Richard Howitt MEP hosts event this weekend on regulating banks

Bank job
This weekend, Richard Howitt, MEP for the East of England will be hosting an event on the future regulation of banks, after the financial crisis. There will be a speaker from the Robin Hood Tax campaign there.

The details of the event are:

Saturday 16 October
10am for a 10:30am start – 1pm finish
Alex Wood Hall
75 Norfolk Street
Cambridge
CB1 2LD

Lunch will be provided. If you would like to know more, you can download the flyer (Euro_flyer). If you would like to attend, please email carl_morris@newlabour.org.uk.

As you will know, LCID supports the Robin Hood Tax and will be campaigning for its inclusion as part of an equitable restructuring of international finance. We are encouraged that leading members of the Labour Party also support it.

LCID also asked the Labour Leadership candidates what they thought about the Robin Hood Tax. You can watch the videos online.

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through….Hyde Park!

Speaker’s Corner is a famed place for freedom of speech, where the good, the bad and the ugly have all enjoyed the freedom to speak openly about their passions, causes and beliefs.

On the very sunny Saturday just gone, LCID went down to hear Robin Hood and a Banker battle it out on soapboxes – cheered and jeered by a gang of merry men and women, in a flash-mob as part of a national day of action for the Robin Hood Tax campaign.

LCID backs the campaign and calls for all parties to support it. Supporters are calling for a tiny tax of 0.05% on banking transactions, with the resulting funds spent on aid for poverty both at home and abroad and climate change adaptation funding for developing countries.

In the first Gordon Brown on the Road event we attended last week, the Prime Minister spoke of the responsibility the financial sector has in overcoming the economic crisis. The Robin Hood Tax offers part of that solution and can help lift millions out of unnecessary poverty.

Show your support for the Robin Hood tax campaign by taking action on the website.

By Serena O’Sullivan

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

Article slamming Conservatives’ policies by Director of the UN’s Human Development Report Office

Fantastic article in today’s Guardian slamming the Conservatives’ policies on development by Kevin Watkins, Director of the UN’s Human Development Report Office, and former Head of Policy at Oxfam.

Cameron’s slum dogma

The Conservative plan for overseas aid treats Africa as a laboratory for free-market ideology

You don’t win general elections in Britain by fighting poverty in poor countries. That has to be good news for David Cameron, ­because the Conservative ­programme on ­international development would be a sure-fire vote loser.

Whatever your take on New Labour, its credentials on development are impressive. As a nation we have become more generous in our dealings with the world’s poorest people, moving from the lower leagues to the premier division of leadership on poverty reduction.

Aid has been an important part of the transition. The £9bn development assistance programme represents 0.5% of our GDP – three times the share in 1997. Britain has spearheaded global financing initiatives on HIV/Aids, malaria and child immunisation. And Gordon Brown was a key player in reducing Africa’s debt burden. You can see the benefits in a country like Tanzania, where debt relief helped to finance the removal of school fees and put another 3 million kids in classes.

It’s a tough act to follow. But that’s no excuse for what the Conservatives offer. Take the aid budget. The government has pledged not just to avoid cuts but to maintain pre-crisis spending commitments. It is now committed to making the UN target of spending 0.7% of GDP on aid a legally binding commitment. No other donor has gone this far. Cameron’s response has been a study in evasion.

He says that aid will be protected and that he backs the 2013 goal. But he has refused to endorse a legally binding ­target. And he has not ruled out financing climate change commitments from the aid budget – a move that would mean real cuts.

With the Conservatives committed to early and deep cuts in the budget, deficit aid spending is bound to come under the spotlight. This is a soft target, partly because there is no constituency for aid on the Tory backbenches. In a recent poll of prospective Conservative candidates, 90% saw no reason to make the protection of the aid budget a priority. As George Osborne looks to trim public spending while financing an inheritance tax handout, it’s unlikely he will go to the wall to defend the aid budget.

Aid spending is not the only problem. The green paper One World ­Conservativism makes it clear that the Conservatives will use aid to roll back the state in key services. “We bring a natural scepticism about government schemes,” as page 1 puts it. Public ­education systems in poor countries are failing the poor, so the argument runs. The solution: more private schools in slums, with governments using ­vouchers, bursaries and the public budget to support the development of non-state providers.

Sounds familiar? This is an agenda for exporting to poor countries Michael Gove’s “Swedish model” plan for schools in Britain. It is based on the same reductionist idea that education problems rooted in poverty, extreme inequality and social disadvantage can be tackled by expanding parental choice and shifting resources from public provision to private suppliers.

There is plenty wrong with public education in poor countries. That is why so many desperately poor parents resort to poor-quality private providers. But if the public education system is broken, then the challenge is to fix it, not to bypass it. Transplanting reforms from a ­country like Sweden, with its high-performing schools and low levels of inequality, into Britain is questionable. Applying them to slums in Lagos or ­Nairobi is positively silly.

Over the past decade aid has played a key role in strengthening public ­education across Africa. It has helped put over 10 million children in school. Progress on quality has been less encouraging, partly because of chronic under-financing and an annual deficit of 1.2 million teachers. Britain should be leading global efforts to tackle these problems, not treating the region as a laboratory for market-based ideology.

To be fair, the Conservatives have come up with some strikingly original ideas. My personal favourite is the MyAid fund, a proposal to allocate multimillion-pound financing across 10 projects according to a national online vote. So if 20% of the population vote for, say, immunisation in Malawi, that’s where 20% of the money will go. The fact that the voting public may not know much about health services in Malawi is clearly not an issue.

Perhaps the Conservative party could hire the X Factor judges to champion the different causes and guide our choice. Better still, why not ask them to write the development manifesto?

Initial Reaction to Copenhagen

Disappointment all around after the end of the Copenhagen climate change talks. More reaction to follow, but credit has to be given for the tireless work by Gordon Brown & Ed Miliband at these talks, if only Obama and others followed their lead.

We have no option but to carry on, and push on and on for a legally binding deal that will keep the world from warming more than 2oC. And we must make sure the aid money agreed for adaptation is new money, not just diverted from existing aid budgets.

Here are a few links you might find useful to reflect on Copenhagen on Saturday morning:

More reaction to follow on Monday, when we will be appearing on Labour List thanks to our friends at SERA. Now off to campaign on the doorstep with Young Labour as part of our Big Campaign Day – join the Facebook group to get involved!

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Population v Climate Change

River in Delhi

Flats back on to a litter-choked river in New Delhi. Photo: David Taylor

Interesting article by Duncan Green, Oxfam’s Head of Policy, in the New Statesman this week.

“People cause climate change, therefore cut the number of people. Right? Not really. A closer look shows that the conventional view is wrong, or at least a gross over-simplification.”

“The population debate matters, especially in these two Copenhagen weeks, because it risks becoming a massive distraction. We need to focus on curbing consumption and emissions, not babies and women’s rights. Otherwise we risk blaming the victims and letting the climate villains off the hook.”

In short, Duncan argues that:

a) Population growth is slowing anyway and will peak in 2050.

b) Carbon footprints are what matter – it’s the few of us in rich countries consuming too much that is the problem, not the billions of poor people emitted very little

c) Population growth should be addressed through women’s rights, access to education and family planning services (contraception and safe abortion facilities).

Duncan as ever talks a lot of sense and he is right in warning that population must not be a distraction from the cut in emissions that need to be agreed this week in Copenhagen.

However, a concern would be around India & China’s growing middle classes, who are acquiring Western-style consumption patterns as they aspire to and reach standards of living similar to us. Of course, in development terms, we want to see a country develop, people lifted out of poverty and their working and middle classes grow. But at the moment, the carbon footprint of a person in India or China is small in comparison with a citizen of the US or EU. What happens when India & China attains billions of middle classes with similar consumption patterns to us? Does that not make limiting population vital to our efforts to stop climate change?

The answer is probably more about curbing consumption and emissions than it is about limiting population. We need to lead by example and show it is possible to have a high standard of living without excessive consumption and cut our own emissions, whilst also helping India, China and other developing countries make their own transition to a low carbon economy (through technology transfer etc).

That said, if the Chinese and Indian governments addressed population growth through an approach that strengthened women’s rights, access to education & family planning based, would that not benefit everyone in India and China, and help the planet?

What do you think?

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

Evo Morales – from poverty to power

Evo meets his voters

Exit polls over the weekend put Evo Morales on course for an overwhelming victory in Bolivia’s Presidential election. As the Guardian said in their editorial today, this victory has gone a long way to making the social transformation inside Bolivia irreversible.

Such a transformation was unthinkable as recently as nine years ago. Then, Bolivia was one of those textbook examples we all have as global justice campaigners of the World Bank being bad – not only was Bolivia forced to privatise it’s water supply, people were charged for collecting rainwater on top of their own houses! Somewhat unsurprisingly riots ensued.

You do not have to scratch much deeper into Bolivia’s history to realise that sorry episode was not an isolated injustice. For over 500 years, poor people in Bolivia were marginalised and exploited, with no rights, no voice and no power. And for ‘poor’, read ‘indigenous’.

Those riots, however, were part of new chapter in Bolivia’s history that would culminate in Morales’ election. Indigenous peoples were become more and more vocal. Once such peoples, the Chiquitanos – who had at first had to organise under the guise of a football league to avoid the attentions of the authorities – were marching on the capital. After protests toppled President Sánchez de Lozada in October 2003, it become easier for people to run independently of the traditional political parties and indigenous peoples could now make huge electoral headway.

In December 2005 Evo Morales was elected Bolivia’s first indigenous President. Four years later, extreme poverty has been reduced by 6%, illiteracy eradicated, a state pension scheme created, infant mortality reduced by 4%, eye operations given for free to those in need.

This success was paid for by the renationalisation of the gas industry and royalties on hydrocarbons. It is easy to dismiss that move as populism – but Bolivia has had three years of budget surpluses, has $8bn earned in cash reserves, and even won praise from the IMF, which applauded the government’s prudence in saving part of the windfall income from gas revenues. Economic growth was as high as 6.5% and even with the recession will be 2.8% next year according the IMF, no small achievement amongst Latin America counties.

From poverty to power

But perhaps the most important achievement of the last five years has been the redistribution of power. The Chiquitanos have now what for centuries what they could have not – their own mayors and senators, and with that power, land. After a ten-year campaign, the Chiquitanos were granted a ‘land of communal origin’ of 1m hectares. That story has been replicated across the country – according to Morales’ Party title has been given to 26 million hectares benefiting 98,454 families.

Morales and his party are not perfect. It is wise to wary when one man is given so much power, as he has been now the opposition has been so roundly trounced; of too much populism; of his uncritical relationship with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and, inexcusably, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

But this election is about more than victory for Morales or his Party. It is about an entire people rising from poverty to power after more than 500 years of oppression. As The Guardian said today,

“South Africa remembers Nelson Mandela, and eastern Europe the fall of the Berlin Wall. What a former herder of llamas has achieved in one of the world’s poorest nations may be no less momentous.”

by David Taylor, Labour Campaign for International Development

[To read more about the transformation of power to Bolivia’s indigenous peoples, please see Duncan Green, Oxfam’s Head of Policy, fantastic book From Poverty to Power (Part 2: Politics & Power). Duncan’s blog is also essential reading too.]

Talk tonight on Beyond Copenhagen with Douglas Alexander, Oxfam & Greenpeace

  • What: “Beyond Copenhagen” Talk by Compass
  • When: 19:00 to 20:30, Tonight
  • Where: Houses of Parliament

Tonight there will be a talk by the Labour pressure group Compass on where next after the climate change talks in Copenhagen. Douglas Alexander & Oxfam’s Campaigns & Policy Director Phil Bloomer will be on the panel, so it should have a strong development focus. To register, email Compass

Speakers: Hon Douglas Alexander MP, International Development Secretary; Phil Bloomer, Oxfam; Robin Oakley, Head of Climate & Energy Campaigns, Greenpeace UK  and chaired by The Daily Telegraph’s Mary Riddell.

Walking to Copenhagen

Push on his walk to Copenhagen

Push, Oxfam's Climate Change Campaigner, (left) with friend Abbas

Push, Oxfam’s Global Climate Change Campaigner, is walking from his home in Oxford to the Copenhagen for the crunch UN climate change talks happening in two weeks time.

On Sunday I joined Push on one day of his walk, an 11mile stretch from Hertford to Bishop’s Stortford in Hertfordshire. Push has always been an inspritation to those around him, and has in my mind one of the best jobs in the world – helping to mobilise people at the grassroots around the world to take action against poverty.

In 2005, he and his team supported local organisations to mobilise millions of farmers and workers in the global South as part of the Make Trade Fair campaign around the World Trade talks, and Oxfam has been hard at work with others to do the same this year ahead of the climate change talks in Copenhagen.

It’s crucial that in these global talks the voices of the world’s poorest people are heard – they are the least responsible for climate change and yet are being hit hardest the worst. Oxfam and others in the Tck Tck Tck campaign are doing great work in mobilising people across the world to speak up for themselves and be heard.

In the UK, I’m proud of what our Labour Government is doing to push for a deal that is ambitious, effective and above all fair – putting forward extra aid to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change. I hope Ed Miliband and the UK delegation do all they can to bring the US & the rest of the EU on board to get the deal we need out of Copenhagen.

I’d really recommend following Push’s walk on his blog – goPushgo.com – it’s an inspiring journey. Here is a link to his article in The Guardian.

Other great ways to support a just deal on climate change: