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

The left must build a coalition of the willing at the G20 in order to boost global recovery

First published on Left Foot Forward

Whilst the Seoul and Cannes Summits were positive steps forward for development, next to nothing has been achieved by the G20 in Los Cabos in Mexico.

hollande-obamaCrucially, world leaders have yet again failed to agree a global plan for jobs and growth needed to drag the world out of recession.

There was some movement on tax, where leaders encouraged all countries – including tax havens – to adopt a multilateral convention which forces them to share fiscal information.

This could stop developing countries losing hundreds of millions of dollars that tax havens suck up every year. But as Oxfam have stated, the litmus test for this commitment will be whether countries implement this plan.

Meanwhile, the AgResults initiative will help fund technological solutions to problems that are too often ignored. As ONE have said, since many G20 pledges have fallen by the wayside, it is welcome that an initiative announced in Toronto in 2010 has come to fruition.

Perhaps when expectations are so low this progress should be celebrated, coming as it did on a day when England progressed into the Euro 2012 quarter-finals as surprise group winners – despite an inability to string more than two consecutive passes together. But low expectations are not an excuse for mediocre performances.

There was no movement towards agreeing a global Robin Hood tax, or even other options for financing for development recommended in Bill Gate’s report for the last G20 summit, no clear roadmap for implementing the Cannes Action Plan on Agriculture and thus addressing food insecurity, no progress towards supporting new rules to create transparency in the extractive industries and to progress important measures on fiscal transparency.

More fundamental is the failure once again by world leaders to agree a global growth deal to drag the global economy out of recession and achieve jobs and justice for citizens in all countries of the world.

At the G20 in Seoul in 2010, the IMF presented a report showing 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.

Such a global growth pact could have African and low income countries at its heart for the mutual benefit of all. Coordinated action to agree new financial regulations, open up trade, tackle tax evasion and boost infrastructure could transform African and low income countries into genuine and much-needed dynamos for return to global growth.

Already exhibiting enviable growth rates despite the financial crisis, the further development of low income countries could help provide new markets and with it, new jobs for Britain, Europe and the US.

In April 2009, G20 leaders, led by Gordon Brown, agreed coordinated action at the London Summit that stopped the recession turning into a depression. Then there was a recognition that our global problems required global solutions – but three years since that Summit and two years since the IMF plan, that coordination has disintegrated and we instead blunder on, seemingly content with avoidable levels of poverty, inequality, unemployment and environmental damage.

With the G20 leaders showing a desperate lack of leadership, we can be sure of one thing – it won’t be provided by Britain. But in truth, it is becoming difficult to criticise David Cameron for his consistent lack of leadership at these summits.

The leadership so urgently needed requires internationalist values and a belief in pro-growth, expansionary, job-creating economics. In short, since the Tory leader lacks the right values he cannot help but be an irrelevance – we need a Labour prime minister back in power.

But here and now it is time that the social democrats in the G20 started working together to fight for the coordinated action the world needs. Obama, Hollande, Dilma, Gillard, Hernandez, together with Zuma and Singh would be a formidable force for progress if they worked together to push for a global growth plan.

Brazil in particular has much to teach the world on how to achieve sustained of growth and at the same time reduce poverty and inequality by record amounts.

We know that domestic politics often restricts what these leaders can sanction on the world stage. In Obama’s defence, his position at summits is neutered by a Congress controlled by a Republican Party who even by their own poor standards are the most extreme, nasty, petty, economically illiterate and unpatriotic they’ve ever been.

But hard as it might be, the social democrat leaders in the G20 must build a coalition of the willing if we are to have any hope of a global recovery.

The government mustn’t fail this crucial test of international leadership

by Chris Leslie is the Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury. First published on LabourList

As this week’s G20 meeting in Cannes grows near, the prospects for a new “Robin Hood” or financial transactions (FTT) tax is growing. Significant voices such as George Soros, Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and Jeffrey Sachs have expressed their support, and Microsoft’s Bill Gates is the latest to argue for the plan.

It is not a new idea. John Maynard Keynes was pressing for an American version 75 years ago and James Tobin proposed a levy on currency transactions 40 years ago. Labour put the proposal on the global agenda when Gordon Brown raised the issue at the G20 summit in 2009. Even George Osborne has had to begrudgingly admit that he has nothing against an FTT “in principle”.

But the British government is letting the side down. Despite George Osborne’s warm words, the reality is that Britain’s Chancellor has effectively ruled out British participation – even before the G20 has even considered the proposal. George Osborne is wrong to imply that he will not press the issue because other major countries remain opposed. He needs to think again.

Our starting point is the proposal Labour put forward in 2009 that all countries agree to work together to establish a tax of a fraction of one percent which could be levied on financial transactions, millions of which happen every day in the City. This would be a tax on the kind of speculative trading carried out by many banks and financial institutions who did the best out of the economy before the global financial crisis and who were bailed out by millions of ordinary tax payers after it.

Labour’s wants to see a Financial Transaction Tax but one that is implemented with the widest possible international agreement. Evidence from Sweden and elsewhere suggests that a single country levying a tax such as this on its own may risk losing business abroad. This is why concerted efforts are needed to broker a deal where any FTT applies in all of the world’s big financial centres, all of whom have much to gain from a new and reliable revenue stream to support jobs, growth and the developing world.  The European Commission’s proposals in September for an EU Financial Transaction Tax fall short of the mark, not least because money raised would be used to simply top up the EU budget.

Whilst there are real barriers to winning this debate on the international stage there is also a real window of opportunity right now to do so. But by suggesting he thinks unanimous agreement at the G20 is not “terribly likely”, George Osborne seems willing to let the matter rest there, giving the impression there is no point even arguing for it.

This weak and defeatist attitude is an abdication of leadership, and a total abandonment of the gains made for this cause at the G20 meeting in 2009. Waiting for unanimity before even engaging with the issue means giving a veto to those who have vested interests in killing off the idea, or letting those with very different goals for the idea than the many millions of campaigners around the world set the  terms of debate and potentially make it harder for Britain ever to join a scheme.

The time has come for Britain to step-up and show the leadership needed to broker a better deal, by being open to the idea that it is possible to win the argument for a different approach. That is why Labour is calling on the government to engage internationally, before we lose the chance to make a change which could make a real difference to the task of rebuilding a strong prosperous and fair global economy following the global financial crisis.

The current game in town is the proposal which France, Germany, the EU Commission and other key G20 nations are pushing for a Financial Transactions tax which would apply only in those countries which wanted to participate – letting those who are currently opposed stay out.

There are real risks with this approach. But because George Osborne is refusing to even discuss this proposal, the UK now risks being condemned to a spectator’s role and we will get the worst of both worlds. It will be harder for Britain to join an FTT in future because we have let others set the rules, and other countries which need persuading of the case for an FTT will go unchallenged.

There is a real battle to be fought not simply against the defenders of the status quo. Real leadership is necessary right now, yet David Cameron and George Osborne risk choosing a passive role and losing control of this agenda. What a great missed opportunity that would be.

Gordon Brown + Avaaz to G20: Green Jobs and Stimulus Now

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHAibPjXnA4]

Above: Gordon Brown sends an urgent message with the global online movement Avaaz, recorded in Bhalswa slum in Delhi, India

This week, we could turn the tide of the global recession which is threatening progress on everything we care about, including strong action on climate change. It has already plunged 100 million people into poverty and unemployment.

Right now, French President Sarkozy, the new chair of the G20 group of the world’s largest economies, is deciding the group’s agenda. Experts have urged the G20 to urgently halt protectionism and cuts and launch a coordinated global green jobs and stimulus plan to save millions.

Gordon Brown has urgently appealed to members of the online movement Avaaz to act — a wave of public pressure now can persuade President Sarkozy to lead. 100,000 have already heeded the call.

Click above to watch Brown’s appeal. And sign the petition at Avaaz.org!