Gordon: Our commitment to making poverty history

Gordon Brown speaks at the international development #GBontheRoad event, Saturday 17th April.Here is a quick message from Gordon Brown from Labour’s blog on the campaign trail:

“One part of Labour’s record that has inspired a lot of young people in particular is our commitment to making poverty history. I have given a number of speeches about that over the years, but today I did another GB on the Road event to give people the chance to ask whatever questions they wanted about foreign policy and development.  Labour’s manifesto also includes a pledge to put our target of spending 0.7% of national income on aid into law and you can watch why that matters here.

And just think what we have already achieved working with other countries:

– almost 50 million more children are in school than ten years ago

– record numbers of children are reaching their fifth birthday and

– millions more peopke are getting lifesaving healthcare

And we can be proud of the role Britain is playing in the world. Because with a  Labour government we have seen:

– the trebling of aid

– the cancelling of debt and

– the worldwide ban on cluster bombs

These are amazing Labour achievements, but they do not belong to me, or Tony, or Hilary, or David or Douglas; they belong to you. You did this; be very, very proud.”

LCID attends Rankin exhibition at 10 Downing Street

David and I were delighted that LCID were invited to 10 Downing Street to look at an exhibition by the photographer Rankin on his pictures from the DRC. The event was attended by charities, NGOs and publications looking to write a piece with a development slant. It was great to meet everyone and get a chance to spread the word about LCID.

The exhibition itself was incredibly exciting and innovative. The photographs were mainly portraits of locals from a villiage which had recently quadrupled in population. I found it refreshing to see a different kind of Africa represented through these portait pictures. All too often we are shown the pain, devestation and famine rather than the hope, laughter and love. The pictures themselves comprised of mothers and children, lovers and friends. I got a real sense of community from the story the pictures told.

After wondering around the exhibition for a while it was time for the speeches. First Gordon Brown spoke about how important it was to to shine a light on the problems in the DRC, and congratulated Rankin on his exhibition. Then Rankin spoke about how he had gone to Oxfam wanting to do something, but not really sure what. They gave him a list of five countries he could visit to photograph. Explaining that he loved an underdog he chose the DRC which was bottom of their list! The first time he went he took many of the portrait photographs which were on display. He told a great story of when he was coming to the end of his trip he showcased the pictures he had taken in the middle of the camp. Thousands of people turned up to look at the pictures, with many demanding he take their picture! What ensued involved Rankin lining up everyone in a circle round the camp and taking group shots as he moved down the line. Back in Britain he showcased his pictures and raised over £1 million pounds, which is just astounding. It also inspired him to go back a second time.

When Rankin returned he came armed with over 200 disposable cameras which he gave to the people of the villiage to use. These photographs were also displayed at Downing Street, and were my favourite ones by far! Rankin explained that a lot of the people had never used a camera before, and he had a lot of fun teaching them how.

I found Rankin’s story compelling and felt very inspired by his exploits. The last speech came from Barbara, head of Oxfam, who thanked Rankin for his work and explained there was still much to do in the DRC.

The event ended with everyone being given a copy of Rankin’s book showcasing his pictures from the DRC entitled ‘Congo Family Album’. I even managed to get him to sign mine and dedicate it to LCID. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the exhibition and felt happy to have seen the DRC in such a positive light.

If you want to read more about Rankin’s time in the DRC please visit the Oxfam website.

By Holly Mitchell

We will not turn our back on the world’s poor – Gordon Brown

Posted on Global Poverty Promise.com

Gordon Brown

Five years ago, millions of us took part in the Make Poverty History Campaign. Everyone from rock stars, to church leaders, to members of the public mobilised to make 2005 a turning point in the fight against global poverty.

Despite the horror of the 7/7 attacks on London, the G8 was determined not to allow terrorists to derail the talks. And under Britain’s Presidency, the G8 agreed the most significant outcome in its history,  hammering out a 50 billion dollar aid package, with 25 billion dollars for the world’s poorest countries in Africa and debt relief for those countries most in need.

Of course, we knew this would never be enough to Make Poverty History. But we also knew that if implemented, it could become a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point in the fight against poverty.

Five years on, the figures are in and the reckoning is due.

First, we should acknowledge how much has been achieved.

On debt relief the progress has been immense with 45 billion dollars delivered to the world’s poorest countries freeing up resources for health and education. In Burundi for example, the government was able to build 1,000 extra classrooms and provide free health services for every child under five.

And on Aid too, the G8 has delivered real improvements. According to the OECD – the custodians of the figures – 2010 will see the total amount of aid given to poor countries reach a new record, this at a period that has seen an unprecedented global financial crisis.

Indeed since 2005 total aid has grown by almost 28 billon dollar and that aid has had tangible benefits on the ground.  More than four million people now receive treatment for HIV and AIDS – a tenfold increase over five years – and deaths among the under fives has fallen below ten million for the first time since records began. Through the UK led immunisation initiative, 500 million children will be vaccinated and 10 million lives will be saved by 2015. And the aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to get 47 million more children into school over the last ten years. This is impressive progress.

The UK has delivered on our own target too. In 2005 we promised we would spend 0.56% of our national income on aid; the OECD confirmed today that the UK will honour that promise.

There is no way that all of this would have happened without the Make Poverty History campaign and the landmark Gleneagles summit. Those involved should rightly feel proud of their contribution and the real changes this has made possible.

But let us be equally clear that the 50 billion dollar agreement made at Gleneagles has not been met.

Some of the shortfall is due to reduced growth during the global recession. But I do not believe there can be any excuse for denying money promised to the poorest people on our planet.

So where next? Do we accept that the international community cannot keep its promises and give up? Or do we seize the progress that has been made and push for more in the future? We act.

For this government there will be no giving up. 2010 is going to be a watershed year for the Millennium Development Goals and the UK is pushing hard for a Global Poverty summit in New York this year, to set out an action plan for the next five years to get us into a position to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We will also work with the EU and the Canadian G8 Presidency to put in place a new system of accountability to make it much harder for countries to break their promises in the future. And we will work to find new innovative sources of sustainable finance for future development.

Internationally we will drive further progress on education, health and the economic growth that are essential for progress. We will support the efforts of President Zuma, FIFA and the 1Goal campaign to make the legacy of the first World Cup in Africa, education for every African child. We will support all countries trying to end the outrage of women and children dying because they can’t afford basic healthcare. And through the G20 we will make sure the poorest countries benefit from our efforts to boost global growth in the crisis.

In the UK too we will strengthen our own accountability. We have already kept our G8 promises but we will go further and enshrine our commitment in law.

We have sought all party agreement on this, but sadly the Conservatives say a law isn’t necessary and refuse to match our commitment to introduce a Bill on this issue. I ask them to reconsider their position today.

The world came together in 2005 to make poverty history. In 2010 I call on the international community and campaigners to reinvigorate this mission; to renew their commitment – not to turn away from it.

Sign up to the campaign to make 0.7% spending on aid UK law at Global Poverty Promise.com

Prime Minister criticises climate change skeptics as group to fund developing countries launched

Gordon Brown has criticised climate change sceptics as going “against the grain” of all the scientific evidence, as he launched a new group to raise the money promised by developed countries at Copenhagen.

The United Nations High Level Advisory Group on Climate Change Financing will be co-chaired by the Prime Minister and Meles Zenawi, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Its purpose is to work towards one of the substantive promises from the Copenhagen talks: to raise $100 billion by 2020 for developing countries to use in the fight against climate change.

This aid is vital in the struggle against the effects of anthropogenic climate change, due to the disproportionate hardship that it will cause to the world’s poorest countries. These are well-documented and would cause great suffering in developing countries, the effects of which would rapidly spread across national borders.

According to the Prime Minister, the High Level Group will grapple with:

“the task that I believe is the most important we face – combating climate change by ensuring that the poorest countries have the finance necessary to do so… The task before us, while daunting, is a very important one to the future of the environment of the world.”

This aid must not be taken from other international development funding, the Prime Minister said and he is completely right. While international development and the fight against climate change are inextricably linked and must be tackled together, there are also distinct causes to both which require different action. Taking money from the aid budget to fight against climate change will leave the developing world ill equipped for both.

The UK, and especially the UK Government has led the way here. It is vital that that continues. Gordon Brown has made it clear that, under Labour, it will.

By Tim Nicholls

Tories call Robin Hood tax “hopelessly naive” – despite its backing by world economists

Our latest post for Left Foot Forward.

It is just two days since the “Robin Hood” tax launched and already 23,000 people have voted in favour on the campaign’s online poll: 13,000 signed up by email and 21,500 joined the Facebook Fan page.

Gordon-Brown-FT-interviewThe Financial Times reported yesterday that Gordon Brown believes the IMF will endorse a global bank levy before its April meeting in Washington, and that an agreement in principle can then be agreed by world leaders at the G20 summit in June.

It follows his response to a question tabled at Wednesday’s PMQs, in which he stated his belief that:

“We will reach agreement on a global financial levy … I believe that we will be able to go ahead with it in the not too distant future.”

Despite being backed by more than 350 of the world’s leading economists and world leaders, the response from the right-wing blogosphere has been predictably lamentable.

Conservative Home led with a blog that described the tax as a “fairytale” that “won’t help anyone”, with centre-right ‘non-party political’ thinktank Reform calling it “hopelessly naive”.

Meanwhile, perhaps taking the Tea Party “revolution” as their inspiration, a “The Robin Hood Tax is a stupid idea!” Facebook page has been set up. It has 31 fans. It appears to be an aggregator of some of the Tory blogosphere’s reaction to the tax.
Here is a selection:

• “It’s lunatic on the very face of it”

• “They’re fucking mad, aren’t they?” – Adam Smith Institute blogger Tim Worstall

• “The last thing we want is to increase benefits or money to those out of work. If it is to be used to help prevent climate change, as I read elsewhere, do we really need another ‘Green Tax’ from this government?”

“The Robin Hood Tax is just there for socialists and other Trots to latch on to a figure of public hatred and propel their communist views”Cardiff Blogger, ranked 26th top Conservative blogger (by Total Politics)

• “This is an absurd concept that pulls figures out of its arse and expects everyone to just believe it” – Conservative candidate for Three Rivers district council Chris Hawes

• An “initiative by the economically illiterate designed to appeal to those who are economically illiterate” – Conservative blogger James Burdett

• “Even though I fear that wading in may make it look even more like the Tory Bloggers have received their marching orders on the Robin Hood Tax I’m going to add my two cents (or should that be 0.005%) to the general condemnation of it” – Stratford Conservative

There are a few common themes running through their arguments which are worth addressing.

Claim #1: It will harm the economy

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said this of short-term trading in an interview with the Evening Standard:

“Does anybody seriously believe that anything happens because of the sort of micro-second trading we’re now seeing? It’s a function of speed. No investments are being made as a result of it, no jobs are being created.

“Finance has a vital socially important role to fulfil, which is to raise capital, to run payment systems, to oil the wheels of everything society does. But the bankers fail to perform that socially useful function — and because of that, the world’s economy has suffered.”

Claim #2: It will harm ordinary consumers, including ‘holidaymakers when they exchange money at the airport’

The Robin Hood tax campaign FAQ states that:

“The Robin Hood Tax will not impact on personal banking or on retail banking. That’s because it targets a distinct area of bank operations – high-frequency large-volume trading, undertaken by financial institutions in the ‘casino economy’.

“If you change money to go on holiday, send remittances abroad, invest in a pension fund or take out a mortgage, you will not be affected by this tiny tax.”

Claim #3: It will never work because a global agreement will not be reached

Gordon Brown said in PMQs that it “must be done by countries working together” – and with Germany and France having previously backed the idea, and the PM speaking of an agreement at the next IMF and G20 meetings, a global bank levy is closer now than at any time since James Tobin proposed the idea.

Adam Lent, the TUC’s head of economic and social affairs, has argued that if enough momentum could be built up to bring the US and Japan on board, then:

“The biggest financial centres will be covered making it very difficult for financial companies to avoid the tax by shifting transactions or operations elsewhere.”

The campaign itself stresses unilateral action could be taken, proposing that:

“While an internationally agreed tax system is the best way to proceed, the UK Government and European Union should start extending transaction taxes already in existence, such as the UK’s 0.5 per cent stamp duty on shares.”

To conclude, no one in favour of the Robin Hood tax is arguing that it is the magic bullet in the war against poverty. The same organisations involved in pushing this campaign have long argued for reform of the international institutions governing globalisation, a fair global trade deal and a fair global deal to tackle climate change, and they will continue to do so.

There is no contradiction, however, in also trying to seize a once-in-a-generation chance to build an opportunity from crisis and push for £400 billion. This is and idea whose time has come.

by David Taylor