Steve Cockburn on the human right to water

There’s a very interesting blog by LCID’s Steve Cockburn over on the Progress site about the Tories pulling out of the process to recognise the right to water.

In July the UK abstained on a UN resolution tabled by the president of Bolivia recognising access to water and sanitation as a human right, due to its status as the second biggest cause of under-five deaths in the world. Then just a month ago, Her Majesty’s government ‘disassociated itself from a Human Rights Council resolution that made this legally binding’ – the diplomatic equivalent of picking up your football and storming home.

This puts us in some unfortunate company, as one of only 12 countries who fail to recognise the right. And Steve makes the importance of the issue clear:

Lack of access to water and sanitation is a perfect example. Those who suffer most are also the most powerless – the girls who drop out of school because of poor sanitation facilities, the rural women kept out of work because they must walk hours every day for water, the women in slums who risk sexual assault when travelling to distant toilets every night, the 1.5 million children under-5 who die of diarrhoeal diseases every year.Because they lack power, they are often ignored. National policies can be blind to the poorest communities, donor funding weakest in the poorest countries, and water sources threatened by resource-hungry industries paying scant regard to the needs of local populations.

You can read the blog post in its entirety over at Progress.

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.

An Obama blockbuster, a Remastered Brown, and a Clegg B-Movie

First published on Left Foot Forward, the UK’s top left wing blog, where LCID is a regular contributor.

It is difficult to get excited about a United Nations summit on the Millennium Development Goals. Difficult when we know, before a single delegate set foot off the plane in New York, that the goals are massively off-track. Difficult when we know that, aside from the UK, the G8 is not meeting its commitments, and indeed dropped them altogether earlier this year.

Difficult when the only goal likely to be met – Goal 1 to halve extreme poverty – will be met on the back of China’s own development, not because of any help from, and often despite, the West. And difficult when the new promises look like old money repackaged, with the health strategy announced by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is – according to Oxfam – only 23 per cent of what is needed to reach the three goals on health, women and children by 2015.

That said, there were undoubtedly positives to take from the summit. The calls by President Sarkozy of France and Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero for a tax on the financial sector to raise money for development were a ray of hope to Robin Hood Tax campaigners, who called on Germany and the UK to also back it.

President-Obama-UN-speech

Then there was President Obama’s barnstorming speech outlining the US’s new Global Development Strategy with a focus on sustainable economic growth, good governance, and mutual accountability on the part of wealthy and developing nations alike. After so much criticism of the US – the ‘Washington Consensus’ of neo-liberal ecnomics being forced on developing countries – this change in course by the US is truly welcome.

You can read the new strategy in full here, and for fans of Obama’s mastery of the spoken word it’s well worth a watch. Here are some of the best excerpts:

Put simply, the United States is changing the way we do business… For too long, we’ve measured our efforts by the dollars we spent and the food and medicines we delivered. But aid alone is not development… Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.

“So we will seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people… Because the days when your development was dictated in foreign capitals must come to an end.”

He also highlighted the US’s new oil and mining transparency law – requiring all extractive industries registered in the US to reveal all the payments they make to governments around the world – and urged the G20 to “put corruption on its agenda and make it harder for corrupt officials to steal from their people and stifle their development”.

Gordon Brown was also in attendance in his new role as co-convener of the Global Campaign for Education, to “press, inspire and push” world leaders to take action, as he has done at so many summits in the past. The former prime minister told the BBC of his “anger” at the failure of rich nations to honour pledges to combat global poverty, and ensure every child has access to primary education.

He also told the Financial Times:

“As well as boosting jobs and gross domestic product, the evidence is clear that education combats malnutrition, maternal and infant mortality and HIV/Aids.”

In addition, Mr Brown attended the UN’s Broadband Commission, as part of the work he is developing with the founder of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, to explore how broadband internet can transform development in Africa. The Commission is comprised of leaders such as Rwanda’s President Paul Kagme, leading businessmen such as Carlos Slim Helu, Mo Ibrahim (who is behind much of the roll out of mobile phones in Africa) and Richard Branson, economists including Jeffrey Sachs and experts in IT.

The commission released a report outlining the potential for broadband for development and to meet the MDGs, from its ability to generate jobs and drive economic growth, to pro-poor benefits such as helping farmers access market information and thus get a better price for their crop, to educational and health advantages as well. The Guardian criticism of the Commission – “when so many essential things are lacking” – misses the point; as Mr Brown outlined in his speech to the African Union in Uganda, support for broadband should be part of a new strategy for pro-growth, pro-infrastructure aid that is additional to aid to provide essential services.

Sarah Brown was also here on behalf of her White Ribbon Alliance organisation campaigning for maternal health. In addition to her advocacy at the summit, Mrs Brown also co-hosted a ‘Women: Inspiration and Enterprise’ symposium with Arianna Huffington and Donna Karan, where women from film, fashion, business and philanthropy will meet young women from the US, Africa and Asia to raise money and awareness for the campaign.

She told The Guardian:

“Women are at the heart of every family, every nation. It is mostly mothers who make sure children are loved, fed, vaccinated, educated. You just can’t build healthy, peaceful, prosperous societies without making life better for girls and women.”

The leadership of Team Brown of this, and at summits past, contrasts sharply with deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who only attended for one day. We have previously reported our concerns that the Coalition would arrive lacking ambition, and sadly this proved to be the case. Of course, the coalition’s pledge to tackle malaria is welcome, but it is nothing new. It appears to be merely a re-announcement of longstanding Conservative policy announced three-years ago in a speech by George Osbourne in Uganda (read it here on the Conservative Party’s own website).

There were also question marks over where the money to pay for it would come from. As shadow international development Douglas Alexander told Left Foot Forward:

“[Clegg is] yet to explain how this input pledge of £500 million a year will not result in a diversion of funds from the fight against other diseases like HIV/AIDS, or from helping to make healthcare free for the poorest people in countries like Sierra Leone.”

Could the Government be about to destroy the International Development Act?

By Margaret Dantas Araujo

Some of the UK’s biggest charities, Oxfam, CAFOD, and Save the Children, have publically raised concerns about the growing threat of securitisation of the aid budget. The use of aid for political reasons would be in direct contravention of the International Development Act 2002.  The act,  explicitly states,

(1)The Secretary of State may provide any person or body with development assistance if he is satisfied that the provision of the assistance is likely to contribute to a reduction in poverty.
(2)In this Act “development assistance” means assistance provided for the purpose of—
(a)furthering sustainable development in one or more countries outside the United Kingdom, or
(b)improving the welfare of the population of one or more such countries.
(3)For the purposes of subsection (2)(a) “sustainable development” includes any development that is, in the opinion of the Secretary of State, prudent having regard to the likelihood of its generating lasting benefits for the population of the country or countries in relation to which it is provided.

On DFID’s website an explanation is provided of the act which states, “The 2002 Act is drafted in such a way that a policy such as “tied aid” (and the Aid and Trade Provision), in which assistance is given for the purpose of promoting UK trade or for other commercial or political reasons, would now be challengeable in the courts.”

The International Development Act was drafted following consultations with the NGO community.  Now fears are being raised by the NGO community that the government is freezing them out of crucial decisions.   In a public letter to the Guardian they stated,

“Last week the secretary of state, Andrew Mitchell, gave assurances that there would be comprehensive consultation about the future direction of development policy. These documents seem to suggest to some extent this direction has already been set. We urge him to immediately clarify the purpose of these documents and reassure the public that aid will continue to be used to reduce poverty where the needs are greatest. Reducing global poverty will contribute more to long-term stability than focusing on short-term security interests.”

DfID has a stellar international reputation and brings the UK considerable soft power.  Moving away from the International Development Act would have serious repercussions on how the UK is viewed by international community..  There is increasing pressure on Andrew Mitchell and the Tory government to divulge publically their plans for DfID and to open discussion up to the wider public and NGO community.

Steve Cockburn asks: value for money – for who?

Writing for Progressonline, Steve Cockburn (LCID executive member), questions whether the recent calls from the Government to get value for money is truthfully aimed at furthering the interests of British foreign policy, rather than alleviating poverty.

Some recent Government decisions back up Steve’s argument:

One recent warning sign is the decision to spend what could amount to around £200 million of aid money on an airport on the British Overseas Territory of St Helena, a project supported by Lord Ashcroft and slammed by Denis MacShane as “a scandal of Pergau Dam proportions”.

As we at LCID have asked before, Steve asks:

Might this be the first big example of the new government using the aid budget as a cross-departmental subsidy, to cover things you might imagine should really come from elsewhere?

The question is a particularly valid one, and one that has not yet received a proper answer from the Government. You can read the full text of Steve’s article here.

Aid is a marathon not a sprint

Douglas Alexander writes in The Guardian today that ‘the coalition has failed to commit fully to international aid, yet it is a policy that remains morally right and in our common interest.’

“Instead of creating straw men to burn ceremoniously in an ill-conceived strategy to placate sceptics on the right of his party, Andrew Mitchell would do better to highlight and build upon what was working well and set out a positive, forward agenda – starting with the upcoming New York summit.

The best way to build common ground is to build on higher ground. That is the lesson of the real progress we have made over these last five years since Gleneagles.”

Cameron fails to fight for world’s poor as G8 drops $50bn aid pledge

First posted on Left Foot Forward.

When Harriet Harman asked David Cameron last week to give due credit to Gordon Brown for his work on development, he replied: “I’d be delighted to, if he could be bothered to turn up to this House.” Apart from being disrespectful to a former prime minister and Chancellor respected the world over for his achievements in the fight against global poverty, the real question many in the development community will rightly be asking following the G8 and G20 summits is: did Mr Cameron bother to turn up?

Shanty-townAt this year’s G8 summit, the historic 2005 Gleneagles agreements were dropped from the final communiqué. Save the Children describe it simply as “shameful”, while Oxfam said:

“The only promise that counts is the Gleneagles one to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010 and that is the one they have abandoned.”

The prime minister came to the summits “with a clear commitment to make sure these summits deliver for people. Too often, these international meetings fail to live up to the hype and the promises made” – yet according to The Guardian, Downing Street admitted that he had simply “not fought” for the commitments to be included during the negotiations.

The G8 did muster some action on maternal mortality and child health, urgently needed in a world where approximately 350,000 mothers die from complications during child birth and 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday, but the results were utterly inadequate; “lower than our lowest expectations” is how Oxfam described the initiative.

Around 40 per cent of the promised aid increase made at Gleneagles has not been delivered. The 60 per cent that has been spent has made a huge difference, according to a recent DATA report – 200 million bednets to tackle malaria;vaccines and immunisation saving the lives of 5.4m children; 42m more children in school…

But that $20 billion (£13.2bn) shortfall is literally costing lives. True, the recession has meant that budgets are tightening across the whole of the G8, but the Gleneagles summit took place in difficult times too as the horrific events of 7/7 unfolded. Through the leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and a campaign by millions of people around the world, it still achieved that $50bn agreement and debt relief.

In a speech to Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID) last week, shadow international development secretary Douglas Alexander said the prime minister’s  silence “has been deafening”.

He added:

“Britain should be both leading by example and putting in the hard graft… So can David Cameron tell us how many phone calls and meetings he actually held with other world leaders about maintaining the Gleneagles promises?

“Or did he just give up?”

He also criticised the Government for lacking a clear forward agenda ahead of the UN summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September. In the Commons debate on global poverty last Thursday Mr Alexander remarked:

“What concerns me most about this Government’s approach to global poverty, even in these earliest weeks, are the limitations of the vision, and, indeed, of ambition, that have so far been revealed…

“What is the clear forward agenda, beyond the re-packaging of existing policies? With just weeks to go, where are the Government’s clear and concrete proposals and red lines for the UN MDG summit?”

Or to put it more succinctly, will the UK Government ‘bother’ to turn up?

by David Taylor, Chair, Labour Campaign for International Development