Category Archives: G20

When are we going to eliminate the future need for aid?

First published for Oxfam at http://tinyurl.com/39qnh6a

Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver

The UK, under Blair and Brown came out of the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles with renewed hope of all G8 nations (minus Russia) finally delivering a generation-old promise of spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on aid.

Lost tourists or world leaders?

Lost tourists or world leaders?

But it appears that some of the wealthiest nations in the world had no intention of keeping it, and others will not be able to.

David Cameron, the new boy at the helm, has not managed what many believe Gordon Brown would have- to hold these failing G8 nations accountable.

France and Germany have managed only a quarter of their pledges, and Italy has actually reduced the amount of aid it gives by sixty per cent.

Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy as Lady Marian and Sheriff of Nottingham at the G8 in Canada

Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy as Lady Marian and Sheriff of Nottingham at the G8 in Canada

Max Lawson of Oxfam said: “This year the headline is maternal health, last year it was food; every year we get a new G8 initiative.

”But with overall aid flatlining, they are just moving money around.”

While it is easy to look on it as a disaster, a huge blow for those who campaigned on the streets in 2005 to ‘Make Poverty History’, the G8 is merely an informal grouping, labelled “increasingly ineffective” by the Guardian.

Does this prove that this is not the place to hold governments to account, and that the UK, with its diminishing status on the world stage, is not the country to do it?

Still, the last five years have not been without success.

ONE, the organisation set-up by Bono to monitor progress on the promises made at Gleneagles said in its annual report that with 93 per cent, the UK has almost met its target.

Canada and Japan will both exceed their admitedly modest pledges, and the US will boost aid by more than 150 per cent.

Thanks to international financial support to its health budget, Mozambique has seen the number of mothers dying in childbirth falling by more than 50 per cent since 1995.

In Ghana, because of financial aid for development put to good use, the government abolished all primary school fees in 2003. Over two academic years, 1.2 million more children were able to go to school.

More aid than ever, if not enough, is going to Africa; by pushing for “smarter aid” and promoting “good governance” results are coming through; there are more and more examples of African civil society groups reclaiming the right for African people to prosper.

For example Fair Play for Africa is a pan-african coalition of over 200 organisations from 10 African countries campaigning to make sure that health for all becomes a reality for all Africans. African civil society is growing at least as much African economies are.

David Cameron was quick to say he would narrow the remit of the G8 when the UK hosts it again in 2013. Could this be a shrewd indication that the G20, with its increased membership is better placed for the 21st century?

I think so. Instead of assuming defeat, the new focus on the G20, and the UN’s 2015 goals, will ensure this progress has not been in vain.If we look at the future, with developing nations powering ahead despite the recession, the OECD predicts that “by 2030 developing countries will account for nearly 60 per cent of world GDP”.

Ban Ki-moon, speaking ahead of the September UN Summit to discuss the 2015 Millennium Development Goals is incredibly positive that the world is still on target to cut in half incidence of extreme poverty.

But, he also admitted, “that improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by the climate, food and economic crises”.

While the G8 appears to have been read its rites, poverty isn’t history.Today there is a food crisis in West Africa threatening the lives of more than 7 million people, the same as the population of the North West of England.

In this area, Niger, the world’s poorest country has a GDP of £3.6 billion. The North West in the UK alone has a GDP of £120 billion.

Aid is still greatly needed, and much has been promised. Its ultimate goal, as Mo Ibraheim, a Sudanese-born British telecoms mogul, told ONE, is probably to “eliminate the future need for aid”.

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Gordon the Gopher

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First published in Pluto Student Newspaper.

The Labour Party Conference began on Sunday, and with that, you rightly expect some Labour Party Bashing. But I would actually, first like to congratulate Gordon Brown.

Following talks at the G20 in Pittsburgh last week, he has made it part of his party’s promise to use new laws and unprecedented ministerial pressure to come down hard on banks that still give out big bonuses.

He will also give regulators powers to force banks to build up their cash reserves, rather than paying out massive cash rewards.

But, Gordon, I ask. WHY NOW???

It is almost a year since bankers hit the headlines, when Fred The Shred made his fall from grace and swift disappearance from the media’s watchful gaze ( apparently a genuine photograph of Sir Fred will fetch you a cool thirty grand. But the holiday to whichever exclusive island he, Tupak and Elvis are cohabiting… is priceless).

People were outraged. Bankers were hung. Windows were smashed. And where was he?

So now, after having time to think about it, as our PM is famed for doing a lot of, he has come up with policy that the man in the street could have told him, after falling out of Wetherspoons, with his opinion informed only by The Sun.

The conference hall at Brighton was reportedly deserted as even loyal Labour supporters showed he couldn’t tell them anything they hadn’t already raged about after reading it in the Mail. Damage done.

The hall was however, packed for the real star of the show, back (for the third time in the Cabinet) by popular demand (from some factions), unelected and unafraid, Lord Mandleson of Everything. Tony Blair once said that the Labour Party would only change when it “learned to love Peter Mandleson”. If that is what has happened, it is only because they can’t stand Gordon the Gopher any longer.

Labour has pitched itself on the side of the middle classes at the conference. As opposed to Cameron’s Crew who have only committed to tax cuts on inheritance. Because they know which side of the fancy cracker their caviar is on…

But middle-class unemployment has trebled since the recession began, hitting everyone from six-figure-salaried-executives to the 300,000 young people who graduated in 2009 into the ever shrinking professional jobs market.

And Labour’s response has been too little, too late. The Job Search Support Scheme for Newly Unemployed Professionals has been given just £3million, compared to the£5billion floating around in Job Centre Plus. And as middle-class workers opt for lower-paid jobs, there are fewer jobs for people down the chain.

From bankers, to Gurkhas, to the recession, it’s like Gordon has been shut in a bunker only to emerge with policy after after policy after everyone has already gone home. And for this, it seems Labour might be finished.

Switch off the lights in the conference hall on your way out will you Gordo?

G20 protest- Gee, what a showing, but will they take notice?

First published at http://www.pluto-online.com/?p=1765

What a decade! As New Labour staggers to its timely death, this could be the most telling week we, the people, have had since the demonstrations against the Iraq War. Hopefully this one will actually make a difference.

The emergency G20 summit is due to open today- yes, April Fool’s Day could not have been any more fitting- and people are pissed off!


Activists and even usual apathetics are coming together, putting their differences aside and sticking it straight to the man in what the Guardian termed a ‘rainbow alliance’.


Whether they’re campaigning against globalization, capitalism, or war, for measures to combat climate change or for justice, a band of somewhat unlikely bed fellows has taken shape.


Everyone from trade unions, student groups like People and Planet, our old friends the CND (campaign for nuclear disarmament) and so-called ‘radical academics’ are taking to the streets.


So apt that the summit, and therefore the protests, are taking place in London where we have seen the mighty, gluttonous financial system’s vital organs burst.


Workers in the capital, including those at MTV were told to “dress down” so they would not be mistaken for disbanded City workers and targeted by the angry mob. The Met said before Saturday, the first day of demonstrations, that they expected it to be ‘very violent’ but goaded that they were ‘up for it, and up to it’.


Would these threats encourage violence so the protesters would undermine their cause? Or were they a warning made to discourage peaceful campaigners from joining the national picket line? Either way, the threat didn’t work and the violence didn’t materialize.


Because we aren’t the criminals here.


People’s disdain for the once lauded bankers manifested itself in an attack on Sir (I use the term very loosely) Fred Goodwin’s swanky villa. Criminality isn’t the answer of course. But the government should be asking itself why people feel they have to resort to such tactics in what should be a representative democracy.


Responsibility was taken by the group ‘Bank bosses are criminals‘ and whilst police action hasn’t been taken against any bankers in this country, they are said to be pursuing the perpetrators of what is probably best described as a petty crime.


UKFI, the body created to handle the government’s stakes in nationalised banks, is ‘considering’ using its (our) 70% stake to vote against a motion justifying Fred the Shreds hefty pension package. Finally! Why are they not getting the picture?


A video emerged last week of Tory MEP (why did he have to be a Tory?) Daniel Hannan giving Gordon Brown a royal roasting. The camera flicked to a typically defiant Brown who appeared to snigger and then continue with his game of noughts and crosses.


But many of you will still be asking, of all the different avenues of showing our disgust is anyone really going to take any notice?


After all, until now, and even now, there appears to be an unspoken conspiracy.

Everyone knows that quantative easing, printing money, won’t really work. It will devalue our currency. Everyone knows that some, many, maybe even all of our politicians, across party lines, have been taking advantage of an imperfect system that could not prepare itself for crafty lawyers and their legal loopholes.


So maybe that’s why no one can wear the white suite of Martin Bell and come out against corruption. The government, the business leaders and the media.


But Barack Obama is a fresh face at the conference. Could the public outrage and peaceful protest, coupled with this brilliant man, be the key to a future full of truthful politicians, free from greed in a world with a clear view to tackling climate change, poverty and war?


Is this too much to ask? As always in the politics of the day, only time can tell.


Anyway, the next important date for your diary? If a vote of no confidence isn’t taken against Brown any sooner, it will be the next General Election in May 2010. Ten years into the millennium that promised so much.


Here, again, the people will have their say, and as Mr Hannan finished on last week, the voters: “can see what the markets have already seen; that you are the devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government.”