Tories plot to divert aid away from world’s poorest

lChlPlPlBy Sam Rusthworth, LCID’s Membership & CLP Relations Officer – @SamJRushworth

 

There were gasps and raised eyebrows when Theresa May appointed Priti Patel as Minister for International Development in her new right-wing cabinet, but Patel’s first appearance before MPs last week suggests anyone concerned about global poverty is right to be worried.

In July, while commentators in the Westminster-Village were busy discussing how clever May had been to give senior cabinet jobs to hard-Brexiteers – including a bumbling foreign secretary with a track record for racial slurs and insulting world leaders, who she’d be able to sack by Christmas – at the Department for International Development a silent coup was underway. A new minister took charge who not long before had called for the whole department to be abolished. Shortly after, Ms Patel appointed Robert Oxley as her special advisor, whose previous roles include head of media at Vote Leave and campaign director for the TaxPayers’ Alliance while it was calling for government spending on aid to be cut.

So it came as no surprise when, in her comments to the parliamentary International Development Committee last week, as well as in an article she penned for the Daily Mail, itself a fervent campaigner against what it calls “the madness of aid”, Ms Patel repeated many of the well-worn cliches about aid money being wasted or stolen. The poorest should “work and trade their way out of poverty” not be “passive recipients of our support”, she declared, echoing popular misconceptions with a Nigel Faragian flare.

For most people, who do not spend their working lives unpicking the debates around aid and development, such arguments make sense, and believing them does not mean they do not care about global poverty. Images of famine, disease and suffering have been broadcast onto our TV screens for decades and things never seem to get any better. It is known that some African leaders who have presided over their countries for decades are worth millions of dollars while their people survive on less than $2 a day. Added to this are high profile examples of aid failures, such as £285 million Cameron’s government spent building an airport on St Helena which is unusable due to wind speeds. So it is easy for Priti Patel to conjure an image of a bloated UK Department for International Development dolling out money left, right and centre to corrupt regimes that steal or squander it – and understandable that so many believe it. Hopefully Ms Patel’s new staff at DfID will help her to see how inaccurate this image really is.

The truth about the UK’s international development spending is that, while imperfect, it has made substantial improvements in the lives of millions of people and helped many countries on the path to sustainable development. What’s more, many of the criticisms of aid are past their sell by date. Since Labour set up the Department for International Development in 1997, the UK has developed expertise in delivering aid effectiveness and become the world leader in global development. Contrary to popular myth, UK Aid money is not carelessly doled out but intelligently targeted and fully accounted for.

Just over forty percent of UK Aid money is entrusted to multilateral organisations such as the International Development Association, a financial institution administered by the World Bank, whose work has funded the immunization of over 300 million children, built over 100,000 km of paved roads and made micro-finance loans to over 120,000 small and medium enterprises. Other organizations trusted to spend UK aid on our behalf include The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; the World Food Program; and the United Nations Children’s Fund. Each of these organizations is transparent, accountable, and widely respected for making a real impact.

The remaining sixty percent of UK aid is given to fund specific projects and programs under bilateral arrangements with national governments or respected not-for-profit organisations and used to fund health, humanitarian aid, education, infrastructure, and water supply. Such bilateral aid also includes millions of pounds currently being spent on basic humanitarian assistance, food, shelter, relief packages, health care and emergency education to Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, as well humanitarian assistance and funding Red Cross activity in Syria. In 2014 £238 million was spent in Sierra Leone providing humanitarian relief to those affected by the Ebola crisis, including treatment and measures to prevent infections from spreading.

Again – and I stress this point – such aid money is not wistfully handed out to corrupt chiefs and princes. All over the world, expert DfID staff sit in foreign government ministries to advise and oversee development spending, while foreign governments are expected to sign performance contracts, with each tranche of aid being dependent on achieving results. Aid spent through non-government organisations with expertise in particular areas is likewise carefully monitored, independently evaluated and strictly accounted for.

I am not arguing that DfID gets everything right. When you set to work on some of the world’s messiest, most complex and seemingly intractable problems, mistakes are inevitable, but it is better to learn from them and continually improve aid effectiveness than cast aside two decades of experience and learning with a complete overhaul of aid spending for what are, let’s face it, unjustifiable and ideological reasons.

Priti Patel has even admitted that her plans for DfID are ideological, telling Daily Mail readers that her approach “will be built on some core Conservative principles. That the way to end poverty is wealth creation, not aid dependency…. …we need to empower the poorest to work and trade their way out of poverty”. Few could disagree with the rhetoric, but to suggest that miners in Bolivia, Coffee growers in Rwanda, or garment workers in Bangladesh are not already wearing out their lives in long hours hard work is insulting. Likewise, trade is nothing new. It has been fundamental to the West’s relationship with the developing world for centuries, only on terms that are grossly unbeneficial to the latter. It is worrying, given the evidence, that Ms Patel appears to be arguing that  replacing aid with more trade will miraculously end global poverty.

I am not saying that trade is unimportant. Export-led growth is essential for developing countries to acquire foreign exchange. A stronger entrepreneurial class in lower income countries would seek out ways to supply desired goods and services in a way government planners cannot. Foreign Direct Investment can provide jobs and transfer valuable learning. However, for the world’s poorest to take advantage of global trade they first need shelter, health care, sanitation, and education, while entrepreneurs need good infrastructure, security and access to finance. In other words, far from trapping people in “aid dependency”, the UK’s aid spending that Ms Patel is so quick to criticise is vital to empowering the poorest to work and trade their way out of poverty.

Perhaps Ms Patel would respond by questioning why governments of lower income countries are unable to fund infrastructure investment and public services themselves – why they are so ‘dependent’. The answer is partly that they struggle to extract tax because so much economic activity is informal and they lack the resources and expertise to capture it, but more so because so many foreign-owned multi-nationals shift profits to avoid their tax obligations in developing countries. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) last year published a study which showed that developing countries lose over $100 billion per year in revenues for this reason. The IMF put it at $200 million  – over seventeen times the UK’s total annual international development spend.

It is not yet clear quite what Priti Patel actually means by extolling the benefits of trade as though it is an alternative to aid while at the same time pledging to maintain the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, but reading between the lines it appears she intends to divert funds away from health and education for the world’s poorest and into the hands of businesses charged with ‘increasing trade’, possibly by out-sourcing more low paid, insecure jobs to developing countries.

Indeed – and this is the most iniquitous part of all – Patel has hinted at reversing the principle of Labour’s 2002 International Development Act that aid should target poverty reduction, and instead prioritise aid spending in countries with highest migration flows to the UK, potentially enabling British business to secure cheaper labour, just not on British soil.

This would be the ultimate application of Patel’s “core Conservative principles” to development aid – diverting tax payer’s money into the hands of private business and trusting it ‘trickles down’ to the poorest in the world.

Labour must defend its legacy on International Development and not allow the Tories to take us backwards. The Labour Campaign for International Development is where that fight starts.

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.

Reaching the 0.7% target is Labour’s legacy – but Osbornomics mean the aid budget is nearly £5.5 billion less than it should have been

LCID responds to Budget 2013

Labour’s legacy is realised today as Britain becomes the first G8 nation to meet the historic commitment to the 0.7% aid target.

The path to today started on 1st May 1997. It was a Labour government that set up DFID as an independent department, that secured the deal on debt relief, that trebled aid and set up the timetable to reach the 0.7% target by 2013.

Today all Labour Party members should be immensely proud of that record. Millions more children are in school, mothers give birth safely and people living with HIV have access to life-saving medicines because of decisions made by the Labour Government we got elected. Budget after budget, international summit after international summit, our Labour Government fought on the side of the poor and the marginalised and transformed their lives for the better – and established Britain as a leading force for social justice in the world.

But the relief that the 0.7% target has been met should not distract us from a painful truth –the last three years of Osbornomics mean the UK aid budget is nearly £5.5 billion less than it should have been.

Whilst the Conservatives’ misguided austerity drive is hurting hard working families up and down the country, this government had at least claimed that they would not be balancing the books on the back of the world’s poorest people.

But since they came to power in 2010, their choices in government mean the aid budget is nearly £5.5 billion less than it should have been:

  • £2.4 billion LESS…because they choose to freeze the aid budget in 2011 & 2012, instead of increasing to 0.7 with an even trajectory as Labour would have done
  • £1.17 billion LESS…from Autumn Statement 2011 downgrade (2011-2014) – because their mismanagement has hurt growth and reduced our Gross National Income from what was predicted in the 2010 CSR
  • £680 million LESS…from Autumn Statement 2012 downgrade (2012-2014)
  • £300 million LESS…from today’s GNI downgrade – because they still don’t have a Plan B
  • £500 million LESS…because  DFID under-spent in 2012-2013*

That money matters. It is money that could have been spent transforming and saving lives – on anti-malarial bed-nets, on teachers and nurses, on tackling hunger.

The Conservative’s austerity economics is not working, and it’s hurting even those they said they’d protect.

—-

*UPDATE – Our calculations now include the amount DFID underspent in 2012-2013 (p.70 of the 2013 Budget) – money that should have been spent on changing lives that instead went back into the treasurer

UPDATE – Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Ivan Lewis MP has put out the following statement:

“We welcome the Chancellor’s confirmation that the Government will this year, 2013, honour Labour’s commitment to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on Overseas Development Assistance. We now hope that the Government will put right its broken promise to enshrine this commitment in law. This historic milestone has only been possible because of Labour’s legacy of global leadership and commitment to eradicating global poverty. In Government Labour created the Department for International Development at Cabinet level, tripled the aid budget, wrote off debt and committed to the 0.7 target.

“However, it is a source of regret that the Tory-led Government’s failed economic plan has led to successive downgrading of growth forecasts which has cost the aid budget over £2 billion.”

David Morrissey says ‘Keep the Promise’

At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, the G8 countries made a promise: their aid budgets would be increased to 0.7% of their national income. Now, just 6 years later, there are already signs that some of those countries are failing to live up to their word. The Labour Party, with Harriet Harman at the helm as Shadow International Development Secretary, is demanding that the UK is not added to this list.

Speaking out today, actor David Morrissey has spoken out today, saying “there is much to be proud of, but there’s also much to be done. You can watch the video here

Visit the Keep the Promise website to find out more about Labour’s work, both in Government and in opposition, on increasing aid for the world’s poorest.

Harriet Harman to discuss the aid budget at LSE

On Thursday 3rd February, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary will be speaking at the London School of Economics. The talk will focus on the aid budget and how, and why, the UK should honour its pledge to increase aid to 0.7 of national income in a time of economic downturn.

The event is free and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Date: Thursday 3 February 2011
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House

 

Don’t forget that LCID is hosting an event in Parliament with Harriet Harman on 16 February. If you would like to come along to the LCID event, please RSVP to eilidh@lcid.org.uk

Harriet’s first speech outlines some critical areas for international development

Harriet Harman speaking at ActionAid

This article was originally posted on Left Foot Forward.

This morning, shadow international development secretary Harriet Harman gave a speech at ActionAid headquarters in London. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Ms Harman outlined six key priorities for the future of international development:

1. Realising the 0.7 per cent GNP pledge for aid;

2. Strengthening women’s rights around the world;

3. Support for remittances (money sent by people in developed countries to their family members in their country of origin);

4. Trade, tax and global growth;

5. The role of development in conflict prevention; and

6. Meeting the needs of developing countries in the fight against climate change.

It was that first point that Ms Harman concentrated on to make a direct call to the government:

“We cannot have succeeded in the struggle to have a new UN women’s agency only to discover that its governing board is men. That would be to contradict everything that it stands for.

“And the executive board should reach out beyond women in the UN missions and women in governments and include women in civil society organisations.”

In order to achieve this and to ensure the UK’s position as a world leader in women’s rights, Ms Harman decried the fact that among the Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial teams, there was not a single woman.

She said:

“We [Labour] are calling on the Government to make a ministerial appointment of a woman to carry on the work that Glenys Kinnock was doing when we were in government – a role you campaigned for. She led the UK’s work on tackling violence against women overseas and she did a great job.

“The first time such an appointment had been made in the UK. That was important leadership and the government must continue it.”

Well, the government must have been half listening as Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone has, just today, had ‘International Violence Against Women Champion’ added to her brief. Potentially stopping well short of what Ms Harman called for, there is little indication as yet as to what authority Ms Featherstone will have, nor what resources she will have at hand to make a difference to the lives of women across the world.

On remittances, Ms Harman drew on the experiences of many in her constituency, including a report she compiled in 2007:

“I call them the ‘hidden heroes of international development’. People living in my constituency who come from Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Ghana who are living here and working hard bringing up their families. Sometimes doing more than one job, like office cleaning.

“As well as paying their taxes and providing for their family, they also send money back to their home country… But I think we can and should do much more to support remittances.”

It was clear from the passion in her speech that Ms Harman looks determined to make a difference in her new role. Before the election, there was cross-party consensus on the enshrining of the 0.7 per cent law; it was now Labour’s role, she said, to press the coalition to ensure that this Bill is put before Parliament. In a time where the government seems to turn with the tide, Labour:

“… doesn’t want to risk this being the next promise abandoned.”

Left Foot Forward has previously written about a worrying lack of ambition, ideas or leadership emanating from the coalition on international development. With these six points, Harriet Harman has once again demonstrated that Labour is providing leadership on this issue – the focus on trade, tax and global growth is therefore particularly welcome, and LCID looks forward to hearing more on the shadow team’s proposals.

You can read ActionAid’s news from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women here.

By Tim Nicholls

Will long-term poverty reduction fail under the Tories?

There is an article running on the Guardian website analysing the contradiction at the heart of Conservative international development policy. It looks at the emerging schism between traditional Conservative values on aid and the ring-fenced budget; as well as between an increased focus on security and the alleviation of poverty.

LCID has run several articles on worries over the increased militarisation of aid as well as Conservative spending priorities. We will continue to scrutinise the Government’s actions.

It is well worth a read.