Mission 2020: don’t be late

2020 tipping point_mission2020

Source: Mission 2020


Monday began with a reminder that Hugh Grant hates people being late. This montage of cinematic near misses reminds us that being late can have different consequences – for our love lives, dance careers and, in some cases, our survival. It is a light-hearted introduction to a new campaign with a weighty message: we can’t afford to be late on curbing our carbon emissions. [Read more…]


Expectations Raised: Now it’s time to deliver

Tearfund’s Advocacy Director Paul Cook, continues our series of blogs on the COP21 Paris Climate Summit. 

Expectations were raised and there was an air of hope in the first days of the UN climate change talks in Paris.  Have we finally reached a tipping point for real progress on climate change?  Millions of ordinary people took part in more than 2000 people’s climate marches all around the world over the weekend of 28-29 November . In London more than 50,000 people took to the streets in the biggest climate march the UK has ever seen.   [Read more…]

The Land of Blue Sky

I’m standing in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia, and I’m crying. We’ve been travelling now for about five and a half weeks, through 26 countries and it’s over. We’ve dodged corrupt police in Bulgaria, heard Turkmenistan state officials tapping into our calls home; and survived drunk, angry policemen demanding a bribe (it’s a common occurrence in Uzbekistan). But now it’s over and our 1.0 litre Corsa has finally given up the ghost.

As our dreams of winning the rally crumble like the sand beneath our feet, a group of locals drive past and offer us a tow back to their community, where Matt (my co-conspirator) and I can call for a mechanic. We say goodbye to our other teammates and head back through the mountains. An hour or so later we arrive at a collection of yurts and are welcomed into the house of our rescuers. They feed us “buuz”, a traditional meal of dumplings filled with meat which are cooked in steam, give us a space to rest, and once their mechanic has come to confirm our worst fears, they arrange onward travel.

Mongolia is a beautiful empty place – that’s why it’s called The Land of Blue Sky. Yet most of its people face a hard daily struggle to survive with enough food. Our hosts didn’t have much, but the little food and warmth they did, they were more than happy to share with us as their guests. By sharing a meal together, we shared friendships, joy and peace.

Craig philbrick

Photo with our host’s children.

Since coming to work at Tearfund, I’ve realised that this problem is sadly not exclusive to Mongolia, it is a global problem. In fact, everyday 1 in 8 people go hungry worldwide. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. Did you know that there is enough food in the world for everyone? Hunger is not an inevitability, it is an injustice that we can fight. We can do something.

We are called to love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength and all our mind – and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  Love is a verb, a doing word, therefore we must act as we honour God by loving the hungry. I want to do for other people what a family in Mongolia did for me.

And that’s why Tearfund are joining the ENOUGH FOOD FOR EVERYONE IF campaign. Together we will focus on some of the root causes of hunger, recognising that aid is only one vital first step in tackling global poverty, and that we must go beyond this to address the deeper causes of poverty and hunger, like climate change and tax dodging in developing countries. Together, we can end the daily reality of hunger for countless people and make the world a fairer, better place that we share together.

The time to act is now. If you want to be part of the campaign, sign up using the link below. Thank you.


Monrovia’s Golden Moment

This is a guest blog by Rev Isaac Wheigar.  Isaac is the General Secretary of the Association of Evangelicals of Liberia (AEL), which aims to promote peace through the local church and advocate for the poor and marginalised.

Rev Isaac Wheigar, General Secretary of AEL

Rev Isaac Wheigar, General Secretary of AEL. Source AEL

This week Monrovia, the capital of my country Liberia, is hosting the next stage of global talks on what happens after the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015 .

The UN High Level Panel meeting will look at the national building blocks for sustained prosperity and, as we are in the business of rebuilding our lives and our nation after civil war, Liberians have much to contribute to this meeting.

The current MDGs have done a good job of focusing attention on some important areas that need to be tackled – like health, education and access to water and sanitation. But while there has been some progress in some areas, it has been patchy and the figures demonstrate the high levels of inequality that still face us across the globe. The political barriers to decreasing this inequality and to ensuring our planet’s resources are protected and shared more fairly just haven’t been addressed.

That’s the message we want the UN panel to hear and implement – we need a new model of growth which has the building blocks of peace, equality, transparent governance and environmental sustainability.

Liberia’s challenge

As one the largest Christian networks in Liberia, AEL works with those who have suffered from the damaging consequences of civil war. We resettle displaced families from refugee camps to their local villages. This can be a very traumatic process so in addition to providing emotional care we are also involved in physical development by distributing food packages and rebuilding homes.

But we continue to see the growing inequalities within communities, particularly for displaced people who lack the security, education, health, income, and employment opportunities to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.

A root cause of this is the global obsession with economic growth at any cost – exploiting the environment, widening the gap between the wealthy and poor, fueling corruption and conflict over land and resources – has not resulted in fair, prosperous and flourishing nations.

For instance our water and sanitation services deteriorated as a result of the civil war. Many people had no choice but to drink from local creeks, which also serve as their latrine, leading to diarrhea .  This is why we advocate for a Water Supply and Sanitation Commission to improve delivery especially in hard to reach communities.

Clean water collected in Liberia. Source Tearfund.

Clean water collected in Liberia. Source Tearfund.

While most of the world is on track to meet the drinking water MDG target – to halve the proportion of people without safe water and basic sanitation – Liberia is not. Neither is any other country affected by conflict. Approximately 1.2 million Liberians – that’s 32 per cent of the population – lack access to safe drinking water and 83 per cent do not have access to sanitation. Girls suffer most as they bear the burden of collecting water and suffer from lack of privacy in open defecation which makes them vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence.

This kind of inequality can’t continue. While the world has set overall goals to halve poverty, if the poorest are left behind then we are all poorer for it. We need to set goals which don’t just measure overall progress but which seek to improve the lives of the poorest and most marginalised – like girls collecting water in Liberia.

Liberian girls collecting clean water from a village pump. Source Tearfund.

Liberian girls collecting clean water from a village pump. Source Tearfund.

That’s why we can’t rely on aspirational global goals, but we also need national level targets which set out the ambition to reduce inequality in access, to make sure that the poorest men, women, girls and boys see a tangible difference in their lives too.

The church around the world also has an important role to play in reminding our leaders what the point of the new framework for development should be and what values should drive it.

The widow who lost her spouse in conflict, the unemployed farmer who lost his livelihood due to climate change, the child suffering from diarrhoea who cannot access safe drinking water – we owe it to them to address not just their symptoms but the root causes of their distress.

I pray that the meeting in Monrovia doesn’t just focus on technical solutions to specific problems, but helps to build consensus around a new vision for development which is fairer and puts our planet on a sustainable footing.

How to follow our blog

Happy New Year!  Enough time off – now back to work.  To mark the start of 2013 we’ve made some changes to Just Policy, so that it’s easier for you to follow the items you’re interested in.

If you’d like to receive all blog posts, then please follow us by email (sign up in the box to the right).

If you’d only like to receive blog posts only on a particular topic(s), then please sign up to the relevant RSS feed on the right.  [See here for a brilliant explanation of what RSS is, and why it’s useful – h/t Owen Barder.]  Our current topics are as follows:

  • Aid
  • Beyond 2015
  • Conflict and Security
  • Environment and Disasters
  • Faith Based Organisations
  • Food Security
  • Governance and Corruption
  • Water and Sanitation
  • Uncategorised

For the most part, our regular authors are also on twitter.  If you’re interested in following us, our twitter handles are as follows:

1LauraTaylor,  (cross-cutting)

RichardJWeaver, (environment)

sueyardley, (water and sanitation)

GrahamGordon4, (governance and corruption)

TFSamB, (politics)

JKfoodie, (food security)

steffygill, (water and sanitation)

Climatemouse, (environment)

MelissaLawson3, (governance and corruption)

RosanneWhite23 (politics)

And myself, at 1SarahHulme (food security)

You’ll also find mini profiles of each author to the right (click on the photo squares), which will tell you a bit more about who we are.  At the top of each blog post you will find who posted that blog, and what their speciality is.

We’re trialling this, so please do comment below with any bugs/kinks you find – and of course any other suggestions you’ve got!

What will be the development “buzz words” of 2013?

Apart from being the year of the wonderful London Olympics, 2012 has been the year of the doughnut and sustainable development goals; land grabs and tax dodgers; debate about whether we should give aid to India or to Rwanda; and a new focus on inequality – in the international development NGO bubble, at least.

We didn’t get legislation on 0.7%, or any real progress at the UN climate talks in Doha.  But we did get a Number 10 High Level Meeting on Hunger and a new focus from David Cameron on the “golden thread” of development – whatever that actually means. We’ve been talking about the scourge of hunger and a need for investment in agriculture overseas, at the same time seeing alarming demand for food banks here in the UK.


Justine Greening MP (picture from DFID website)

We have had a new Secretary of State for International Development here in the UK in the form of Justine Greening, an EU in economic crisis and a re-elected US President who we’re all willing to do something a bit more radical on climate and development – but we’re not holding our breath.

So, it’s that time of year where we look forward to what we might be talking about in 2013.  Here’s my best guess, which is obviously bound to look horribly out of date by around April…

1. Transparency

In his Wall Street Journal article, David Cameron set out why he feels transparency has such an important role to play in development. Our partners in Tanzania, carrying out public expenditure projects to ensure that schools and clinics get the funding they need, couldn’t agree more. The UK is chair of the G8 and of the Open Government Partnership in 2013 and is in a strong position to drive forward initiatives that can increase transparency, both in how governments raise money (particularly tax payments and money for natural resources) and how they spend it – with more open budgets. The EU are also in the final stage of debating the expected legislation to make oil, gas and mining companies publish what they pay to governments, which is something Tearfund has been campaigning for and which should really help communities to track how the money is spent.

2013 could be a really good year for transparency. But transparency should not be seen as a panacea.  Making financial information public is a great start, but it needs to be in a format which is easily accessed and understood by local communities.  Capacity has to be built so that people can digest it and then speak out.  And a free press and accountable governance structures are vital.  Tearfund will be working with our partners on new research on how best to build on transparency to bring about lasting change over the next year.

2. Planetary Boundaries

ImageThe global climate change talks have all but ground to a halt.  There is a fundamental disagreement about how to balance the cost of putting development on a more sustainable footing – between developed nations who are responsible for nearly all carbon emissions historically, or the rapidly developing middle income countries whose future carbon emissions could be substantial. And carbon is but one of 9 planetary boundaries which have already been breached or are likely to be soon.

Oxfam have done a brilliant job of bringing life to the science behind this concept and of making it relevant to the international development debate. And Alex Evans has written about the importance of bringing this thinking into the debate on the new framework for development which will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (and should bring in the new sustainable development goals).  I’m confident that this issue will continue to rise up the development agenda given it’s urgency and because – as the poorest communities are affected first and most deeply when the environment deteriorates – it is fundamentally about justice. We need to continue to work together to re-frame the climate change debate and to build a public mandate for truly sustainable development across the globe.

3. Predistribution

A bit left-field here, but predistribution is an idea initially put forward by US academic Jacob Hacker but gaining popularity with the centre-Left in the UK and elsewhere.  Basically it is the idea that the state should try to prevent inequalities occurring in the first place rather than trying to reduce them through the tax and benefits system. In the UK it is an idea that has become quite strongly linked to the living wage campaign.

But to me, predistribution is the essence of what the development debate should be about. Rather than squabbling about a minimal aid budget, we should be focused on tackling the root causes of inequality – both between and within nations. And of course, that is what many NGO campaigns are about.  But we still need to make that idea more popular and palatable – and I suppose wonk words like predistribution may not help that cause! But it could give these ideas more political saliency, at least in some quarters.

So, those are my thoughts, but what do you think?  What are the obvious things missing from this list?

Can Cameron practice what he preaches on international development?

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal David Cameron set out his views on the role that Britain can play in tackling the root causes of poverty.  It was a clear and compelling piece and, in my opinion, there is much to celebrate.

He is right that 0.7% aid commitment is vital for both saving lives in emergencies and for investing in the future through better schools, hospitals, roads and the like.  But he is also right that aid on its own will never be enough – and should not be portrayed as such. He argues that the UK, from a position of leadership provided by having met our 0.7% target (presuming that we do actually meet it when next year’s Budget is announced), should help the world to move beyond aid and to tackle some of the root causes of poverty – and I couldn’t agree more.  But what does that actually mean?

Cameron is fond of talking about the “golden thread” of conditions that are important for people to thrive. In this article he lists these as the rule of law, the absence of conflict and corruption, and the presence of property rights and strong institutions. While details are scare there have been some interesting critiques of this approach, including by Owen Barder and Chris Blattman.

While there is clearly a lot of sense in focusing attention on these things, Barder rightly points out that civil society themselves have a huge role to play in bringing these about within a country and need to be pro-actively supported to do so. Aid can play a very helpful role in supporting education and community mobilisation, and in providing technical support to help communities track government money and hold their leaders to account.

Barder also points out the global system itself needs sorting out – weak governance and corruption aren’t just developing country problems.  To his credit, Cameron did point out that,

“In the developed world must also put our own house in order, including by tracking down and returning plundered assets, refusing visas to corrupt foreign officials and stopping bribery involving our companies.”

However I would argue that the UK has further to go to be in a leadership position on this agenda than it has on aid. Our recent Bribery Act – making it illegal for UK companies to bribe foreign officials – was a good start, but the government needs a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy, must join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and must do much more to tackle systematic tax evasion if Cameron really does want the UK to play a leadership role.

David Cameron mentioned the crucial legislation currently being finalised by the EU which will force EU companies to publish what they pay to developing countries which, as Bishop Stephen Munga from Tanzania recently set out,  would really help communities to ensure that the money was invested in ways which help communities to get out of poverty.  It was great to see public support for this in the Wall Street Journal and we hope that the UK really are leading within the EU Council to make the legislation as strong as possible and will certainly support them through our Unearth the Truth campaign as they seek to do so.


David Cameron and his co-Chairs of the UN High Level Panel in London yesterday (from DFID website)

Because, although we know that the UK isn’t perhaps the global power that it once was, UK leadership does matter at the moment and 2013 is going to be a very important year. David Cameron is currently co-chair of the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 agenda, meeting in London this week, and has an important role to play in setting out a vision for a more fairer and sustainable world, as well as the best targets to set to make sure that vision is realised.

The UK is also chairing both the G8 and the Open Government Partnership next year, both of which provide significant opportunities for initiatives to tackle corruption and promote greater transparency in the use of financial resources .

It was encouraging that Cameron pledged to hold a hunger summit in 2013 to make sure the world doesn’t lose focus in tackling the root causes of hunger – remembering that one in eight people still go to bed hungry every night. But there will be a huge amount of energy and diplomacy required to get all of these processes to deliver more than just warm words.

The vision that Cameron has set out is a compelling one. But it is now vital that he delivers – both by making sure that the UK gets its own house in order, and by ensuring that the rest of the world get on board with this vision too.

O futuro que nós queremos?

22 June, Rio Centro

There has already been much comment on whether what still appears to be final agreed text from the Rio+20 really represents ‘O futuro que nós queremos’ (the future we want).

Some of us who followed the UN climate talks and COPs for a number of years started to develop a theory that locating the COP in a place with beaches and hot and sunny weather helped ensure a good outcome for the COP summit whereas if it was cold and dark much of the time the outcome was not so good to say the least. The theory seemed to hold with COP 14 Poznan (cold, mostly dark) in 2008 making almost no progress and leaving so much to be done in 2009, COP 15 Copenhagen (cold, mostly dark) in 2009 almost universally seen as a disaster in terms of the failure to agree a new international treaty on climate change, COP 16 Cancun (hot and very sunny, lots of beaches) in 2010 with an outcome cheered to the rafters by delegates in the final plenary with almost all countries agreeing a text – no mean feat after the fall-out from Copenhagen, and then most recently COP 17 in Durban (hot and very sunny, lots of beaches) where countries agreed to negotiate for a new climate deal by the end of 2015 to come into force by 2020 – only 8 years after the deadline we had for this in Copenhagen but hey!

So what do you get when you are in the most stunningly beautiful country and city famed for its beaches and sunshine even in mid-winter (as we are now)? Well, the final day of the summit dawned with pouring rain again here in Rio after a brief respite yesterday and you appear to get this – agreed by countries on Tuesday night and seemingly unchanged since – http://www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html

And you get this excellent reaction from civil society given to the plenary on Wednesday by the Director of the Climate Action Network (CAN) International – http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/watch/representative-of-the-non-governmental-organizations-major-group-opening-of-the-conference-1st-plenary-meeting-rio20/1698993624001

And you get a fantastic inspiring speech to the plenary also on Wednesday from Brittany Trilford, a 17 year old from Canada – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=karQQb-B8Uk&feature=youtu.be

As with all international negotiations the political context for the discussions here at the Rio+20 summit was of enormous importance – with an ongoing economic crisis for many countries, a US election later in the year, and controversial forest code discussions here in Brazil – and the influence of all these and many more political factors can not be discounted. Nor can you underplay the importance of how well or not each summits’ hosts chair and steer and cajole countries with different priorities and red lines towards an agreed outcome. And the Rio+20 summit is also no different in that what happens after the summit in terms of national and regional implementation in the end becomes much more important than any agreed text – however strong or weak.

I have been inspired by the actions and thinking of Tearfund partners and others as part of Igrejas Ecocidadas here in Rio (a photo of just some of those involved in this movement is at the top of this post) – and less so by those of many of the governments and heads of state here… So if nothing else the Rio+20 summit should be a further call to mobilise and in everything we do to seek the future we want for the planet and its people.

Sustainable consumption?

22 June, Rio Centro

It’s the final day of the Rio+20 summit and today it feels that everything is fizzling out a bit with heads of state, ministers and in some cases just the civil servant heading the delegation making their countries’ plenary speeches. No-one is expecting fireworks in the final plenary when countries will finally decide whether to adopt the text and sitting here in the media centre there is a real sense that journalists here are not sure what the story for today is… On the other hand there have been plenty of fireworks most nights coming from the favelas on the hills above where I have been staying these past two weeks.

Many of those still here not in the plenary room or media centre seem to be using the enormous food court as a base for the day – where at least the super-strength and excellent Brazilian coffee is keeping some very weary people going. So after drinking several large espressos myself I took some pictures of the various food and other businesses here in the conference centre all keen to stress their sustainable credentials and here they are below. From the top they are of a major supermarket chain, a national government owned savings bank, Coca Cola and a major Brazilian energy supplier. The UK and many other governments have rightly stressed the importance of involving businesses and the private sector in discussions on sustainability.

In his speech to the plenary here Nick Clegg said: “we need to involve businesses more. Government cannot do this alone. There is increasing recognition among major companies that using resources sustainably is in their own interests. That is why it is so important that Rio has recognised the role of business sustainability reporting. There is a market demand for this. Companies have been asking for it, investors need to know, consumers want to make informed decisions, and this should eventually lead to a global framework.”

However some would say that in seeking to involve businesses much more and get them on board governments have allowed them to have much more influence on the final text than NGOs were able to have here in Rio….

Rain in Rio

20 June, Rio Centro, Rio+20 summit

It is raining heavily here in Rio on the first day of the Rio+20 summit – and for the first time in the 10 days since I arrived. The current official text is almost devoid of ambition and does not show even the hoped for progress in some areas such as fossil fuel subsidies and sustainable development goals. So perhaps the weather today with the arrival of leaders from more than 100 countries is a perfect example of pathetic fallacy where in Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the madding crowd’ you knew something bad was going to happen to Gabriel Oak or Bathsheba Everdene because there would be a storm brewing and heavy rain would begin to fall!

However if you were a farmer in Ceará or Pernambuco or anywhere in northeast Brazil where there is currently the worst drought in 50 years and where 57% of the land is in drought conditions you would be looking to the sky for rain bearing clouds and would be overjoyed to experience the heavy rain falling here in Rio.

So is the rain a sign of something bad or something good about to happen in Rio? Civil society here is generally furious about the current text – and to mix up the metaphor – want world leaders to raise a storm to improve the current text. But will they? Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General was honest in his assessment today as you can see in the photo above – where in his speech to leaders he lamented the lack of ambition in the current text and after a strong push from civil society today seems to indicate that it would still be possible to revisit the text currently seen as agreed by countries.

Ministers and leaders have mostly given no indication that they are keen to negotiate further on the text – some feeling that just having international agreement of the current text between all countries on environment and development is a good result and also fearing that to open up the text may lead to it being further weakened… If heads of state are not going to try to make the text better here in Rio then what on earth are they going to do? Well Rio certainly has plenty of attractions – Corcovado, Pao de Acucar, Copacabana, Ipanema – to name just a few – but I suspect that in these times of economic crisis spending three days sightseeing would not go down well with their electorates – or at least it shouldn’t.

So what are our leaders going to do in Rio? – the next 72 hours are vital.

%d bloggers like this: