29 October 2009
Let me begin by thanking David Greenaway, (Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham University) for that mightily intimidating introduction. I’m very grateful to you and to Professor Morgan for the honour of inviting me to give the Hugh Gaitskell Memorial Lecture this evening.
I must admit to a feeling of apprehension as I approached this lecture, such is the calibre of this fine institution, and no doubt the expertise of many of you in the audience – not least Professors Greenaway and Morgan, well-known in your fields of international trade and adult education.
I’m personally grateful too for Professor Morgan’s voluntary work for the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO – which is helping to build a more effective organisation. We’re honoured to also have Professor Boksenberg, the Chair of the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO here with us this evening.
I’m afraid to say my nerves weren’t eased by the presence here tonight of another fine expert in his field, and indeed last year’s speaker on this occasion – Nick Burnett. I know you are leaving UNESCO shortly Nick, and on behalf of many people here I want to thank you for your service at that institution, and all your leadership on the initiative to provide Education for All.
In my nervousness at speaking before such an august audience, at an academic institution of such fine tradition, I can at least console myself that 50 years ago, Hugh Gaitskell himself felt such nerves in a similar setting.
He was already leader of the Labour Party when he was asked to deliver a series of three lectures at Harvard University in Boston, in memory of the distinguished journalist and founder of ‘The Nation’, Edwin Lawrence Godkin.
He spoke of an ‘increasing sense of diffidence’ he had felt as he prepared for the lectures. For, he explained, and I’ll quote directly:
“Professional politicians, when they have been in the job for any length of time, are not well fitted for really deep thinking, partly because they have no time for it and partly because the very practice of their art involves them in continual simplification. If the expert is a man who knows more and more about less and less, the politician is a man who knows less and less about more and more!”
So it is with Hugh Gaitskell’s sense of due humility that I wish to address you this evening.
I come from a generation of Labour politicians too young to have had personal reflections on either the life or the tragic passing of Hugh Gaitskell at such a young age. Yet for anyone with an interest in the history of the post-war years or the Labour movement, he remains today a towering figure.
His great friend Roy Jenkins wrote, ten years after his passing, that “with his death a light went out in politics which has never since returned”. A committed social democrat, Gaitskell was not born into the Labour movement but came to Labour politics because he was convinced it was right.
It was during his second year at the University of Oxford that the General Strike of 1926 fired his passion for social justice, and he joined the Labour party. On leaving Oxford he of course came here to Nottingham, to take up his first job at the Department of Adult Education.
In the first of these lectures in memory of Hugh Gaitskell, in 1965, that other towering figure of the centre left in the post-war years Anthony Crosland – Gaitskell’s great friend – said he ‘always looked back to that extra-mural year as one of the strongest influences in his development’.
On arriving in Nottingham he found a county torn by the bitter consequences of defeat and division after the General Strike. His tenure took him out to local mining towns, and it was in a miner’s cottage in Worksop that he first met Hugh Dalton – who went on to be Gaitskell’s war-time boss and mentor as the President of the Board of Trade. Hugh Dalton later reflected that Gaitskell was ‘out to change society from top to bottom. He was against all privilege and social injustice.’
Gaitskell, under Dalton’s tutelage, rose to become Chancellor of the Exchequer in Clement Attlee’s post-war government. But it was later, as party leader in opposition, that he was to turn his attention from economic to foreign affairs - where he will always be associated with his strong response to the Suez crisis, his opposition to unilateral disarmament and his opposition to entering the European Economic Community.
Yet amidst those great contemporary debates he identified even greater global challenges. Speaking in the late 1950s, he argued that there were, and I quote: ‘two problems outstanding above all others: the problem of peace and the problem of poverty.’
This view was informed perhaps by his experiences both as a civil servant during the war, and as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the post-war years. Indeed it was Hugh Gaitskell – as Chancellor - who announced in December 1950 that Britain could go it alone after $2.7 billion of Marshall aid. He told Parliament: “We are not an emotional people… and not very articulate, but these characteristics should not… hide the real and profound sense of gratitude we feel toward the American people.”
That experience surely informed his progressive view of economic aid to other countries. His was a time where such questions were argued against the background of a Cold War environment in which assisting what were then referred to as the ‘uncommitted areas’ of Africa and Asia, played its own role in the geopolitics of the time.
Yet Gaitskell argued that it was wrong to treat economic aid either as an adjunct to defence policy, or “as an act of charity for which gratitude is expected”, and instead, that “aid should be provided for the sole purpose of enabling economic development to take place faster and more smoothly in a stable democratic society.”
I believe Gaitskell’s approach to economic aid reflected his broader approach to social democratic politics – he combined both idealism and realism in productive equilibrium.
That brought him into confrontation with members of his own party, my own party today, the Labour Party – not least the fiery Nye Bevan, who was defeated by Gaitskell to the party leadership. Bevan famously described Gaitskell as a ‘desiccated calculating machine’ - yet in the end, Gaitskell was vindicated when Bevan came later to form an alliance with him. Tony Benn, another of his early critics, was still moved to say that ‘there is no doubt he was a principled man inspired by a genuine passion for social justice’.
I would argue that Gaitskell’s approach – of aligning idealism and realism in the pursuit of social justice – is as valuable today as it was in his time. And it is in the spirit of that approach that I want to address you this evening, on the subject of the future of aid.
I’d like to examine this evening the difference that increased aid and debt relief has made over the past decade. I will look at the impact of the economic downturn on the world’s poorest people, and suggest that far from causing us to retreat from our promises on development; the global recession makes it even more important that we deliver for the world’s poorest people – not just because it is morally right to do so, but also in an effort to build a fairer and more sustainable globalisation.
Finally, I will suggest that to eliminate global poverty we will need to move beyond charitable aid and towards fulfilling a vision of global social justice – and that to Gaitskell’s two ‘problems outstanding above all others’, we must add a third – climate change.
Let me turn first then, to the matter of aid and debt relief.
The past decade has arguably seen international development come to the mainstream of global politics to an unprecedented extent. In September 2000 world leaders agreed the UN Millennium Development Goals to tackle illiteracy, hunger and disease. The grass-roots movements of Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History helped to provide the political momentum for historic commitments to cancel debt and increase aid.
Some $117 billion of debt has been cancelled since 2000. At Gleneagles in 2005, the G8 agreed to provide an additional $50 billion of extra aid per year by 2010 – of which $25 billion will be for Africa.
It’s clear, on the eve of 2010 that some of the G8 countries are not doing enough to honour those bold and important pledges made at Gleneagles – and I will say more about that. Yet the debt relief and aid that have been delivered over the past decade have made a tangible difference to the lives of millions of people.
The number of people on antiretroviral treatment has risen from just 100,000 at the start of the century to some 4 million today. The proportion of the world’s population living in extreme poverty has fallen from a third to a quarter notwithstanding the continuing rise in global population. In just nine years, aid increases and debt cancellation have helped to put nearly 40 million more children into school.
When we talk in such stark terms it is easy to forget that among those 40 million are the doctors and teachers of tomorrow. Development works and we must continue to remind ourselves that whatever the setbacks in the short term, in the long run of human history, we really can transform the lives of our fellow citizens for the better. The challenge facing us today is to do so in a suddenly much tougher global environment.
For if developing countries were less affected by the immediate fall-out of the credit crunch, they have been if anything more vulnerable to the second wave of what has been called a ‘once in a century credit tsunami’.
For the poorest people in the least developed countries, this is a crisis upon crisis. Over and above the perennial hardships faced by people living in poverty, higher food prices last year trapped as many as 130 million people in poverty, while up to 40 million children suffered the lasting effects of malnutrition.
Now comes this credit tsunami – and those same people, in those same countries, are finding that their every source of financing is being hit.
Private capital flows to developing countries are likely to fall from $1 trillion two years ago to less than $200 billion this year. Remittances to many countries – the money that people send back home to friends and family - globally worth over $300 billion a year, and significantly larger than global aid flows, are starting to fall as workers who migrated to the west are finding it much tougher to send money home.
World trade flows have fallen by as much as 12 per cent this year. As we know, that means job losses. In Vietnam, as many as 400,000 people – mostly working in the garments industry – have lost their jobs this year. And the knock-on effect of this decline in manufacturing exports is that demand is falling for raw materials – in the Democratic Republic of Congo for example, 200,000 miners have lost their jobs as a result of the fall in global demand.
So the human cost of this global recession is real. The United Nations estimates that the worldwide recession has pushed 100 million more people below the poverty line.
Our own economists in the Department suggest that the global recession could set back progress towards the first of the Millennium Development Goals – to halve extreme poverty – by up to three years. As many as 400,000 more children could die each year if the crisis continues.
Some people have suggested that given the cost of the global recession, we cannot afford to keep the promises we have made to increase aid to the poorest countries. Instead I firmly believe that now is not the time to turn away from our mission to tackle global poverty.
That is why the UK Government is keeping the promise we have made to dedicate 0.7 per cent of national income to development assistance by 2013. Indeed, last month the Prime Minister announced that we will now legislate to enshrine that commitment, the 0.7 per cent target in the laws of our country.
By next year our assistance will be equivalent to 0.56 per cent of national income – in line with the European Union’s collective commitment. And we will, by next year, have nearly trebled our bilateral and multilateral aid to Africa since 2004.
Half our global bilateral aid will be invested in public services, including education – which Hugh Gaitskell knew is both a right and a route out of poverty. That is why the UK Government has committed to invest £8.5 billion as part of the global effort to get all primary aged children into school by 2015.
The progress we have seen in getting children into school over the last decade will slow, because many of the children that are still denied education live in the hardest to reach places – as many as half of them in countries affected by conflict.
That is why we are increasing our efforts on improving access to education in fragile and conflict-affected states – for both girls and boys. We are also improving the quality of education, ensuring more teachers are trained, and supporting efforts to strengthen the links between schools, skills and employment – so that children get an education that gives them the best chance of getting a job in order that they can lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
On health, we will deliver not only our promised 20 million malaria bednets by next year – but also an additional 30 million bednets by 2013. We are working with others to help developing countries provide free health care to their citizens, and we are pressing the international community for more support to save 6 million mothers and babies by 2015.
Yet while aid is necessary to free people from the trap of extreme poverty, it will never be sufficient. Progressive ambitions must include increasing aid, but also go beyond it – to tackle the failures of the international system that still make aid necessary.
Because while progressive movements in the developed world cannot directly make poverty history in other parts of the world, they can and should help to create what Kevin Watkins of the United Nations calls ‘an enabling global environment in which the poorest people have a chance to consign their poverty to history.’
My department already holds a reputation as a world-class aid agency. I am determined that it builds on that success in order to help create that ‘enabling global environment’ in which poverty can truly be eliminated.
Our commitment to supporting basic services like health and education and to improving governance in developing countries, remains undimmed – for the ability of people to lift themselves out of poverty will remain greatly affected by the decisions that are made by their own governments and institutions, and by their degree of access to education, health care and something as basic as clean water.
Yet beyond these commitments, our efforts to tackle global poverty must encompass the global challenges that threaten both the progress that has already been made over the last decade, and put future gains at risk.
For as I have said, the global recession threatens to push back progress towards the first Millennium Development Goal by as much as 3 years.
The development gains in the last decade are threatened by the effects of conflict and poor governance. Each year, at least 740,000 people are killed as a result of armed violence, with many more injured or disabled.
Those gains are also threatened by the advance of dangerous climate change. For if temperatures continue to rise at current levels, an extra 600 million people will be affected by malnutrition by the end of the century.
Unless all three of these global challenges – the recession, climate change and conflict - are tackled, the MDGs will be pushed further out of reach.
So to Gaitskell’s poverty and peace, I believe we must today add climate change to form the three challenges ‘above all others’ today. I believe, as Gaitskell did, that we have a duty to tackle social injustice – and that duty does not stop at the edge of the channel.
To this timeless call of justice we can today add a contemporary understanding of our shared interdependence.
Migration, disease, terror, pollution, crime. On this ever shrinking planet, we simply cannot escape each other – so we must find better ways to live together.
For as the food, fuel and finance crises have shown, no country can insulate itself in today’s world from what happens overseas – for good or for ill.
From the attacks of September 11th, to the global recession today. From deforestation in the DRC and Indonesia to the risk of avian flu incubation in South-East Asia. From the terrorist networks of South-Asia to the drug traffickers of West Africa.
None of these problems are confined to the countries in which they originated. In a world of cross-border risks and opportunities, in a world where there is no more ‘over there’, and ‘over here’, fighting poverty is – to put it bluntly – not merely a matter of social justice. It is also in our own self-interest.
So we must continue our unwavering focus I would argue on delivering the Millennium Development Goals, and indeed go beyond it - towards a collective effort to address a set of challenges that bind all of us together at the start of the twenty first century:
The continuing global downturn;The threat or persistence of violent conflict; andThe threat of climate change
Let me try and take each of those in turn, starting with our response to the global recession.
As I have already said, the latest estimate from the United Nations suggests that as many as 100 million people have been forced into poverty as a result of the global recession we’re living through.
That is why, ahead of the meeting of G20 leaders in London this spring to tackle the global downturn, Gordon Brown called on his counterparts to ensure that this is the first recession in history where the needs of the world’s poorest people are consciously addressed.
The G20 as a result agreed to provide $50 billion to help poor countries to weather the storm, along with a new global vulnerability alert system to provide real-time information on the impact of the crisis on poor countries and a rapid social response fund to help protect the most marginal and indeed the most vulnerable communities.
The poorest countries have now received over $20 billion in Special Drawing Rights, with further indications that the IMF will lend over $8 billion instead of $2 billion over just the coming two years. That kind of predictable financing is already helping countries like Kenya and Tanzania to protect critical development spending.
As the British Government, we are playing our part to support developing countries to shield their people from the worst effects of this downturn. We are helping to protect 50 million poor people, in more than twenty countries, and we will continue to press for the rapid delivery of the commitments made by the G20 summit in London.
Yet the challenge we face is to go beyond providing an emergency response package, to take further steps to integrate the world’s poorest people into the global economy – because a world economy that includes the poorest half of humanity will bring surely benefits to us all.
We can, I would argue, make progress in this ambition in three critical areas: first by reforming the World Bank; second by delivering on the promise of the Doha Development Round of Trade talks; and third by helping countries not only to cope with the crisis but also to ‘build back better’.
First, the Governors of the World Bank should, at the spring meetings next year, agree reforms to make that institution more legitimate, more effective and more responsive to crises like the one we are presently living through
That means establishing a new voting system which gives developing countries more say, providing the right structures and resources to help developing countries deal with the challenges of both today and tomorrow, and making the Bank more accountable to its shareholders. All of these reforms should ensure that the Bank is fit to carry out its critical task of reducing poverty, and indeed as the guardian of the poor.
Second, completing the Doha trade round still provides the best opportunity to create a more open and fair global trading system – which would in turn provide a massive boost to the global economy, and the poorest countries in particular.
Of course this is a deal that has eluded the world for too long. I remember distinctly the feeling of frustration and disappointment during the trade talks in Geneva 2008, as we came so close to making a deal, but failed at the last hurdle.
The G20’s commitment, outlined in Pittsburgh, to bring the round to a successful conclusion in 2010 does offer us now a new window but we should recognise that for many of the world’s poorest people it is not a window of opportunity but of necessity.
Third, we must help countries to build back better from this crisis. Because it is often in the toughest times that the boldest choices can be made – think of the reforms made by the countries of East Asia in the last decade. Those choices can help rebuild economies to be more inclusive, more fair and yes more equitable.
That is why I launched a new International Growth Centre last year – to give the governments of developing countries access to some of the world’s finest economists. Equipped with this kind of independent advice, developing countries will have the chance to come out of this downturn in better shape for the future.
And that is why as the British Government we are now stepping up its efforts to help countries trade their way out of poverty. Indeed our investment in Aid for Trade is now higher than ever – at some £800 million.
Our investment in helping developing countries to reach into developed markets is critical. Our support for the fishing industry, for example, in Mozambique helped to secure EU accreditation for their produce – safeguarding jobs for more than 70,000 fishermen.
And our investment will help developing countries to trade not only with the developed world, but critically more with each other. Our support for Africa’s North-South Corridor project – which will improve transport links from the copper belt of Zambia down to the ports of South Africa - could provide a boost of tens of millions of pounds a year to the African economy, and thousands of jobs across the region.
For if the economic crisis has underlined the interdependence of the twenty-first century, the response to it has shown that by working together and eschewing zero-sum game politics, countries can yield benefits far beyond those possible through simply acting alone.
We cannot hope to make poverty history though, unless we take more action to address the impact on poverty of the second of the great problems identified by Hugh Gaitskell – the absence of peace. Because of the 34 countries around the world furthest from reaching the Millennium Development Goals, it’s no coincidence that 22 of them are in the midst of, or emerging from, conflict.
Alongside those conflicts are the fragile states that are home to a billion people. States that are either incapable or unwilling to provide their citizens with safe shelter, the rule of law or the most basic requirements of life. The world will not succeed in meeting those Millennium Development Goals unless we can tackle the poverty that exists in these conflict-affected and fragile countries.
So my Department has consciously increased the proportion of assistance to conflict-affected and fragile states – from a quarter of our bilateral programme, to half of it today.
But as well as where we work, the development community needs to look at what we do. We need to learn the lessons of our efforts in countries like Sierra Leone, the DRC, Afghanistan. That means doing some familiar work – providing health and education – in different ways.
But it also means doing some less familiar work, such as supporting peace processes or political institutions. It means helping states to build the core functions they need to survive – taxation, security, rule of law. Perhaps not emotive, perhaps not glamorous, but vital nonetheless. And it means providing support so that states can meet the expectations of their people – for jobs or an end to discrimination.
This kind of work will bring us increasingly closer to our partners in defence and diplomacy, as part of a seamless approach that recognises there can be no development without security, and no long term peace without development prospects.
But while the global politics of the twentieth century were too often defined by that conflict, the challenge of climate change will provide a defining political test of our generation. And that challenge will in turn affect our efforts to pursue both peace and tackle poverty.
The impact of climate change has the potential to spark future conflict over scarce water resources. And as we look ahead to the Copenhagen conference in just 40 days I believe that it is no exaggeration to say that a fair, effective and ambitious deal there could be more vital to tackling poverty than even the Gleneagles summit of 2005.
Because climate change is not some future possibility for many of the world’s poorest people, it is a contemporary crisis. I’ve seen on my travels across the developing world the impact of climate change: from the Kenyan man who told me that the seasons he remembered as a child have simply disappeared; to the people of Bangladesh who have had their homes swept away by the rising waters; to the Ethiopian women I met last year, who had been forced by drought to walk further each day to collect water until they were walking 5 hours a day simply to drink from a watering hole shared by people and animals alike.
These people are the least responsible for the climate change that is happening yet they are already most affected by it. And as we look to the future it is clear that climate change will increasingly hit the poor hardest. By 2035, the Himalayan glaciers, which provide water for up to 750 million people across Asia could disappear. By 2050, some twenty five million more children may be malnourished. By 2080, an extra 400 million people could be exposed to the threat of malaria.
Let me be frank. While many of us came together in 2005 to make poverty history, climate change threatens to make poverty the future for millions of people. That is why we have not only a self-interest, but also a moral responsibility to the developing world to work out a fair deal on climate change at Copenhagen. I believe such a deal should be subject to five development tests.
Our first priority must be to agree a long term goal, with credible interim targets, to contain temperatures to within two degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Anything less rigorous would pose serious risks for the most vulnerable states in our world.
Second, and with a goal established, we need to allocate the task of meeting it in a way that is fair and equitable – that means developed countries taking the greatest responsibility for cutting emissions, given both our historical responsibilities and our higher emissions per head compared with even the most advanced developing countries.
Third, we need to reorder the global economy towards low-carbon development. Crucial to achieving this will be effective carbon markets that have a greater impact in reducing global emissions and increases the flow of finance to least-developed countries.
The fourth test should be the ability of a deal to support the development and diffusion of low carbon technologies. For the ‘greening’ of our global economy is fundamental to ensuring both the resilience and sustainability of our recovery.
Fifth and finally, we must ensure that any climate change deal includes support for developing countries to adapt to the now inevitable consequences of climate change.
It is no secret, as leaders gather for the European Council meetings today in Brussels, that such a deal hangs in the balance. This summer, I visited Bangladesh and India, not only to see the impact of climate change on some of the world’s most vulnerable communities, but also to meet the politicians without whom we simply won’t get a deal in Copenhagen.
Those meetings served to underline the paradox we face ahead of Copenhagen – that while developed countries bear the responsibility for the emissions that have occurred since the industrial revolution, if we look ahead to the next 20 years, around three quarters of the growth in emissions will come from developing countries.
In short, we do need a deal in Copenhagen that includes everyone. Of central importance in getting developing countries to the table will be agreeing a consensus around the financial support that the developed world will provide to help poor countries respond to climate change. I believe here that Europe can lead the way here as it did in 2005, when European finance ministers agreed to aid increases critically ahead of the G8 summit at Gleneagles.
This is too important an issue for ‘wait and see’ politics, or old-fashioned horse-trading – that is why as a British Government we have argued that by 2020 around $100 billion a year should be made available to help developing countries reduce their emissions, tackle deforestation and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Some of this investment will come from carbon markets – but Governments will also need to provide additional funding. It is reasonable to provide a small, limited amount of this investment from the aid budget – because in many cases the fight against climate change and the fight against poverty will be one and the same. For instance the work that we are doing right now in Bangladesh to raise homes above the water level, or provide new salt-tolerant varieties of rice, are helping both to preserve lives and preserve livelihoods.
But the cost of helping developing countries to both reduce emissions and cope with the effects of climate change cannot simply come out of existing aid commitments. That is why the United Kingdom has committed to provide additional finance, over and above our aid commitments to reach 0.7 per cent of gross national income. And that is why we have said that no more than 10 per cent of UK aid will be spent as climate financing.
If we don’t reach global agreement on providing additional assistance to help the poorest and most vulnerable developing countries adapt to that climate change and get on a low carbon path to growth, there is a danger that a large proportion of global aid will be diverted from education, health and other basic services.
Oxfam has estimated that if $50 billion a year were diverted from aid budgets – just under half of global aid flows – then by 2010, there would be 75 million fewer children in school; 4.5 million more children would die; and 8.6 million fewer people would have access to HIV and Aids treatment than would otherwise have been the case.
I believe that it is not only right morally right for developed countries to provide that additional assistance, it will also be essential to securing a deal at Copenhagen. And given that climate change will affect all of us, it is in all of our interests to help developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ dirty technologies and find a low carbon path to growth. The earlier we start this process, the cheaper it will be, in the long run.
More developed countries now need to step up, before Copenhagen, and provide the assurances that developing countries need if they are to come to the table. Copenhagen is not the window of opportunity for an agreement on climate change – it is the window of necessity.
The issue of climate change I believe reflects the character of our age. At the start of this lecture, I quoted from the series of three speeches that Hugh Gaitskell gave in Harvard a little more than half a century ago.
The title of that series was ‘The Challenge of Co-existence’. That title surely encapsulates the great question of Gaitskell’s age – could the great blocs of East and West exist peacefully alongside each other?
I think that my contribution to our discussions tonight, on ‘The Future of Aid’, could quite easily be titled ‘The Challenge of Interdependence’. For this is, I believe, the defining question of our era: how can we manage the extent of our interdependence at the beginning of this new century?
The rapid and inexorable advance of globalisation means that we can’t escape each other on this shrinking planet. So we must instead come together to tackle our shared challenges of poverty, of peace and of climate change.
Because our common prosperity depends on shared sustainable growth. Our common security depends on the emergence of effective and peaceful states around the world. And our common climate requires us to take steps now to safeguard the planet for our children and our grandchildren.
This understanding reflects, I believe, the progressive impulse, the progressive instincts that animated Hugh Gaitskell’s politics. Only by working together can we hope to meet these challenges.
Half a century ago, the men and women of Gaitskell’s generation built, from the rubble of the second world war, the international institutions that remain today – the United Nations, the World Bank, NATO and the IMF. Those institutions have evolved and been reformed over the past 50 years, yet their origins still lie in the challenges of the twentieth century.
Today we face a new set of challenges, that require a new set of answers. We must in response come together, as nations and as peoples, to chart a new course. A course to bring the poorest half of humanity into a truly global economy. A course to promote peace across the continents. A course to ensure the sustainability of our planet for this and future generations.
None of this will be easy. But we must together grasp the opportunity to bring about that real and lasting change.
What are Bookmarks?
DFID around the web:
© Crown copyright 2010