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

Latest

  • Featured News Unions Unite and GMB unions endorse Sadiq Khan for London Mayor

    Unite and GMB unions endorse Sadiq Khan for London Mayor

    Sadiq Khan has won the first trade union endorsements of the race to be Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London next year. Both Unite and GMB, two of the UK’s biggest unions, have put their support behind the Tooting MP’s campaign. The decision by Unite union was made by lay members after a hustings featuring Khan, Tessa Jowell, David Lammy, Diane Abbott and Christian Wolmar – Gareth Thomas was unable to make the event and sent a written statement. Unite’s […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Branches are more than just foot canvassers

    Branches are more than just foot canvassers

    One of the few rays of light in this bleak month has been the level of new Labour recruits: 20,000 people joining the Labour Party since the Tories wafer thin win. Considering this represents a 15% increase in overall membership – it’s a statistic that should be raising eyebrows everywhere. By now the mountain of red membership cards will be starting to arrive on doorsteps up and down the country. It will be a massive own goal if we fail […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Has Militant’s Derek Hatton really been allowed back in the Labour Party?

    Has Militant’s Derek Hatton really been allowed back in the Labour Party?

    Last night, ITV News revealed that Derek Hatton had rejoined the Labour Party – 29 years after being expelled. Hatton had originally joined Labour as part of an entryist tactic by the Trotskyist group Militant in the 1980s, and rose through the ranks to become deputy leader of Labour-run Liverpool Council. The actions of that council led then-Labour leader Neil Kinnock to denounce them in a famous speech in Bournemouth in 1985, where he said: “I’ll tell you what happens with […]

    Read more →
  • News After humiliating defeat in Bradford West, George Galloway is running for Mayor of London

    After humiliating defeat in Bradford West, George Galloway is running for Mayor of London

    Following his embarrassing election defeat to Labour’s Naz Shah in Bradford West, former Labour MP George Galloway has announced his candidacy in the 2016 Mayor of London race. The Respect Party leader recently began legal proceedings over the Bradford West result, where his 10,000 majority turned into an 11,000 majority for Labour. Given his new interest, it is unclear whether he will be pursuing the case. During the election, Galloway caused an uproar when accused his Labour opponent Naz Shah of lying […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured You can’t replace the experiences of millions of workers with ‘aspirational politics’

    You can’t replace the experiences of millions of workers with ‘aspirational politics’

    Over my long life I have been many things: As a lad I was a child labourer who lived in cheap doss houses with my parents who had been made destitute by the Great Depression. As a young man, I left those warrens and took the kings shilling and served in the RAF during the Second World War. In peace time, because a Labour government introduced the Welfare State, I became a member of the middle class and exchanged my […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit