Douglas Alexander: Responsibility to the poor: a matter of justice, not charity

Next week Douglas Alexander is publishing a new pamphlet with the Foreign Policy Centre – today read this preview on The Guardian’s Development site.

Clear, progressive principles must underpin the development community’s handling of state fragility, poverty and inequality


india poverty

Children of a family earning less than a dollar a day scavenge on a rubbish tip in New Delhi. Photograph: Gurinder Osan/AP


Human history does not always advance at a steady and inevitable pace. Some years, whether 1789 or 2001, are recognised in retrospect as times when fundamental shifts in established orders were exposed.

The last decade or so has been a golden period for international development, including efforts by the UK. Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently judged the Department for International Development under Labour’s stewardship as having gained “national and international recognition for its professionalism and ability to deliver its aid programme effectively”.

But in opposition, it now falls again to the centre-left to develop ideas for delivering global justice in a political and policy context changed, fundamentally, in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008.

That global economic crisis accelerated and further highlighted changes and challenges that politicians and policy makers are still struggling with. We need to do more than just have the right arguments about moral duty and common interest to explain to the public why we should continue funding overseas aid at a time when we are being asked to cut budgets at home.

We now face not only a question of balance sheets, but a question of shifting global balance.

And in this changing context, international development must be driven by more than a quest for value for money. It must also be driven by values.

Market failures

The “charitable” approach of the right to international development appears becalmed alongside narrow concepts of national security and commercial interest, a continuing hostility to the role of the state, and a superficially empowering but ultimately laissez-faire approach to the role of civil society.

The whole world – rich and poor alike – is still living through the consequences of the food, fuel and financial crises: collectively, the greatest market failure of the last 60 years. And we are already being faced with the growing impacts of climate change, the greatest market failure in human history.

A further effect of the financial and economic crisis has been to highlight and accelerate the rise of Asia. Countries like China, India and Vietnam have grown enormously in recent years. The G20 has arisen to take on new responsibility in this changed global economic and political context. China in particular has undergone a remarkable transformation from poverty to significant global donor. India has experienced remarkable growth. Many African countries have shown growth despite the global recession. Many countries are rapidly graduating from low income to middle income status.

Yet this “rise of the rest” masks a complex and conflicted world – where billions remain in poverty and are denied their basic rights.

Twenty years ago, more than 90% of the world’s poorest people lived in low-income countries. But as Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies has revealed in ground-breaking research this month, a staggering three quarters of the world’s poorest people now live in so-called middle income countries like India and Brazil – what he calls a “new bottom billion”.

At the same time, others, like Paul Collier, have emphasised the importance of focusing on the “bottom billion” who find themselves in the bottom fifty or so states affected by fragility and conflict.

What some have called a “new geography of poverty” poses fundamental questions for the future of international aid and development.

These new times demand not old orthodoxies, but new responses, grounded in a fundamental belief in justice and universal human rights.

It is easy for politicians to say that, since India has a space programme, we should have no concern for the millions of Indians still living in abject poverty, or indeed those in any emerging middle income country. The reality is, of course, far more complex.

Inequality remains a crucial factor in this new world. Despite the reduction in poverty associated with growth in countries like China and India, and despite the improvements to child welfare around the world, inequality remains pervasive on a global scale. As Kevin Watkins pointed out in a recent article for the Guardian, the impacts of inequality can be stark:

Inequality remains the most potent destroyer of opportunities for education. In Nigeria, the average male from a wealthy, urban home can expect on average about 10 years of education. Meanwhile, poor girls in rural northern Nigeria average less than six months in school.

It is not only a matter of social justice that should concern us about high levels of inequality, but also the impacts in terms of sustainability, security and stability – both for those people directly affected, and globally.

So we need to ground new approaches to the challenges posed by state fragility, the new geography of poverty, and extreme inequality in clear, progressive principles.

A responsibility to the poor

In the same way that the responsibility to protect has driven us to think about how the world responds to genocide and crimes against humanity, beyond narrow notions of state sovereignty, I believe we must now develop a responsibility to the poor to guide our actions in international development, lest many of the poorest become ignored behind national borders and statistical categories.

What is our responsibility to one girl who lives in abject poverty in India, versus that of another who lives just a few miles away on the Bangladeshi side of the border?

A responsibility to the poor must also go further. It must drive us to higher standards across all our broader actions. Rich countries are often part of the problem. Unfair international rules of trade, like agricultural subsidies and restrictive intellectual property rules; irresponsible arms exports; weak controls over international companies which engage in bribery overseas; not clamping down on stolen assets from developing countries, which are then laundered through western financial institutions and tax havens; and climate change driving emissions that hit the poorest the hardest – all should be treated with the same seriousness of purpose as we have shown in our fight to protect the aid budget and its poverty focus.

We must continue doing what works well in the poorest countries. Well applied, targeted and effective aid can and should be used to achieve progress on challenges such as health, education, water and other basic services.

But we also need new approaches when it comes to the over 60% of the poor now living in middle income countries, alongside the traditional aid, debt relief and other approaches Labour successfully used in government to deliver results.

A global “big society” is not enough to deliver – in the same way that it is not sufficient here in Britain. We cannot simply take a laissez-faire approach to citizen empowerment, urging everyone to do their bit. We should make no apology for saying that where market failures exist, the state must step in alongside the citizen. And when those market failures are global – as in the case of climate change, or extreme poverty and inequality – then global action must be taken.

At the same time, we must recognise that action by governments alone is insufficient. Our model must be one of true partnership between the state, citizens and other actors, including the private sector.

We must fight against any suggestion that Britain’s role in international development should slip back into well-meaning but colonial-style charity for poor people, with policies driven by public populism, political expediency and narrow national interests.

The great Archbishop Desmond Tutu, retiring this week at the age of 79, once exhorted us, in a plea for humanity and the recognition of both moral and physical interdependence:

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

In this more unequal, hotter, unstable and interdependent world we cannot now settle for charity. We must recognise our responsibility to the poor and continue the long march to justice.

How we reported Britain in World debate on twitter

LCID was in the hall this morning for the Britain in the World session. We tweeted throughout as @LabourCID. Here’s what we had to say.

In the hall for Britain in the World which is about to start at #lab10 – LCID hopes to get called to ask a question later

While we waited for the discussion to start we read the text of the contemporary resolutions – Pleased to see reference to pursue a Robin Hood Tax in tax avoidance motion at #lab10

Then we started;
Getting under way at #lab10 – showing film highlighting #dec appeal for Pakistan

Now film about #climate change – reminding us that it’s hitting to poorest hardest – #lab10

Welcoming guests from @oxfamgb and Christian Aid to stage at #lab10 (Guest from Oxfam had been involved in Pakistan flood response, while guest from Christian Aid was working on climate change)

Climate meetings need not to be talking shops but actually make commitments that change lives – @oxfamgb at #lab10

. @DAlexanderMP reminds #lab10 of ConDem threat to cut funding to UN emergency disaster response fund

Christian Aid at #lab10 – climate change caused by minority but it’s the poor who are bearing the brunt

Wrapping up Douglas Alexander said;
.@DAlexanderMP – proud of what we’ve achieved on development – fragile political consensus means we have to continue to build support #lab10

If we meet ppl on doorstep says politics doesn’t make a difference. our collective efforts on dev have changed millions of lives #lab10

Give money yes, says @DAlexanderMP, but calls on Labour members to be involved in campaigning on int dev =Join @LabourCID #lab10

Conference then spent some time hearing from Bob Ainsworth, Shadow Minister of Defence, but we picked up this on twitter;

RT @susan_nash: Looking 4ward 2 hearing Wai BurmaUK campaign & @AmnestyUK. Her story brought @nusuk delegates to tears, please come #lab10

We welcomed Wai, a human rights activist who spoke about the situation in Burma and the Amnesty International campaign.

Powerful testimony from Wai,human rights activist from #Burma -thnks Gordon Brown & @DMiliband 4 UK support.If only couldve done more #lab10

Wai was given a Find out more about the campaign at

It was time for David Miliband, who reminded conference that;
DMiliband – thanks to Labour on int’l dev we went from a laggard to a world leader – #lab10

Finally, we moved into the Q+A session, LCID had a question on the Robin Hood Tax but it didn’t get called. None

Question on MDGs at #lab10 – how do we ensure tough issues don’t fall of the agenda
In response, . @DAlexanderMP need political leadership to achieve #MDGs – to pick up the phone and make the case #lab10

RT @jonnytench @LabourCID also very important question asked on protecting women’s rights worldwide. Labour must continue to champion

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

Read Douglas Alexander’s speech to LCID

On Tuesday 29 June, Douglas Alexander spoke at an LCID event about the future of International Development. You can read the full text of his speech here:

“Thank you David for that kind introduction – and for the valuable work you and other members of the Labour Campaign for International Development have undertaken in recent months, as well as during the election campaign.

I know that you will continue to provide both valuable policy thinking and campaigning enthusiasm on these issues in the months and years ahead.

As many of you will be aware, it is now almost five years to the day since the remarkable Make Poverty History march took place in Edinburgh, and the Live 8 concerts took place around the world.

That day in Edinburgh, for me personally – and I’m sure for many of you – was truly inspirational.

Returning to a city where I had lived for a decade, pushing my daughter in her pram, carrying my son on my shoulders – and I’m proud to say supported by seven bus-loads of people from my Paisley constituency – I had the sense of seeing a familiar city in a new light.

The view of Edinburgh castle from Princes’ street – a view I’d seen a thousand times before – was, on that day, transformed by the banner that spanned the length of the castle, and declared our common mission: “Make Poverty History”.

A sea of white filled the Meadows, and then spilled out into the streets of Edinburgh to create a symbolic white band around the city.

Around the world, thousands more gathered in fields and stadiums to join the millions wearing white bands – demanding that the G8 leaders take action.

As I walked with that vast crowd past the Assembly Hall, I had cause to also remember another demonstration which had taken place 17 years earlier.

I was a student then, protesting outside that same Hall as Margaret Thatcher arrived to address the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

Thinking about those two very different demonstrations – separated by almost two decades – yet in that single place, I was struck by the transformative power of politics, and by the determination of people inspired by a just cause.

But most of all, I was struck by the way in which the events of that sunny July day five years ago swept aside any notion that there ever was ‘no such thing as society’.

Five years on, we find ourselves in sadly less auspicious circumstances.

But nevertheless, with much progress to recognise and celebrate.

And so, in my remarks today, I would like to cover three main areas:

Firstly, the progress I believe the world has made since 2005, and that I am proud we helped deliver as a Labour government;

Secondly, what I think the major challenges are that we now face both domestically and globally following the summits of this past weekend;

And, thirdly, my assessment of the early days of this new government and where I think we will need to watch them most closely.

Since that declaration of global solidarity in July 2005 – which many have called the ‘high water mark’ of the global anti-poverty movement – I believe it is fair to say that we have seen significant progress, albeit not enough.

A Labour government led the way by cancelling debt, trebling the aid budget, and becoming in the words of the ONE campaign the “leader in the G7 on aid effectiveness”.

But we have also seen turbulent times and new challenges emerge.

The world has been engulfed as never expected by the greatest financial and economic crisis for generations – directly putting millions back into poverty, and creating pressure for donor governments across Europe and the world to myopically, but predictably, slash aid funding.

At the same time – the urgency of tackling the climate crisis has become ever more evident – and yet the international will to do so ever more elusive.

A world trade deal that could lift millions out of poverty has remained in the deep freeze.

Conflict and fragility has continued to plague and stunt the progress of too many lives.

The creaking international system itself has been placed under ever greater strain.

And here, in this country, despite the warm words about a ‘consensus’ let us be brutally honest about the context we now face.

I genuinely fear that behind the words from this coalition on the headline aid promise, there remain many hidden threats.

The context of declining public support for aid, likely to continue in the coming period of divisive and damaging cuts in domestic spending, will provide challenges for the development movement greater than I think many realise.

It will be a particular challenge for the new government – one large part of it still deeply rooted in a particular dogma – to resist the temptation to divert our aid from its proper purposes, implement ideologically driven schemes, and to take a headline grabbing approach to ‘prove themselves’.

An X-Factor style online vote for which countries get aid, for example, doesn’t sit well with a promise to increase the effectiveness of our aid.

And they will hardly be helped by the significant number of aid sceptics now filling the government benches.

I will say more about the new government, but let us first look back at what today we should celebrate.

The march of progress is not inevitable.

It requires political choice and political leadership.

Bravery some would say.

So as we face uncertain times, let us recall what political choice and leadership can deliver.

The agreements made at Gleneagles, made in part because of the great public expectation which was generated on the G8 and developing country governments by the global anti-poverty movement have contributed to real progress for some of the world’s poorest people.

The recent DATA report highlights:

Malaria – where the world has exceeded the Gleneagles goal of delivering 100 million bed-nets, with 200 million delivered between 2006 and 2009.

Child Survival – where the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) alone has averted 5.4 million future child deaths by working together with donors and developing country governments.

Education, where the savings from debt relief, development assistance, and scaled-up prioritization, means that 42 million more children have enrolled in school.

However, as Oxfam has pointed out, around 40 per cent of the promised aid increase made at Gleneagles has not been delivered.

This means there is as much as a $20 billion hole in the promise the G8 made back in 2005 – enough to put every child in school or stop millions of children dying of malaria.

The 60% we helped deliver has made a huge difference – but the shortfall is literally costing lives.

Despite the inevitable ups and downs of the recent election campaign, there are always chinks of light that remind you why you are in politics, and what a difference you can make.

On a particularly difficult day – and trust me there were a few of those – during the campaign, I was shown a story in the Guardian.

It came from a country that as recently as 15 years ago faced the deadly maelstrom of conflict and poverty in its most acute form – Sierra Leone.

It reported on how the government of President Koroma, with the support of NGOs and our Labour government, had been able to make healthcare free for pregnant women and children in his country.

Literally thousands of lives will and may have already been saved by this simple leap forward.

That is why it was so urgent for G8 leaders to focus and take action on maternal mortality and child health at their summit in Canada this past weekend.

Every year, approximately 350,000 mothers die from complications during child birth and 8.8 million children die before their fifth birthday.

But the results of this G8 summit were woefully inadequate – with Oxfam describing the initiative launched as “lower than our lowest expectations”.

Given the context – I was not surprised.

But I was still outraged.

Summits often do not deliver all that they should.

But David Cameron needs to think long and hard about whether he believes that the package he and other leaders agreed there was even remotely adequate.

Blaming other leaders and using strong words is not enough.

Britain should be both leading by example and putting in the hard graft.

It is questionable whether the new government is doing either.

And on top of this there was a serious step backwards.

Save the Children were moved to describe as truly ‘shameful’ the dropping of the historic Gleneagles targets to increase aid at the G8 summit.

Gleneagles, it should be remembered, took place at a difficult time too – when minds could easily have turned from such global challenges, given the tragic punctuation of the summit by the taking of innocent life on 7/7.

But despite those terrible events, and the unwillingness of some leaders to make any form of commitment, the efforts of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, buoyed by millions of campaigners around the world, still achieved the historic promise to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010, with $25 billion of this going to Africa.

And they agreed crucial steps forward on debt relief.

What a contrast with Muskoka and Toronto.

David Cameron, writing in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper shortly before this weekend’s summits said:

“I come to the G8 and G20 in Muskoka and Toronto 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 the new Prime Minister seemed all too willing to let other G8 leaders sweep their failures under the carpet by dropping the historic Gleneagles agreements from the final communiqué.

We are told that during the negotiations, Downing Street admitted to the Guardian that the Prime Minister had simply “not fought” for the commitments to be included.

As Oxfam’s Mark Fried 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 today.”

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 merely give up?

His silence has been deafening.

And what of the G20?

I will of course welcome any attention that the new and larger grouping pays to international development and tackling poverty.

I believe it is vital that as the G20 discuss the wider global economic architecture, that the concerns of the poorest countries are forefront, and that issues like tax or the regulation and taxation of the financial markets are treated as development issues – in the way we attempted to do at the London G20.

I do however have some skepticism about another forum the “Working Group on Development” being created under the auspices of the G20 at the same time as the G8 has abrogated its responsibilities.

The G8 and G20 outcomes and discussions of this weekend highlight starkly some of the key contextual challenges we face.

Difficult and fragile economic times – which rightly must occupy significant attention – but where development and the poorest countries can be easily squeezed out.

International institutions and groupings which remain not yet fit for purpose.

A worrying, if unsurprising, change in public opinion on issues like global poverty and climate change, and the attendant ability of the global movement to connect with people in these economically tough times.

Five Years on we have no Live 8.

No Make Poverty History marchers in Edinburgh.

Instead the likes of Dambisa Moyo, Melanie Phillips and other commentators stalk the airwaves, column inches and blogs offering their trenchant views.

There also remain serious policy challenges.

Challenges, which unless we adequately respond to them, based on both our moral values and common interest, mean that we will both fail to do right by the bottom billion in this world, and continue to sow the seeds of instability and un-sustainability.

We need to reach beyond the easy myopia which often besets publics and politics in difficult times.

To step back and recognise the nature of the threats we still face.

This is why I argued in our last White Paper in 2009 that we must not turn away in fear and isolationism.

Whilst we rightly focus on tackling this global economic crisis today – we must also take the long view – as people like Nick Stern have done on the economics of climate change.

We need to help fashion a world economy which is better regulated, greener and fairer to all. Where growth and prosperity is generated, and poverty alleviated – but not at the expense of people or the planet on which we all depend.

We need to create a world where the skills and energies of the private sector are harnessed for the benefit of all, but where their excesses are not treated as an acceptable by-product.

Where we resist an easy retreat into protectionism, not pretending that globalisation has not happened – but at the same time ensuring that more open trade delivers fairer outcome.

Where we help tackle the conflict and insecurity which blights the lives of so many ordinary people, particularly women and girls, with a broad based concept of stabilisation, conflict prevention and peace-building – that treats security and justice as basic services.

And where we maintain our promises to deliver the aid which catalyses development and realises rights – puts children into school, helps mothers have safer births, and which ensures clean drinking water is available.

None of our goals can be reached by spending aid alone – though supporting basic building blocks through our aid remains essential.

None can be reached by the UK alone – but the UK must play its part.

None can be reached without a proper analysis of conflict, politics and sustainability – nor without understanding the impact of gender.

None will be reached unless we take a transformative and holistic approach to development, looking at the wider global economy and issues like tax.

That is why I remain sceptical about some of the approach offered up so far by the new government – who in the past have failed to provide an adequate answer to many of these challenges.

I am also concerned if the development sector here in the UK thinks it should simply lower its standards and expectations, because the Tories are in power.

We need to hold them to account.

Firstly, on aid – both in terms of volumes and how it is used.

They have been at pains to repeatedly insist in recent weeks – that they fully intend to meet the 0.7% aid target by 2013.

But let’s look a little closer.

The Tories matched our pledge of legislation in the first session of this new parliament.

Yet despite repeated questioning, we still have no timetable for legislation, and merely the mention of a ‘parliamentary motion’ in the Queen’s Speech.

Why this should be the case, when a draft Bill had already been scrutinised by the all-party international development select committee in the last parliament remains a mystery to me.

Then there is the question of the definition of aid.

Andrew Mitchell repeatedly says how he intends to keep the definition of aid in line with the OECD DAC guidelines.

But we always took a more restrictive interpretation of those guidelines.

For example – we didn’t think it right to include student or refugee costs in our aid.

No assurances have been forthcoming from Mr Mitchell on this front.

Secondly – there is the question of where and how aid money is in fact allocated within Whitehall, and on what it is spent on.

We had always taken the view that the majority of our aid money should, very naturally, be being programmed and allocated by DFID – with a small but legitimate portion allocated by departments like the FCO and DECC.

And so we were joined, by the now Scottish Secretary, Michael Moore of the Liberal Democrats, in warning during the election campaign of the very real ‘danger’ – that the Tories’ lack of commitments on limiting the use of aid as climate finance, or for military or security linked work – meant that large sums could end up being diverted, but still count as ‘aid’.

Sadly – the Lib Dems appear to have completely rolled over on these crucial issues.

In the coalition ‘Programme for Government’ we see no mention of additionality in climate finance – despite the fact that climate finance is such a crucial issue in the climate negotiations.

Nick Stern has pointed out that unless we make the investment in tackling climate change and its impacts now we risk even greater costs in the future.

But we must not merely ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ by diverting significant amounts of aid, from for example ensuring better healthcare in poorer countries.

That is why we had made clear in government that from 2013 we would ensure additional sources of climate finance were provided, with no more than 10% of our aid spending being allocated to this purpose.

And the Lib Dems had in the past called for complete additionality.

But, like their promises on VAT domestically this now appears to have been another promise they have conveniently and shamelessly forgotten.

Worryingly too – we see the Tory proposal for the highly unclear ‘military led stabilisation force’.

We already took a pragmatic but appropriate approach to stabilisation – and recognised the complementary but distinct roles which development, diplomacy and defence should play in places like Afghanistan.

The risk is that by over-militarising our concept of stabilisation, the wider analysis of conflict prevention and management, and the restoration of security and justice, which we sought to place at the heart of our White Paper in 2009, could be lost.

And, leading charities have highlighted concerns about a potential blurring of military and humanitarian or development operations in Afghanistan under such a force.

Whatever this government may claim in headline statements, or say about transparency – the problem is in the small print.

The Tories must not be allowed to divert our attentions, while they divert our aid.

Thirdly, it will come as no great surprise to me, if one of the early acts of this new government is to abandon our commitments to promoting free health and education.

Instead of steps forward such as those I described in Sierra Leone – we could see ill-advised and ideological voucher schemes, or other forms of private subsidy that fail to catalyse wider changes, and are more likely to exclude the marginalised and the poorest.

And even if Andrew Mitchell talks about the importance of education, Liam Fox’s ill-judged comments that we were “We are not in Afghanistan for the sake of the education policy in a broken 13th-century country” reveal the tenor and attitude of some of his Cabinet colleagues to international development.

Fourthly, there is the question of effort and engagement.

As I have already touched on in relation to the G8 Summit – when it comes to the level of international negotiations and diplomacy it requires real and sustained effort and personal engagement at the highest levels to make a difference.

So it is again revealing that when questioned in Prime Ministers Questions last week, David Cameron could not confirm whether he had even spoken to President Zuma, other African leaders or even other donors before the crucial summit on education on 7 July.

Finally, Andrew Mitchell has launched a review of multilateral and bilateral funding from DFID.

This in itself is no bad thing, and a process we regularly engaged in.

Yet, as with much announced by this new government – there was already pre-briefing going on to the newspapers that some players were going to do well – and others not so.

I question whether the government will take a truly balanced and entirely merit-based approach to the review on that basis.

Can we really trust a eurosceptic Tory party to properly assess the relative effectiveness of the World Bank versus the European Union as a multilateral partner?

Andrew Mitchell in one of his first speeches as Secretary of State earlier this month talked of exporting Cameron’s “Big Society” to the global level.

He says that his “approach will move from doing development to people to doing development with people – and to people doing development for themselves.”

The idea that DFID, or indeed many of Britain’s leading charities ‘do’ development to poor people, bears little relationship to reality.

Country-led development was a principle Labour established when DFID was created, and that we have endeavoured to put into practise.

Andrew Mitchell talks of ‘change’ – but the truth is that I believe that the Conservatives have found that much of what they see in DFID actually works well. Indeed as he admitted:

“I have been struck by how much DFID contributes to Britain’s global reputation. How it has broken new ground in international development and often succeeded where others have failed.”

I was also struck – by how insubstantial his first major overseas speech was – to the Carnegie Foundation in Washington this week, despite the vitally important topic of gender and development it sought to address.

Indeed, I can’t recollect someone travelling so far to say so little.

These speeches have begged more questions than they answered.

Where is the clear forward agenda – aside from a few headline grabbing initiatives or re-packaging of things we were already doing?

With just weeks to go, where are the clear objectives and red lines for the UN Summit in September? As opposed to vague agendas?

Where is the detailed vision about how tackling climate change and promoting development could be aligned in the future as opposed to vacuous platitudes.

He talks of the importance of measures ‘beyond aid’.

Yet where is the strategy on the crucial issue of tax and development – such as how we could take forward steps on multilateral and automatic exchange of tax information or measures on country by country reporting?

Leadership in international development involves more than having a bonfire of straw men.

So, let us be clear.

Even from opposition, it still falls today for Labour to offer the intellectual leadership and global advocacy on international development.

The challenge facing us today is to both defend the progress we have seen, and attempt to go further, but to do so in the tough environment of the post-financial crisis world.

So let me conclude, by appealing for your help, and by urging that we must re-energise a global movement to secure those ends.

We must not settle for second best. To set our standards low.

I want the Labour Party and groups like the Labour Campaign for International Development to be at the heart of that process here in Britain, and to work with our sister parties abroad to do the same.

We must hold this government to account.

And we must work with those of like mind, by reaching out to those who share our passion for global justice.

So let me return to where I began this evening.

I truly believe that what 2005 taught us was that when a dynamic, independent and vibrant global civil society campaign, connected with politics and politicians who instinctively shared the same values and ambitions, even when constrained at times by the nature of government – great things can be done.

Some will contest this point.

But I think it is important to recognise that our delivery on our aid and development promises was made by choice – not chance.

By people like Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Clare Short and Hilary Benn – buoyed by the knowledge that thousands were backing them.

Times are tough – but we can make that difference again.

And to that task, let us re-dedicate ourselves tonight.”

Invitation: Join LCID as we host Douglas Alexander – This Tuesday!

Join Labour Campaign for International Development as we host Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development.

Tuesday 29 June | 7.30-8.30pm
Grand Committee Room, Houses of Parliament

Almost five years since 250,000 marched through the streets of Edinburgh in support of Make Poverty History, and millions around the world took part in Live 8 concerts – and in what will be a key year for international development with the UN Millennium Development Goals summit in December, Rt Hon Douglas Alexander MP will set out the key challenges going forward for the movement to tackle global poverty – and his assessment of the first few weeks of the Con-Lib government.

The speech will be followed by a Q+A session.

To attend, please RSVP to by 5pm on the day of the event.

This event is open to anyone interested in international development, so please forward this invitation to your contacts and friends.

Guests will need to go through security at Cromwell Green entrance, and ask for directions to the Grand Committee Room. Apologies for the short notice of this event.

Many thanks,


David Taylor
Chair, Labour Campaign for International Development

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.

The Global #changewesee

Over the last two weeks, hundreds of Labour activists have been tweeting about change they’ve seen in their communities. From new schools, to refurbished hospitals, to libraries, to SureStart centres, the campaign has catalogued hundreds of examples of the tangible differences that the Labour government has made in the last 13 years and reminded us of the stark choice we face at the next election.

But the truth is that #changewesee isn’t just in the UK but around the world. Thanks to the Labour Government’s commitment to alleviating poverty through the work of DFID, in the same way thousands of communities in the UK have benefited from our investment in schools and hospitals, so have tens of thousands of communities around the world thanks to the Government’s record of increasing aid and cancelling debt.

Very few Labour activists will have had the opportunity to see the transformation that has been made to communities around the world, but in their roles as ministers for International Development both Douglas Alexander MP and Mike Foster MP have had the opportunity. At the launch of LCID on Monday night, I asked them to share with us one example of #changewesee during their travels around the world.

Douglas Alexander shared about a primary school in Uganda, recalling how abolishing schools fees on the Friday, saw hundreds of extra children turn up eager to learn on the Monday. He said that each class was full of children, all sat quietly keen to learn. A stark reminder of the importance of how the UK government has been helping to unlock potential through its support for universal primary education.

Mike Foster MP talked about visiting Chars, low-lying sand islands in Bangladesh. He described how this community was prone to the effects of rising sea levels, but thanks to help from the UK government villagers had been able to raise their homes above the level of 2007 floods, develop sustainable livelihoods allowing them to earn an income through growing crops and by helping them to build latrines to reduce the incidence and spread of disease. You can find out more about the visit to Bangladesh in the video below;

If you have a global #changewesee that you have experienced and want to share, please get in touch with us by emailing

By Tom Baker

Stars launch Global Poverty Promise

Davina McCall, Mariella Frostrup, Annie Lennox, Richard Wilson and Meera Syal are among the big names launching a new poverty campaign today, the fifth anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s Make Poverty History speech in Trafalgar Square.

In a campaign video released today – shown for the first time at LCID’s launch on Monday – the celebrities invite people to show their support for a new law that would commit the UK to spend 0.7% of national income on development assistance, by signing up to the Global Poverty Promise.

The celebrities use the video to highlight how small 0.7% is – yet how much of a difference it will make to lives in the developing world.

40 years ago the UK made a promise to the world’s poor – to spend just 0.7% of our national income on helping poor countries develop. We now have a chance to make that promise a reality, not just for today but for future generations.

“ is our opportunity to show that we keep our promises, even during difficult times. Whether it’s helping Haiti through a disaster or participating in the long term development of Africa the British public has a proud tradition of looking out for those less fortunate, let’s keep it up.” – Mariella Frostrup

Five years ago Nelson Mandela’s speech in London ahead of the Gleneagles summit launched the Make Poverty History campaign. Today the Department for International Development is publishing an update of the progress the UK has made against the targets set.

Labour has tripled the UK’s aid budget and is committed to spending 0.7% of the UK’s Gross National Income on aid from 2013, with the Overseas Development Bill which was introduced to Parliament last month. The Conservatives have refused to say they would introduce such a law. Aid groups are concerned that the Conservatives’ plans for international development could mean large sums will be diverted from tackling poverty.

Please sign up to the Global Poverty Promise and encourage your friends to do the same!

What is a “socialist Anne Robinson with pom-poms” when it’s at home?

Review of our Launch for Progress Online by LCID exec member and anti-poverty campaigner Steve Cockburn

With a deficit to reduce and public services to protect, why should progressives care about Labour’s commitment to increase aid and work to end global poverty?

The answer at the launch of the Labour Campaign for International Development last night was plain and overwhelming – the values that drive Labour to fight poverty and injustice at home are the very same as those that drive Labour to fight poverty and injustice abroad. The same values that work to ensure employment and a living wage in the UK, also work to provide food, water and healthcare in Africa.

Solidarity, internationalism and a commitment to the poor are at the heart of what progressives care about, and should be at the heart of a governing Labour party. And it is precisely when people across the world are suffering most that these values are needed more than ever.

And it makes a difference. In describing his ‘change we see’ moment, secretary of state for international development Douglas Alexander recalled a school in Uganda which abolished fees on the Friday and saw hundreds of extra children turn up eager to learn on the Monday.

One example of the work the Department for International Development (DfID) has done to lift three million people out of poverty every year. And part of the global struggle to support the one billion people who go hungry every night, and to stop the preventable deaths of 9.7 million children every year.

But also both result from genuine political choices. Investment in aid did not have to treble. Foreign and commercial policy could have stayed as the main determinants of how aid was targeted. Britain did not have to put global poverty and climate change at the top of the international agenda when it chaired the G8 in 2005.

These choices were not those made by past governments, and very different political choices may well be made by future ones. They provide choices for which anti-poverty campaigners and Labour members have fought for, and will need to fight for again and again.

Which is what LCID is about – being a voice for the cause of international development within the Labour party. Both recognising the gains that Labour has made, but also being a critical friend when it needs to do better. Some sort of cross between a cheerleader and watchdog. A socialist Anne Robinson with pom-poms perhaps.

And the second bit of this is as crucial as the first. Those in LCID are passionate about fighting global poverty, and have a vision that they believe Labour should share. It’s not about just cheering from the sidelines. More aid, better aid, and global leadership are all called for. As is a commitment to prioritising global poverty across government activities, beyond aid, and beyond just one department.

And finally, we want the government to back an initiative whose time really has come. LCID is supporting a big campaign about to be launched next week to introduce a ‘Financial Transaction Tax’ to support those struggling in recession at home and abroad. This would be a tiny levy (0.05 per cent) on a range of global financial transactions, which – in no way damaging the market – could raise up to $400 billion if implemented worldwide.

This is money that could be used to invest in people and public services at home while fighting poverty and climate change abroad. It would be taking a tiny slice from the casino economy of international finance, and giving it to those who have suffered most from its excesses.

A big campaign on this issue is coming and we want to see Labour on the right side of this movement, showing that it can lead on the big issues internationally – stabilising the financial system, supporting the British people in times of recession, and promoting global justice and prosperity.

Labour Campaign for International Development is a group of Labour supporters committed to international development. To get join the group and get involved in go to where you can sign up to mailings, join the Facebook group, read the blog and follow us on Twitter.

by Steve Cockburn