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

Join Hilary Benn and others for a public debate in Leeds!

On Saturday 4 December, Emma Hoddinott will be chairing a public debate in Leeds to discuss sereral areas of international development. Among the panel of speakers will be Hilary Benn MP, former International Development Secretary.

Saturday 4 December
Leeds Civic Hall
1:45pm for a 2pm start, until 4pm

Topics for the debate will include: Should our international aid budget rise by a third? Is Aid or Trade better? Can International Aid make a difference?

The event promises to be great, with a wide ranging discussion from several different speakers. It is free to attend and you can register online. If you’re in the area, please do come along!

Brown gives evidence to the select committee

Earlier this week, Gordon Brown gave evidence to the International Development Select Committee, warning that increased protectionism during the global recession would hurt African development.

The BBC have a great article about the session and you can watch footage of Brown’s evidence here.

As you may know, we won’t meet the MDGs on current trends – we’re way off-track. The sanitation target within MDG 7 for example won’t be met in Africa until the 23rd century – 200 years late. It’s a desperate situation, and it was good to see the Select Committee focus on the MDGs. At LCID we’re hoping this signifies a decent focus on international development in the coalition’s plans.

At LCID, we’ll be focusing on the MDGs over the coming weeks, so stay tuned for more.

Harriet Harman responds to the Comprehensive Spending Review

Statement from Harriet Harman, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, on the Comprehensive Spending Review:

“We welcome the government’s commitment to continue with Labour’s target of 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013 but freezing the percentage of aid for two  years will inevitably beg the question about whether they will deliver on that commitment.  This makes it all the more urgent that they bring forward  the legislation that they promised and enshrine in law the requirement to meet the 0.7% target from 2013.”

“The government is asking for a great leap of faith for us to trust that they will  increase the aid budget by 30% in 3 years time so they must bring forward the legislation to  Parliament which will enshrine their commitment in law.   The Bill is already drafted and we will give it full co-operation for its passage through Parliament.  Failure to do so will only raise fears that they remain in doubt about whether they will actually keep their promise.”

“In the meantime we will be watching very closely to see that the DFID budget is spent on poverty relief and not siphoned off for military or other purposes.”

Douglas Alexander: Responsibility to the poor: a matter of justice, not charity

Next week Douglas Alexander is publishing a new pamphlet with the Foreign Policy Centre – today read this preview on The Guardian’s Development site.

Clear, progressive principles must underpin the development community’s handling of state fragility, poverty and inequality


india poverty

Children of a family earning less than a dollar a day scavenge on a rubbish tip in New Delhi. Photograph: Gurinder Osan/AP


Human history does not always advance at a steady and inevitable pace. Some years, whether 1789 or 2001, are recognised in retrospect as times when fundamental shifts in established orders were exposed.

The last decade or so has been a golden period for international development, including efforts by the UK. Indeed, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recently judged the Department for International Development under Labour’s stewardship as having gained “national and international recognition for its professionalism and ability to deliver its aid programme effectively”.

But in opposition, it now falls again to the centre-left to develop ideas for delivering global justice in a political and policy context changed, fundamentally, in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008.

That global economic crisis accelerated and further highlighted changes and challenges that politicians and policy makers are still struggling with. We need to do more than just have the right arguments about moral duty and common interest to explain to the public why we should continue funding overseas aid at a time when we are being asked to cut budgets at home.

We now face not only a question of balance sheets, but a question of shifting global balance.

And in this changing context, international development must be driven by more than a quest for value for money. It must also be driven by values.

Market failures

The “charitable” approach of the right to international development appears becalmed alongside narrow concepts of national security and commercial interest, a continuing hostility to the role of the state, and a superficially empowering but ultimately laissez-faire approach to the role of civil society.

The whole world – rich and poor alike – is still living through the consequences of the food, fuel and financial crises: collectively, the greatest market failure of the last 60 years. And we are already being faced with the growing impacts of climate change, the greatest market failure in human history.

A further effect of the financial and economic crisis has been to highlight and accelerate the rise of Asia. Countries like China, India and Vietnam have grown enormously in recent years. The G20 has arisen to take on new responsibility in this changed global economic and political context. China in particular has undergone a remarkable transformation from poverty to significant global donor. India has experienced remarkable growth. Many African countries have shown growth despite the global recession. Many countries are rapidly graduating from low income to middle income status.

Yet this “rise of the rest” masks a complex and conflicted world – where billions remain in poverty and are denied their basic rights.

Twenty years ago, more than 90% of the world’s poorest people lived in low-income countries. But as Andy Sumner of the Institute of Development Studies has revealed in ground-breaking research this month, a staggering three quarters of the world’s poorest people now live in so-called middle income countries like India and Brazil – what he calls a “new bottom billion”.

At the same time, others, like Paul Collier, have emphasised the importance of focusing on the “bottom billion” who find themselves in the bottom fifty or so states affected by fragility and conflict.

What some have called a “new geography of poverty” poses fundamental questions for the future of international aid and development.

These new times demand not old orthodoxies, but new responses, grounded in a fundamental belief in justice and universal human rights.

It is easy for politicians to say that, since India has a space programme, we should have no concern for the millions of Indians still living in abject poverty, or indeed those in any emerging middle income country. The reality is, of course, far more complex.

Inequality remains a crucial factor in this new world. Despite the reduction in poverty associated with growth in countries like China and India, and despite the improvements to child welfare around the world, inequality remains pervasive on a global scale. As Kevin Watkins pointed out in a recent article for the Guardian, the impacts of inequality can be stark:

Inequality remains the most potent destroyer of opportunities for education. In Nigeria, the average male from a wealthy, urban home can expect on average about 10 years of education. Meanwhile, poor girls in rural northern Nigeria average less than six months in school.

It is not only a matter of social justice that should concern us about high levels of inequality, but also the impacts in terms of sustainability, security and stability – both for those people directly affected, and globally.

So we need to ground new approaches to the challenges posed by state fragility, the new geography of poverty, and extreme inequality in clear, progressive principles.

A responsibility to the poor

In the same way that the responsibility to protect has driven us to think about how the world responds to genocide and crimes against humanity, beyond narrow notions of state sovereignty, I believe we must now develop a responsibility to the poor to guide our actions in international development, lest many of the poorest become ignored behind national borders and statistical categories.

What is our responsibility to one girl who lives in abject poverty in India, versus that of another who lives just a few miles away on the Bangladeshi side of the border?

A responsibility to the poor must also go further. It must drive us to higher standards across all our broader actions. Rich countries are often part of the problem. Unfair international rules of trade, like agricultural subsidies and restrictive intellectual property rules; irresponsible arms exports; weak controls over international companies which engage in bribery overseas; not clamping down on stolen assets from developing countries, which are then laundered through western financial institutions and tax havens; and climate change driving emissions that hit the poorest the hardest – all should be treated with the same seriousness of purpose as we have shown in our fight to protect the aid budget and its poverty focus.

We must continue doing what works well in the poorest countries. Well applied, targeted and effective aid can and should be used to achieve progress on challenges such as health, education, water and other basic services.

But we also need new approaches when it comes to the over 60% of the poor now living in middle income countries, alongside the traditional aid, debt relief and other approaches Labour successfully used in government to deliver results.

A global “big society” is not enough to deliver – in the same way that it is not sufficient here in Britain. We cannot simply take a laissez-faire approach to citizen empowerment, urging everyone to do their bit. We should make no apology for saying that where market failures exist, the state must step in alongside the citizen. And when those market failures are global – as in the case of climate change, or extreme poverty and inequality – then global action must be taken.

At the same time, we must recognise that action by governments alone is insufficient. Our model must be one of true partnership between the state, citizens and other actors, including the private sector.

We must fight against any suggestion that Britain’s role in international development should slip back into well-meaning but colonial-style charity for poor people, with policies driven by public populism, political expediency and narrow national interests.

The great Archbishop Desmond Tutu, retiring this week at the age of 79, once exhorted us, in a plea for humanity and the recognition of both moral and physical interdependence:

My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

In this more unequal, hotter, unstable and interdependent world we cannot now settle for charity. We must recognise our responsibility to the poor and continue the long march to justice.

How we reported Britain in World debate on twitter

LCID was in the hall this morning for the Britain in the World session. We tweeted throughout as @LabourCID. Here’s what we had to say.

In the hall for Britain in the World which is about to start at #lab10 – LCID hopes to get called to ask a question later

While we waited for the discussion to start we read the text of the contemporary resolutions – Pleased to see reference to pursue a Robin Hood Tax in tax avoidance motion at #lab10

Then we started;
Getting under way at #lab10 – showing film highlighting #dec appeal for Pakistan

Now film about #climate change – reminding us that it’s hitting to poorest hardest – #lab10

Welcoming guests from @oxfamgb and Christian Aid to stage at #lab10 (Guest from Oxfam had been involved in Pakistan flood response, while guest from Christian Aid was working on climate change)

Climate meetings need not to be talking shops but actually make commitments that change lives – @oxfamgb at #lab10

. @DAlexanderMP reminds #lab10 of ConDem threat to cut funding to UN emergency disaster response fund

Christian Aid at #lab10 – climate change caused by minority but it’s the poor who are bearing the brunt

Wrapping up Douglas Alexander said;
.@DAlexanderMP – proud of what we’ve achieved on development – fragile political consensus means we have to continue to build support #lab10

If we meet ppl on doorstep says politics doesn’t make a difference. our collective efforts on dev have changed millions of lives #lab10

Give money yes, says @DAlexanderMP, but calls on Labour members to be involved in campaigning on int dev =Join @LabourCID LCID.org.uk #lab10

Conference then spent some time hearing from Bob Ainsworth, Shadow Minister of Defence, but we picked up this on twitter;

RT @susan_nash: Looking 4ward 2 hearing Wai BurmaUK campaign & @AmnestyUK. Her story brought @nusuk delegates to tears, please come #lab10

We welcomed Wai, a human rights activist who spoke about the situation in Burma and the Amnesty International campaign.

Powerful testimony from Wai,human rights activist from #Burma -thnks Gordon Brown & @DMiliband 4 UK support.If only couldve done more #lab10

Wai was given a Find out more about the campaign at www.amnesty.org.uk/hands

It was time for David Miliband, who reminded conference that;
DMiliband – thanks to Labour on int’l dev we went from a laggard to a world leader – #lab10

Finally, we moved into the Q+A session, LCID had a question on the Robin Hood Tax but it didn’t get called. None

Question on MDGs at #lab10 – how do we ensure tough issues don’t fall of the agenda
In response, . @DAlexanderMP need political leadership to achieve #MDGs – to pick up the phone and make the case #lab10

RT @jonnytench @LabourCID also very important question asked on protecting women’s rights worldwide. Labour must continue to champion

International Development at #Lab10 Conference – Monday 27th

International Development will get its moment in the spotlight this morning when Shadow Secretary of State, Douglas Alexander MP addresses conference as part of the Britain in the World plenary session (Conference Hall from 9am).

Once the speeches are over lunchtime has a solidarity theme to it, with Parliamentary Friends of Colombia hosting Colombia: The Struggle for Justice at 1pm in Midland Hotel – Alexandra A and the New Statesman asking Gaza life support: Is aid a failure of politics? also at 1pm but at the Novotel Hotel – Chetham Room

At 4.15pm representatives of LCID will be attending the policy session in Manchester Central, Charter 1 to let the National Policy Forum know our ideas on what our development policy should be.

The evening slot sees the first event on climate change, with the Foreign Policy Centre pulling together an excellent panel, which includes Gordon Brown’s Special Adviser on Climate Change, Michael Jacobs to explore what happens After Copenhagen: How can we galvanise global action on climate change? (5.30pm at Palace Hotel, Palace 7).

How to do development in fragile states is a hot topic at the moment, so World Vision and Saferworld’s event, which includes former DFID minister Ivan Lewis MP on the panel, The Afghan, Somali…and me? The UK’s engagement in fragile countries (Manchester Central, The Usdaw Marquee – Room 2 at 5.30pm) should be interesting.

At the end of the day, don’t forget to join LCID members at 8pm in the bar of the Midland Hotel for a drink. Look out for the t-shirts and banner.

Disclaimer – We’re human, we make mistakes, the fringe guide makes mistakes, so we offer our apologies if we’ve omitted events or got our venues confused. Let us know by e-mailing tom@lcid.org.uk and we’ll try to fix it!