Ivan Lewis MP response to the UN High Level Panel’s Report on the Post-2015 Agenda

Ivan Lewis MP, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, in response to the UN High Level Panel’s Report on the Post-2015 Agenda said:

 

“I welcome many of the recommendations in the UN High Level panel’s report. Especially the objective to end extreme poverty by 2030 and the bringing together of the sustainability and poverty reduction agendas.

 

“However, co-chair David Cameron’s statement accompanying the report which champions “go green” and “go for growth” as key measures for a fairer and more successful world is highly hypocritical. His Tory-led Government has failed to deliver an effective growth strategy and failed to live up to his promise of “the greenest government ever”.

 

“There will be widespread concern that the panel has failed to include the objectives of universal health and social care coverage, while simultaneously retreating from any serious attempt to tackle income inequality. I also believe that this was a missed opportunity for the UK to leverage its influence to ensure that other countries agree to the 0.7% aid target in the short term while making a clear commitment to radical reforms of tax, trade and governance which could end aid dependency by 2030.

 

“The High Level Panel’s report is an important contribution to the debate about a new covenant for development. But there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that the new goals and partnerships drive the radical change which is essential if we are to be the generation that ends poverty and safeguards scarce planetary resources.”

 

Ends

 

Editor’s Notes:

 

1.  The Report of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, 30th May 2013, http://www.post2015hlp.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/UN-Report.pdf

2.  David Cameron: ‘We can end global poverty by 2030 –  United Nations report,’ 30th May 2013: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/we-can-end-global-poverty-by-2030-united-nations-report

3.  Labour’s Post-2015 Vision: Equality 2030, 14th May 2013:http://www.labour.org.uk/labours-post-2015-vision,2013-05-14

 

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.

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?

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: