Why this World Social Justice Day Labour must make the case for internationalism

by Libby Smith, LCID Executive member and COO at Coalition for Global Prosperity

With Covid, conflict and disaster splashed across our TV screens, it’s easy to forget the human beings behind the headlines, behind the statistics. It’s as easy to forget the huge progress being made. The capacity that an effective international development strategy has to transform lives around the world. It protects the rights of people to love who they love, it tackles climate change, and rebuilds communities torn apart by conflict. As we mark this year’s World Day of Social Justice, these are but a few of the reasons why Labour must remain a proud champion for development.

This is also integral to our values as a party, which is why I’m pleased that Preet Gill continues to do such incredible work as Shadow International Development Secretary. At a time when we face growing challenges both at home and abroad, the merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has already seen the loss of a permanent voice for development in the Cabinet. Keir Starmer, in his commitment to keeping a Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, has signalled that Labour will remain compassionate and outward-looking. It’s a move which demonstrates we are still an internationalist party at heart, and have not forgotten the plight of the world’s poorest.

In Labour, we have a strong and proud tradition of internationalism. A tradition of working with our neighbours to stand up for our shared values. It was a Labour government who helped to found the United Nations at the end of the second world war, to bring together nations, divided by years of war, to collectively deal with threats to international peace and security. From fighting international terrorism, to working towards a COVID-19 vaccine, it is clear that we achieve the best results and help the most people when we work together on the global challenges of our time.

Today, with the international system experiencing profound geopolitical change, a global pandemic and the UK looking to make its own place on the world stage, there is a heightened need for global cooperation. In this complex picture, it’s clear that trade, defence, diplomacy and development are increasingly intertwined. By helping some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, we in turn help to secure our own national interest by helping to protect us from new threats emerging. Take the Ebola crisis in 2014, the work of our world class development, healthcare and armed forces personnel helped bring the crisis under control and prevented the disease spreading close to our shores.

Not only does this work change lives, it also flies the flag for Britain worldwide, helping to foster deeper ties with our global partners. This is especially important now as we deal with the fallout of COVID-19, which has been a stark reminder of the need to work together to tackle global challenges. We know the virus doesn’t respect country borders, which means we are only as strong as our weakest health system. It is a global crisis that requires global, coordinated action, of which the aid budget is key.

An independent aid budget has long been an invaluable soft power asset, helping to put the UK at the top diplomatic table. And whether you voted for or against Brexit, we must use this as an opportunity to create a strong and outward looking Britain. Today, we have a unique chance to decide what kind of country we want to be – one that makes a positive difference for those in need, one that stands up against tyrants and oppressors, and one that creates a fairer, safer and more prosperous future for all or one that retreats. The UK’s aid budget will be central to this vision.

We can be proud of what Labour achieved in setting up the Department for International Development and the party’s refusal to balance the books on the backs of the world’s poorest. Right now the world is crying out for the same values which led to its creation – of compassion and internationalism. Values echoed by Biden in his inauguration speech. So let’s show the world what we stand for. We can do this by continuing to be a strong voice for the world’s poorest in Parliament, and by supporting a strong Shadow International Development team to hold the Government to account.

Urge your MP to support the Genocide amendment next Tuesday!

Last week, in the biggest back-bench rebellion in recent times, thirty-four Conservative MPs broke the whip on a cross-party amendment to the trade bill, which lost by only 11 votes. The amendment comes back to the Commons next week, and your MP is one a few who are identified as key to which way the final vote will fall.

The amendment gives the right to an individual or group whose people are targeted by genocide to appeal to the UK High Courts to formally determine that genocide is occurring, whereon parliament will vote to revoke any trade agreements with the state found to be perpetrating genocide. Formally recognising that a genocide is occurring would also require the UK to meet its obligations under the Genocide Conventions and Responsibility to Protect.

The world’s historic failures to prevent genocide is closely linked to our failure to determine that genocide is occurring in a timely manner. In the last three decades, Bosnia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Darfur, Iraq, Myanmar, Rwanda and Syria to name but some, have all experienced large-scale organised killing of civilians, much of which was preventable. Indeed, since 1945 genocides and politicides around the world have claimed the lives of more than 80 million victims. Many multiples of this number have also suffered torture, sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, displacement, forced starvation and disease, which always accompany such crimes.

The government is putting a lot of pressure on its MPs to vote against the amendment when it returns to the house next week, so it is vital we also apply people pressure and call upon our MPs to vote with their consciences and not with the whip.

You can help – please write to your MP today.

We have drafted a letter below which you can adapt and send to your MP. It includes rebuttals to some of the weak arguments the government is using against the amendment.

You can send your MP an email by clicking here.

Thank you, we really appreciate the support!

Draft Letter:

Dear (insert MP name),

Please vote to support the revised anti-genocide amendment to the Trade Bill.

Since 1945 genocides and politicides around the world have claimed the lives of more than 80 million victims. Many multiples of this number have also suffered torture, sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, displacement, forced starvation and disease, which always accompany such crimes. Much of this was preventable, and one of the biggest barriers to preventative action has been a failure of countries like the UK to formally determine that genocide was occurring.

Please note that the government’s case that the courts should not have power to revoke trade deals agreed by a sovereign parliament has been listened to, and after a very narrow defeat in the House of Commons, the amendment has been revised to make explicit that action on trade deals (after a court judgment) is a matter for Parliament.

I am aware that the government claims to be offering a concession that a Parliamentary Select Committee may raise concerns of genocide with the Government and request a response, but, as I am sure you are aware, this is not a compromise at all because (a) the power to do this already exists; (b) where this option has been used, notably in respect of the genocide against the Yazidis, the Government has ignored select committee requests; (c) it has been longstanding Government policy that genocide determination is not a political decision, but a judicial one

Indeed, Boris Johnson himself said on 20 January 2021 that, “the attribution of genocide is a matter for judicial decision”. Therefore, if the UK does not wish to offer trade deals with genocidal states, the courts must have a role in establishing whether or not genocide has, in fact, occurred. That is UK policy.

Noting the government’s policy that only a court may rule on genocide, Rahima Mahmut, UK Director of the World Uyghur Congress said of this amendment: “UK policy is clear: the government won’t act unless the court has ruled genocide. So, we Uyghurs need our day in court, and we need it now. Please do not deny us this opportunity.”

Where international courts are barred from making determinations of genocide, only UK courts are available venues. In the case of the Uyghur, knowing that the UN route to genocide recognition is closed owing to China’s veto, the UK government cannot claim to be serious about preventing genocide if it refuses an opportunity to allow UK courts to examine the evidence and rule whether or not genocide is occurring.

Our UK courts are the finest in the world and they already have the competency to make a prelimary determination as set out in the amendment.

Please support this amendment when it comes before the House of Commons.

Sincerely,

Pass a motion in your CLP in support of UK Aid, and in solidarity with the Uyghur people

LCID has two campaigns – in defence of UK aid, and for the protection people from mass atrocities. To raise awareness of both these issues amongst Labour members, and to help ensure Labour puts forward strong policies on them, we would welcome your support in passing two CLP motions.

The first, on UK Aid, calls on the Party to continue to support reinstating DFID and spending 0.7% of GNI on aid when we are next in government.

The second, which we have drafted with our friends at the Labour Campaign for Human Rights, calls on Labour to show solidarity with the Uyghur peoples against their persecution by the Chinese State. 

You can submit CLP motions directly to your CLP Secretary (their email is on your membership card) if you have an all-member structure or LCID is affiliated to your CLP, or via your branch if you have a delegate structure.

Below are the two motions:

A) Independence of DfID and cuts to UK aid budget

This branch/CLP notes:  

1. The government’s decision to merge the Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to form the Department for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs.

2. The cut to the aid budget by 5 billion, from the 0.7% to 0.5% of GNI.

This branch/CLP believes: 

3. That these decisions put UK aid in jeopardy. When development agencies sit under the Foreign Office, its focus gets subverted. This will impact the UK’s ability to reduce global poverty. 

4. That having the Secretary of State for International Development at the Cabinet table is essential, because it is means that development issues are discussed at the highest levels of government. When the Cabinet discusses the UK’s approach to current and future global crises it is the job of the DfID Secretary of State to push for development issues to be part of the agenda.

5. That the timing of the government’s merger and cut to the aid budget is reckless. The global crisis caused by COVID-19 will be exacerbated in the world’s poorest countries without the support and expertise that DfID can provide. 

6. That the government decisions will reduce the UK’s standing in the world. The UK is a global leader in international development and by singling a retreat into narrow self-interest undermines the emergence of a “Global Britain” that the government claim to support. This will directly impact the UK’s ‘soft power’ capabilities.

This branch/CLP welcomes:

7. Keir Starmer’s support to reinstate DfID and commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid.

8. The retention of a Shadow Secretary of State for International Development as a position in the Shadow Cabinet.

This branch/CLP resolves: 

9. That the Labour Party commits to reinstate DfID and the 0.7% aid commitment on day 1 of a Labour Government

10. That the Labour Party continues to support the retention of the International Development Committee (IDC) to ensure transparency and accountability for aid spending.  

11. The aid spending target is enshrined in law. In the event this requires a vote in parliament we urge the Parliamentary Labour Party to vote against it.

12. To invite a speaker from LCID’s Speakers Network to attend a CLP meeting to discuss LCID’s campaign for the protection of international development.

B) Solidarity with the Uyghur peoples

This branch/ CLP notes:  

1. The persecution of the Uyghur peoples by the Chinese State.

This branch/CLP believes: 

2. The government of China is failing to uphold its responsibility to protect and is perpetrating crimes against humanity.

3. That under the guise of combatting religious extremism and terrorism the Chinese state is carrying out mass persecution of the Uyghur peoples and other Muslim minorities in NW China. This includes:

  • The internment of more than a million Uyghurs and other minorities in concentration camps, where torture, abuse, forced sterilisation, and systematic gang rape are reported.
  • The forced labour in factories and cotton fields supplying major global brands.
  • Extreme and intrusive surveillance in operation in Xinjiang with the assistance of big tech companies.
  • Tyrannical restrictions on linguistic, religious and cultural freedom including the destruction of thousands of mosques.
  • The mass separation of children from their parents.

4. The Chinese State is in breach of International law:

  • This includes customary international law, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and acts prohibited under Article II of the Genocide Convention.

This branch/ CLP resolves: 

5. To uphold the motion passed at the 2019 Labour conference that committed our party to “stand proudly and unequivocally with the Uyghur people against oppression and persecution by the Chinese State” and “support and mobilise for protests and demonstrations in support”.

6. To push Labour, our campaign organisations and our unions into ongoing action on this issue, such as calling for the following:

  • Urge China to grant unfettered access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Support the UK Uyghur Tribunal and give it official backing.
  • Apply Magnitsky-style sanctions on the CCP officials involved in human rights abuses in Xingjiang.
  • Introduce a Human Rights Due Diligence law on UK companies requiring them to investigate their value chains to identify, prevent and mitigate human rights abuses.
  • Work with Central Asian and other Muslim majority countries, such as Turkey, to ensure protection to Uyghur refugees.

7. To invite a Uyghur activist from LCID’s Speakers Network to a future CLP meeting of this local party.

Oppose the cut to UK aid – write to your MP!

Setting the path to reaching 0.7%, and securing the votes that enshrined that target in law, is one of Labour’s greatest achievements and is helping transform the lives of millions of people every year. Yet the Tories want to cut our aid to 0.5%, just at the time when aid is needed to prevent the further spread of COVID and protect people’s jobs and livelihoods.

Because the 0.7% target is protected by law – this Tory government will need to win a vote in Parliament before they can make this cut. We have a chance to stop them – if we can convince enough Tory MPs to rebel.

You can help by writing a letter to them as their constituent to persuade them to do the right thing. Suggested talking points are below, but do remember that a personalised message will have more impact.

Click here to email your MP!

Suggested talking points:

  • 940,000 fewer children a year will be supported to gain a decent education.
  • 7.6 million fewer women and girls a year will be reached with modern methods of family planning.
  • 2.0 million fewer people a year will be reached with humanitarian assistance.
  • 5.6 million fewer children a year will be immunised and 105,000 lives a year will not be saved.
  • 3.8 million fewer people a year will be supported to gain access to clean water and/or better sanitation.

Open Labour and LCID Report on A Progressive Foreign Policy

LCID is pleased to be supporting Open Labour to publish ‘A Progressive Foreign Policy For New Times,’ a new pamphlet written by Dr Harry Pitts and Professor Paul Thompson.

We were particularly grateful to have been joined at the launch of the report last night by Oscar nominated and Emmy and BAFTA award winning journalist Waad Al-Kateab, and Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy.

It really is a privilege for us at LCID to be able to work with Waad and her colleagues at the Syrian British Council to support their demands for a free and democratic Syria. Waad once said ‘I don’t want your tears, I want action’ and that’s the challenge for us all – how can we ensure that Britain and the international community acts to protect civilians from mass atrocities in Syria and across the world?

It was a source of great shame that – as this paper highlights – too often Labour’s approach to Syria and other countries over the last few years was driven by an outdated, rigid dogma, instead of being focused on what Syrians themselves wanted to see. It is welcome that we are now able to move forward in a positive way under Lisa, Wayne David and Anna McMorrin, and we’re grateful to them for meeting with the Syrian British Council the other week, and for the work they are doing to hold the Government to account on Syria.

On the report specifically, LCID particularly welcomes the call for Labour’s foreign policy going forward to build on the legacy of Robin Cook and Jo Cox.

Jo passionately believed that Britain and international community has a responsibility to protect civilians from mass atrocities – and that in responding to any conflict, we should use all the tools at our disposal to protect people – including diplomatic means; sanctions; and, in the most extreme cases, military operations such as No Fly Zones or enforcing safe havens. And she also believed it was vitally important that post-conflict, people are properly supported to rebuild their country.

Jo, like Robin Cook, was opposed to the Iraq war, and the lessons of Iraq will be important considerations in choosing the right approach to protect civilians in a particular conflict – but so too must be the lessons of Bosnia, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Syria.

Most of all, it is absolutely essential that in any discussions about Labour’s foreign policy going forward we listen to what people actually affected by these conflicts have to say. That is why it was so important to have Waad with us at the launch last night, and why LCID has launched a speakers network with speakers from the Syrian British Council, the World Uyghur Congress, and activists from Kosovo, Yemen, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Afghanistan to raise awareness in the Party about these issues. We would welcome the opportunity to speak to your local CLP so please do request a speaker here.

You can download the report here and watch a video of the launch event above. More information on LCID’s policies on R2P can be found here. To find out more about Waad and watch her film, please go to forsamafilm.com.

Invitation: Join Lisa Nandy and BAFTA award winning journalist Waad Al-Kateab for the launch of a new paper on an ethical foreign policy

Invitation: LCID and Open Labour Pamphlet Launch ‘A progressive foreign policy for new times’

LCID is pleased to be supporting Open Labour to launch a new pamphlet written by Dr Harry Pitts and Professor Paul Thompson which argues that Labour should put forward a new foreign policy inspired by two great figures of our movement – Robin Cook and Jo Cox. 

Joining us for the launch will be Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy, and Oscar nominated and Emmy and BAFTA award winning journalist Waad Al-Kateab. Waad made the incredible documentary For Sama, is a board member of the Syrian British Council and made the BBC list of 100 women and Time magazine ‘s 100 Most Influential People in 2020.

It will be place next Thursday 10th December at 7pmPlease register here to get the Zoom link

As you know, LCID campaigns in support of the Responsibility to Protect, one of our two main campaigns alongside defending aid and development. We are pleased to see this paper back the approach to civilian protection that Jo Cox advocated forwhich forms the basis of our advocacy.

The full speaking link up is below:

  • Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow Foreign Secretary
  • Waad Al-Kateab, Director of For Sama and board member of the Syrian British Council
  • Prof Paul Thompson, and Dr Harry Pitts, report authors
  • Prof Mary Kaldor, Director of the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit, LSE, and foreword author
  • Alex Sobel MP, Open Labour Co-Founder, and foreword author
  • and me!

Hope you can make it. And a reminder again that we are always keen to come and speak at your CLP on these issues. Our network of speakers includes activists from the Syrian British Council, Kosovo, Rwanda, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the World Uyghur Congress – please fill in the form here and we will be in touch to arrange for a speaker to speak at one of your meetings.

LCID Statement on Tory Aid Cuts

This is another truly shameful day for this government. This is money that should be spent immunising children to stop them dying of preventable causes, educating them so they can have a decent future and escape poverty, or stopping women from dying in childbirth.

Between now and the next budget, it’s a cut that could have immunised enough kids to save 100,000 lives, and 350,000 lives between 2021-22.

Is this what we have become as a country? Walking away from our responsibilities to the world? Breaking our promises? Pulling up the drawbridge?

Yes there are challenges at home, which is why we have always opposed austerity. Yes, the deficit needs to be paid down but we can do so gradually thanks to extremely low interest rates. In any case, this cut represents around 2% of the deficit – it will hardly make a dent whilst causing tremendous harm. This is a needless cut which will cause needless suffering.

If this cut requires a change to the 0.7% aid law, we urge all MPs to vote against it.

Setting the path to reaching 0.7%, and securing the votes that enshrined that target in law, is one of Labour’s greatest achievements. Only with a Labour government again can we ensure Britain becomes a force for good again in the world.

Write to your MP to oppose scrapping the International Development Select Committee

We’ve just heard that the vote on whether to keep or scrap the International Development Select Committee – the cross-party Parliamentary watchdog that scrutinises how the government spends our aid – will take place this or next week.

We need to keep that aid watchdog in order to hold the Tories to account for UK aid. Without the accountability and transparency that the watchdog helps ensure, there is a huge risk the Tories will divert money towards dodgy deals to secure favourable trade terms or arms deals – instead of keeping our aid focused on fighting poverty as it should be.

As this will be a ‘free vote’ we have a strong chance of winning this vote – but only if enough MPs of all parties vote for it!

It is important to ensure your MP knows the vote is happening, and why it’s vital they attend to vote in favour of it. 

That’s where you come in. We need you to write to your MP to urge them to vote in favour of keeping the aid watchdog.

Copy and paste the template letter below, and go to this link to send your letter.

Thank you!


Dear MP,

I am writing to you as a constituent to express my deep concern that the International Development Select Committee (IDC) is a risk of being lost, and to urge you to vote in favour of keeping the aid watchdog

The International Development Committee is integral to holding the government to account on development, and ensuring that UK aid is spent on poverty reduction. 

Since the merger of the Department for International Development with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the future of the International Development Committee — which is responsible for scrutiny of UK aid and Official Development Assistance expenditure, including by the FCDO — has been at risk of being abolished.

There will be a ‘free vote’ on keeping the IDC within the new few weeks. I appreciate you will be busier than ever trying to ensure that your constituents are kept safe and supported during this COVID lockdown. However I would be extremely grateful if you could find the time to vote in favour of keeping the committee when the vote takes place.

Yours sincerely,

Solidarity against Antisemitism

Solidarity, today and always, with our fellow Socialist Society the Jewish Labour Movement and our Jewish brothers and sisters who have experienced antisemitism in the past few years.

Antisemitism is a disease that must be rooted out of our Party.

With the launch of today’s report we pledge to stand with you to fight for the culture change our movement so desperately needs.

We encourage our supporters to show solidarity too by joining the Jewish Labour movement as an ally.

Request one of our speakers for your CLP!

The Labour Campaign for International Development is keen to speak at your local CLP meeting about international development and humanitarian issues.

LCID is a socialist society affiliated to the Labour Party, and affiliated to a number of CLPs around the UK as well. Our two main campaigns are:
1. Defending the UK’s aid – to retain the 0.7% aid target and an independent DFID
2. The Responsibility to Protect – support Jo Cox’s call for Britain to take a comprehensive approach to protecting civilians caught up in conflict.

We have a brilliant range of speakers able to come and give a short talk and have a discussion with you. Speakers involved include aid and international development experts, including on universal healthcare, and refugees and survivors from countries including Rwanda, Syria, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and the World Uyghur Congress, with speakers from Yemen soon to join.

Please fill in the form here and we will be in touch to arrange for a speaker to speak at one of your meetings.