Ivan Lewis MP: Labour’s Post-2015 Vision

A radical and progressive post 2015 framework  will require global civil society to galvanise public opinion across the world. As we saw with the historic Make Poverty History campaign it is only when you have a coming together of massive public commitment and pressure together with political will that radical change becomes possible.

And now we need that change.

I want to dedicate my speech tonight to one women and group of young men I met in Goma, Eastern DRC on my visit with World Vision only last week.

One woman told me how 3 soldiers from a militia group had gang raped her and left her for dead. In the same attack her husband and three children were taken away and she never saw them again. Every day this woman and many like her cope with emotional and physical scars which may lessen over time but will never heal. These women are not only victims of the impunity which is a stain on the East of DRC but the underlying causes.

A state unable to offer basic security to its citizens, militias some of whom both recently and over a number of years have been supported by Rwanda and other neighbouring countries recruiting young men sometimes boy soldiers who see no other way of having a stake in their society and the extreme poverty which crushes all hope.

Then there was the 18 year old young man I met at a project teaching vocational skills. He said he and his young male friends hated sexual violence because it was their mothers and sisters who were the potential victims. Most powerfully of all when I asked him what he wanted for the future in 2 words echoed by his classmates. He said Peace and jobs. Once again, underlining the nexus of security, development and political change which is so crucial in the countries of Collier’s bottom billion.

Friends, in the next 20 years we should judge the scale of our ambition and our commitment to real change primarily by whether we can change the life chances for the poorest everywhere, in every country, and those who are trapped in the misery of conflict ridden states.

Tonight I will to lay out an ambitious and credible vision for a progressive Post 2015 Development framework. Ultimately, the new framework must be developed through authentic partnership between developing, developed and middle income countries, donor and recipient countries, multilateral organisations, charitable foundations, the private sector and civil society.

Gone are the days when G8 Governments can or should impose their views on the rest of the world. So this speech should be seen as a contribution to the debate. In the weeks and months ahead, we will consult further building on the consultation seminars we held with the help of IDS and engage with stakeholders especially in the developing world. Their experiences and views should be at the heart of shaping any new framework.

Our vision is shaped by the concept of a new “Social Contract without borders” to replace the existing MDGs. It is rooted in three key elements.

  • Social Justice including an explicit commitment to tackling inequality and promoting human rights.
  • Economic growth and wealth creation without which we cannot deliver social justice, but growth which must be sustainable and benefit the many not the few.
  • And good governance, applied equally to all. Governments whether recipients or donors, multilateral organisations and multinational companies.

Our overarching aims should be clear and measurable. By 2030 to have eliminated absolute poverty, begun to reduce inequality, protected scarce planetary resources and ended aid dependency.


I am proud that Labour changed the world on development – We created DFID as a cabinet-level department and increased the budget substantially as part of our commitment to 0.7.

We helped lift 3 million people out of poverty, played a leading role in cancelling debt, establishing a funding mechanism for the Millennium Development Goals, innovative development in Africa and innovative sources of funding for Health and Education.

This record and the global leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown deserve more than a footnote in history. Ed Miliband and this new generation of Labour politicians are determined to build on their proud development legacy by advocating the big economic and social changes that are necessary if we are to have a fairer and sustainable country and world in the future.

We progressives didn’t come into politics to explain the world as it is. We came into politics to change the world.

The world is changing rapidly.

75% of the world’s poorest now live in middle income countries.

We have seen the emergence of new economies and the presence of new ‘donors’ China, India, Brazil to name but three.

The Arab Spring and fragility across the Sahel and West Africa; a global banking crisis that destabilised not only the Eurozone but also many developing countries; a communication revolution; resource scarcity; climate change; migration and terrorism have created unprecedented change and uncertainty requiring global action.

We are living in a much more interconnected and interdependent world. The UK’s success as One Nation will significantly depend on our understanding that this is a reality not a choice both in Europe and the wider world. Trade, jobs, migration, the cost of energy and food, the impact of climate change, our security are all profoundly affected by factors and alliances beyond our borders. One Nation: One World is our best and only route to fairness and prosperity in the future. But our values mean globalisation must work for the many not the few and we have a particular duty to reassure people that we understand the insecurity this rapid change is creating. In the 21st century to be a British patriot is to be an internationalist.


The Millenium Development Goals ushered in a new era of development.

As a result, admirable progress has been made in many areas including a significant reduction in extreme poverty and infant mortality, access to primary education for boys and girls, improvement in conditions for slum dwellers, and major advances in the fight against diseases such as HIV Aids, Malaria and TB.

Despite this there have been significant failures.

Most of the current MDGs will not be met. Progress has been uneven and inequality between and within countries has grown. And sadly in many cases the way MDG targets were formulated has unintentionally led to the poorest and most marginalised behind left behind, particularly women and those living in fragile states.

Of course, it is important the new framework builds on the existing MDGs.

But, it must also respond to the challenges we will face in the next 20 years. These include:

  • Continued population growth coupled with demographic change.
  • Urbanisation and a burgeoning middle class offer opportunities but also place greater burdens on health services and resources.
  • Climate change – the frequency of extreme weather events will increase disproportionately affecting developing communities and the poorest. Water shortage will become an increasing issue around the world.
  • By 2015 7 out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies will be in Africa, underlining the importance of ensuring the benefits of this growth reach the most vulnerable in these societies.

The High Level UN Panel co-chaired by David Cameron has been charged with setting the intellectual framework for the Post-2015 debate. In this role I hope the Prime Minister will reflect on the all party Development select committees concerns expressed last week that the meaning of his “golden thread” of development is unclear.

The Problem for David Cameron is threefold:

  • His ideological reluctance to acknowledge reducing inequality must be central to future development policy.
  • His Government’s shrinking of DfID into a Department which dispenses aid rather than works across Whitehall to ensure a coordinated development agenda which strengthens our ability to exert global influence.
  • And finally a failure to understand that in a modern world the growth which has the capacity to end poverty and reduce inequality must be sustainable and is dependent on Government’s supporting their private sectors with active industrial strategies. The irony of course is a Prime Minister who has rightly been lauded for maintaining Labour’s aid commitments has also presided over a failed economic policy which has seen £2billion cut from the aid budget due to the downgrading of GDP forecasts. I have made it clear we will not be able to reverse this cut, but an incoming Labour Government would put an active industrial strategy at the heart of Britain’s renewal.

There is still time for him to put aside ideological prejudices and provide the leadership which is necessary.

In contrast, Labour’s Development vision is clear and our contribution to a new global covenant must be rooted in our values.

To be clear, any new framework that doesn’t have a focus on inequality and sustainable growth will lack credibility and be seen as tinkering at the edges when the world is crying out for radical change.

The new framework must usher in a new era of co-development with common goals that every country is committed to albeit with sufficient flexibility to recognise countries will be at different stages of development. The framework should include outcomes our new “social contract without borders”, the means by which the outcomes will be achieved, a robust system of reporting and delivering results and a commitment to securing a diversity of finance and maximum value for money.

The “Social contract without Borders” we propose will consist of no more than ten objectives which should be described through the prism of the citizen and communities in which they live. They will seek to integrate poverty reduction and sustainability. In my view, it would be folly to have a parallel set of objectives which artificially divide the two inextricably linked priorities for the future wellbeing of our world.

In the weeks and the months ahead, we will consult on the details. But there are some non negotiable principles and key elements. Systems of social protection, universal Healthcare and compulsory education everywhere, jobs with a minimum wage and decent labour standards, a decent home and living environment, access to basic utilities such as clean water, sanitation and light provided through sustainable means, a specific and ambitious objective focused on women’s empowerment and equality, a new specific objective focused on children and young people including an integrated approach to early childhood, child protection and support for disabled children, a natural healthy environment which protects our ecosystems and biodiversity and mitigates climate change and its impacts, human rights and life free from violence and active and responsible citizens helping to develop their communities, choose their elected representatives and pursue personal and family aspirations.

To guarantee the desired focus on inequality the objectives should be supported by indicators measuring progress in relation to the bottom 20% in every country, the bottom billion globally, and quality of services not simply access ie student attainment not simply school attendance. In addition to a distinct gender equality objective a number of the goals should have gender equality as an indicator of progress.

In order to deliver these objective we must be clear about the range of means to be deployed. Aid will continue to be essential but implying aid is the only or primary vehicle is misleading and damages the case for aid we must continue to make.

  • Responsible capitalism
    • Sustainable growth led by a vibrant private sector including where appropriate agricultural reform strategies supported by an active industrial strategy
    • Greater transparency on profit and taxes consistent with Dodd Franks and measures which have recently been passed in the European parliament but await final agreement.
    • Commodity transparency
    • Trade fairness. The current failings of Doha can’t be allowed to hinder this. And if Doha fails then we need an alternative which can deliver.
    • Fair taxes without exemption
  • State building including a new international court created to indict and try those accused of serious corruption abuses.
  • Empowered citizens able to hold their government to account
  • Robust and disaggregated data will be essential especially if we are to focus on the most poor and vulnerable.

In addition to aid we cannot ignore the increasingly important role other forms of finance will play in supporting development.

The new framework needs to recognise and leverage alternative forms of finance.

We will continue to press for the UK’s 0.7 commitment to be enshrined in law as promised in the Tory party manifesto and coalition agreement. And apply pressure to other donors to match the UK’s commitment under successive Governments and fulfil their international obligations. It is important to recognise the catalytic effect of aid for development in helping to promote state building, economic growth and programmes that are scalable and have wide impact such as TradeMark East Africa.

But in the longer term and certainly by 2030 aid should become a smaller part of the development solution. There will always be a need for humanatarian aid and sadly it is likely a small number of states will continue to be disproportionately dependent on aid due to their fragility. But ending aid dependency is the right objective for greater equality and the dignity, independence and self determination of nations and their citizens. It should be a core part of the mission of Centre left development policy. We should also be radical in redefining our definition of aid dependency as any country where 20% of the overall budget is supported by aid. This both creates new opportunities and recognises new realities. Including:

  • Harnessing remittances that reach families and communities directly.
  • Strengthening Revenue Authorities such as in Rwanda and Burundi to generate substantial tax revenues and strengthening the accountability of the state to the citizen.
  • Innovative mechanisms are being developed like an FTT, the Green Climate Fund and social bonds.
  • Philanthropic and social impact investment. Bill and Melinda Gates particularly deserve our thanks not only for their investment but their leadership.
  • And Foreign Direct Investment and trade to promote economic development – Foreign investment into developing countries were their single biggest source of capital – six times the amount they receive in ODA – and a critical input for technology transfer in developing country firms.

We need to harness all of these as well as secure big global changes on issues such as tax avoidance and fair trade.

The irony of right wing criticism of aid is they should be making the case for increased aid now together with economic and social reform. This is the fastest route to end aid dependency.

As a Minister I learned a very important lesson – vision and fine speeches are one thing, but real change also needs a strong focus on delivery

All countries irrespective of their income status must be part of the framework and expected to show progress.

We propose:

  • Every country should be required to produce a biannual scorecard of progress.
  • Data to be disaggregated by gender, region, wealth quintile and others if appropriate
  • A new global delivery board chaired by UN General Secretary to monitor and report on progress.
  • A Global Development czar/ leader of stature to be appointed to galvanise support and oversee delivery on behalf of the board.
  • Building on successive aid effectiveness agreements and International Aid Transparency Initiative, the index of donor transparency should be extended to be a global set of principles that all donors should sign up to. This would include measuring their support for sustainable growth and responsible capitalism
  • A New Global governance framework should be introduced. Building on the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Index and the Mo Ibrahim foundations’ Africa Governance Index and leadership award.

Turning to the UK, If we are going to champion a radical new global framework, we have to demonstrate a willingness to lead by example.

We are proud that DFID employs many people whose level of commitment and development expertise is second to none. However, to respond to the challenges of a changing world, support a new global framework and ensure best value for UK taxpayers’ money radical change to Dfid and UK development policy will be necessary.

Labour will lead a new UK development policy which will seek to draw on the expertise and influence of all relevant Government Departments. DFID alone cannot ensure the UK continues to be at the cutting edge of development in the changing world.

  • Issues such as foreign affairs and security, fair and transparent taxation, anti corruption measures, fair trade,climate change and resource scarcity require joined up working. This partnership working should be overseen by a Development Cabinet committee.
  • We will focus UK ODA funding and expertise on supporting Sustainable growth and the new Social contract without Borders for the bottom 20% and bottom billion in bilateral and multilateral programmes.
  • The Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) will have greater independence from ministers and have wider powers to report on all aspects of UK development policy.
  • General budget support will be maintained where appropriate but with greater up front conditionality in relation to human rights and corruption.
  • Commissioning and procurement processes will be streamlined to get best value for money while also reducing barriers to entry for small and medium sized NGOs and private companies.
  • Private sector companies receiving development funding will have to demonstrate a commitment to responsible capitalism. i.e. supporting growth which is sustainable and decent work / labour standards
  • A new results framework will recognises the importance of long term sustainable change.
  • We’ll ensure the rights and role of women will be given priority status in our support for the Bottom Billion states.
  • The UK will once again champion the abolition of user fees for health and education across the world.
  • DFID must lead a more interactive engagement with UK citizens about the nature of development and why it is morally right and in our national interest.
  • There will be an enhanced role for diaspora communities in Policy development and the evaluation of delivery effectiveness.
  • DFID country offices will be more accountable to the communities they serve.


Social justice should never be a cause with an end date but a perpetual struggle passed from one generation to the next. I want my children and grandchildren to be part of that struggle when their time comes. But our generation can and should be the generation which ends absolute poverty, reduces inequality and safeguards the planet. To do so will require a global mass movement for change and political leaders with the values and vision to will a better world.

These are the words of the great Nelson Mandela.

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

The commitments we make in 2015 will determine whether we are up to the scale of the challenge.

2 thoughts on “Ivan Lewis MP: Labour’s Post-2015 Vision

  1. Blue says:

    So while Labour was telling other countries to strengthen “Revenue Authorities such as in Rwanda and Burundi to generate substantial tax revenues” it turned a blind eye to widespread avoidance in the UK by big companies both domestic and international. Another example of “do what I tell you and not what I do”.

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