What does the reshuffle mean for the fight against poverty? – Tearfund's Policy Blog

September 4, 2012 By laurataylor

By Rosanne White, Tearfund’s Parliamentary Officer

Reshuffle day, and it’s ministerial bingo time as every commentator, newspaper and social network speculates on the new Cabinet and watches with bated breath as each departmental car glides towards Number 10.

We watch as each Cabinet hopeful staggers to the door, some pausing to smile grimly at the bank of photographers, others shedding aides as they march inside, only to reappear immediately (Jeremy Hunt) or after much deliberation (Justine Greening). We read their biographies, reflect on their inadvertent and sometimes more deliberate slip-ups and meditate on their suitability for the job, as if they were old neighbours and not in charge of an extensive legislative agenda.

Justine Greening – new Secretary of State at DFID

But when the final appointments are made, the last press statement released and attention switched instead to the exhausting schedule of party conferences, it’ll be business as usual for the one in seven people in the world who will go to bed hungry tonight. Far away from the screaming headlines and pieces to camera, they will continue to count on the promises that the UK Government has made, promises to legislate for 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to be dedicated to international aid, promises to prove to be a strong leader in global climate change negotiations and promises to aid the fight against corruption.

That’s not to say that the UK Government has been  remiss in its approach to development and tackling global poverty. The departing Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, has been energetic in his leadership, championing the cause of the world’s poorest people in the face of strident opposition. But with the clamour that comes with a change in Government, whether this change is intended to set public policy off on a new trajectory or to step up its implementation, these commitments must not be drowned out by short term political point-scoring or in appeasing the concerns of staunch party members. Let’s hope that Justine Greening has the bottle to stand her ground.

This Government promised to be the greenest government ever, and the new Cabinet will need to work hard to hold on to our commitments to reduce emissions and to stop climate change from hitting the poorest hardest.  We haven’t yet seen an international agreement to help people adapt to the devastating impacts of climate change or the money to fund it.  Will Ed Davey, Justine Greening and Patrick McLoughlin (new Transport Secretary) be able to work together to find a way to raise climate finance from international shipping and a fair contribution to the Green Climate Fund?

And will our new Minister for Justice, Chris Grayling, ensure that the Bribery Act is world class and make sure it’s extended to cover businesses incorporated in overseas territories and crown dependencies, so we can lead the way in tackling corruption in all jurisdictions?

Finally, Jo Swinson has replaced Norman Lamb as the BIS Minister with responsibility for the important legislation currently going through the EU to ensure that oil, gas and mining companies publish what they pay to developing countries – giving poor communities more say over how the money is spent.  Lamb has been heavily involved in the negotiations and it’s important that Swinson quickly picks up where he left off to ensure the legislation is strong and effective.

Back in May, Rev Kennedy Dhanabalan from Eficor, a Tearfund partner based in India, visited our HQ in the UK. Today, his thoughts on promises seem particularly pertinent. He said, “I was told in India that a Britisher’s handshake is equal to a good agreement which has been made. And I hope that the agreement that you have made, a promise, to give 0.7%, you will give it and keep your promise.”

Next year, the UK will assume the G8 presidency and with it the historic opportunity to tackle the root causes of hunger and extreme poverty. Let’s hope the handshake holds steady and this newly formed team will work together effectively to leave a lasting legacy.