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

  • Featured News Unions meet Woodcock’s defence committee to discuss Trident

    Unions meet Woodcock’s defence committee to discuss Trident

    Jobs in nearly 90 Labour parliamentary seats – more than one third of those held by the Opposition – will be directly affected by the decision on whether to renew Trident, John Woodcock warns today. Woodcock, chair of the PLP backbench Defence committee, said some 88 constituencies play host to companies in the supply chain for the nuclear weapon, as he invited trade union representatives to a meeting of his group today. Officers from Unite and GMB have been asked to […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Harman: EU referendum is too important to be left to men

    Harman: EU referendum is too important to be left to men

    Harriet Harman today says that women’s voices are being stifled in the EU referendum debate and warns that key arguments about the impact of Brexit on women are being blocked. The former Labour leader said men were “as usual” pushing out women from broadcast discussions of the referendum and called on the media regulator to intervene. Harman has written to Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom, as she published data showing how the majority of voices on key morning news […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Luke Akehurst: My blueprint for how moderates can seize the Labour leadership… next time around

    Luke Akehurst: My blueprint for how moderates can seize the Labour leadership… next time around

    I thought I would try this week to give an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of my own wing of the party and the challenges it will face in order to come back from the epic defeat it suffered at Jeremy Corbyn’s hands last summer. Before people start chuntering, “coming back” doesn’t mean toppling Jeremy. It means being in a position to be more competitive in the next leadership election to be his successor whether that comes in […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Cruddas asks the right questions – I heard them on the doorstep of a swing seat

    Cruddas asks the right questions – I heard them on the doorstep of a swing seat

    How did it come to this? That a Labour Party fighting an arrogant, out-of-touch Tory government who failed on their core economic targets, could go down to a crushing defeat despite carrying a healthy lead in the polls for not just a few weeks, but a few years. The answer, according to Jon Cruddas, makes for painful reading. Labour, the party of work, was deserted by socially conservative working class voters who value family, work and fairness. There is a […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured The message, the marginals and the media: Cruddas’ home truths explained

    The message, the marginals and the media: Cruddas’ home truths explained

    The result of Jon Cruddas’ independent inquiry into Labour’s general election defeat was published today, with a piece by the author on LabourList. Here are seven key lessons to take away from the report: 1 – Have we heard it all before? Lacking economic credibility, untrusted on welfare and immigration, unable to connect on issues like communities, and lacking a clear purpose. This is not an inquiry bursting with completely undreamt of reasons for Labour’s demise last May – and […]

    Read more →
x

LabourList Daily Email

Everything Labour. Every weekday morning

Share with your friends










Submit