G8 Summit: Gordon Brown worked harder than David Cameron – and at the G8, it shows

In today’s Telegraph, Kirsty McNeill, LCID Advisory Board Co-Chair, contrasts the Cameron’s weak efforts at this year’s G8 with the achievements of Blair and Brown at previous summits:

Since the UK last hosted the G8 in 2005, the keys to Downing Street have changed hands twice – once to an occupant who was in his element hammering out technically complex global deals; and once to a man who seems to find the whole summit circuit a bit of a yawn.
Cameron has not been able to drive forward a global deal on tax because he left putting his own house in order until Saturday – far too late to get other countries to fall in line.
Read the full article here

Gordon Brown: Education for All would increase growth by 2%

Gordon Brown has authored a major new report on education and growth “Education For All; Beating Poverty, Unlocking Prosperity.”  The report was launched today in South Africa with Graça Machel, Gordon’s co-convenor of the Global Campaign for Education’s High Level Panel.

The report’s findings are that a renewed global commitment to education will:
 
• Increase economic growth in the poorest countries by 2% per capita, creating the conditions for deep reductions in poverty and opening up new opportunities for investment.
• Lift 104 million people out of poverty and save the lives of some 1.8 million African children.
 
The report also argues that for every $1 spent on education, a further $15 could be generated as a result of the education growth premium, front-loading this investment would reduce aid dependency and pay for itself after 22 years.
 
The twitter tag for the report is #educationforall and please do circulate it to your networks.

You can learn more about the Global Campaign for Education and take action here and more about Gordon’s past intervention’s on education here.

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

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

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

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

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

President-Obama-UN-speech

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also told the Financial Times:

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

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

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

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

She told The Guardian:

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

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

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

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

Brown calls for new focus on African growth – and a mass roll out of broadband Internet

First published on Labour List

Gordon Brown yesterday used his first major speech since leaving office to discuss the issue that has inspired him since childhood – development in Africa.

Gordon Brown in Uganda. Credit: Daily Mail

In a speech to African Union leaders at their summit in Kampala, Gordon Brown called for a new approach to growth and aid on the continent. He called for Africa to be at the heart of a new global growth strategy which could increase employment by millions. Brown told the leaders that the ascent of Africa could lead the world out of recession, saying:

“Future growth in the world economy, and future jobs in the developing world, will depend on harnessing both the productive potential and the pent-up consumer demand of this continent and the developing world. There is a shortage of global aggregate demand, so today every job not created in Africa is a job lost to our common global growth; every business that fails is a business lost to global growth; every entrepreneur whose idea can’t be realised is a driver lost to global growth.”

“There is an alternative to a decade of low global growth which would fail to meet both the development needs of Africa and the growth needs of Europe and America. To me the answer is obvious: as we struggle to find new sources of growth we must turn here, to Africa, to this continent of huge potential and talent.”

A rethinking of aid can help stimulate this growth. Aid should continue to support Africa’s public sector to provide essential services (health, education and water), but aid should not be an end in itself, he said. Aid should be seen as an investment in equitable growth and sustainable development by helping to unleash the private sector.

Gordon Brown also argued that a key strategy for future growth in Africa will be the possibility of Africa leapfrogging a stage in technology and gaining mass access to broadband internet access. He used the speech to announce that he was working with African leaders and experts in the field including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the web, for a major campaign and programme of work on the issue. He went on to say:

“Africa’s best hope for diversification into the high-value sectors is a massive acceleration in the use of IT. A third of people in Africa now have mobiles, but less than 1% have access to broadband. I truly believe that the rapid expansion of internet access in Africa could transform how Africa trades, learns and holds political power accountable.”

Here at the Labour Campaign for International Development we are very pleased that Gordon Brown is looking to launch an initiative on broadband access. We’re pleased too that the former PM’s first major speech since leaving office has been on international development – it just underlines the commitment that he and Tony Blair have always had on the issue. Tony Blair of course set up his African Governance Initiative upon leaving office, and we await further news on Gordon’s initiative with excitement.

What will be the vision of the next leader of Labour Party on international development? We’ll be interviewing all the leadership candidates on their views on the Robin Hood Tax, fairer trade and climate change – the issues that came top of our poll (thank you to all those who took part). Whatever their answers, it is clear the next leader of the Labour Party has some very big boots to fill when they succeed Tony and Gordon.

by David Taylor, Chair, Labour Campaign for International Development

[You can read the full speech here – it’s well worth a read]

Vote 2010: International development – A big choice election

First published on Left Foot Forward.

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

The Tories’ unanswered questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labour’s record

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Africa’s preferred UK premier?

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

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

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

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



Labour’s Manifesto on International Development

Extract from Labour’s manifesto

The global poverty emergency: our moral duty, our common interest

Labour’s international leadership on development has helped transform the lives of millions across the world. Yet too many people still live in extreme poverty, die from treatable diseases, or are denied the chance to go to school.

We will lead an international campaign to get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. We remain committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid from 2013, and we will enshrine this commitment in law early in the next Parliament. Our aid will target the poorest and most excluded – spent transparently and evaluated independently. We will fight corruption, investing more to track, freeze, and recover assets stolen from developing countries. Further action will be taken to strengthen developing countries’ tax systems, reduce tax evasion, improve reporting, and crack down on tax havens. To increase accountability, we will allocate at least five per cent of all funding developing country budgets for the purpose of strengthening the role of Parliaments and civil society.

Our leadership on debt cancellation has freed 28 countries from the shackles of debt. We will continue to drive this agenda, building on legislation to clampdown on vulture funds.

Access to health, education, food, water and sanitation are basic human rights. We will spend £8.5 billion over eight years to help more children go to school; maintain our pledge to spend £6 billion on health between 2008 and 2015 and £1 billion through the Global Fund to support the fight against HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; fight for universal access to prevention, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS by 2010; and deliver at least 30 million additional anti-malarial bed-nets over the next three years.

We will provide £1 billion for water and sanitation by 2013, driving this issue up the international agenda, and over £1 billion on food security and agriculture. We will push for the establishment of a Global Council on Child Hunger. We will help save the lives of six million mothers and babies by 2015 and, because international focus on the needs of women and girls is vital, we will double core funding to the new UN Women’s agency. While the Tories would favour private schemes, we will work closely with NGOs and developing countries to eliminate user fees and promote healthcare and education free at the point of access. We will encourage other countries to ratify the ILO conventions on labour standards, as we have done.

Trade can lift millions out of poverty. We will work with the private sector, trade unions and co-operatives to promote sustainable development, quadruple our funding for fair and ethical trade, and press for a fair World Trade Organisation deal, with no enforced liberalisation for poor countries, and increased duty-free and quota-free access.