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 tim@lcid.org.uk.

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.

“GlobalPovertyPromise.com 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 https://lcid.org.uk/action where you can sign up to mailings, join the Facebook group, read the blog and follow us on Twitter.

by Steve Cockburn

Douglas Alexander speaks at Labour Campaign for International Development Launch

Last night, the Labour Campaign for International Development officially launched at an event at the House of Commons, with an impressive audience of politicians, the international development sector and party activists. There was only room to stand as Secretary of State Douglas Alexander began his keynote speech, with Minister Mike Foster also taking questions and Glenys Kinnock, Minister for Africa, in attendance.

Douglas Alexander shared that the Labour movement has long identified itself strongly with international development. Members of the Labour Party fought powerfully for justice in South Africa during apartheid, refusing to ignore Mandela’s long walk to political freedom. Indeed, this passion for equality and justice is the foundation for the Department for International Development (DfID). The New Labour government created the department in 1997 in recognition of the attention that international development deserves and requires. “It is on the shoulders of giants,” such as Glenys Kinnock that the UK’s modern approach to international development stands, Douglas told us.

What makes LCID unique, as Douglas said, is that we represent a group that unquestionably holds Labour values of fairness and justice at its core, and also unequivocally believes in the need for international development. The Tory threat to DfID and the developing world is real: siphoning off money to the Ministry of Defence and the Department of Energy and Climate Change will leave DfID stripped of its power to help the developing world. This is a real threat with a reach that will span the globe.

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But there is more to be done than exposing the Tories: we must make a positive case for Labour’s approach to international development.

Douglas Alexander highlighted three points that will help us achieve this: meeting our international commitments; getting suggestions for the manifesto; and then taking our case to the public. We support a global financial transaction tax, but we must persuade people that it is the right way forward. We believe that an international development ministry is so much more than an aid agency, but we must persuade people we’re right. We believe that, “by the strength of our common endeavours” we can create lasting positive change, but again, we must persuade people that it’s the right thing to do. This is however, far from an insurmountable task. As Douglas said, events such as the recent Haiti earthquake have shown us that what unites us is the “strength and overriding sense of fairness and compassion in the British public.”

Our money must be well spent and we must be wise with it. This is why a financial transactions tax will give international banks the opportunity to give more back to society. And aid must not be contingent on conformity with a British government’s ideological underpinnings.

In international development, as in many areas of government, there are times and issues said that stick in you memory and drive you on. For Douglas, this was a time about 5 years ago when he left a PMQs preparation session with Tony Blair to see Nelson Mandela speak on Parliament Square. Mandela, once vilified by other British politicians, proclaimed, “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great.”

It is not pride that motivates us at LCID to rise to this challenge; it is the common belief that a world with less poverty, disease and death benefits us all. We will relentlessly pursue this goal, whether it complements or defies the political ideology of the day. We will construct and respond to the debate. And we welcome everyone that shares our vision, so please do get involved.

Next Steps

LCID wants to build momentum on last night’s launch in the run up to the next election. Here are some of the ways we’d like you to be involved:

1. Help us support Gareth Thomas MP, DFID Minister of State, in Harrow West this Saturday 6th. Meeting at West Harrow Tube station at 11am. Sign up on Facebook.

2. Get more involved with LCID. Please sign up to our email updates, become our Fan on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. We’d love you to get involved in helping to run LCID, just email David at david@lcid.org.uk

3. Sign the Global Poverty Promise – the campaign to make 0.7% spending on aid UK law.

4. Add your Two Things. Everyone’s Two Things from last night will appear on our blog very shortly!

Thank you, from David Taylor, Tim Nicholls, Serena O’Sullivan, Nick Osbourne, James Anthony, Tim Shand, Daniel Sleat, Tom Baker, Steve Cockburn and all of the LCID Team.

LCID Launch Tonight!

Later today, the Labour Campaign for International Development will have its official launch in an event at the House of Commons. This is an exciting day for LCID: we have already begun the debate about International Development on this website and now we have the chance to push forward, to gain support for a progressive, Labour, approach to International Development in this country. This purpose is clear to our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown:

“Tackling poverty is one of the greatest causes of our time. The Labour Party and the Labour Government has been on the frontline in the fight against global poverty and now the Labour Campaign for International Development will provide a way in which members who care about the issue can keep informed, contribute policy and help keep it high on the agenda.”

A belief in the empowerment and progress that aid and assistance provide has been at the core of the Labour movement for many years. Our group aims to build on this support, and the amazing progress that the Labour Government of the last 13 years has delivered, to go further. The job is far from done. Although our nation’s aid helps lift 3 million people out of poverty every year, around a billion people still live on less than a dollar a day.

The Left will not sit back and relax whilst this is still the case. The Government has introduced draft legislation to commit the UK to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid. This landmark bill would cement the UK’s position as a world leader in International Development.

“The creation of DFID is one of the greatest achievements of this Labour government. It has become so established here in the UK and around the world that it is easy to forget that it didn’t exist before 1997. But back then Britain used to be considered something of a road-block to effective international action to tackle global poverty. That has been transformed since 1997 and the UK is now a world leader in the international development community. We have taken a lead role on a range of initiatives – from the Millennium Development Goals to cancelling the debt of some of the world’s poorest countries. These things simply wouldn’t have happened without a Labour government.

Labour has a record to be proud of – but there is still so much more to do. I see that regularly through my experience as a member of the House of Commons International Development Committee. That’s why it is so important that Labour party members and supporters keep up the pressure for action to tackle global poverty. That’s why it is so important that we secure a fourth-term Labour government to enable these things to happen. And that’s why I am so pleased about the establishment of the Labour Campaign for International Development. It will be a challenge to this new group both to highlight our achievements and to push the international development agenda within the party forward.

I am disappointed to be missing tonight’s launch event – I am currently in Zimbabwe with the International Development Committee along with my Labour colleagues John Battle and Hugh Bayley – but I look forward to working with LCID as we move towards the general election and beyond.”

– Richard Burden MP, Member of the International Development Select Committee

LCID will also be exploring the debate on International Development up to, and beyond, the general election. We scrutinise the work of all parties and act in the interests of development, not politics.

“It is great to see the many supporters of the cause of international development within the Labour Party coming together in this new group. I hope it can provide a significant focus for campaigning and new ideas in the run up to the general election, and help set an ambitious agenda for global social justice in a fourth-term Labour government.”

– Douglas Alexander MP, Secretary of State for International Development

We are excited about the future that lies ahead of LCID and we hope you can be a part of it. If you can come to our launch this evening, at 5.15 in Committee Room 12, House of Commons, please come along. Beyond the launch, we will be campaigning, writing and debating, so please get in touch if you want to get involved.

If you can’t make our event, we will be tweeting from it, so you can follow what is going on using the #labourcid hashtag.

By Tim Nicholls

Haiti Humanitarian Relief Trebled

International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, has announced that the Labour Government will treble its funding for humanitarian relief in response to the Haiti earthquake.

Based on assessments on the scale of the disaster, aid will rise from 10 to 30 million dollars.

The additional 20 million dollars  will be put to work providing further relief and recovery work, including food, shelter, basic sanitation and health services.

Labour’s International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander, said:

“It is now clear that the international community is dealing with an almost unprecedented level of devastation.

“Our initial assessments show a level of humanitarian need which would severely test the international response in any circumstances. But the impact of this earthquake is magnified because it has hit a country that was already desperately poor and historically volatile.

“To address the needs of the immediate humanitarian response the UK Government will pledge a further million, on top of the million initially donated.”

Leading UK charities and relief organisations have come together through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), you can do your bit to support them in their life-saving work by visiting www.dec.org.uk or call 0370 60 60 900.

LCID to formally launch next month – come to our launch event

Labour’s transformed the lives of many people in the last decade, and nowhere has the impact of a Labour Government been more acutely felt than in international development. For many of us, eradicating poverty is the reason we joined the Labour Party, and there is much to be proud of.

Since 1997, Labour has helped lift 3 million permanently out of poverty each year. We’ve helped get some 40 million children into school. Polio is on the verge of being eradicated and 3 million are now able to access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS. 1.5 million people have improved water and sanitation services.

Tackling global poverty has been high on the agenda of our Party, and we want to keep it that way. That’s why we, a group of Labour activists, have recently set up Labour Campaign for International Development.

We want to keep international development high on Labour’s agenda, and to push our Government to build on its success and be bolder and go further still, in a similar way to our fraternal friends at SERA do on the environment.

We also want to use it as a vehicle to bring people who care about global poverty and other single issues in to the Labour Party. Be they young people engaging in politics for the first time, or former members who’ve turned away from party politics, we want to engage them.

First and foremost, we need them to vote Labour. In the lead up to the election, we’ll be scrutinising the Conservatives to show just how much damage they would do to everything we’ve fought for over the last decade. Even if their promise to match our pledge to spend 0.7% on aid could be believed, it is what they would spend our aid money on that is most damaging – the same failed private sector solutions that failed in the 1980s. No one must be complacent of the Tory threat, or think that a vote for the Greens or Lib Dems will bring any more than a Tory Government.

But we can and will be more positive than that. We’ve got a proud record on development and we intend to shout about it to anti-poverty campaigners. By encouraging them into the Party, we can gain from their skills and energy and, we hope, help invigorate the Party in the process.

LCID is a growing organisation, and we’d love to have your involvement. We’ve set up this blog with regular news and comment, and you can become a fan of our Facebook page to get regular updates.

To formally launch LCID, the Rt Hon Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, will be speaking at an event in the House of Commons on 02 February at 7pm. Please RSVP here.

We look forward to working with everyone in the Party over the coming weeks and months to keep Labour in Government transforming people’s lives and lifting millions out of poverty.

by David Taylor, Chair, Labour Campaign for International Development