Cameron is abdicating his responsibility on international development

Labour Campaign for International Development chair David Taylor writes about how Cameron and Clegg are failing to take the lead on fighting international poverty.

David Taylor is the chair of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID, @LabourCID)

Last week in David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party conference, the prime minister claimed his government were playing a leading role in the fight against poverty. But true leadership is not defined by sticking to the status quo and not backsliding on our commitments to the worlds’ poorest people.

Next month the G20 meets in Cannes in France, yet in neither of David Cameron’s or Andrew Mitchell’s speeches was there a mention of the role the summit could play in helping the world’s economy and poorest countries back on the path of prosperity.

With a clear agenda, concrete proposals and red lines on a global growth deal, opening up trade, tackling tax evasion and boosting infrastructure, Britain should be leading efforts to secure a deal at the G20 that could transform African and low income countries into genuine and much-needed dynamos for the largest prize: the return to global growth.

Securing such a deal will not be easy; it will require all of the ‘hard-working, can-do, bulldog spirit’ Cameron spoke of yesterday. It is the sort of leadership the last Labour government showed in summit after summit all year round.

In 2005 Gordon Brown and Tony Blair worked the phones in advance of the summits and secured the memorable commitment at Gleneagles to double aid to Sub Saharan Africa. That, of course, was on the back of the historic debt relief deal secured in 2000 when Schroeder and Bush famously moaned about Tony Blair’s Africa focus.

At this years GAVI conference, Cameron did work hard to achieve a successful replenishment. But beyond that this government’s record has been patchy at best, and ideologically misguided at worst.

At the Prime Minister’s first big appearance on the international stage at the Canadian G8 last year, Downing Street actually admitted that he had “simply not fought” to keep the Gleneagles commitments in the final G8 communiqué. Then, at the UN millennium development goal summit last September, Nick Clegg was sent to represent the Government with only a three-year-old recycled Conservative pledge on malaria.

We know also that Cameron and Osborne are opposed to European commission proposals released two weeks ago for a Europe-wide financial transactions tax, even threatening to stop a compromise that would allow countries in favour to push ahead while the UK stays outside the system.

Strong momentum is growing behind the FTT – now backed by Germany, France, the European parliament, Bill Gates, George Soros, Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman – which even on modest estimates could raise billions for domestic and international efforts against poverty and climate change, and yet this government continue to oppose it.

At the last G20 in Seoul last year, the IMF presented a report that showed how co-operation between countries to secure a global growth pact could, at a minimum, create 50 million jobs and lift 90 million people out of poverty (pdf).

Gaining the adoption and implementation of such a programme really does come down to the phone calls, the one-to-one meetings, the cajoling undertaken by political leaders. That would make the difference between a deal at the G20 that delivers jobs and justice for the people across the globe and continued disparity that leaves millions in unemployment.

If David Cameron truly wants to claim he is leading on fighting poverty, he needs to match the leadership, the vision and the ambition that Britain showed when we secured debt and aid deals at the G8 in 2000 and 2005 and averted a global depression at the G20 summit in 2009 – and play a leading role in France next month.

Avaaz are calling on their supporters to call up the George Osborne and call on him not to block the EU proposals for a Robin Hood Tax – you can take action here.

See also:

New report justifies aid to India and other Middle Income CountriesGareth Thomas MP, August 24th 2011

Other nations need to follow Britain’s lead to avert disaster in AfricaDavid Taylor, July 6th 2011

International development back in the news – where it belongsJim Dobbin MP, June 8th 2011

An open letter to David Cameron on the importance of the 0.7% targetDavid Taylor, May 17th 2011

Government review of UK aid – goals and reactionShamik Das, March 1st 2011

16 Responses to “Cameron is abdicating his responsibility on international development”

  1. David Taylor

    My piece for @leftfootfwd – Real leadership is not just sticking to the status quo. Cameron needs to lead at G20

  2. Michael

    Cameron is abdicating his responsibility on international development l Left Foot Forward –

  3. Jiesheng

    Please don’t play politics when it comes to development. I ask the umpteeth time: If Labour is so banged up about “leadership” in development, why did it not for example, push to reform the Doha Agenda? Push to reform the World Bank instead of increasing funding to the Bank in IDA 12, 13 and 14? Push for the removal of the “Good Governance” Agenda? Huh?

    You like to say Labour is the only one who can lead in development. Please state why corruption in developing countries was ignored. Why DFID still gave budget support to such countries. And worse of all, why Labour destroyed development by invading a sovereign nation illegally and thus wasting ODA on Iraq which could have been used to improve the MDG targets in Africa.

    So please don’t play politics with development. 07% does not meant the end to poverty and development.

  4. David Taylor

    Jiesheng, I will take your points in turn;

    1. Re Doha, I have asked this of former members of the last Government, from Gareth Thomas MP and for development advisers to Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander, and the answer I have got this that they did try hard but were unable to convince other EU countries to back their agenda. Unfortunately that does include some left of centre parties in Europe and indeed the Democrats who were too protectionist. We did push ‘free trade’ to much in our early years in government but that changed 2005 onwards. There is a difference between being mistaken as we were and pushing neo-liberalism like Tories do

    2. We did push for World Bank reform but should have gone further

    3. Corruption wasn’t ignored, there are numerous examples of where we stepped in and stopped aid when it was being wasted. Budget sector support, however, is the best form of aid because it helps countries develop their own national health or education services and is what most NGOs call for.

    4. I am in favour of humanitarian intervention but marched against the war in Iraq and believe our commitments there prevented us from stepping in in Darfur. When in Iraq we owed it to their people to pay for the reconstruction, which should have been better planned.

    5. I make no apology for being political – poverty is political, the decision to provide aid to build a free health care system in country X over a voucher scheme or private care is a political decision. The Labour Party’s values make us natural leaders in development, because we believe in fairness, equality, helping those in need, co-operation, partnership, internationalism. History contrasts the Tories record in government and it is repeating itself now in the ways I described in the article.

  5. Paul Southworth

    I can’t stand Cameron and his awful stooges, but credit where credit’s due – I’m pleasantly surprised that so far they’ve not cut aid and I was very impressed by the amount he pledged to GAVI.

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