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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