Watch: David Miliband talks to LCID about his vision for international development

A couple of weeks ago, you told us what you would like to ask the Labour Leadership candidates. We have been to them and asked them those questions and now you can see their answers.

First up is Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband, answering questions on, among others, financial transaction taxes, climate change and ring-fencing budgets.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

The coalition in development: a bluer shade of green

First posted on Progress Online as part of Steve’s regular column.


The Lib Dems have not fought the corner of international development – they are absent from DfID and big ideas such as the Robin Hood Tax have been dropped

When analysing the influence of the coalition partners on their joint programme for international development, we don’t need The Guardian’s brilliant analysis of the coalition colour schemes. Whereas the overall pea-green agreement was deemed in this analysis to be more Liberal than Conservative (based on hue, not policy), the realm of global poverty seems to be true blue territory.

Blue doesn’t mean all bad, but nervousness abounds. Whilst the coalition agreement did promise to bind into law the commitment to provide 0.7 per cent of GNI in aid, and included positive commitments like support for an Arms Trade Treaty, such legislation was conspicious by its absence in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech. This is despite an explicit manifesto commitment from the Conservatives that they would do so in the first session.

DfID do claim they still plan to do this in future legislative sessions, but by falling short at the first hurdle questions are bound to be raised, not just at the Conservatives, but at the coalition’s self-styled ‘good cops’ too.

Lib Dems have long evangelised about development, but by failing to demand a ministerial post – an honour shared with only DEFRA, Culture, Media and Sport, and the Wales Office – it does mean that there is no coalition partner keeping an eye on how aid money is counted and how it is spent.

Worries exist that departments are looking for expenditure to be redefined so that it counts towards the aid budget. Items such as looking after (and even repatriation of) refugees or providing university scholarships to UK institutions are all permissible under loose OECD regulations defining what can count as aid, even if they bear little resemblance to what most people would understand by the term. Creative accounting would help the coalition keep its promise on paper, but it wouldn’t be of much use to poor communities on the ground.

The Lib Dems not only lack any ministerial post, they have also failed to include any of their distinctive policies that could have added a more progressive edge to the coalition agreement. No Robin Hood Tax to stabilise the banks and fund poverty reduction, no clear commitment to crack down on tax havens to tackle corruption and prevent capital flight, and no promise that the funds needed to help countries adapt to climate change will not be taken from the aid budget.

These are potentially big concessions. Climate change funding could dwarf the aid budget if not ringfenced, capital flight can be more debilitating than aid shortfalls, and the Robin Hood Tax could have added a genuinely radical and innovative solution to heal financial fissures at home and abroad.

And nor will the Lib Dems be in a position to ensure the UK’s position in trade deals are fair and progressive, nor demand the new National Security Council does not lead to development policy serving foreign policy aims rather than poverty reduction, nor press for the global leadership role played by successive prime ministers and secretaries of state over the last 13 years.

Which begs the question, why did they not fight a bit harder for the cause of global poverty, and what’s the point of a good cop if you’re not in the interrogation room when the important questions are being asked?

 Steve Cockburn is an anti-poverty campaigner and member of Labour Campaign for International Development

Vote 2010: International development – A big choice election

First published on Left Foot Forward.

International development has not grabbed the headlines in this election – and that’s a great shame, because not only has it meant a worrying lack of scrutiny of the Conservative Party’s aid policies, but it has hidden from view one of Labour’s most progressive and positive achievements of the last 13 years. The Sky Leaders’ Debate on foreign policy contained no question on international development, despite the department for international development (£5.2bn) having a greater budget than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (£1.9bn).

The Tories’ unanswered questions

International-developmentThe questions surrounding the Conservatives’ policies on development, which we scrutinised back in January, remain unanswered. Cameron has made ring-fencing the aid budget exhibit A of his attempts to prove the Conservatives have shed their ‘nasty party’ image, but the devil is in the detail – not only in how much they will spend, but what on.

Despite their claims to match Labour and the Liberal Democrats on spending 0.7 per cent on aid by 2013, they have continually refused to guarantee that any aid for climate change adaptation would be additional, and not raided from the existing budget. This is a key demand of the NGOs who make up BOND (the main grouping of British international NGOs), and was raised with Conservative shadow minister Andrew Mitchell at their AGM in February.

Mitchell was on a panel with international development secretary Douglas Alexander and Michael Moore of the Lib Dems; download the transcript (well worth reading in full). Whilst Labour have committed to make 90 per cent of aid for climate change additional, and the Lib Dems 100 per cent, Mitchell would only say (p10):

“Until you see what progress is made of Copenhagen I think it’s very difficult to give a judgement of that.”

In response, the NGO director asking the question replied (p11):

I couldn’t vote for a Tory government because there is no commitment there. That 0.7 could be used for climate finance bills, the 150 billion warps the aid budget. Military spending in somewhere like Afghanistan, you know I think the Tories are talking about including some of the peacekeeping in the ODA budgets. I think that’s entirely wrong and untransparent…

In addition, eyebrows were raised when the Conservatives announced plans to create a ‘National Security Council’ with aid experts concerned this would divert aid money into the MoD whilst muddying the boundaries between military and humanitarian work. Save the Children told Left Foot Forward they are:

“Very concerned that the Conservatives’ security spokesperson…left open the possibility of significant aid funds being diverted into stabilisation units.”

Cameron has said the Conservatives would abide by OECD rules when matching the 0.7 per cent aid commitment, but this would not prevent ODA from being used in some military operations, and could go against the 2002 International Development Act which requires DfID it prove that its spending is likely to contribute to poverty reduction.

Then there are the unanswered questions about what the Conservatives would spend their money on. Since we reported on these concerns in January, leaders of the Make Poverty History campaign have been among the aid experts to criticise the Tories on their plans. In a letter to The Observer recently, they wrote:

“Access to basic services like health and education are basic rights. Conservative proposals to distribute vouchers for private schools in slums, to create an X-Factor-style competition to decide who gets aid, and a shift to private provision of healthcare, look like crude attempts to export failed ideological or populist policies, against the advice of leading practioners and aid charities.”

At the BOND AGM, Andrew Mitchell attempted to defend their ‘My Aid’ X-Factor style competition by claiming it was “a tiny amount of the budget” (p23). In fact, his green paper specifies that this fund would be £40m, almost as much as our entire annual aid to Zambia. How can he claim it is a “very small amount of money” while at the same time creating so much noise about cutting a £50m grant to China that is already being phased out?

Labour’s record

Labour’s trebling of overseas aid provides a stark contrast with the Conservatives, who halved the aid budget when they were last in power. OECD figures released in the midst of this election campaign on April 13 showed a 14.6 per cent real terms increase in UK aid, putting aid at an estimated 0.6 per cent of gross national income and on course to meet the 0.7 per cent target by 2013, despite the recession.

Labour was legislating on international development policy right up until the election was called, first with the tabling of the draft legislation to enshrine the UK’s commitment to 0.7 per cent in law, then with the announcement on International Women’s Day of a new role in Government leading on combating violence against women around the world, and then with the passing of two bills through ‘wash up’ – the first a bill on debt relief targeting Vulture Funds (despite Tory attempts to ruin it), and the second the passing of anti-bribery legislation which creates a new offence of bribing a foreign public official and a corporate offence for companies that fail to prevent bribery.

And the centrality of international development in Labour and Brown’s foreign policy were plain for all who were present at his recent ‘GB on the road’ event on ‘Britain’s place in the world’ – his entire speech addressed development. Watch it here:

In what is widely regarded as his most rousing speech of the election campaign, Brown said on Monday:

“Do you know what taught me more than any book ever taught me, it was a video. It was a video created for the Make Poverty History campaign.”

In addition to enshrining our 0.7 per cent aid spending in law and providing additional aid for climate change adaptation, Labour pledges in its manifesto to continue to lead global initiatives on access to health, education, food, water and sanitation and women’s rights. It is disappointing that there is no concrete commitment to a Financial Transaction Tax, as proposed by the Robin Hood Tax campaign and supported by Left Foot Forward, but in their submission to BOND’s joint demands (p9), Labour claim to have “already called on the IMF to investigate the feasibility of a range of mechanisms including a Financial Transaction Tax and global levies”, and that they “will remain committed to taking forward this agenda and working with international partners to find consensus”.

As many anti-poverty campaigners have long argued, trade can lift millions out of poverty. It is therefore encouraging to see Labour committed in its manifesto to “quadruple funding for fair and ethical trade”, and to “press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access”.

However, whilst Labour’s support for Fairtrade is commendable, little progress has been made on pushing the EU and WTO to make trade fair in the five years that have passed since Labour last committed to trade justice in its 2005 manifesto. If Labour is re-elected, more political capital must be spent on trade if there is to be any movement in the Doha ‘development round’.

Who is Africa’s preferred UK premier?

Closer inspection shows that consensus between the Conservatives and Labour on international development is a myth. This is a big choice election. As one African newspaper, Kenya’s Daily Nation, said:

“Britain is now set to choose who between the two should be their prime minister…It doesn’t speak well of the frivolity of today’s media-hyped politics that the guy with the dash may actually get voted in.

“But if Kenya and Africa were to join the voting, there would be no doubt whatsoever as to their preference.”

Mr Brown’s upbringing in a family of devout Scottish Presbyterians forms the basis of his moral compass. It is this compass that explains his consistent political identification with the underdog and the poor.

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.

Prime Minister criticises climate change skeptics as group to fund developing countries launched

Gordon Brown has criticised climate change sceptics as going “against the grain” of all the scientific evidence, as he launched a new group to raise the money promised by developed countries at Copenhagen.

The United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing will be co-chaired by the Prime Minister and Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Its purpose is to work towards one of the substantive promises from the Copenhagen talks: to raise $100 billion by 2020 for developing countries to use in the fight against climate change.

This aid is vital in the struggle against the effects of anthropogenic climate change, due to the disproportionate hardship that it will cause to the world’s poorest countries. These are well-documented and would cause great suffering in developing countries, the effects of which would rapidly spread across national borders.

According to the Prime Minister, the High Level Group will grapple with:

“the task that I believe is the most important we face – combating climate change by ensuring that the poorest countries have the finance necessary to do so… The task before us, while daunting, is a very important one to the future of the environment of the world.”

This aid must not be taken from other international development funding, the Prime Minister said and he is completely right. While international development and the fight against climate change are inextricably linked and must be tackled together, there are also distinct causes to both which require different action. Taking money from the aid budget to fight against climate change will leave the developing world ill equipped for both.

The UK, and especially the UK Government has led the way here. It is vital that that continues. Gordon Brown has made it clear that, under Labour, it will.

By Tim Nicholls

A comparison of Labour & Conservative positions on international development

With only months to go until the next election, international development has not been high on the political agenda. The Copenhagen summit and the issues raised there relating to international development have brought some much needed attention to the area. But this must be built upon and in particular the threat of a Tory government must be clearly outlined. Since 1997 the Labour government has put international development at the centre of its political focus, particularly with the creation of the Department for International Development (DFID), and has achieved considerable results: lifting 3 million people out of poverty every year, getting around 40 million more children into school around the world, as well as notable advances in combating diseases, with Polio on the verge of eradication.

Andrew Mitchell, Shadow International Development Secretary, has talked of any future Conservative government leaving international groups and programmes if they do not work. The Tory position on the EU testifies to this desire to isolate not only themselves but also Britain from the global stage. The Copenhagen summit illustrated not the weakness of international organisations but how little can be achieved without them. Britain alone, isolated from Europe and seeking a critical relationship with something so central to world affairs as the UN Development Programme will not be able to shape policy priorities on a global level.

Ed Miliband and Gordon Brown were at the centre of the Copenhagen summit, not just because of the Government’s promises on global warming, but largely through the reputation we have built on international development and the high regard DFID is held in around the world.  This can also be seen in the Government’s role in the design of the UN Millennium Development Goals, the G8 summit at Gleneagles and solidifying promises made during the Make Poverty History campaign. This position is something a Tory government with its isolated approach, centred around private initiative, would put at risk and in so doing would endanger the very lives it claims to be concerned about.

The Government does accept the role of the private sector but, importantly, only when it makes sense and is responsible. They do not, unlike the Tories, champion private initiative as a silver bullet to all the world’s problems. Where waste has happened it will be eradicated as Labour will continue to make every pound count to make a real difference.

Andrew Mitchell’s statements on Labour waste stand in stark contrast to the reality of Labour’s commitment to treble the amount of money spent on tracking down assets taken from developing countries and plans to increase transparency. We also, unlike Mr Mitchell, understand that private enterprise is not a solution to problems regarding waste and corruption. The Government will continue to combat issues, such as the inequality of importance given to developing countries at the World Bank, by shaping policy from the heart of the international community,  not by standing on the sidelines contributing, alone, well below our potential.

Climate change is an issue of utmost importance and urgency for the Labour party, who understand very clearly the terrible impact it is having on the poorest peoples in the world. Labour will continue to help these people, not only fight poverty but to help them adapt to climate change and stimulate their growth into green economic sectors. The Government is committed to taking life-saving action in areas where this can be hugely challenging in order to combat inequality and poverty. This is something the Tories, with plans for X-Factor style online votes to decide where aid should go, clearly do not appreciate and do not take seriously enough: something that John Hiliary, the executive of War on Want recognised when he described this proposal as ‘popular gimmickry’. (The Independent, 13 July 2009)

The Labour party, through DFID, recognises the difference that can be made to people through creating local schools and hospitals and training teachers and health care staff, opposed to a Tory vision of aid vouchers to offer ‘choice’ of provider to the poor. An Oxfam spokesman discredited this Conservative pledge aptly in pointing out that, in many poor countries there are no services available, full stop. There is a chronic shortage of teachers, nurses, doctors, infrastructure and materials. What is needed is aid money invested in helping poor countries build and maintain free public health and education systems.”

The Tories fundamentally misunderstand the intertwined problems of global warming and of international development. Diverting crucial funds from international development to climate change will have negative effects for both of these and stands in stark contrast to Labour’s promises to increase its commitments to the world in both of these areas.  The danger of a Tory government which seeks to cut aid spending and divert crucial funds from international development will be to put at risk people’s lives in the most need.

The Government’s policies have saved lives and its promises to increase this commitment will make an incredible difference around the world. This is compared with a Tory party supporting the idea of aid vouchers to subsidise and thereby encourage poor people around the world to enter into private education. As Kevin Watkins, Director of UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report on education, stated, “This is using vulnerable people to advance an ideologically loaded, market-based vision for education, which would exclude millions of kids from school. It completely overlooks the achievements of publicly financed, publicly provided education in countries such as Ethiopia and Tanzania.” (Observer 6/7/09)

Whether it is in the promise to quadruple commitment to fair and ethical trade, to support 50 million people via social assistance or to invest further in transport links in order to ‘join up’ Africa, DFID and the Labour Government are at the cutting edge of international development policy-making. The Government’s plans to not merely state its achievements but to commit further and deeper moving forward is a sign of the party’s central focus on international development. The short-sighted, ill-thought through Tory policies in this area based around cuts and gimmickry will cost lives and put at risk the platform this Government has created for the UK in shaping the agenda on international development.

by Daniel Sleat, Campaigns Intern for Andrew Judge, Labour PPC for Wimbledon

Letter to The Guardian in response to their lack of scrutiny of Tory aid plans


I was disappointed to see The Guardian give a platform to the Tories international development plans today without any attempt to scrutinise them. The Tories claim they will not cut the aid budget is undermined not only by their record under Thatcher, when it was halved, but also by their failure to guarantee that aid for climate change adaptation will be additional and not sucked from existing funds. If Mitchell says critics of overseas aid have no place in today’s Tory party, then why did 96% of prospective Tory MPs vote to cut aid in an online poll on Conservative Home?

What most concerns us, however, is not simply how much the Conservatives will or won’t spend on aid, but what they will spend it on. Their green paper would once again impose failed private sector solutions on health & education – just look at their plans (derided by NGOs & UNDP) to introduce ‘voucher’ schemes, and subsidise private schools. Mitchell hailed Bush – but much of that aid was tied to damaging economic & religious ideology, such as AIDS programmes that promoted abstinence over condom use and resulted in untold deaths.

Mitchell criticises DFID & Brown for having ‘lost their way’ but we beg to differ – Labour has focused increasingly on helping governments in developing countries to build their own universal public health & education systems. It is exactly this type of leadership by Labour over the last decade that has made DFID a world leader in development which now lifts 3 million people permanently out of poverty each year.

All the progress is at risk by the Conservatives’ policies. That the reason why we, a group of Labour activists, have recently set up Labour Campaign for International Development – to scrutinise the Tories and help keep a Labour government in power and lifting millions out of poverty.

Many thanks,

David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Review of Copenhagen

(First posted on Labour List)

As Douglas Alexander wrote on this site a couple of months ago, climate change is the defining test of our era. 300 million people are already affected, and if nothing is done to avert it the impact is predicted to be catastrophic for billions of people.

The test then, from a development perspective, was whether the Copenhagen talks would deliver a deal that committed the world to staying below the 2°C mark needed to avert disaster, and whether enough money would be committed to help developing countries already affected to adapt. That test was not met.

Yes, it is an important first step that all countries have accepted the science and committed to keeping the globe below 2°C – but as many have already pointed out, it is not legally binding. China is getting a lot of the blame for this, and whilst some of the criticisms are justified, it cannot excuse the lack of ambition shown by President Obama. China may have recently pulled ahead of the US on total emissions, and India’s may be rising, but as John Prescott points out, an American emits almost 4 times as much carbon as a Chinese person. Both China & India have hundreds of millions of people still living in poverty and need space to grow to lift them out of it. Like many of us, I gotta a crush on Obama, and I want to believe those who say this summit has come too soon for him (with his climate bill yet to go through Congress). But the world can’t wait. American Democrats need to get their act together fast.

On aid for adaptation the news was certainly better, with our Prime Minister showing great leadership on the world stage again. The Copenhagen Accord will provide 30 billion dollars over the next three years to kick start emission reduction measures and help the poorest countries adapt to the impacts of climate change. It also committed developed countries to provide 100 billion dollars a year by 2020, a figure first put forward by Gordon Brown in June of this year.

The concern, however, is whether the rest of the developed countries will keep to that promise. The money pledged is an aspiration and not a commitment, and whilst this Labour Government has kept the promises it made in the Make Poverty History campaign of 2005, the rest of the G8 have not. Whilst we have said that no more than 10% of our existing aid budget will be spent on climate change adaptation, the rest of the countries have made no such commitment. Furthermore, not all of the money will be public, which as Oxfam point out, mean there is no guarantee it will be spent in the right way. And as most NGOs point out, 100 billion dollars is not even half the money that will be needed.

As almost everyone has acknowledged, on both 2°C and aid for adaptation, there is a considerable way to go before the politics matches the science. After years of wrangling, this deal is better than no deal at all, but only if we starting building on it fast.

Before finishing, I think it is important to state that for all the disappointment at Copenhagen, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband – who went for days without sleep – deserve our utmost respect for Britain’s role in these talks. Some have acknowledged that, with Oxfam’s Campaigns & Policy Director Phil Bloomer saying “Lets give credit when credit is due:  Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband have worked tirelessly this week”. Franny Armstrong of the 10:10 Campaign said the same in more colourful language: “He (Ed) has been working f**king hard…The UK’s got a really really great reputation, and everyone is saying they couldn’t have done any more”.

That praise needs to get back to their supporters. Just as with the Make Poverty History campaign in 2005, Britain’s leadership has been the result of a constructive relationship, between a Labour Government showing leadership and a noisy civil society pushing us to act. It is in civil society’s interest that they acknowledge that as they need to show their supporters that their actions made a difference. Clearly, it is also in our interest – we stand to gain electorally as if supporters, inspired by the leadership a Labour Government has shown – come (back) into and vote and mobilise for the Labour Party.

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Initial Reaction to Copenhagen

Disappointment all around after the end of the Copenhagen climate change talks. More reaction to follow, but credit has to be given for the tireless work by Gordon Brown & Ed Miliband at these talks, if only Obama and others followed their lead.

We have no option but to carry on, and push on and on for a legally binding deal that will keep the world from warming more than 2oC. And we must make sure the aid money agreed for adaptation is new money, not just diverted from existing aid budgets.

Here are a few links you might find useful to reflect on Copenhagen on Saturday morning:

More reaction to follow on Monday, when we will be appearing on Labour List thanks to our friends at SERA. Now off to campaign on the doorstep with Young Labour as part of our Big Campaign Day – join the Facebook group to get involved!

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Douglas Alexander on Copenhagen – Progress Article

Article by Douglas Alexander on Copenhagen for Progress.

For the world’s poor an agreement in Copenhagen is not a window of opportunity but a window of necessity

Last weekend tens of thousands of progressives took to the streets in London, Glasgow and Belfast and this weekend the Global Day of Action showed again the strength of public feeling.

Today, I am in Copenhagen to meet with representatives from the developing world and European Development Ministers to give political momentum to the climate change talks. More than 180 countries are represented at the talks and the stakes, especially for the world’s poor, could not be higher.

Global poverty and dangerous climate change are issues of progressive concern that are fundamentally intertwined. Climate change is a defining political test of our era and getting the right global deal on carbon could be more vital to tackling global poverty than even the Gleneagles summit of 2005.

The question is not just ‘deal or no deal?’ – it is what kind of deal we can get. Our aim is a comprehensive and global agreement that is converted quickly to an internationally legally binding treaty. We want an agreement to put the world on a path to no more than two degrees of global warming.

That means at least halving global emissions by 2050 and securing the necessary financing to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries to adapt to those climatic changes that are now inevitable.

Drought in parts of Africa could reduce harvests by 50% by 2020. Glaciers could shrink by up to 60% and the rivers they feed could dry up, affecting the drinking water of around a sixth of the world’s population. Increases in global sea levels could cause severe flooding, with 94 million people across Asia facing the threat of losing their homes.

But climate change is not some future possibility for many of the world’s poorest people, it is a present reality. The Global Humanitarian Forum estimated recently that more than 300 million people are already seriously affected by climate change.

I have seen for myself the impact that climate change is having in the developing world. In Kenya I met a man who told me that the seasons he remembered as a child have gone. He told me that in the summer there is drought and in the winter there are floods. In Bangladesh I met families who have had their homes swept away by the rising waters. In Ethiopia, I met women who had been forced by drought to walk further each day to collect water until they were walking 5 hours simply to drink from a watering hole shared by people and animals alike.

It is a tragic reality that the people who have done least to contribute to climate change – the global poor – are being hardest hit. By 2035, the Himalayan glaciers, which provide water for up to 750 million people across Asia could disappear. By 2050, some 25 million more children may be malnourished. By 2080, an extra 400 million people could be exposed to malaria.

Progressives came together in 2005 to make poverty history but climate change now threatens to make poverty the future. That is why we have not only a self-interest, but also a moral responsibility to the developing world to work for a fair deal.

While the historical responsibilities of the west in relation to climate change are unarguable, it is in the emerging economies that we will see the greatest rise in emissions over the coming decades. So a climate deal must include both developed and developing countries.

Of central importance in getting developing countries to the table will be agreeing a consensus around the financial support that the developed world will provide for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change – and take low-carbon development paths. I believe that we can lead the way here as we did in 2005, ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles.

The Tories refuse to match the commitments Labour have made. I believe that it is not only right for developed countries to provide significant finance but it will be essential to securing a deal at Copenhagen. Given that climate change will affect all of us, it is in our own interests to help developing countries ‘leapfrog’ dirty technologies and find a low carbon path to growth.

Climate change is a defining challenge for our generation. It is not a future threat but a current crisis. Taking robust action flows naturally from our core progressive beliefs. It demands a progressive response because it is the world’s poorest people who are least responsible for the problem and it is they who have both been affected first, and will ultimately be affected worst. For many of the poorest people in the world, this final week of negotiations in Copenhagen is not a window of opportunity but a window of necessity.

by Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development

Join the Global Poverty Promise campaign to make 0.7% aid spending UK law.