Beyond Aid: Labour’s ambition for a radical development agenda

This is an edited version of Glenys Kinnock and Stephen Doughty’s introduction to their pamphlet ‘Beyond Aid: Labour’s ambition for a radical development agenda’ which you can read in full, here.

The launch event is being held tomorrow (Tuesday 3 March) from 6:30pm-8pm in the Attlee Suite, Portcullis House. To attend the launch event please RSVP by clicking here.

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The world is changing. The winds of globalisation continue to sweep across the world, gifting us opportunities unimaginable a decade ago.

But with these opportunities come global challenges and insecurities.

As the world grows ever-smaller, what happens on the streets of Freetown in Sierra Leone, Kabul in Afghanistan, or Dhaka in Bangladesh, ultimately has an impact on the streets of the United Kingdom. The nexus between acting on the basis of moral imperative, in the global interests of humanity, and in our own national interest, will become further entwined.

We must be brave in tackling the challenges, insecurities and threats of globalisation with renewed ambition – and not be paralysed by past orthodoxies.

Development policy between 1997 and 2010 led to huge advances around the world. Labour helped lift 3 million people out of poverty each year, and get 40 million more children into school. Polio is on the verge of being eradicated and 3 million people can now access life-preserving drugs for HIV and AIDS. Water and sanitation services have been improved for over 1.5 million people. But the post-1997 development agenda cannot be simply replicated in today’s changing world.

Despite the gains that have been made, core development challenges remain and poverty persists. International development matters more, not less.

It would be erroneous to believe that a cosy consensus exists on development. It is a hotly contested space. When it comes to delivering workable solutions to the most pressing issues – like mapping a path to tackle climate change, deciding which countries receive UK bilateral assistance, and determining the projects we prioritise – decisions are inherently political.

We must not retreat from the frontline where the politics of development is played out – if we do, it is the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, in the most fragile and conflict-affected countries, as well as our national interest, which will ultimately suffer.

Tomorrow we are launching a pamphlet, which draws on expert opinion from different sectors, aims to spark the debate about, and offer renewed ambition for, the UK’s role in shaping a radical development agenda.

It begins with the changing economic paradigm. No longer is it sufficient to focus on economic development without considering social and environmental consequences. Our responses need to be integrated – equality, sustainable development and corporate responsibility are vital to doing economic development better.

All our authors acknowledge the impact of the UN’s post-2015 aims to introduce a new set of global Sustainable Development Goals. The rights of the poorest and most marginalised, especially women and girls, must be integral to this process, so we are calling for a renewed rights agenda at local and international level.

The drive for universal public services is close to Labour’s heart, and should be an integral part of the UK’s development strategy. Universal access to healthcare and education, and innovative work with development partners, are crucial.

Conflict and fragility are two of the most pressing issues we must face to reach our goal of eradicating poverty. The UK has historically played a key role and should continue to be a strong voice in ensuring a holistic approach to addressing humanitarian crisis and conflict – which must include better synergy between development, defence and diplomatic actors in Whitehall.

Finally, as an internationalist party we understand the importance of working closely with our overseas partners – and none are more important than the EU and the UN family of nations.

This is a crucial time in the battle for a progressive internationalist position – Britain stands at a crossroads.

On May 7 there is a clear choice between a Labour Government determined that Sustainable Development Goals tackle inequality and climate change, promote human rights, and deliver universal healthcare; and a Conservative Party which is increasingly beset by narrow-mindedness and isolationist tendencies.   

Labour led the world on international development, and only the Labour Party can deliver an ambitious agenda – we are the party of social justice, who truly believe that inequality and marginalisation are the barriers to eradicating poverty; and that aid is not about charity, but about justice.

The march towards progress is not inevitable, it happens not by chance but by choice. We’ve done it before and we can do it again, so let’s not shy away from the fight for intellectual and moral leadership and ambitious action.

Baroness Glenys Kinnock is an Honorary Co-President of the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID). Stephen Doughty is the Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for Cardiff South and Penarth, and is an Honorary Vice-President of LCID.

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