My take on Diane Abbott’s speech at the Labour Conference 2015

My comments in brackets and bold.

Conference I am proud to stand before you as Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for International Development. (You are very lucky to get this high position.)

Because there is no issue that better illustrates the internationalism that is at the core of progressive politics than our commitment to international development. And in an era that has seen the rise of toxic xenophobic politics across Europe it is worth reminding ourselves that an outward looking internationalism is not an “add on” to our Socialism, it should be at the heart of our Socialism.

Labour in government should be proud of its leadership on international development. It is a Labour government which in 1964 set up the first Ministry of Overseas Development. The very first Cabinet level Minister of Overseas Development was Barbara Castle. She was followed by illustrious names like Judith Hart and Clare Short. But we should never forget the contribution of Gordon Brown who put development issues at the heart of his government, tripled the aid budget and works tirelessly on these issues to this day.(So no praise to Valerie Amos, Hilary Benn, Douglas Alexander, Harriet Harman or Mary Creagh who held the Development SoS or Shadow SoS roles????)

This summer we have all seen the horrifying images of migrants and refugees trying to reach safety in Europe. For thousands of desperate people the Mediterranean has become a graveyard.

It was the Labour party that forced David Cameron to take action, inadequate though it has been. (And how about the SNP, Greens, Liberal Democrats???)

I would particularly single out my colleague Yvette Cooper for her leadership on the issue and look forward to working with her refugee taskforce. But many of those people attempting to cross the Mediterranean or in the camp at Calais are economic migrants fleeing desperate poverty. It is right to face our responsibilities to refugees. (Funny s I said above, no praise to Creagh?)

But you would expect me, as the child of economic migrants, to say that economic migrants should also be our care and concern. Barbed wire, armed troops and letting people drown is not the solution to waves of economic migration. Still less is it the politics of UKIP. Ultimately the only way to check the flows of economic migration is international development promoting growth and prosperity worldwide.

We need “woman centered” development policies.

Around the world 62 million girls are not in school. Globally one in three women will experience gender-based violence in her lifetime. And this includes female genital mutilation. In the developing world one in seven girls are married before their 15th birthday, with some child brides as young as eight or nine. Each year more than 287,000 women, 99 per cent of them in developing countries, die from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications. (I find this interesting since the history of development showed that girl or men, successful development still occurred–eg East Asian Development.)

Whilst women make up more than 40 per cent of the agricultural labour force only three to 20 per cent are landholders. In Africa women owned enterprises make up as little as 10 per cent of all businesses. In South Asia the number is only three per cent.

We need to reach those women. The test of the next Labour government’s development policies will not just be getting money out of the door or how many highly paid consultants we employ, but how we change the lives of women in some of the world’s poorest countries.
We also have to recognize that war and conflict are a primary impediment to development. (Done long ago in Labour’s 2009 White Paper).

Just last week the United Nations Sustainable Development goals were adopted. They set out 17 goals around which we can develop our aid policies and improve the lives of the poor globally as well as holding agencies and NGO’s to account. Yet the Government has yet to say how, or even whether, they will report on their work on the Millennium Development Goals which are about to expire. (Really? Have you not seen the evidence from DFID’s website, under Labour and the Tories?)

In the coming months I and the team will be holding this government to account on development. They have been paying lip service to the issues, whilst covertly diverting the budget to non-development purposes. This is a government which is as callous to the poor around the world as they are to the poor here in Great Britain.

International Development for David Cameron is mere window dressing. (Right so far, I’ve only see you say stuff and not propose any concrete policy.)

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Hello Mike Kane what do you know

About International Development? What roles will you take? In previous years the Labour Shadow Cabinet for International Development had three MPs. Now its just your and Ms Abbott.

Your Profile. Will you be serious about aid expenditure, having been on the Treasury Committee? Will you tackle environmental concerns (which falls under DECC mainly) or even the Sustainable Development Goals?

Time will tell.

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Hello Diane Abbott what do you know

about international development at all?

I think nothing.

No luck with you.

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Congratulations Chairman Stephen Twigg

on your appointment as International Development Select Committee Chairman. You have big shoes to fill–former chairman and my favourite Liberal Democrat Malcolm Bruce (Vince Cable was one of my favourites left a large legacy.

Here’s Stephen Twigg’s bio and how he fits in with international development:

–Former Director, the Foreign Policy Centre (2005-2010)
–Work for the Aegis Trust / Holocaust Centre genocide prevention charities including in Rwanda (2005 – 2010)

It’s not much but I like this line:

“International development is not just about aid. That is why the Addis Ababa summit is so important, ensuring the sources of finance available to grow businesses in the least developed countries are expanded. Key priorities include infrastructure, public services and trade.”

So well, he’s pretty new to the subject matter but not a total alien.

Welcome, Stephen Twigg.

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What’s new with ODA and the UK armed forces

Suddenly defence journalist Jonathan Beale is surprised to find out that HMS Bulwark’s operation to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean is paid for by the Department for International Development (DFID’s) budget, or what we development people know as Official Development Assistance (ODA). What’s so surprising?

…. Drum Roll …

Operation Patwin’s (UK military response to Typhoon Haiyan) was counted as ODA and borne by DFID’s coffers

DFID has always reimbursed the MOD for Humanitarian and disaster relief work, even before the 2010 Conservative-Liberal Democrat Alliance and before the cuts-filled Strategic and Defence Security Review (SDSR)–see Baroness Northover’s reply.

Yes, the UK armed forces has been hit hard, yes DFID has an arbitrary target (as does NATO member states), but no, what on earth is new about DFID taking up the costs of HADR work? Celebrate don’t call it interesting!!!

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Good to see Desmond Swayne back

where he belongs at DFID (see also very first phew tweet)

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She’s Greening back in her department

After hours or several days, David Cameron re-appoints Justine Greening as Secretary of State for International Development. The long wait is probably due to him trying to think if he should place DFID back under the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or possibly to appease his extreme right wing Conservatives a bit–it’s no secret they hate the name DFID and even more detest the rigid and outdated 0.7% of GDP/GNI aid target.

Oh well, at least there’s continuity. Greening can continue, not in any particular order, he drive to:

1) Help create a global post-2015 set of Global/Sustainable Development Goals,

2) Launch another Multilateral (and possibly Bilateral) aid review (and her the sound bites from Mary Creagh),

3) Pour more Official Development Assistance into trust funds/”non-core” aid (yucks and yay),

4) Increase the role of the private sector in DFID’s programmes (and attach a we bit of neoliberalism with it),

5) End aid to India (as promised) and possibly to more “IDA-graduating” countries (same as point 2),

6) Place more focus on fragile/conflict/weak states (that would make aid as a tool for national security, will that break the OECD and DFID rules?),

7) Reduce aid to the EU (her colleague Philip Hammond would want that),

8) Work with China on the Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB),

9) Continue to plan out future International Development Association (IDA) replenishment (link to point 2),

10) and many others.

Any other thoughts?

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