Leading on International Development
By Keith Melton
Green Liberal Democrat Motion to Spring Conference
It was quite a shock to me to see the Chancellor`s decision, in the November budget a few weeks ago, to reduce the commitment to International Aid by 30% from the `magic` figure of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI).
You may find it strange that I admit to `shock` given the appalling governmental record since the 2019 General election. A record of incompetence, cronyism, neglect and goodness knows what else - certainly the worst Government I have known in my lifetime of watching politics pretty closely since standing as a Liberal candidate in a mock election at my school in 1964.
The 0.7% of GNI target has been one of those real political achievements for change that I have wanted to see from politics and for which I have campaigned many times over my years of involvement with the Liberal Ecology Group and its successor, the Green Liberal Democrats, which emerged when the Party was formed back in 1988.
I was delighted when it turned into a Lib Dem achievement and became a reality by 2013 during the Coalition Government. More delighted still when a Private Member`s bill from LD MP Michael Moore turned it into an Act on the statute book, effectively "for all time".
So, why the "shock"?
I think it was because the Chancellor had reacted very quickly to the pandemic economics back in March last year and I was still seeing a `halo` effect from that decisive move. Rishi Sunak had certainly acted quickly to place a large proportion of the population in economic `safety` with the furlough support and had rather surprised me by his quick benevolence. Yes, I would have preferred a Universal Basic Income approach - but the furlough was pretty good and pretty swift for a Tory.
And yet, here he was, dipping his hands into the community `piggy bank` and effectively embezzling money that should be going to some of the poorest countries in the world to help them cope with a huge problem they were poorly equipped to solve alone. I find it difficult to convey just how cross that made me feel.
Not least cause of my crossness was the sense that the money thus `saved` from the International Development budget would be slopping into the pockets of the cronies of senior Cabinet ministers, who have benefitted from loose, unmonitored, contracts for badly delivered services during the last 10 months or so!
So, anyway, I thought we needed to do something about it, even if the only thing we are able to do at the moment is to shout it from the rooftops and hope people will hear our message. For Lib Dems, of course, `shouting from the rooftops` is mostly achieved by `putting pen to paper` and writing a resolution for Conference - so that is what we have tried to do over the Christmas break. The resulting motion for Spring Conference is highlighted below.
Submission on 6th January
According to the rule book we need to submit our resolution to HQ by lunchtime on Wednesday of this week. We have been collecting signatures for a couple of days now and we are past the minimum required to submit, but I think it will be a case of "the more the merrier" this year, so we are going to keep collecting signatures up to the last minute and see how many we can get.
When you have read it - if you would like to add your signature can you please send the following details to me: Keith Melton at email@example.com :
Your name; your Lib Dem membership number; your constituency or local party; your email
We have to submit the motion on Wednesday morning, so please send me these details by 7pm on Tuesday evening if possible.
Leading on international development
Conference condemns the Chancellor`s recent decision to cut International Aid by one third from 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) as a backward step both morally and economically for the UK and one that will reverse progress in the many countries receiving such aid, making it more difficult for the poorest nations to meet climate change challenges.
- that the cut comes against the backdrop of a significant assault on international development by this Conservative Government with their flawed strategy of merging the Department for International Development into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
- that the 0.7% obligation was specifically designed to take account of any reduction or increase in the UK's wealth and the cut in the percentage of GNI therefore has a "double whammy effect" due both to targeting spending at a lower percentage of GNI and the likelihood of a lower GNI in the short to medium term as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit in combination.
- that the pledge to spend 0.7% of GNI on International Aid was a longstanding Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment achieved during the coalition government and made into a legal obligation for subsequent government's by then Liberal Democrat MP Michael Moore's Private Member's Bill, which received Royal Assent as the International Development (Official Development Assistance Target) Act 2015 on 26 March 2015.
- that mitigation from, and adaptation to, Climate Change, while recovering from the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, places enormous additional financial pressures on all countries, but particularly the poorest.
Conference recognises that:
- all countries face the same crushing combination: of the need for higher spending to fight the coronavirus pandemic and protect people; and of lower revenues due to the recession triggered by the containment measures needed.
- all countries also need to put measures in place urgently to combat climate change and biodiversity losses as twin existential threats to planet earth.
- governance in many poorer countries is severely hampered by high service costs of previously incurred international debts.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat position that "… each generation is responsible for the fate of our planet and, by safeguarding the balance of nature and the environment, for the long-term continuity of life in all its forms."
Conference therefore calls for the Government:
- to reinstate immediately the requirement to meet its legal obligation to spend at least 0.7% of GNI on international aid
- to `lock in` international development spending at the levels set in the March 2020 budget in the short to medium term in order to ensure we are not leaving the least developed countries behind at a time of intense economic challenge
- to reverse immediately the flawed strategy of merging DFID into the FCO
- to `lead from the front` on international aid, after reinstatement of the legal obligation, by lobbying our allies and partners to reach the 0.7% target
Conference further calls for:
- a joint G20/IMF commitment to cancel debt payments for the world`s poorest countries together with a major restructuring of international debt-relief generally
- a similar G20/IMF commitment to ensuring that the developing world is prepared to deal with the consequences of global warming and the consequent climate crisis.
Conference hereby recommits Liberal Democrats to our 2010 manifesto promise on Climate Change to "… ensure that adaptation and mitigation measures should be financed by industrialised nations on top of existing aid commitments."