David Morrissey says ‘Keep the Promise’

At the Gleneagles summit in 2005, the G8 countries made a promise: their aid budgets would be increased to 0.7% of their national income. Now, just 6 years later, there are already signs that some of those countries are failing to live up to their word. The Labour Party, with Harriet Harman at the helm as Shadow International Development Secretary, is demanding that the UK is not added to this list.

Speaking out today, actor David Morrissey has spoken out today, saying “there is much to be proud of, but there’s also much to be done. You can watch the video here

Visit the Keep the Promise website to find out more about Labour’s work, both in Government and in opposition, on increasing aid for the world’s poorest.

On International Women’s Day call on the Government to back up UN Women

Today is International Women’s Day, Labour is holding the Conservative-led Government to account on its promise to women around the world. This comes a week after support for UN Women was left out of the aid review. In an email, Harriet Harman asked people to ask them why:

Today is International Women’s Day. Join me in calling on the Government to answer the question they failed to answer last week when they published their review of the UK’s international aid programme – how much will they commit to spending on the new UN women’s agency?

This new UN agency has the potential to make a real difference to the lives of women in both the developed and the developing world but it needs resources.

The Government say they are putting women and girls at the heart of their development work. Sign up and ask the Government to put their money where their mouth is and show the world that the UK is still a leader for women

The Labour Government played a key role in establishing “UN Women”. The new Government must continue that support. Empowering women is not only right in principle but essential for fighting poverty and achieving all of the Millennium Development Goals, such as reducing the number of women who die in childbirth, and increasing the number of girls who go to school.

It is women in developing countries who are best placed to fight for maternal health care, and for their daughters to go to school. UN Women must help them in that fight. Support UN Women by signing up to ask the Tory-led Government for a real commitment to back up women throughout the world

Decisions are being made on this now and women the world over need the UK to play its part. The women of the world shouldn’t have to wait any longer for this Government to make up its mind.


Harriet Harman
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development


Women and Development policy review group launched

Today, on the eve of the 100th International Women’s Day, Labour launched a policy review into women and development: “Supporting the sustainable empowerment of women and girls in the developing world”.

As part of the wide-ranging review of Labour Party policies, this group will look at the barriers that women across the world still face in accessing education, healthcare and economic opportunities, as well as a staggering lack of political representation.

The group will be chaired by Cherie Blair, who in 2008 established the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, which works with organisations based in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East jointly developing projects with  local partners to help women start and expand their businesses.

The review will look into 6 areas:

  • Supporting the sustainable empowerment of women and girls in developing countries
  • Making growth work for the poor and generating resources for development
  • Climate Change, resource scarcity and food insecurity –mapping and responding to the challenges
  • Conflict, security and development
  • Beyond governments: Recognising and building greater support for international development
  • The challenge of inequality between and within countries

Underlining the importance of the policy review and Labour’s dedication to international development, Cherie Blair said:

“Women are the drivers of change across the world. They are far more likely than men to invest their incomes back into their families – helping to drive up better health standards and educational opportunities for their children, which in turn benefits the wider community.

“That’s why working for the economic independence of women is vital to the fight against global poverty. But there are so many barriers faced by women and girls in the developing world, that they are often unable to participate in economic or political life and struggle to get access to healthcare and education for themselves, let alone their families. 

“We need to look afresh at how countries like the UK, through their development efforts, can help make a real difference to the status and power of women in the developing world.”

Welcoming the selection of Cherie Blair as Chair, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, said:

“I am delighted that Cherie Blair has agreed to chair this group. She is a committed campaigner for women and girls in the developing world. Her contribution will be invaluable.”

Standing up for women around the world

Speaking yesterday at the start of the 55th Commission on the Status of Women, Harriet Harman took the opportunity to welcome the launch of UN Women, which was officially launched.

“This is a very important meeting. It will see the official launch of UN Women and bring together women from around the world.

“There can be no retreat from the Government’s promise to spend 0.7% on development aid by 2013. Women and girls around the world are helped by aid– from the woman in Nigeria who no longer has to walk for miles to get water, to the girl in Bangladesh who can now go to school. We must not turn our backs on them now.

“Women in the developing world must not be made the victims of deficit reduction programmes, as they are in the UK, where the government’s cuts are hitting women the hardest.

“UN Women will support the women in parliaments and in governments across the world – they are the ones who will fight hardest for the women in developing countries. UN Women will play an important role in backing them up to ensure progress for the women they represent.”

Harriet was joined by Fiona Mactaggart, Shadow Equalities Minister, who will sit on the Commission, highlighted the importance of UN Women. She said: “At the Interparliamentary Union meeting which coincides with the session I will be working  with colleagues in other parliaments and governments to make sure that UN Women works with elected women to advance the condition of women throughout the world.”

As Shadow International Development Secretary, Harriet Harman has made it clear that female elected representatives will be key in improving the lives of women across the developing world. This was a fact that she reinforced last week at the launch of the Keep the Promise campaign, which was hosted by LCID.


Harriet Harman’s letter to Mitchell

Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, has written to Andrew Mitchell about topical questions at International Development Questions in Parliament. You can read her letter below and we all look forward to this change being implemented in time for the next International Development Questions on 16 February

Dear Andrew, 

I am writing to confirm your agreement that we should have topical questions at Oral PQs and to ask that we introduce the change soon – for Oral Questions next week if possible.

Of course oral answers to questions tabled up to three days ahead provide vital accountability to the House. But there are occasions, indeed there have been in the last two questions sessions, where there has been a sudden emergency situation overseas and where the House would like to hear of the government’s response from yourself and your ministerial team. We agreed when we met that topical questions can ensure that these questions can be asked without relying on the luck of the draw of tabled questions providing an opportunity to raise this. It is not desirable for the House not to be able to raise important emergencies or to have to do so obliquely to get the Question “in order”. Indeed doing it like this often leaves the rest of the House, and no doubt the public, baffled.

I am grateful for your agreement that we should have topical questions. I agree that proceeding by way of 10 minutes’ topicals at the top of the orals, followed by 20 minutes of tabled questions, is the best way of doing it. I understand that the Speaker and the Leader of the House have no objection to this.

I look forward to your support and action to make this change, if possible, in time for next orals on 16th February.

I am releasing this letter to the media.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP, Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Shadow Secretary of State for International Development

Harriet Harman to discuss the aid budget at LSE

On Thursday 3rd February, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary will be speaking at the London School of Economics. The talk will focus on the aid budget and how, and why, the UK should honour its pledge to increase aid to 0.7 of national income in a time of economic downturn.

The event is free and entry is on a first come, first served basis.

Date: Thursday 3 February 2011
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House


Don’t forget that LCID is hosting an event in Parliament with Harriet Harman on 16 February. If you would like to come along to the LCID event, please RSVP to eilidh@lcid.org.uk

Harriet Harman writes to Andrew Mitchell about women’s projects in Afghanistan

Harriet Harman, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, has written to Andrew Mitchell to ask him about funding for women’s projects in Afghanistan.

Here are some extracts from the letter:

“I recently had the opportunity to meet with Hussn Banu Ghazanfar, the Afghan Minister for Women…. One of the issues that was raised with me by the Minister, and was raised by women MPs with my political advisor on a recent visit, was the question of UK funds going to support women’s organisations in Afghanistan.

“I think it is important that when deciding which women’s groups, organisations and projects to fund, the government informs and consults the elected women in Afghanistan.  They, after all, are in a good position to have an informed view about where the funds could best be spent.  At the very least they should know which groups, organisations and projects are being funded.

“I would be grateful if you would

  • confirm to me that in future the elected women representatives will be consulted by DFID as part of the consultation process of deciding how to disburse funds to women’s groups, organisations and projects
  • set out to me the full details of all the projects to support women which we are contributing funds to
  • undertake to convey that information to Minister Ghazanfar and the other 68 women MPs in Afghanistan.

“When the British presence in Afghanistan is reduced, we want to be sure that women are stronger because of our actions not undermined and bypassed and thereby weakened.”

Harriet Harman calls for aid for Sri Lankan flood victims

With floods in Sri Lanka driving 39,000 people from their homes, Harriet Harman, Shadow International Development Secretary, has called for the UK and the international community to help.

Though aid has begun to arrive in Sri Lanka, The Daily Mirror points out that only 6 tonnes of aid was moved on Friday.

Harriet Harman said:

“Sadly over twenty people have lost their lives in these devastating floods and  hundreds of thousands of people have been affected with many losing their homes and livelihoods. The priority now must be helping them.

“The floods will also cause longer term problems. They have destroyed acres of rice fields which could put food supply at risk and have raised the risk of water-borne diseases like typhoid.

“The people of Sri Lanka will need help, both immediately and in the long-term,  and the UK and the international community must be ready to  help provide that support.

“Many people in the UK will be worried about their friends and relatives in Sri Lanka and I am urging the UK government to do all they can to help them get in touch with their loved ones.”

Overseas Champion for violence against women? Well, it’s a start……

“When I questioned the male councillors on the way they conducted meetings…they retaliated with threats and violence. They kidnapped me for a week and I was beaten repeatedly and not given food. My family were also threatened.”
Marta Martínez, Bolivian Councillor

When I first heard the words above, spoken by a Bolivian Councillor whose organisation I work with, it gave me chills. I’m sure I am not alone amongst politically active women in the UK in taking for granted the comparative freedom from violence I enjoy when I exercise my basic right to have my voice heard.

But we must never forget for a moment, that this is not a freedom enjoyed by all women. Hundreds of thousands of brave women around the world face horrendous violence on a daily basis because they dare challenge the gendered expectation that they should stay silent. And whilst they risk their lives and their families to fight for their freedom, raising our voices to support them is a very small – not to mention relatively risk-free – action that we in the UK can take.

So, I welcomed the announcement last week – on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women – that the government would be installing Lynne Featherstone MP as the Overseas Champion on Violence Against Women. Over the last few months, I have worked through One World Action and partner organisations like Care and Action Aid, to ensure that this position, which has lay dormant since the general election, be reinstated.

And whilst the announcement was most definitely a step in the right direction, the fact that this is to be a ‘championing,’ rather than a Ministerial position is a little disappointing. It has left many wondering if Lynne with have the resources and political clout she will need to do her job effectively?

After all, this is not a simple problem to solve and Marta’s story above is just one in a highly complex web of pervasive violence against women worldwide. From Bibi Sanubar, the Afghan widow brutally flogged and shot dead by the Taliban for the crime of being pregnant, to Samar and Juwariya, the young Indian women who had acid thrown in their faces for turning down a marriage proposal. Violence against women has political, economic, social and cultural dimensions. It can be domestic or institutional. It can be physical, sexual or psychological.  In short, Lynne Featherstone is going to need her fingers in a lot of pies if she is going to make her mark on this role.

So, even if it looks as though the battle on this issue in the UK has been won, now is definitely not the time to walk away from all of the hard work. We need to make sure that the Overseas Champion has a remit that covers the work the Foreign Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development. That she has a seat on the National Security Council. That she leads cross-government action to drive forward Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security.

So we’re calling on all activists out there, not to risk kidnapping and torture like Marta to stand up for women’s rights. Just to sign our petition and lend your voice to the campaign against violence. That’s all.

Marie Birchall, LCID member and Coordinator of the More Women More Power (http://www.oneworldaction.org/more_women_more_power) Campaign.

Harriet’s first speech outlines some critical areas for international development

Harriet Harman speaking at ActionAid

This article was originally posted on Left Foot Forward.

This morning, shadow international development secretary Harriet Harman gave a speech at ActionAid headquarters in London. Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Ms Harman outlined six key priorities for the future of international development:

1. Realising the 0.7 per cent GNP pledge for aid;

2. Strengthening women’s rights around the world;

3. Support for remittances (money sent by people in developed countries to their family members in their country of origin);

4. Trade, tax and global growth;

5. The role of development in conflict prevention; and

6. Meeting the needs of developing countries in the fight against climate change.

It was that first point that Ms Harman concentrated on to make a direct call to the government:

“We cannot have succeeded in the struggle to have a new UN women’s agency only to discover that its governing board is men. That would be to contradict everything that it stands for.

“And the executive board should reach out beyond women in the UN missions and women in governments and include women in civil society organisations.”

In order to achieve this and to ensure the UK’s position as a world leader in women’s rights, Ms Harman decried the fact that among the Department for International Development and Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministerial teams, there was not a single woman.

She said:

“We [Labour] are calling on the Government to make a ministerial appointment of a woman to carry on the work that Glenys Kinnock was doing when we were in government – a role you campaigned for. She led the UK’s work on tackling violence against women overseas and she did a great job.

“The first time such an appointment had been made in the UK. That was important leadership and the government must continue it.”

Well, the government must have been half listening as Home Office minister Lynne Featherstone has, just today, had ‘International Violence Against Women Champion’ added to her brief. Potentially stopping well short of what Ms Harman called for, there is little indication as yet as to what authority Ms Featherstone will have, nor what resources she will have at hand to make a difference to the lives of women across the world.

On remittances, Ms Harman drew on the experiences of many in her constituency, including a report she compiled in 2007:

“I call them the ‘hidden heroes of international development’. People living in my constituency who come from Sierra Leone, Nigeria or Ghana who are living here and working hard bringing up their families. Sometimes doing more than one job, like office cleaning.

“As well as paying their taxes and providing for their family, they also send money back to their home country… But I think we can and should do much more to support remittances.”

It was clear from the passion in her speech that Ms Harman looks determined to make a difference in her new role. Before the election, there was cross-party consensus on the enshrining of the 0.7 per cent law; it was now Labour’s role, she said, to press the coalition to ensure that this Bill is put before Parliament. In a time where the government seems to turn with the tide, Labour:

“… doesn’t want to risk this being the next promise abandoned.”

Left Foot Forward has previously written about a worrying lack of ambition, ideas or leadership emanating from the coalition on international development. With these six points, Harriet Harman has once again demonstrated that Labour is providing leadership on this issue – the focus on trade, tax and global growth is therefore particularly welcome, and LCID looks forward to hearing more on the shadow team’s proposals.

You can read ActionAid’s news from International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women here.

By Tim Nicholls