We met on 20th March with Thangam Debbonaire, Labour Parliamentary candidate for Bristol West, Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, David Jepson, Chair, and 15 other people.
The Labour government made very significant progress in relation to international development, with cabinet member status, commitment and major progress to attaining the target of 0.7% and focus on poverty reduction and millennium development goals. It is being eroded by the current government -for example backbenchers voting against and attempts to divert money to aspects of military expenditure. If the government is re-elected, it seems likely that this will continue for political and financial reasons.
Labour will retain the commitment and build on this commitment including budget allocation of 0.7% and the focus on supporting fragile and conflict states and will also give priority to tackling inequality, workers’ rights / decent work and tackling climate change.
Our discussion suggested that workers’ rights should be a central theme to ensure fair pay as well as reasonable working and contractual conditions, including in more rapidly growing middle Income countries. It will help move towards a fair playing field for working people internationally. Corporate Social Responsibility for multinational companies in terms of their global employment practices, environmental impact and record on taxation. In addition to scope for government level intervention, there is also a role for consumer pressure and also support from the Labour Party and from trades unions too. We also felt that the impact of climate change was transcending other areas of intervention and needed to be a central feature. The current government do not accord a key priority to this and the debate is influenced by climate change deniers on the right of politics. A continued emphasis on education for all children for all should also be a priority for UK support.
We should aim to develop a more bottom up and community based approach to the development and fine tuning of policy and the delivery of support so harnessing the knowledge and experience of our communities. Communities in Bristol have veryconsiderable knowledge, from different perspectives. Drawing on this will help ensure that support has the maximum impact on those who need it. Local government should also play a role in this and Bristol’s twinning links could be used better in this respect. Within recipient countries, small scale, locally based community organisations should be able to access development funding as well as larger and more powerful international bodies. However, the strengthening of the capacity and accountability of national governments should not be undermined.
There are different streams of development funding that support development. Including multinational funding (such as the EU), national funding (such as DFID), international NGOs supported via donations etc. (such as Oxfam, Cafod, Save the Children) but we should not forget the streams of funding channelled directly from individuals and communities (for example to Somalia or Pakistan). The important role of remittances was raised and more effort needed to ease this process and make it more effective. Maybe match funding from DFID or other funders could be introduced. It was also suggested that a crowd funding mechanism could be used to channel and focus community resources to specific projects in recipient countries.
In relation to next steps, we agreed to build a data base of people with an interest in / commitment to international development and hold a further meeting. We would explore specific ideas on crowd funding of projects, the role of remittances and building on Bristol’s twinning links.