speech that was well received by most non-partisan commentators. The speech was a claim for the middle ground of British politics.
The speech stressed the need for those with the broadest shoulders to bear the biggest load, that inequality matters and that a Labour Government would make life a bit harder for the business predators and a bit easier for the producers.
No doubt we will see these themes carry through to Labour’s International Development Policy. I attended the past 2 Labour Party Conferences, and in their new role as Opposition party, I was a little critical. I asked whether Labour—at the highest levels--still cared about international development and wondered how, assuming it did still care, it was going to intensify and focus that commitment.
Ivan Lewis took over as Shadow Secretary of State for International Development about a year ago and has injected much new energy and provided a dedicated focal point for others in the Party to rally around.
I read an article by Ivan Lewis in House magazine’s Conference Edition, entitled “Labour’s critique of the Tory-Led Government’s approach to international development”. Quite a title, but then this was for a partisan crowd. There were 4 paragraphs critiquing the Government’s policy and one paragraph on what Labour would do differently. I guess this is a standard ratio of critique-to-plan when we are 2.5 years out from the next election, but I would have liked to have seen a more active perspective put forward the team.
They are clearly asking good questions, including:
- How can UK government funding trigger other forms of financing for development? (and it is needed—climate finance is struggling and humanitarian finance regularly fails to meet demonstrated need targets)
- How can we demonstrate value for money without undermining investments in long term change? (and, I would add, in such a way that convinces enough of the UK voting public—really not easy)
- How can Government support collaboration between the private sector and civil society that goes beyond rhetoric and window dressing? (see Noshua Watson’s work in our Business and Development programme)
- How to support the processes that empower women and help break cycles of conflict? (my colleague Patricia Justino did a recent report on this for WomanKind and ActionAid)
- How to create a stronger One Government approach to development, one that goes beyond DFID? (there is an upcoming BOAG report on this led by Matthew Lockwood)
- How to ensure that the voices of those affected by aid can help shape UK aid policy (I am particularly keen on this)
- How to create a global movement for change to take on the big global collective issues of resource depletion, climate change, trade, etc. (the biggest question, and one for which the Scaling Up Nutrition movement might have some lessons).
These are big questions. They defy easy answers. They are more about the politics and the civics than the technics and metrics. But they are the right questions, and they point us towards a more One World approach to development (i.e. problems at the global level, problems in North, South, East and West, solutions that require many countries working together, and whole of government approaches).
Along with many others, IDS will contribute ideas, based on our research, to the consultative process set up by the Labour Party to address the questions. Every Government needs a strong Opposition to provide a check and balance. Given the UK Government is a coalition of 2 of the 3 major parties, the role of the remaining party, the Opposition, has never been more important.
No matter how challenging the above questions are, we need to hear some emerging ideas on these at the 2013 Labour Party Conference, ideas that unite and have a One World Development frame from the One Nation Party. It is time for the Labour Party to deliver on their vision for international development and explain the role they will play in achieving that.
I will write more from the Conservative party meeting next week and will try to speak to Justine Greening, who Ed Miliband described in his speech in a rather unflattering way (incidentally this was the only time in the speech he mentioned international development!).