From poverty to power

Before any general election, anyone involved in advocacy (as I am on aid and development) indulges in ‘what would my dream manifesto look like?’ fantasies. (And then usually goes off to lobby the political parties and be told why their ideas are silly).

2010 is no exception, with the impending (probably 6 May) general election followed by decisive moments this year on climate change (in Mexico in December), on the millennium development goals (UN summit in September), and the 2010 deadline for meeting the G8’s 2005 pledges on aid, debt and universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDs.

But these are straitened times, so in an uncharacteristic burst of fiscal prudence, I’ve confined my shopping list to things that don’t require big dollops of government cash, and may even (e.g. the financial transactions tax) help fill the fiscal abyss:

• Support a global commitment of $150 billion a year in public finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation in developing countries from 2013, not paid for by raiding existing aid budgets. Some of this could come from a new financial transactions tax (FTT).

• The said FTT to apply to all transactions at the rate of 0.05 per cent across the Eurozone. At least 50 per cent of the revenues raised will go towards development and climate change (that’s the tricky bit – keeping the Chancellor’s sticky hands from grabbing all of it to fill the UK fiscal hole).

• Reform the regulation of UK tax havens and tax avoidance by UK companies, to require information disclosure and reporting by multi-national companies on the taxes they pay in each country. This should generate extra tax revenues for the UK, as well as poor countries.

• Outlaw the actions of ‘vulture funds’ seeking to sue developing countries.

• Improve the predictability and quality of UK aid by, among other things, increasing the percentage of aid we provide to developing countries’ own budgets, reforming harmful donor conditionality; and enabling people in developing countries to hold both the UK and their own governments to account on aid promises, backed up by a newly created aid ombudsman.

• Honour the UK’s existing promise to untie aid from the use of British goods and services.

• Be consistent in condemning war crimes, serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, and calling for those responsible to be brought to justice.

• Press for the successful conclusion of negotiations for an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in 2012.

• Work to improve the speed and effectiveness of life-saving humanitarian aid ensuring that it is given impartially and in line with people’s real needs.

• Ensure an effective regulatory framework that encourages responsible corporate behaviour by all British companies and investors, including when they operate overseas.

• Actively promote development as a core issue for G8 and G20 cooperation and ensure that this is covered as a separate agenda item at each meeting of these groups, with at a minimum full representation for the African Union.

• Support the reform of the International Financial Institutions, including ensuring greater representation for poor countries, enhancing their accountability and transparency and ending the practice of attaching economic policy conditionality to lending.

Of course, aid remains vital and necessary, and we will be pushing for whichever party(ies) emerges triumphant to meet and exceed past promises, but isn’t it impressive what a decent government can do, even without big injections of dosh?

Duncan Green is head of research at Oxfam, read his ‘From Poverty to Power’ blog on

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

9 Responses to “From poverty to power”

  1. rowan davies

    RT @leftfootfwd Oxfam's Duncan Green sets out his manifesto ideas <— Duncan for PM – cut out the middle man

  2. Jonathan Tench

    RT @leftfootfwd: Oxfam's Duncan Green sets out his manifesto ideas incl a fin. transaction tax, improving quality of aid & better regs

  3. David Steven

    Missing from the list:

    – Invade no more than one medium-sized country at a time.

  4. Co-operative Party

    Oxfam's Duncan Green sets out his manifesto ideas including financial transaction tax at @leftfootfwd

  5. topsy_top20k_en

    Oxfam's Duncan Green sets out his manifesto ideas incl a fin. transaction tax, improving quality of aid & better regs

Comments are closed.