resulting in what the United Nations has called Africa’s biggest humanitarian crisis. The sad reality is that 61% of these refugees are children, many of whom have arrived at the camps alone.

Yet it is here, in the midst of such hardship that I met such brilliant, perseverant children, keen to get an education, make a life for themselves and return to South Sudan. Children like 13-year-old Isaac, who arrived at the camp with just his sister and wants to grow up to be a doctor “We need to be educated so we can return home and build a peaceful future for South Sudan”.

Isaac is right, we cannot allow an entire generation of South Sudanese children to become casualties of the civil war, after all it is these children who will pick up the broken pieces of their home and rebuild the South Sudan of tomorrow.

British aid is helping them to do just that. On a recent visit to Uganda with Shadow International Development Minister Preet Gill MP and international children’s charity World Vision UK, I felt incredibly proud to see British investment helping to provide these children with shelter, food, education, sanitary pads and vital mental and emotional support.

The emotional scars and immense trauma these children have suffered are unimaginably, with many having previously been recruited as child soldiers. We met Abdo, aged 14, who arrived at the camp when he was just 12 years old, both his parents had been killed, making him responsible for taking care of four of his younger siblings. Taking care of four young children is a huge responsibility for anyone, yet alone a 14-year-old boy with not a penny to his name. We don’t know what happened to make Abdo an orphan, too traumatised to speak about his past, but it was clear that he had suffered immense emotional scars. It is UK Aid and fantastic NGOs like World Vision UK who are helping to provide children like Abdo with the emotional, as well as physical, support they need to deal with what they have been through. Providing a safe place where children can recover and rebuild their lives.

Britain’s work here should be a source of great national pride. UK aid has provided food for over 1 million refugees, immunised 146,000 under-fives and got over 2,000 children into a classroom, with World Vision alone providing 25,000 children with child protection services and 360,000 people with food assistance.

Britain does this because it is morally the right thing to do and demonstrates that we do not neglect our duty to the world’s poorest. The refugee crisis in East Africa cannot be ignored and the conflict in South Sudan will not end tomorrow. We can either wait for things to get worse, provoking an even bigger refugee crisis or we can help people rebuild their lives. Everyone I spoke to in the camp wants to return home to South Sudan when it is safe to do so, they do not want to venture any further from their homes than they have already had to. Yet without the crucial support UK aid, and other international bodies, are providing these refugees will face starvation and be forced to migrate further afield in order to survive. Helping to provide a safe haven in Uganda reduces the push factors which can lead to onward migration to Europe and helps prevent vulnerable individuals falling victim to criminal gangs and people smugglers.

At a time when the UK is redefining its role in the world we have a unique opportunity to decide what kind of country we want to be. Theresa May has called for a “truly Global Britain that reaches beyond the border of Europe” and as a Labour member, I agree. Labour is the internationalist party and whether you voted for or against Brexit, we must now use this opportunity to forge an even more positive, global future for ourselves and UK Aid must be a key part of this.

Labour is a broad church with a wide range of views, which we openly discuss and debate to the credit of our party. Yet there are few issues that garner such support across the party as international development. Internationalism means a lot to the Labour Party – it is our belief in not being defined and restricted by your start in life and our solidarity with those beyond our shores. Labour doesn’t always get it right and I would be the first to agree with criticisms about how far Labour is prepared to condemn regressive regimes around the world. However, we are united in our stance that Britain cannot neglect its duty to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

You wouldn’t know it from our newspapers, but Britain is a global leader in development. The work we do is hugely respected across the world, and the Department for International Development (DFID) is regarded as one of the world’s most transparent, effective aid donors in the world. UK aid is a key part of the UK’s global offering, flying the flag for Britain around the world. Something that is more important now than ever before.

We may be leaving the European Union but that doesn’t mean we can pull up the drawbridge and turn our backs on the world. Far from it, we must use this moment to go out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike, forging an even more positive, global future for ourselves and the UK’s partnership with Uganda is a key example of this.

That doesn’t mean we can be complacent. Recent events show us how important it is to scrutinise every partner we work with and every program we fund. Wasting aid and funding corruption and exploitation is criminal and we must be thorough in routing this out to ensure our aid is invested carefully, strategically and coherently. As ultimately it is children like Isaac and Abdo who will suffer the consequences of badly invested aid.

I would also never try to claim that aid is a silver bullet – it’s not. On its own it cannot solve all the world’s problems, our free trade agenda, active diplomacy and defence strategies are also vital. But as I saw in Bidi Bidi, when invested and implemented well and reaching those in need, it is an incredible force for good in the world and demonstrates that Britain really is Great when it boldly champions its values both at home and abroad.

A WORLD FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW – LABOUR’S POLICY FOR DEVELOPMENT

LCID member Caroline Pinder blogs on development policy and what Labour could do differently

Caroline has been a member of the Labour Party for 45 years, currently in Oxford East CLP.  She has been an international development consultant for the past 30 years, focusing on gender equality and social inclusion, VAWG and women’s economic empowerment.

Labour’s policy paper on international development, “ A World for the Many, Not the Few” with its twin focus on reducing inequality and poverty, sets out an inspiring vision for taking forward Britain’s role in the world as a champion for the poor and voiceless, who have been treated by the Tories, for the past eight years, as objects of charity and patronage.  

The Tories have sought to steal the development agenda by claiming credit for introducing the 0.7% target, acting as the “nice guys who care about the poor”. They have used the increased ODA budget resulting from 0.7%, however, as a means to export their neo-liberal ideology and return to an aid-for-trade approach that smacks of neo-colonialism.  They have done nothing to tackle the embedded cause of poverty which is inequality both within and between nation states. Rather they have fostered competition between states by supporting deregulation and distortion of markets which have further reduced the incomes and livelihoods of these states’ poorest and most vulnerable citizens.

We need to remind ourselves, and the electorate, that it was Labour’s recognition in the late 1990’s of the importance to wealthy and poor nations alike of a fair and transparent global economic and social framework.  It was Labour which gave international development full Cabinet status, making it possible for the UK to influence the global aid agenda through the 2000’s and achieve worldwide support for the MDGs.  It was Labour who encouraged a stronger voice for less developed nations and their citizens through the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in 2005, and the follow up Accra Agenda for Action in 2008.  

Now, chunks of DFID’s budget are being passed to the Foreign Office and other departments to meet their overseas missions.  These may run counter to the objectives of the original International Development Act 2002 which required the Secretary of State to provide assistance “likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty” either by “furthering sustainable development (or) improving the welfare of the population.”  It was this mandate which enabled DFID to lead the way internationally in challenging earlier, colonial-style, development models. The next Labour government needs to continue that earlier work by fostering an international agenda which challenges entrenched global interests, is genuinely inclusive, strengthens the voice of poor nations and their vulnerable citizens, and reduces inequality at all levels.

Building on the experience of the MDGs, the 2015-30 SDGs offer a mechanism for delivering this commitment.   Labour should commit to ensuring all international spending is targeted towards delivering on the SDGs, in particular those concerned with the more vulnerable members of our global community:  women and children living in violent situations, threatened indigenous groups, refugees fleeing torture and conflict, those who are physically and mentally challenged, and disempowered minorities.  

The next Labour government should also encourage innovative approaches to tackling global systems and institutions which penalise poor nations or put them at a disadvantage, by setting an example through the UK’s own dealings with corporations that seek to evade tax, and cut wages or prices paid to poor people in developing countries.  And we need to support governments of least developed nations to establish good quality public services, paid for through fair and transparent tax systems, which will fund health and education services that are accessible to all their citizens. We have a champion NHS that was built on the principle of free access to all in need; it’s a model we should be proud to export, and support its delivery across the world.

There will be occasions when it is reasonable for some of the 0.7% funds to be given to other UK government departments, for example bringing in expertise to support states in setting up quality health care and education systems.  It is not acceptable however, for aid funds to be used for trade or foreign office interventions. There needs to be cohesion across our foreign, trade and development policies, so we don’t contribute to appalling humanitarian disasters such as that currently being experienced in Yemen as a result of the two-faced Tory policy to support trade of arms to the Saudis, whilst delivering food and medical aid to Yemen’s citizens.

These ideas, and more, are captured in the “World for the Many, Not for the Few”.  But ideas need to be turned into reality, and for this DFID needs to be re-energised and strengthened to become again a driving force against the continuance of global poverty and inequality.  It also needs to strengthen partnerships with NGOs and civil society, as well as governments of developing nations.

The Policy paper points out that DFID’s budget has quadrupled since 1997 but its staffing level has not grown proportionally.  As a result DFID has had to commission more and more of its work to be delivered in-country by private contractors whose first priority is profit rather than sustainable development. A departmental staff review is therefore essential to ensure DFID is able and fit to deliver and achieve the maximum impact with the 0.7% ODA, exempting it from the civil service staff freezes which are curtailing its work under the Tories.

It is also important to re-invent and expand the role of NGOs in delivering for impact.  The Tories have slashed again and again the Programme Partnership Arrangements (PPAs) which enabled NGOs to pioneer new approaches to development that reach the poorest in global communities.  Here in the UK there is also work to do in broadening and deepening our own citizens’ understanding of why and how global poverty and inequality impacts on better off nations. “Aid” has been used as a dirty word by some of our media; we have to show that a “World for the Many, Not the Few” brings benefits to everyone.

 

A global NHS: from competition to collaboration

William Townsend, Business Development Officer for THET  @Willmo1

Turning 70 this year, the NHS continues to be Britain’s most cherished institution. And rightly so, in all this time it remains one of the world’s greatest social achievements. It also happens to be the 70th anniversary of the docking of the Empire Windrush, an important reminder that the history of the NHS is also a proud history of immigration to the United Kingdom.

From its inception in 1948 to today the NHS has benefited tremendously from immigration: almost a quarter of the NHS workforce is made up of people with a black and minority ethnic background with 202 nationalities represented across a workforce of approximately 1.4 million.

With vacancies of 35,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors in England reported this year, our reliance on overseas health workers persists. It’s even an issue organisations as diverse as the Guardian and the Daily Mail can agree on: non-UK health workers should be able to come to the UK and work for the NHS. As such, the cap on Tier 2 visas for doctors and nurses from outside of the European Economic Area has recently been scrapped by the Government.

But is this debate as clear-cut as it seems?

Health worker shortages are not unique to the UK. The issue is global and the current deficit of 7 million health workers is set to grow to 18 million by 2030. Unsurprisingly, this shortage is felt most acutely in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), where thousands die daily due to a lack of access to qualified health workers.  

While NHS Employers Code of Practice states that “developing countries should not be targeted when actively recruiting healthcare professionals”, my charity, the Tropical Health and Education Trust (THET), believes the NHS must do more to collaborate, and stop competing, with other countries to ensure we plug the worldwide gap between the demand and supply of health workers.

In some ways the NHS is already pivotal in this regard. For instance, through the DFID funded and THET managed Health Partnership Scheme, NHS volunteers from 130 Trusts have trained over 84,000 health workers across 31 LMICs between 2011 and 2017. Kate Osamor MP, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, recently witnessed some of this work first-hand as she visited Somaliland and saw how Kings College London and THET are collaborating to strengthen medical education there.

In addition, in April the Department of Health and Social Care also announced a global nursing partnership with Jamaica, seeing Jamaican nurses work in the NHS for 3 years to provide care and gain specialist skills which they will then take back to the benefit of the Jamaican health system.

It is imperative therefore to strike a balance that ensures the NHS’ gain is not another country’s loss; particularly important in the context of Labour’s recent policy commitments to support a global movement for public services. We must continue to respect the rights of health workers to migrate to the UK and work in the NHS, whilst ensuring we don’t have a detrimental impact on patients overseas, for instance by attracting some health workers to the UK for training and education purposes with a view to them returning home to up-skill their peers.

The Human Resources for Health crisis is, of course, a complex issue with multiple changes required across all facets of a country’s health system (for instance in health system financing) but if the NHS is to be a genuine beacon for Universal Health Coverage, it cannot passively benefit from other countries’ – particularly LMICs – investments in health care.

We should be immensely proud of our global NHS workforce, and of an increasingly global outlook from the NHS. This is why THET is calling on the governments of the United Kingdom to enshrine the global nature of the NHS in their respective constitutions. We call on them to initiate a clause committing the NHS globally in ways which will benefit patients at home whilst also enhancing other countries’ abilities to build robust health systems.

There are many innovative and interesting models to be explored in order to do this. We look forward to continuing the debate, and others, at THET’s conference on the 27th and 28th September 2018 at Imperial College London.