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 Local Government News Campaign round-up: four days to go

    Campaign round-up: four days to go

    It’s four days until voters go to the polls – here’s a quick look at how the elections are shaping up across the country. Quote of the day   “Everybody needs to calm down, get behind the leader, and deal with issues, whether it is anti-Semitism or anything else that come up, in an appropriate manner without jumping to the tune of people who are our enemies” – Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, gives Pienaar’s Politics his view on the […]

    Read more →
  • Featured Local Government News Livingstone row will hit Labour vote, Sadiq Khan admits

    Livingstone row will hit Labour vote, Sadiq Khan admits

    Sadiq Khan has admitted Labour’s anti-Semitism row is hitting his chances of winning the London mayoralty. Labour’s candidate said Ken Livingstone’s comments about Hitler and Zionism made it more difficult for London’s Jewish population to give him their support. Khan, the Muslim son of a bus driver, has run an upbeat campaign in which he has been open about his faith and repeatedly stressed his commitment to tolerance and fighting prejudice. A series of polls have shown him increasing his […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Israeli ambassador attacks left’s “denial” over anti-Semitism… but Diane Abbott fights back against “smears”

    Israeli ambassador attacks left’s “denial” over anti-Semitism… but Diane Abbott fights back against “smears”

    The anti-Semitism row engulfing Labour took a new turn today when Israel’s ambassador to Britain said some elements of the left are “in denial” about prejudice against Jews. Mark Regev said the language used in the past two weeks had been “very concerning” and said some Labour figures had crossed from simply being critical of the Israeli government to “demonising and vilifying” the Jewish state, and perpetuating racist stereotypes. His intervention came as Diane Abbott came out fighting against “smears” against […]

    Read more →
  • News Campaign round-up: Five days to go

    Campaign round-up: Five days to go

    It’s five days until voters go to the polls – here’s a quick look at how the elections are shaping up across the country. Quote of the Day Sadiq Khan lays out how he will tackle anti-Semitism as Mayor in Jewish News: I will always protect communities whose beliefs and practices attract the inexplicable hostility of others, and I’ll get to grips with religious hate crimes. I’ll make tackling hate crimes a far higher priority for the Metropolitan police, and […]

    Read more →
  • Featured News Corbyn launches anti-Semitism action plan – but Ken blames row on “embittered old Blairites”

    Corbyn launches anti-Semitism action plan – but Ken blames row on “embittered old Blairites”

    Jeremy Corbyn has revealed he is launching an action plan to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, while Ken Livingstone has attempted to play down allegations, accusing “embittered old Blairites” of whipping up the storm in an attempt to get rid of Corbyn. In further developments, the chairman of the Israeli Labour Party has written to Corbyn to say he is “appalled and outraged” by recent examples of anti-Semitism in Labour, while 80 Jewish party members have put their names to […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit