It’s politics that will deliver a successful G8

3rd February, 2013 9:13 am

Eight years ago Tony Blair used his Davos visit to lay out the UK’s agenda for the G8 Presidency. He proposed a doubling of aid and 100% debt cancellation for the poorest countries, in order to mobilise resources for the Millennium Development Goals. At the Gleneagles summit six months later the G8 agreed to both of his headline proposals, albeit with less success on trade and climate change. These were hard-won prizes, the result of intensive diplomatic effort and use of precious political capital.

Last month it was David Cameron’s turn to use Davos as a staging post for his G8 year, which culminates in June in Northern Ireland. He called for improved transparency over aid, natural resources, company ownership and land deals, and told the assembled super-rich and multinational corporations it was time to ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ on tax avoidance. However, the path from Davos to Lough Erne is rockier than Cameron may want to acknowledge. If he can deliver a meaningful G8 agreement on transparency and tax it could be transformative for citizens of both developed and developing countries. But it will take more than warm words to turn Davos ambition into action.

At this stage in 2005 Blair’s Commission for Africa was already well underway, preparing much of the policy that was to underpin the Gleneagles Communique. Cabinet members and British embassies around the world had been given clear instructions to win support for the Africa-focused G8 agenda. Gordon Brown was negotiating with his fellow Finance Ministers to secure a package on debt relief. Amongst the G8 leaders Blair had forged an alliance with Jacques Chirac on innovative financing mechanisms for development and George W Bush had recently launched a multi-billion dollar emergency programme on AIDS. A political and diplomatic effort was gathering rapid momentum.

Success this year will require similar levels of effort and political will on the international stage. Developing truly transparent, accountable and open governments is not a quick fix, and these principles need to be applied equally in rich and developing countries. There is a real risk that the need to focus domestically on persuading sceptical Conservative backbenchers of the merits of investing 0.7% of the UK’s national income on overseas aid programmes will crowd out the time needed for winning global support. In Europe, the in-out referendum and arguments over the European budget (where confusingly the UK is not supporting the proposed level of international development spending) have taken priority.

The Labour Party should now hold the government accountable for their G8 ambition. Cameron’s Davos agenda is potentially progressive and empowering to citizens in some of the world’s poorest countries. It should be welcomed. But it will take a herculean political effort to bring his own party with him on UK aid spending, while winning global agreement on tax and transparency reforms in June. He must now decide how much he wants it.

Joe Powell is Senior Policy & Advocacy Manager at ONE. This post is part of International Development weekend on LabourList – you can join the debate on these issues at YourBritain

To report anything from the comment section, please e-mail [email protected]

Latest

  • Comment Featured Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    Naushabah Khan: We feel pride in our country so let’s use this to tackle Labour’s “Englishness problem”

    The reality of last year’s general election is that Labour’s failure to secure a victory in an England, suffering at the hands of UKIP, ultimately resulted in our defeat. As a parliamentary candidate in Rochester and Strood, for both the general election and by-election, caused by the defection of Mark Reckless to UKIP, I am all too aware of the public mood, that considered us out of touch with their lives and values. Both elections also revealed fascinating notions of nationalism, belonging and identity politics that as a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Rachel Reeves: Queen’s Speech showed the typical Tory failure on pensions and infrastructure

    Yesterday in Parliament we voted on the Government’s programme of legislation for the year ahead, as set out in the Queen’s Speech. The background to yesterday’s debate about its economic measures is the critical decision our country faces about its relationship with Europe. The evidence I have heard as a member of the Treasury Select Committee has left me more convinced than ever that a vote to leave would scupper any hopes and well-laid plans we might make for our […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Corbyn puts campaigns at heart of Labour staff reshuffle

    Jeremy Corbyn has carried out a shake-up of the way the Labour Party operates with a review of the party’s internal structure and a reshuffle of his backroom staff. As the leader approaches nine months in the job, Simon Fletcher, chief of staff, will move to a new role of Director of Campaigns and Planning. While some have seen this as readying the party for a possible post-referendum snap election, it is seen internally as filling a more long-term brief – covering areas such […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Corbyn and Miliband team up to warn of dangers of Brexit on climate change

    Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband will hit the campaign trail together today as they champion the leadership the EU has shown on tackling climate change – and warn that a vote to leave would put recent progress “at risk”. It is the first public appearance that former leader Miliband has made with his successor, and comes in a week in which rumours circulated that Corbyn was trying to coax him back into the Shadow Cabinet. During last year’s leadership contest, Corbyn praised Miliband’s […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe Featured Chuka Umunna: Don’t take the polls for granted – we must defeat every argument from the desperate Leave campaign

    Chuka Umunna: Don’t take the polls for granted – we must defeat every argument from the desperate Leave campaign

    “Take Control” – that is the slogan of the faltering Vote Leave campaign.  I say “faltering” because they are by no means beaten. Any Labour supporter lulled by the current polls into thinking the Remain camp is on course to win need only cast their minds back to 10pm on Thursday 7 May 2015 – then, after a string of polls suggesting we were on the cusp of winning the last general election, we suffered a body blow and found […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit