The Power of We – Stopping Land Grabs

Today is Blog Action Day and this year’s theme is ‘The Power of We’. It’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate the power of people in making change happen.

We’ve seen people power in many guises over the last year, from large scale movements like the Arab Spring and Occupy, to people making a stand on social media against the stigmatisation of mental health illnesses or of victims of sexual violence. People are using their voices and technology to join together against discrimination, cruel governance and injustice.

The Power of We has been called on by many NGOs working on poverty and suffering, and today we’re using Blog Action Day to raise awareness of Oxfam’s latest campaign on one of the key drivers of hunger – land grabs.

Land grabs are, put simply, the result of land acquisition deals going wrong. Oxfam’s report Our Land, Our Lives explains the size and scale of the problem. Every six days an area the size of London changes hands in developing countries. Often, this land has been used by communities for farming, and when they are thrown from this land, they are plunged into food insecurity, not to mention losing their homes and security, and even their lives.

 

Oxfam has highlighted the World Bank as an institution who could, as an investor in land deals itself as well as a standard setter and influencer in the sector, make a huge impact. By freezing it’s investments in large scale land acquisitions for six months, it could get its own house in order as well as make a clear statement to the sector that it must do more to ensure land deals do not result in land grabs.

 

The Power of We is needed on this campaign – the World Bank is so far refusing to freeze investments and needs further pushing. You can sign Oxfam’s petition to make your voice heard and sign up for further involvement, tweet at the @worldbank using #landgrabs and share videos and infographics.

New Shadow Secretary sets up local international development group

The new Shadow International Development Secretary, Harriet Harman, has established an international development advisory panel in her constituency, Camberwell and Peckham. The new panel, which will be hosted using virtual groups will have regular contact with and will meet regularly at Southwark Town Hall in Peckham.

Speaking about the panel and her new brief, Harriet Harman said:

“I am honoured and privileged to have been appointed Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Setting up the Department for International Development was one of the most important acts of the previous Labour Government. Making sure this government maintains our commitment will be my main objective.

They must recognise the importance of remittances – the money which many people in the UK send money back to their country of origin. This money is a vital, largely unseen, contribution to tackling poverty and helping development.

And they must focus on the importance of supporting women and girls in developing countries.”

We’d like to know if you know of, or run, a local international development group. Let us know, either by commenting on this article or emailing tim@lcid.org.uk.

By Tim Nicholls

Congratulations to Ed Miliband

LCID congratulates Ed Miliband MP on becoming the new leader of the Labour Party.

We look forward to working with the former Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change to ensure global poverty stays high on the parties agenda in the coming years.

During the Leadership campaign we asked Ed about his views on global poverty. You can watch his answers here.

Thank you for voting in our poll

Thank you to everyone who voted in the LCID poll to decide what we will be asking the Labour Leadership candidates in our video hustings. The results are in and you can view them here.

What happens next?

We’ll be asking the leadership candidates about their views on the topics you have chosen and what their vision for international development is.

We’ll be launching the video on this site as soon as it’s ready so stay tuned! Sign up to our email list and you’ll get regular updates from LCID, including when the video is launched. Don’t forget you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter too.

Labour’s Manifesto on International Development

Extract from Labour’s manifesto

The global poverty emergency: our moral duty, our common interest

Labour’s international leadership on development has helped transform the lives of millions across the world. Yet too many people still live in extreme poverty, die from treatable diseases, or are denied the chance to go to school.

We will lead an international campaign to get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. We remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid from 2013, and we will enshrine this commitment in law early in the next Parliament. Our aid will target the poorest and most excluded – spent transparently and evaluated independently. We will fight corruption, investing more to track, freeze, and recover assets stolen from developing countries. Further action will be taken to strengthen developing countries’ tax systems, reduce tax evasion, improve reporting, and crack down on tax havens. To increase accountability, we will allocate at least five per cent of all funding developing country budgets for the purpose of strengthening the role of Parliaments and civil society.

Our leadership on debt cancellation has freed 28 countries from the shackles of debt. We will continue to drive this agenda, building on legislation to clampdown on vulture funds.

Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights. We will spend £8.5 billion over eight years to help more children go to school; maintain our pledge to spend £6 billion on health between 2008 and 2015 and £1 billion through the Global Fund to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; fight for universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS by 2010; and deliver at least 30 million additional anti-malarial bed-nets over the next three years.

We will provide £1 billion for water and sanitation by 2013, driving this issue up the international agenda, and over £1 billion on food security and agriculture. We will push for the establishment of a Global Council on Child Hunger. We will help save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015 and, because international focus on the needs of women and girls is vital, we will double core funding to the new UN Women’s agency. While the Tories would favour private schemes, we will work closely with NGOs and developing countries to eliminate user fees and promote healthcare and education free at the point of access. We will encourage other countries to ratify the ILO conventions on labour standards, as we have done.

Trade can lift millions out of poverty. We will work with the private sector, trade unions and co-operatives to promote sustainable development, quadruple our funding for fair and ethical trade, and press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access.

LCID and Co-operative Youth helping out in Brighton

LCID and Co-operative Youth are teaming up and heading down to Brighton to help out. There will be doorknocking and delivering across both days of the weekend, so please come along for either day if you’re free!

10:30 am at Hill House, Walpole Road, BN2 0LS on both days.

Come along and help out the campaign to keep Brighton and Hove Labour!

We’ll be helping out Labour & Co-operative candidate Simon Burgess in Brighton Kemptown, and Labour candidate Nancy Platts in Brighton Pavillion.

Please email nick@lcid.org.uk if you are able to come on either day. For more information, check out the Facebook event page.

LCID Launch Tonight!

Later today, the Labour Campaign for International Development will have its official launch in an event at the House of Commons. This is an exciting day for LCID: we have already begun the debate about International Development on this website and now we have the chance to push forward, to gain support for a progressive, Labour, approach to International Development in this country. This purpose is clear to our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown:

“Tackling poverty is one of the greatest causes of our time. The Labour Party and the Labour Government has been on the frontline in the fight against global poverty and now the Labour Campaign for International Development will provide a way in which members who care about the issue can keep informed, contribute policy and help keep it high on the agenda.”

A belief in the empowerment and progress that aid and assistance provide has been at the core of the Labour movement for many years. Our group aims to build on this support, and the amazing progress that the Labour Government of the last 13 years has delivered, to go further. The job is far from done. Although our nation’s aid helps lift 3 million people out of poverty every year, around a billion people still live on less than a dollar a day.

The Left will not sit back and relax whilst this is still the case. The Government has introduced draft legislation to commit the UK to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid. This landmark bill would cement the UK’s position as a world leader in International Development.

“The creation of DFID is one of the greatest achievements of this Labour government. It has become so established here in the UK and around the world that it is easy to forget that it didn’t exist before 1997. But back then Britain used to be considered something of a road-block to effective international action to tackle global poverty. That has been transformed since 1997 and the UK is now a world leader in the international development community. We have taken a lead role on a range of initiatives – from the Millennium Development Goals to cancelling the debt of some of the world’s poorest countries. These things simply wouldn’t have happened without a Labour government.

Labour has a record to be proud of – but there is still so much more to do. I see that regularly through my experience as a member of the House of Commons International Development Committee. That’s why it is so important that Labour party members and supporters keep up the pressure for action to tackle global poverty. That’s why it is so important that we secure a fourth-term Labour government to enable these things to happen. And that’s why I am so pleased about the establishment of the Labour Campaign for International Development. It will be a challenge to this new group both to highlight our achievements and to push the international development agenda within the party forward.

I am disappointed to be missing tonight’s launch event – I am currently in Zimbabwe with the International Development Committee along with my Labour colleagues John Battle and Hugh Bayley – but I look forward to working with LCID as we move towards the general election and beyond.”

– Richard Burden MP, Member of the International Development Select Committee

LCID will also be exploring the debate on International Development up to, and beyond, the general election. We scrutinise the work of all parties and act in the interests of development, not politics.

“It is great to see the many supporters of the cause of international development within the Labour Party coming together in this new group. I hope it can provide a significant focus for campaigning and new ideas in the run up to the general election, and help set an ambitious agenda for global social justice in a fourth-term Labour government.”

– Douglas Alexander MP, Secretary of State for International Development

We are excited about the future that lies ahead of LCID and we hope you can be a part of it. If you can come to our launch this evening, at 5.15 in Committee Room 12, House of Commons, please come along. Beyond the launch, we will be campaigning, writing and debating, so please get in touch if you want to get involved.

If you can’t make our event, we will be tweeting from it, so you can follow what is going on using the #labourcid hashtag.

By Tim Nicholls

Evo Morales – from poverty to power

Evo meets his voters

Exit polls over the weekend put Evo Morales on course for an overwhelming victory in Bolivia’s Presidential election. As the Guardian said in their editorial today, this victory has gone a long way to making the social transformation inside Bolivia irreversible.

Such a transformation was unthinkable as recently as nine years ago. Then, Bolivia was one of those textbook examples we all have as global justice campaigners of the World Bank being bad – not only was Bolivia forced to privatise it’s water supply, people were charged for collecting rainwater on top of their own houses! Somewhat unsurprisingly riots ensued.

You do not have to scratch much deeper into Bolivia’s history to realise that sorry episode was not an isolated injustice. For over 500 years, poor people in Bolivia were marginalised and exploited, with no rights, no voice and no power. And for ‘poor’, read ‘indigenous’.

Those riots, however, were part of new chapter in Bolivia’s history that would culminate in Morales’ election. Indigenous peoples were become more and more vocal. Once such peoples, the Chiquitanos – who had at first had to organise under the guise of a football league to avoid the attentions of the authorities – were marching on the capital. After protests toppled President Sánchez de Lozada in October 2003, it become easier for people to run independently of the traditional political parties and indigenous peoples could now make huge electoral headway.

In December 2005 Evo Morales was elected Bolivia’s first indigenous President. Four years later, extreme poverty has been reduced by 6%, illiteracy eradicated, a state pension scheme created, infant mortality reduced by 4%, eye operations given for free to those in need.

This success was paid for by the renationalisation of the gas industry and royalties on hydrocarbons. It is easy to dismiss that move as populism – but Bolivia has had three years of budget surpluses, has $8bn earned in cash reserves, and even won praise from the IMF, which applauded the government’s prudence in saving part of the windfall income from gas revenues. Economic growth was as high as 6.5% and even with the recession will be 2.8% next year according the IMF, no small achievement amongst Latin America counties.

From poverty to power

But perhaps the most important achievement of the last five years has been the redistribution of power. The Chiquitanos have now what for centuries what they could have not – their own mayors and senators, and with that power, land. After a ten-year campaign, the Chiquitanos were granted a ‘land of communal origin’ of 1m hectares. That story has been replicated across the country – according to Morales’ Party title has been given to 26 million hectares benefiting 98,454 families.

Morales and his party are not perfect. It is wise to wary when one man is given so much power, as he has been now the opposition has been so roundly trounced; of too much populism; of his uncritical relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and, inexcusably, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But this election is about more than victory for Morales or his Party. It is about an entire people rising from poverty to power after more than 500 years of oppression. As The Guardian said today,

“South Africa remembers Nelson Mandela, and eastern Europe the fall of the Berlin Wall. What a former herder of llamas has achieved in one of the world’s poorest nations may be no less momentous.”

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

[To read more about the transformation of power to Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, please see Duncan Green, Oxfam’s Head of Policy, fantastic book From Poverty to Power (Part 2: Politics & Power). Duncan’s blog is also essential reading too.]