A thank you from Ivan Lewis and Tessa Jowell

LCID were delighted to receive this video from MPs Ivan Lewis and Tessa Jowell, thanking us for our coverage of their Malawi trip.



As well as boosting our ego, Ivan and Tessa took the opportunity to explain some of the things they had learnt about Early Years Provision during the trip.


We’d like to say a thank you of our own: to Jessica Toale for her fantastic diary and to Ivan and Tessa for campaigning so hard to ensure Early Intervention for every child is key to the Post 2015 review of the Millennium Development Goals.

Energy poor people in energy rich countries must have improved access to fuel

When you got up this morning you probably switched on the light, went into the kitchen and popped something into the microwave or onto the stove.  But, have you ever stopped to think that what you would do if you didn’t have electricity or gas?  For 40% of the world’s population, their day started at sunrise, going out to find wood or dung which they would use to start a fire to cook their first meal.    

Searching for cooking fuel, collecting water and cooking meals, can take up to 10 hours in a day for many.  A job usually delegated to women and girls, it leaves little time to go to school or take on paid work.  Women and children are also adversely affected by the smoke produced while cooking in these situations.  Smoke kills about 1.6 million people each year worldwide and leads to high incidence of lung disease.  

Lack of energy, be it electricity or fuel, has a direct impact on development and is one of the main drivers of cyclical poverty.  Of the 1.5 billion without access to electricity, 670 million are in 48 countries that make up the lesser developed countries (LDCs) as defined by the United Nations.  Energy alone cannot raise people out of poverty but can decrease the amount of time taken up by daily activities that can now instead be directed towards income generating activities.

Conversely, without energy, Millennium Development Goals on education, health and women empowerment could not be achieved.  With the day predominately taken up with household activities, electricity allows the day to be extended past sundown enabling women to take up income generating activities and children to spend more time on their studies.  

It is for this reason that the UN has set a goal of universal energy access by 2030.  Part of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative it is one of three energy goals applicable to both developed and developing countries.  Other goals centre on doubling the proportion of renewable in the global energy mix and improving energy efficiency globally by 50%.   

However, meeting a goal of universal energy access will be a challenge.  The overwhelming majority of people without access are living in rural and remote areas.  Extending grid and pipe lines to these areas is capital-intensive and often people don’t have the money to pay for connection costs or the ability to make monthly energy payments.  It is estimated it will require 756 Billion USD to achieve universal access and in these difficult economic times the private sector is being looked upon to play a large role.   

They not only provide direct investment but also supply the technological ingenuity and off grid/decentralised energy solutions that are market ready and meet the needs of those in rural and remote areas.  Eight19 (which has developed IndiGo pay as you go solar lightening for Kenyans) is a good example of a company that has use mobile technology to increase energy access.  However, their ability to scale up and expand into other countries was limited without private investment from financial institutions and the equity market.    

Oil and gas companies control 75% of energy resources produced in Sub- Saharan Africa exporting 40% of resources out of the continent.  However, in light of the fact that half of the top 10 largest oil and gas producers are LDCs and only three have more than 50% of their population with access to electricity, it is clear that transparency and better governance will also need to play a role.    

If David Cameron is serious about improving the lives of women and eliminating absolute poverty then he should focus attention on improving energy access.   With an eye on profit making, many companies will only market their services to those who can pay. This is clearly indicated by the wide urban/rural divide in energy access.  Developing countries will need assistance in accessing and developing suitable renewable energy technologies as well as creating local market conditions, particularly income generating activities, which would allow people to afford the services and make them sustainable.  

For a continent to be so rich in energy resources and its people so energy poor reveals the distorted relationship between energy companies and developing countries.  Due to the overwhelming need for private investment in developing countries, energy companies can often dictate the terms of agreement for resource extraction and threaten to leave over country reforms on industry regulation and tax reforms. Developing countries need capacity building in financial monitoring of foreign companies, strengthening their own tax systems and fighting corruption.  Greater transparency is also needed on profit and taxes through such initiatives as the Dodd Franks Act and the EU Transparency and Accounting Directive.  Many energy companies are challenging the Dodd Franks Act in US courts while rushing to meetings of the voluntary Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.  Voluntary agreements are clearly not sufficient and transparency therefore needs to be legislated for in the UK and elsewhere.

Margaret Araujo is a member of the Labour Campaign for International Development

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!

The other conference. The one about global poverty.

by Steve Cockburn. First published for Progress Online.

Last week 100+ heads of state (and Nick Clegg) gathered for the UN Millennium Development Goals summit, to set out what they would do over the next five years to meet criticalpromises on poverty they made ten years ago, such as cutting by two-thirds the number of children dying before their fifth birthday.

Being there was not inspiring stuff. A 32-page ‘action plan’ agreed by over 190 states included pretty much no measurable actions. The resistance to incorporating human rights principles into poverty targets won out, and this time it wasn’t just rich countries to blame. And I think I spotted some people so bored they were tuning into the Lib Dem conference.

More prevalent than action was doublespeak. Ireland, for example, launched a new global strategy to tackle child malnutrition, receiving applause for announcing it was to increase the share of its aid budget for fighting hunger to 20 per cent. Everyone seemed to forget Ireland has slashed its aid budget by 25 per cent, meaning serious cuts in funding for everything else children rely on.

Similarly, the big news of the summit was the launch of a new Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health – much needed to improve efforts to end the preventable deaths of eight million children every year, as well 350,000 women in childbirth. A great plan that takes a broad and progressive approach to health, but funding announcements to implement it have so far flattered to deceive.

The UN did some sums to claim $40 billion was committed for the next five years by governments, NGOs and possibly your granny. Even if true it’d be a fraction of what’s needed to meet their promises, but in any case few people are in any doubt that this is largely recycled from funds already being spent or planned in this or other areas. If the National Audit Office wants to have a look at this before it perishes in the quango bonfire, it could keep itself in business for a while.

From a British lens, Nick Clegg’s first big moment on the international stage, and Andrew Mitchell’s at a major UN event, were neither disastrous nor remarkable. Their speeches were fine, and the financial commitments made commendable in comparison to others, but not particularly balanced. Taking a headline-driven approach to funding healthcare – ie. investing in programmes to prevent children dying from malaria, but not from malnutrition or diarrhoea – has delivered only patchy progress so far, and needs to stop.

Ultimately they went about their business but failed to decisively lead. No shocking leaders with pictures of Zimbabwean torture victims, nor getting into trouble for haranguing their US counterparts too strongly, like dear old Gordon. Nor the all-night sessions in Copenhagen, like our newly-anointed Ed.

Most significantly, they ignored the plea at the summit from Sarkozy and Zapatero to back a global tax on financial transactions to raise funds for poverty reduction – the Robin Hood Tax – something that could begin to make meetings like this a thing of the past, and something supported by Labour’s new leader, as shown in this video.

The offer was made, but Britain stayed silent. If the next big summit is to be more than speeches and canapés, we’ll need a lot more from our boys in blue (and yellow).

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.


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.”

Watch: LCID Interviews Ed Miliband

Today is the last day in our series of Labour Leadership videos. Each of the candidates has answered your questions on camera.

Today hear from Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask the Labour Leadership candidates?

If you’ve still got a burning question, come to our Labour in the World Leadership Hustings in Bristol on 09 September – for full details and to RSVP click here.

Watch: Diane Abbott speaks to LCID

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Today hear from Diane Abbott MP.

We apologise for the error in the sound quality – a full transcript is below.

What do you think about her answers? What else would you ask her? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

What is your vision for Britain’s role in tackling extreme poverty?

DfID does a fantastic job, but I would fund it better, I would ensure that less of its money goes on consultants advising people how to privatise their public sectors, and I think water and sanitation should be much higher up the agenda.

Do you think the UK financial sector should pay more in taxation to prevent cuts in public services at home and pay for development and climate change projects abroad?

I’m a big supporter of the financial transactions tax, and its gaining support amongst European governments and in American politics, although the administration has yet to sign of for it. I think that a Robin Hood Tax would serve a number of useful functions. First of all, it might take some of the heat out of the financial bubble, Secondly it would raise money for worth while causes like development. And thirdly, some of the money could go to fill the gap in the budget deficit.

Did we do enough in government to make trade fair?

I think trade, not aid, is the key to giving justice and decent living standards to people in the third world. I think we have to understand what went wrong with Doha, that people just felt it was just opening the door for western multinationals to their countries and it wasn’t an equal negotiation. But I think we have to remember that if Africa, much of Asia and Latin America were to increase their trade by just 1% that would take 128 million people out of poverty.

How would you help ensure that world leaders take ambitious action on climate change?

I think we have to broaden the movement for climate change in this country, and that involves bringing in Diaspora communities, whether from Africa or people who come from small island states, who know what the reality is for climate change for their countries. And we need lead internationally in offering third world countries support and compensation to fight climate change and deal with the effects of climate change.

Should the International Development budget be protected?

It’s important to ring fence it, and to ring fence it not in a bogus Tory way, where by the redirect DfID money into what is really defence aims – but it is important to ring fence it because it is the most elemental form of justice, putting money towards giving international equality in some of the poorest countries in the world

Watch: Andy Burnham interviewed by LCID

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Today hear from Andy Burnham, Shadow Health Secretary.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

Watch: Ed Balls answers your questions

Every day this week, we’re showing you the answers that the Labour Leadership candidates gave to your questions.

Next up is Ed Balls, Shadow Education Secretary.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.

Watch: David Miliband talks to LCID about his vision for international development

A couple of weeks ago, you told us what you would like to ask the Labour Leadership candidates. We have been to them and asked them those questions and now you can see their answers.

First up is Shadow Foreign Secretary David Miliband, answering questions on, among others, financial transaction taxes, climate change and ring-fencing budgets.

What do you think about his answers? What else would you ask him? Let us know by posting your comments.

Every day this week, we’ll be adding a video from each of the leadership candidates, so stay tuned.