Simple summaries of Your Britain policy papers

Your Britain, Labour’s planning site to get the grassroots involved in policy for 2015, recently published 10 policy papers outlining strategy so far. Two of these were of interest to LCID, so we’ve produced a handy bullet-point summary for our supporters. Click the titles to download the papers from Your Britain.

 

Tax avoidance: tax havens

 

  • Public are angry about the existence of tax havens.
  • Tax cut to the top 1 % earners has made this anger worse.
  • People paying fair share of tax is non-negotiable.
  • Tax laws need to be strengthened to make it more difficult for loop holes to be found.
  • Cuts to HMRC are impacted on the departments ability to crack down on tax cheats.
  • The Economist has reported the existence of around 50 – 60 tax havens worldwide, meaning this is not just a domestic issue.
  • UK is seen as best placed to help close tax havens.
  • UK tax havens should be required to produce a list of British citizens with money there.
  • Labour should help the UK lead the way in reaching an international agreement to stamp close tax havens and catch evaders, while rewarding those who pay their fair share of tax.
  • UK should look to the US and its Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) for guidance on cracking down on tax avoidance.
  • Essential that the UK cooperates with EU, current Government’s anti-EU bias may place such cooperation in jeopardy.
  • This issue should be a priority at the G8 meeting in June.

 

Britain’s role in a post-2015 development vision

 

  • There are 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which world leaders signed up to in 2000.
  • Labour needs to stay at the forefront of policy decisions till 2015.
  • Though not without problems, by and large the MDGs had a positive impact on international development.
  • Progress has been made on all goals but it has not been even and there is more to do in the next 2 years.
  • Post-2015 a new set of goals should be established.
  • Main focus is to eradicate global poverty.
  • Submissions to Your Britain focussed on a rights based approach around the following values: freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance, respect for nature and shared responsibility.
  • There was also a large number of responses on committing to goals set out at Rio+20 to tackle environmental issues.
  • Roll out globally systems of universal healthcare, compulsory education and a minimum wage for workers – paid for by a global financial transaction tax.

Anas Sarwar writes for LCID on the 2010 MDG Review

By Anas Sarwar, Glasgow Central MP and  member of the International Development Select Committee

If you’d like to get up to speed on progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, the International Development Select Committee’s report on the 2010 Review Summit is the ideal place to start.

Published yesterday, it provides a detailed overview of where things stand and, more importantly, where the shifting sands of global policy will take us in the lead up to the 2015 MDG deadline.

The report looks at three strands: what has been achieved so far; the summit outcomes; and what needs to be done.

Initially, I was pleased to learn that progress toward eradicating extreme poverty and hunger has been generally good – the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 1.8 to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005. 

But when I looked at the figures in greater detail I was dismayed to discover that the number of people living in extreme poverty has actually increased during that same period if the millions of people pulled out of poverty by China’s surging economy are discounted.

This is just one reason why it was so important to bring together 140 heads of state at the recent MDG Review Summit.

You see, progress toward achieving the MDGs before the 2015 deadline has been lethargic.

The select committee report describes the indifference shown by both developing and donor countries in meeting their commitments and underlines the fact that we are no closer to establishing a new international framework to succeed the MDGs post-2015. 

All the while, volatile food and financial markets, more frequent natural disasters, and climate change are restricting development progress.

The committee’s report makes a series of recommendations to DfID. Two of the central suggestions encompass my vision for the future of development: to target development assistance at building democratic institutions and tackling gender inequality.

It’s absolutely vital that DFID supports democratic institutions in developing countries so that citizens can hold government to account. To that end I have stood up in the House of Commons and demanded that our government help developing countries strengthen their tax collection systems. I have also joined charities in campaigning for the introduction of new UK legislation similar to the US Dodd-Frank Bill which improves transparency and regulation of the US financial system.  That would help to give governments in developing countries access to a more sustainable stream of finance, and it would also promote stronger governance by fostering a more accountable state-citizen relationship. It’s what the long-term success of the summit and the MDGs ultimately depends on.

It is also crucial that we develop a global approach to tackling gender inequality. It’s widely known that maternal health is directly affected by the social, cultural and economic inequalities women face based on their gender. My grandfather reminded me recently of the importance of women in society by saying: ‘educating a boy benefits one man; educating a girl benefits a family. Countering gender inequality in the developing world is the key to unlocking many MDGs.

The Labour government accomplished much after setting up the dedicated Department for International Development in 1997.

We trebled the aid budget; cancelled debt owed by the poorest countries; and cut the link between aid and commercial interest. We were the first country to sign up to the UN agreed goal to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on development assistance by 2013; we ensured Britain became the world’s second largest bilateral humanitarian aid donor. We championed the case for development across the world and we cemented Britain’s position as the global leader. 

These are achievements we can be proud of. But if we are to stand any chance of reducing global poverty in the future it’s vital that these achievements are seen as a foundation to build on.

There is much building work to be done.

And global action to promote stronger governance and gender equality in developing countries must be the cornerstones.

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!

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.”

Millennium Development Goals are in danger of being missed as the world prepares for UN Summit

By Margaret Dantas Araujo

The review of the Millennium Development Goals is set for this September at the UN in New York. Heads of State will gather to discuss how to proceed over the next 5 years cognizant of the reality that a concentrated effort will be needed to reach some goals while others will be missed altogether.

Although the lack of fulfilment of promises made at Gleneagles by countries to spend 0.7% GNI on aid is partially to blame, the bulk of blame lies at the devastating impacts of the financial crisis and food price shock.

The financial crisis saw developing countries’ exports and, consequently, their GDP drop, placing a strain on funding for social programs and increasing public debt. Household income also dropped as the crisis precipitated layoffs in export-oriented and temporary work, with women being most severely affected. In addition, the global food price shock, which continue to affect many developing countries, has made it difficult for households to purchase food. Both of these crises have severely slowed down progress on meeting the MDGs.

Countries will need to scale up efforts to meet the goals and increase funding if the goals are to be met. Currently a large proportion of global Overseas Development Aid is directed at middle income countries and post conflict states, Afghanistan and Iraq. The UN will call for funding to be redirected at poor and least developed countries.

Calls will also be made to complete the Doha Round of the WTO and a global climate change agreement. The Doha round, also known as the development round, would see developed countries cut their farm subsidies, enabling the agricultural sector of developing countries to compete on an equal footing. Many developing countries are already feeling the effect of climate change and an agreement to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate is needed.

Progress on the goals is mixed. For example, halving poverty by 2015 by 1990 levels will be met only by the sheer effort of the BRICS. Meanwhile, halving world hunger will be missed. Great strides have been made over the last 10 years at achieving universal primary education; currently 89% of developing world’s children are enrolled with Sub-Saharan Arica seeing an increase from 56% to 79%. Other goals such as reducing child mortality and improving maternal health will be missed altogether.

Progress has been uneven among and within countries. Middle income countries have reached their goals while the least developed countries and Sub-Saharan Africa have struggled. Within countries there is a distinct urban/rural divide, with progress strongly correlated to wealth and education.

The eight goals agreed to by world leaders in 2000 were to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other disease; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership. Progress was measured using 21 targets and 60 indicators. The goals were to be reached by 2015.

0.7% target for aid published in draft Overseas Development Assistance Bill

On Friday, the Department for International Development (DfID) published a draft Overseas Development Assistance Bill. This bill marks a milestone for the international development movement. This makes the UK the first country in the world to enshrine in law the guarantee to meet the UN’s aid target of 0.7% of national income.

Writing passionately in The Independent on Friday, the Prime Minister made clear the argument for pursuing the aid target, despite the constraints put on the UK’s finances by the recession:

“Without diminishing the suffering the global recession has caused many families in the well-off world, there should be no doubt that in poorer countries it has been the grim difference between life and death.”

The challenges that this mission faces are great. Pledging to give aid is a noble and vital act and should be a cause for celebration, yet it is not the end of the story. Against the backdrop of increased need in the developing world due to the global recession, put simply, how will the UK pay? New methods of raising money must be considered. Although substantial revenues can be raised through bond issues and donations, as the Prime Minister explains, we will have to be innovative. A global financial transfers levy would be one way of raising significant amounts of money and the International Monetary Fund is looking into it. This suggestion is not without opposition and there will have to be comprehensive debate on its merits, but on the path to achieving the global poverty promise our thinking will have to be radical.

The Prime Minister also highlighted the need for investment in the future, especially through education, and the paramount goal of building the capacity of developing countries to “grow their own way out of poverty”. Pointing to the UN Poverty Summit this September, the Prime Minister outlines his belief in the need for a global strategy with specific national targets for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Concluding the article, he says:

“In conscience and in our own self-interest, for their sake and ours, we dare not fail. We must act now to give the entire world back its future and its hope.”

The new draft bill is a progressive step for international development, but it needs public support too, in order that political arguments do not undermine it. To show your support for the fight against global poverty, or to find out more, please visit Labour’s new campaign to display public support for tackling poverty, www.globalpovertypromise.com.

By Tim Nicholls