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Cameron is abdicating his responsibility on international development

14 October 2011
Last week in David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, the prime minister claimed his government were playing a leading role in the fight against poverty. But true leadership is not defined by sticking to the status quo and not backsliding on our commitments to the worlds’ poorest people.

G20Next month the G20 meets in Cannes in France, yet in neither of David Cameron’s or Andrew Mitchell’sspeeches was there a mention of the role the summit could play in helping the world’s economy and poorest countries back on the path of prosperity.

With a clear agenda, concrete proposals and red lines on a global growth deal, opening up trade, tackling tax evasion and boosting infrastructure, Britain should be leading efforts to secure a deal at the G20 that could transform African and low income countries into genuine and much-needed dynamos for the largest prize: the return to global growth.

Securing such a deal will not be easy; it will require all of the ‘hard-working, can-do, bulldog spirit’ Cameron spoke of yesterday. It is the sort of leadership the last Labour government showed in summit after summit all year round.

In 2005 Gordon Brown and Tony Blair worked the phones in advance of the summits and secured the memorable commitment at Gleneagles to double aid to Sub Saharan Africa. That, of course, was on the back of the historic debt relief deal secured in 2000 when Schroeder and Bush famously moaned about Tony Blair’s Africa focus.

At this years GAVI conference, Cameron did work hard to achieve a successful replenishment. But beyond that this government’s record has been patchy at best, and ideologically misguided at worst.

At the Prime Minister’s first big appearance on the international stage at the Canadian G8 last year, Downing Street actually admitted that he had “simply not fought” to keep the Gleneagles commitments in the final G8 communiqué. Then, at the UN millennium development goal summit last September, Nick Clegg was sent to represent the Government with only a three-year-old recycled Conservative pledge on malaria.

We know also that Cameron and Osborne are opposed to European commission proposals released two weeks ago for a Europe-wide financial transactions tax, even threatening to stop a compromise that would allow countries in favour to push ahead while the UK stays outside the system.

Strong momentum is growing behind the FTT – now backed by Germany, France, the European parliament, Bill GatesGeorge Soros, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – which even on modest estimates could raise billions for domestic and international efforts against poverty and climate change, and yet this government continue to oppose it.

At the last G20 in Seoul last year, the IMF presented a report that showed how co-operation between countries to secure a global growth pact could, at a minimum, create 50 million jobs and lift 90 million people out of poverty (pdf).

Gaining the adoption and implementation of such a programme really does come down to the phone calls, the one-to-one meetings, the cajoling undertaken by political leaders. That would make the difference between a deal at the G20 that delivers jobs and justice for the people across the globe and continued disparity that leaves millions in unemployment.

If David Cameron truly wants to claim he is leading on fighting poverty, he needs to match the leadership, the vision and the ambition that Britain showed when we secured debt and aid deals at the G8 in 2000 and 2005 and averted a global depression at the G20 summit in 2009 – and play a leading role in France next month.

Avaaz are calling on their supporters to call up the George Osborne and call on him not to block the EU proposals for a Robin Hood Tax – you can take action here.

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