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

Come along to our Launch event with Douglas Alexander!

At the Houses of Parliament, on Tuesday 02 February at 7pm, we will formally launch the Labour Campaign for International Development group.

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, will give a speech and answer your questions. The event will take place in the Wilson Room in Portcullis House at the Houses of Parliament.

It will be a chance for your to  ask your questions of the Secretary of State, hear about what Labour has achieved on International Development, find out more about LCID and how you can get involved.

It should be a great event, it’s certainly an appropriate venue – it was Harold Wilson who as Labour PM set up the first Overseas Development Department in 1964! Spaces are limited, so please email your RSVP to serena@lcid.org.uk.

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.

Have a break, have a [Fairtrade] Kit Kat

Great news today as Kit Kat, Britain’s biggest selling chocolate biscuit, will go Fairtrade from January.

About 1 billion Kit Kats are sold every year in the UK and the switch is set to guarantee a better deal for more than 6,000 Ivorian cocoa farmers.Kit Kat goes Fairtrade

Gareth Thomas MP, our Trade & Development Minister said:

“I am glad to see Kit Kat become Fairtrade certified, giving more British shoppers the chance to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. This will give thousands of Ivorian cocoa farmers better opportunities to trade their way out of poverty.”

Fairtrade continues to grow despite the recession. The Fairtrade Mark appears on 4,500 products, and last year more than £700m was spent on Fairtrade goods in the UK, an increase of more than £200m on 2007. And thanks to a Labour Government, Fairtrade will continue to grow.

In October, Secretary of State Douglas Alexander announced £12m of new funding for Fairtrade, to help twice as many farmers in the developing world work their way out of poverty. The funding will bring another 1 million producers into the scheme and so enable 7 million more people in poor countries to benefit from a better deal offered by Fairtrade.

Returning to the Kit Kat, this is a victory for Fairtrade supporters everywhere. For years Nestle were vehemently opposed to Fairtrade. But as with their attempt to sue the Ethiopian government a few years ago, they have bowed to public pressure. First with their coffee product, now with Kit Kat – that may be just two product lines, but now we have our feet firmly wedged in their door. There is a long way to go, but no way back.

To get involved in Fairtrade campaigning go to www.fairtrade.org.uk

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Reflection on Beyond Copenhagen talk

With little over a week until one of the defining moments of our generation, the Copenhagen summit, a meeting of importance difficult to overplay, tensions are high and nerves fragile.

World leaders and the international community face a unique moment to rise to the challenge and set out a strong message on climate change. With political will at such a high, a failure at Copenhagen would deal a severe blow to multilateral attempts to tackle the problem.

Tonight Douglas Alexander, International Development Secretary, Phil Bloomer of Oxfam and Robin Oakley of Greenpace offered some stark notes of caution in the run up to the meeting. These concerns centre largely around the lack of an Indian proposal and the limited scope of what are hoped to only be ‘provisional’ Chinese and American positions, both of which fall well short of ambitions to cut emissions by 40% by 2020 and longer term by 80% by 2050.

However the Secretary of State assured listeners the basis of a deal was on the table and with over sixty world leaders chosing to follow Prime Minister Brown’s lead and attend in person, the political will for a deal is evident.

World leaders cannot miss this chance to lay down a marker of intent with a deal at Copenhagen that combines the requisite legally binding status, which deals equitably with emission cuts and lays the necessary finance on the table.

The tools and means to stay within the 2 degrees Celsius limit for the increase of the sea temperature exist, the necessity for a new industrial and economic revolution to reorder world markets and society all too evident; it is now up to world leaders to seize the moment and deliver a deal that can truly mark the beginning of the fight to tackle climate change.

Fingers crossed for Copenhagen and hope to see you all at The Wave on Saturday!

by Dan Sleat, Campaigns Intern for Andrew Judge, Labour PPC for Wimbledon. www.andrewforwimbledon.co.uk

Talk tonight on Beyond Copenhagen with Douglas Alexander, Oxfam & Greenpeace

  • What: “Beyond Copenhagen” Talk by Compass
  • When: 19:00 to 20:30, Tonight
  • Where: Houses of Parliament

Tonight there will be a talk by the Labour pressure group Compass on where next after the climate change talks in Copenhagen. Douglas Alexander & Oxfam’s Campaigns & Policy Director Phil Bloomer will be on the panel, so it should have a strong development focus. To register, email Compass

Speakers: Hon Douglas Alexander MP, International Development Secretary; Phil Bloomer, Oxfam; Robin Oakley, Head of Climate & Energy Campaigns, Greenpeace UK  and chaired by The Daily Telegraph’s Mary Riddell.