Owen Smith MP – my commitment to tackling poverty at home and abroad

owen-smith-2Owen Smith MP, candidate in the 2016 Labour Leadership contest, blogs for LCID on his commitment to international development – @OwenSmith_MP

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.

 

Owen Smith

Owen Smith MP signs LCID pledge for Leadership candidates

owen-smith-mpAs 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:

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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

 

  1. 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.

 

BREXIT: A threat to tackling global poverty

mike kaneBy 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.

 

Invitation: Join LCID MPs in discussion of ‘Brexit’

In conjunction with the Labour Movement for Europe (LME) and Labour’s Environmental Campaign Group (SERA), LCID is hosting to an exclusive Panel Q&A on the evening of June 14th, 19.00-21.00, at UNITE Head Quarters in London.

The evening’s discussion, entitled “Brexit: A danger to security, tackling climate change and international development”, will be addressed by Mary Creagh MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Glenys Kinnock and speakers from across the Labour Party. Our panellists will make the environmental, security, human rights and international development case for remaining in the European Union on June 23rd.

LCID is pleased to provide 50 free tickets for the evening, on a first-come-first-serve basis. This will provide access to UNITE, the right to ask questions of our panellists, and after-talk refreshments with MPs.

The event will take place in the Diskuss Room at Unite the Union, Unite House, 128 Theobald Road, Holborn, London, WC1X 8TN. The closest tube station is Holborn, accessible from the Central and Piccadilly Lines

If you are interested in attending, please email aaron@lcid.org.uk with your contact details as soon as possible. We anticipate high demand for tickets so encourage members to get in touch sooner rather than later!

Please bring identification with you on arrival.

David Miliband makes the case for Britain in Europe

david milibandToday in London David Miliband, the former Foreign Secretary and current CEO of International Rescue Committee, delivered a speech making the case for the UK to remain in Europe, including why the EU matters for international development.

Some of his comments are reproduced below:

 

 

At the heart of our British success story in the post-war period – not just as a fringe component or some add-on extra – has been our membership of the European Union. Europe is not an alternative to a global Britain; it is the foundation for our role and reach internationally, which is good for us, and I would argue good for stability and security around the world.

The very same outward-looking attitude that took us into Europe, and has kept us in Europe, is the attitude that makes us credible and influential in the wider world. Rather than limit or diminish us, the European Union multiplies British power, British ideas and British values in very direct ways.

  • The EU multiplies British defence policy. We could never tackle Somali pirates, who were holding the coast of Africa to ransom, on our own. As part of the EU, we despatched a highly successful naval force to do just that – the Atalanta force led by the Royal Navy. In 2011, there were 176 attacks; last year, none.
  • Europe multiplies British diplomacy. We sought, on a cross-party basis, across successive governments, a negotiated resolution to the Iranian nuclear program through the EU, which was ahead of the US on this issue, and which convened and drove forward the process to achieve that hugely important goal. When I went to argue in Beijing for Chinese support for sanctions that would help support a negotiated settlement, progress was achieved in part because of the united European position I was able to put forward.
  • Europe multiplies support for British values. We saw the consequences of break-up in the Balkans in the 1990s before the EU had a common foreign policy. It is thanks to the EU’s diplomatic pressure and economic pull that there is now relative peace and stability in the Balkans, despite the refugee crisis. An independent Kosovo, stable Serbia, growing Croatia exist because of agreed EU foreign policy. This is an area where the EU has thrown its weight around, and to good effect.
  • Europe multiplies our development policy. We know the UK overseas aid budget has gone up – but with a British contribution, the EU’s humanitarian aid budget is the largest in the world, and together we are pioneers in good practice. Britain’s membership of the EU has been good for EU humanitarian aid policy, and in the process good for millions of people helped around the world because of the Union’s clout and commitment in this field.
  • Europe massively multiplies our environmental clout. The UK cares about climate change, but we can hardly tackle it alone. Our EU membership has allowed us to drive and deliver a cross-party UK priority on a European scale, and now a global scale.

Where Europe has been weak, and failed to multiply British interests, for example in its dealings with Russia, it is not because Europe has been too united in its policy, but too divided. The answer to a revanchist Russia seeking to flex its muscles around the world is not a weaker EU, but a stronger one.

So Europe multiplies British power, rather than diminishing or constraining it.

The fact is that Britain needs Europe, and Europe needs Britain. That is the patriotic case for us to not just to remain in the EU, but to develop a positive vision for European cooperation for the 21st century.

Why 2016 is the year to leap, not shuffle, towards gender equality

left to right, Katie Berrington, Karen Gould, Emily Berrington

Katie Berrington, Karen Gould & Emily Berrington

By Emily and Katie Berrington

Despite being the year that the United States may be set to welcome its first female president; the first year that Saudi Arabia’s female residents will live under municipal governments that they were able to vote in; and the year that more than 90 countries answered the UN Women’s call to “Step It Up For Gender Equality”; 2016 has not been an easy year to be a woman in many parts of the world. Far from it, in fact. Headlines of progression for women’s rights are scarce and a quick scan of the top news stories over the last two months confirms that we have a long way to go before equality is achieved – approximately 117 years according to the World Economic Forum, based on indicators of health, education, economic participation and political empowerment. Even more worrying, this estimate increased by 38 years between 2014 and 2015, due to a slowdown in the rate of progress.

But it is not just about the figures – so far this year has seen women suffering disproportionately in conflict zones around the world, with groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram using sexual violence as a weapon of war and suppressing women’s rights in areas under their control. Many fleeing war torn homes report assault, exploitation and harassment on their journey to safety (Amnesty International, 2016) with little protection or security being provided to those at risk. The battle against Female Genital Mutilation rages on, with an estimated 3 million girls at risk of undergoing it every year (WHO, 2016). Human trafficking remains an international issue – the most common form being sexual exploitation and victims predominantly being female. And, although women may have been given the vote locally (still not nationally) in Saudi Arabia, they continue to face sanctions, such as the lack of freedom to drive to the polling station, which render a historical development less of a leap and more of a shuffle in the right direction.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to address the enormous forces working against women’s rights and preventing true gender equality. It is a chance to petition governments, to challenge, to campaign, to take action. It is also a time to celebrate, to reflect on the achievements that have been made and to salute the fantastic work that is being done, as well as to recognise how much further there is to go. The headlines are bleak, but they are not ineradicable.

This International Women’s Day we will be celebrating some of the many women who have inspired us – in the opportunities we have had and the choices we have made. Our mum, who made being a feminist the norm and led by example in encouraging us to expect and strive for parity in both our personal and professional lives. Harriet Harman, who Emily was lucky enough to see being honoured at last year’s Labour Women’s Conference for bringing what had previously been seen as “women’s issues” – childcare, for instance – to parliament. She was often mocked or ignored and we are grateful that she refused to concede. Finally, Malala Yousafzai, whose courage in the face of unspeakable adversity and dedication to advocate girls’ right to education worldwide drives progress forward, and to whom we give the closing words. “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…we cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”

Let’s all raise up our voices, in whatever ways we can, this year.

The IF campaign launch

Yesterday saw the launch of the IF campaign to end global hunger. The campaign has been launched by a coalition of 100s of NGOs and faith groups and is the largest campaign of its kind since Make Poverty History in 2005. Alongside targeting global poverty directly, the IF campaign focuses on the need to target a range of development issues that lead to global hunger, including climate change adaptation, corporate tax avoidance, land grabs and support for small scale farmers.

“There is enough food in the world to feed everyone, yet one in eight women, men and children go to bed hungry every night each year, 2.3 million children die from malnutrition; women are more likely to go hungry compared to men. There is enough food to feed everyone, but the majority of those going hungry are small-scale farmers…” – Statement from the IF campaign, released yesterday.

Like the Make Poverty History Campaign in 2005, the IF campaign will focus heavily on the UK’s role as chair of the G8 throughout 2013. This gives the Coalition a golden opportunity to press for action at a global level. In addition to chairing the G8, David Cameron will be co-chairing the UN Panel drafting the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the UK will be chairing the Open Government Transparency Partnership (OGP) – both present vital chances for progress on hunger at the international level.

This campaign should be welcomed. Whilst some parts of the world have made great strides towards addressing hunger, international progress on this issue has fallen badly behind. Food prices spiked dramatically in 2008 and 2011 – mainly due to peaks in oil wholesale prices – with disastrous consequences for the most vulnerable, and rising demand globally means prices remain prohibitively high for millions. The MDGs originally aimed to have halved global hunger by 2015, but today we know that goal is still a long way off. Without real action from policy makers by 2025 nearly a billion young people could be trapped in a life of poverty because of the damage done to them through hunger and malnutrition. Worst of all it doesn’t have to be this way. The world has enough food to address the issue of global hunger, but a range of issues – such as reduced aid to agriculture in the developing world or crop failures as a result of climate change – prevent global food supplies from being properly distributed, and reports suggest up to a third of all food is wasted.

But for this campaign to be a success it needs the whole-hearted support of the Coalition; Not just warm words in support of IF’s objectives, but a real commitment to fundamental changes required to our international system to end poverty. A key to the success of Make Poverty History in 2005 was the leadership shown from the Labour Government who took up the agenda at the G8. In contrast here has been a distinct leadership deficit on international development since Blair and Brown left office –  securing an agreement at these Summits really does come down to the phone calls, the one-to-one meetings, the cajoling undertaken by political leaders – and beyond those warm words we’ve seen little evidence over the last few years Cameron & co are willing to put in the necessary graft.

We at LCID would also support a global response to the issue of hunger that doesn’t just focus on the G8 but includes the emerging powers in the G20 groups and the poorest countries themselves. This response should seek to reform our global economy so that it enables all countries to grow sustainably and equitably, build strong public services that provide education and protect their citizens from hunger and ill health, and in doing so eradicate poverty the world over. A response that Cameron is incapable of backing since he and his Party are ideologically opposed to much of it.

Finally, there are already glaring inconsistencies in this Government’s approach to tackling hunger, something we raised in our reaction to the Hunger Summit last year. On tax, LCID has been campaigning with Labour MPs and the charities ActionAid and Christian Aid against changes to tax rules proposed by George Osborne that could make it easier for UK companies operating abroad to use tax havens and reduce their tax liability in developing countries – something which could rob poor countries of up to £4 billion in lost revenue.

The Government has also actively blocked Labour’s and the Co-operative Party’s proposed amendments to the Financial Services Bill that would increase transparency around food and commodity speculation. Deregulated and secretive agricultural commodity derivatives markets have attracted huge sums of speculative money, and there is growing evidence that they deliver distorted and unpredictable food prices – so why is the Government claiming to want greater transparency yet blocking our attempts to introduce just that?

We welcome the IF campaign and encourage people to sign up in support of the campaign. At LCID we will continue to press the Coalition to show the same enthusiasm for IF’s objectives that Labour showed for Make Poverty History eight years ago, and we hope the IF campaign holds this Government to the same standards they (rightly) expected of us in 2005.

If the demands of the campaign are met it has the potential to make a huge difference for millions of lives. We fear, however, that this Government will be found wanting.

Charlie Samuda is LCID Vice Chair for Communications and Campaigns