Campaigns

Meet your MP to help Clean Up Barclays

Natasha Adams's picture
Natasha Adams Tax Campaign Manager

Together, we're doing a great job of keeping the pressure on Barclays to stop promoting tax havens in Africa. Thousands of us have taken action by emailing our MPs, and we know MPs are already starting to contact Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins passing on the concerns of constituents. The support from MPs we've generated so far has even caught the attention of the media. This is great news - this kind of pressure will be hard for Barclays to ignore.

Flooding MP's inboxes with emails is a great way to get an issue on their agenda, but speaking to them in person is the best way to explain exactly what they problem is and convince them to act. We need your help to hammer the message home and make sure that MP's take action.

Meet your MP

ActionAid supporter David Watkinson (right) meets his MP Jeremy CorbynWill you take the next step and join people like David to meet with your MP to ask them to take action? If you can't find the time to meet, a telephone call is great too!

Contacting your MP is actually really easy. You can find the number of your MP's constituency office on their website. When you call, you'll either speak to an assistant or get an answer machine. Either way, if you explain what you're calling about you could arrange to meet at a convenient time in future, or wait for them to call you back. 26 of our Community Campaigners like David (pictured right) have already asked for meetings with their MPs.

Our lobbying guide will walk you through arranging a meeting, preparing, what to say when you get there and how to follow up.

>> Read our step by step guide to lobbying your MP

>> Download a briefing to pass on to your MP, and to help you prepare 

There are three things your MP could do to make a real difference:

  1. Write to Barclays' CEO Antony Jenkins, passing on concerns about Barclays promotion of tax havens in Africa.
  2. Sign the Early Day Motion other MPs have tabled (a kind of Parliamentary petition).
  3. Ask a question in Parliament about the activities of Barclays' Offshore Corporate Division in Africa.

There's a lot at stake here. If Barclays stops promoting tax havens in Africa, this could help developing countries raise much more from businesses, to fund basic services like health and education. It would also send a strong message to banks and businesses across the UK - promoting tax havens is immoral and the British public have had enough.

Need support?

Let me know if you're up for speaking to your MP, and I'll do everything I can to help make it easy. You could join a campaigner teleconference to go through everything you need to know on Monday 31st March at 7pm, or Thursday April 10th at 6:30pm. To book to attend a teleconference, ask questions or just to let me know you have approached your MP, call me on 0203 1220 683 or email me at natasha.adams@actionaid.org.

Thanks for your support!

Tax justice, inequality, and the general election

Richard Pyle's picture
Richard Pyle Interim Tax Justice Campaign Manager

After a 20-year silence, the political mainstream is talking about inequality again. What does it mean for our tax justice campaign in an election year?

Tax pays for children in Zambia to be in school
Tax pays for children in Zambia to be in school
Photo: ActionAid

So far 2014 has been a year of revisiting old problems. From ethnic tensions in Europe, to the very make up of the UK, the political agenda is now chock-a-block with arguments that we thought we’d settled and problems we’d duly forgotten about altogether.

Indeed, for the last 20 years our politicians seemed to have wholesale forgetten about the problem of wealth inequality. The general consensus seemed to be that inequality was an outdated concept and best replaced with terms like social mobility - or equality of opportunity.

But inequality never went away: It got much worse

So it was that last week Oxfam and the Equality Trust added to the mix of new-old issues with two reports that demonstrated in stark terms how inequality had ballooned in our society - and now represented a fundamental threat to poverty reduction and prosperity in the UK and in developing countries. 

They’re not alone. Calls for action to combat inequality have come from powerful (and unusual) places in recent weeks including Barack Obama, the Pope, and even the IMF, who argued in a recent report that inequality is a threat to the very fabric of our society. Strong words indeed and perhaps why the ‘i word’ crept into the Chancellor’s budget statement this week.

Recent reports even suggest that Ed Miliband is going to make inequality the centre plank of the Labour campaign towards May 2015, using it to give new depth to his cost of living narrative.

So what does this mean for ActionAid’s tax justice campaign?

Well, first and foremost it means tax justice is destined to be at the centre of the political debate in the run up to a tightly contested general election.

As the IMF suggests, one of the simplest ways to reduce wealth inequality is to redistribute wealth through the means of progressive taxation. Crucially, that also means plugging the holes in the global tax system that allows those taxes to be avoided.

Secondly, if inequality is to become the political centre-ground, it means we must be more ambitious about the reforms we seek.

That means challenging the belief that tax avoidance is an unshakable norm but that it is, instead, the result of a series of political choices undertaken by governments in the thrall of a powerful elite. 

Tax justice matters at home and abroad

We need to accept that we cannot exist in a development bubble, but that we need to engage in a wider debate that rejects the false divide between rich and poor countries, the global North and global South, the developed and the developing.

The UK is in a position to dramatically shape the global approach to tax and inequality and we have a responsibility to make the most of the opportunity that the general election presents us with. 

Let’s show our representatives that inequality is not something that can be ignored or forgotten. It is a fundamental imbalance that causes poverty at home and in other countries. And through sorting out the global tax system, it can be permanently rebalanced to the advantage of everyone.

The 58th meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW58) is still in session at the United Nations' Headquarters in New York.

While negotiations on the outcome document will last at least until 21 March, the new - already third - draft of the agreed conclusions was released on 17 March.

Zainabu Kamato, Kenya, whose unpaid work includes looking after her sick husband and six children
Zainabu Kamato, Kenya, whose unpaid work includes looking after her sick husband and six children
Photo: Kate Holt/Shoot The Earth/ActionAid

ActionAid has had sight of the new draft and notes that, although strong language on some of the aspects of women’s economic rights has been kept, some of the critical issues have already fallen through the cracks.

The good news is that the new draft proposes quite strong language on recognising, valuing, reducing and redistributing women’s and girls’ disproportionate share of unpaid care work. Unfortunately it doesn’t go as far as recognising unpaid care work as a collective responsibility and recommending to address this key human rights issue in the new development framework post 2015.

Disappointing outcomes for women at work and macro-economic policies 

The new CSW58 draft keeps the references to women’s rights to work and their rights at work, however, the call for ensuring a living wage, the application of human rights principles to macro-economic policy, and addressing accountability of the private sector for violations of women’s rights have all been dropped.

There is no reference to the extraterritorial obligations of the State (download)in regards to their trade regulation and investment policies. We see no mention either of the behavior of transnational corporations.  

These are all very serious omissions that fall far short of an adequate response to the harsh reality of economic exploitation and discrimination of women across the globe, especially in the Global South.

In this sense, the concerns of ActionAid – as expressed in my previous blog – have largely been confirmed.

On a more positive note, the new draft conclusions hold onto language which expresses the need for a stand-alone goal on gender equality, empowerment of women and women’s and girls’ human rights.

Still 4 days (or more) to go

Officially the CSW negotiations will conclude on Friday. With the review of Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) and forthcoming high-level discussions on the new development agenda post 2015, the stakes this year are exceptionally high.

Reaching agreement won’t be easy as strong differences between Member States persist on topics such as their approach to the interconnection between development and human rights, as well as on the need for CSW58 to lay the ground for the replacement of MDGs.

While some Member States would like to see more strategic engagement, others refuse to pre-empt the post 2015 discussions.

Nothing is certain until the end of the negotiations and the current draft of the CSW58 conclusions is likely to undergo substantial changes.

ActionAid UK: Where do we stand?

The struggle for women’s rights is global. ActionAid representatives join forces with women’s organizations and other gender equality advocates calling for strong human rights based CSW Conclusions and a just development agenda post-2015 (download).

CSW is a key principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and women’s rights. We believe that this is a key space in which to achieve momentum to lay the much-needed solid transformative ground for high-level debates on the new development agenda post-2015.

Our specific focus this year is on economics, yet we call for full realisation of ALL women’s human rights including eradication of all forms of violence, and sexual reproductive health and rights.

Human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and no compromises should be made to water down the existing international agreements.

It is thus imperative that this year's CSW conclusions take only big steps forward and no steps back.

Follow Kasia on twitter at @KasiaStasz

The 58th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is taking place right now at the United Nations' Headquarters in New York. ActionAid is in attendance, joining women's rights organisations and gender equality advocates from around the world to call upon commission members to make a strong stand for women's economic rights.

Cover of the ActionAid report: Making Care Visible: Women's unpaid care work in Nepal, Nigeria and Kenya
Cover of the ActionAid report: Making Care Visible: Women's unpaid care work in Nepal, Nigeria and Kenya
Photo: ActionAid

Despite this call coming as a timely response to the harsh reality of the exploitation of women across the globe, some Member States are trying to water down the wording on the realisation of women’s economic rights - for example women's rights to work and their rights at work - in the draft CSW document.

The language calling for macro-economic policies, which are to be aligned with the existing human rights standards and obligations, faces similar fierce opposition.

Furthermore, on the premise of not ‘pre-empting’ the new development goals, some Member States refuse even to discuss their government’s responsibility to recognise and redistribute the burden of women’s unpaid care work.

Unless all parties come to an agreement that preserves this critical aspect of women’s rights, the CSW outcome will be disappointing.  Its inclusion is vital to lay the much-needed transformative ground for the forthcoming high-level debates on the New Development Agenda post 2015.

Why is addressing the exploitation of women at work so important?

There is no doubt that on virtually every global measure women are more economically excluded than men. More and more women have entered the labour market in recent decades. This has coincided with high rates of informalisation and deregulation of labour, especially across the Global South. In general women are concentrated in temporary, low paid and insecure employment, lacking benefits such as health coverage, paid leave or the right to collective bargaining.

The International Labour Organization estimates that in 2012, more than half of all employed women worldwide were in informal vulnerable employment, while in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, over 80 per cent of all jobs for women are in the informal sector work.

Invisible workers

Furthermore, women’s paid work is only one part of most women’s total workload, much of which remains invisible in national statistics. Women across the world are disproportionately responsible for unpaid care work which includes cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, the ill and the elderly – work done both at home and in the community.

Such a heavy and unequal unpaid care workload affects women’s enjoyment of their rights to education, decent work, political participation or leisure. 

For countries where data is available, women spend, on average, roughly twice as long than men on domestic work including family care. The disparity is starker in India with women spending six hours and men only 36 minutes.

This work is intensified for women living in contexts of poverty, social exclusion, economic crisis, environmental degradation, natural disasters, and where there is inadequate access to infrastructure and public services.

Women’s work and human rights: where do we stand?

It has been more than 30 years since the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (1979) obliged States to take all appropriate measures to guarantee women’s equal rights.  These include the right to decent work, job security, equal pay for equal work, social security and safe working conditions.

Furthermore, the recent report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights positioned unequal distribution of unpaid care as a key human rights issue that keeps women in poverty and stunts progress towards gender equality.

It is thus imperative that this year's CSW conclusions take no backwards steps. 

Alongside women’s organisations and gender equality advocates, ActionAid calls upon the Member States to agree on conclusions that recognise women’s work in its entirety - from the care of ailing parents, to the long hours on the factory floor – and address the intersecting and structural forms of discrimination that women face in accessing decent work, a living wage, and universal protection, alongside recognising and redistributing their unpaid care work.

Follow Kasia on twitter at @KasiaStasz

Reclaiming Feminism

Kayshani Gibbon's picture
Kayshani Gibbon Campaigns Volunteer

With the passing of International Women’s Day last week, I seem to have had an extraordinary amount of conversations regarding women’s rights. One of particular interest was with a good friend of mine, who challenged my desire to be called a Feminist - I knew him to be in touch with contemporary movements at university, and his views came as a surprise to me. You don’t hate guys, he said, and why is it called feminism if it’s all about equality? You don’t need feminism in this country anyway; women in the West already have rights. I recognise that this is probably what the majority of people in our society think, but I had hoped he was one person I wouldn’t have to win over.

) Maybe the issues of gender inequality are more blaringly obvious in some of the developing countries ActionAid works in, where many women don’t have access to education, work, or rights that protect them from violence. However, I was taken aback by his claims that there was no room for improvement in the UK, after all there are still some nuanced differences in the way society treats men and women. Women have less economic power, earning less than men in the same positions. Women have less political power, as there are fewer women in parliament representing their views (only 23%).

One aspect in particular that I thought wouldn’t have escaped his notice while we were studying together, is the objectification of women. It plays a huge part in lad culture at universities, which in turn has extremely negative effects on women – impacting their mental and physical health, and preventing them from reaching their full potential.

In fact I asked him, don’t you find the current discourse on this topic patronising? Is it true that as a young male you just can’t keep your thoughts and hands to yourself? Isn’t it ironic that girls and women are taught to cover up, rather than men taught to have some manners?

So far, men have set the parameters of the system, and thus the system favours men. The reason I want to change this is not because I hate men, but because I want all women, regardless of race, class or religion, to have access to the same economic, political and social opportunities as men, so that we may be considered equals.  That is why it’s called a feminist movement, as it strives to bring female voices to the table where men are already listened to. It’s an issue that affects women worldwide, and I think by standing up for our feminist beliefs across the world we can start to change the system together.

Are you on my side yet? I asked - and he said he’d think about it.

If you need further persuasion, then here is a good place to search for some inspiration. Nevertheless, if you’re not up for joining, that’s fine – just let me get on with it.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convenes every March in the UN headquarters in New York and is a special date in every feminist and women’s rights calendar.

Kasia outside the UN in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women.
Kasia outside the UN in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women.
Photo: Kasia Staszewska, ActionAid

Being the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and women’s rights, for two weeks the Commission on the Status of Women brings together representatives of the Member States, UN agencies, women’s rights and civil society organisations.

This year more than 6000 of us are in town for the annual evaluation of progress, standards setting and policy formulation to promote women’s advancement worldwide.

New development agenda: stakes are high

This year stakes are exceptionally high due to the upcoming review of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which will finish just one year from now. Not surprisingly, the new development framework post 2015 is the major item on the agenda: it will define the development priorities for the next decade. 

Although the official focus of the meeting that started this Monday 10th March, is to review the progress the MDGs have brought for women and girls, everyone’s eyes are already on the new framework that will replace them.

This is for a very good reason: the anticipated Commission's agreed conclusions will be the key contribution putting forward women’s and girls’ priorities for the new ‘development era’ post 2015.

The MDGs didn’t address issues of critical importance for women and girls – gender based violence, or women’s disproportionate responsibility for unpaid care work, to name but a few - nor were they consulted or agreed together with women’s organisations.

Because of this, it is imperative that the process leading to the new development agenda is not business as usual, but lays the solid groundwork for women’s and girls’ full enjoyment of all their human rights.

Making gains on the battleground

Although everyone seems to agree that the overall progress in the implementation of the MDGs has been unacceptably slow, there is still no agreement about the ways to deliver real change for women and girls In its High Level Statement: 'Accelerating Progress on the MDGs for Women and Girls and Realising Women's and Girls' Rights in the Post-2015 Development Agenda', Heads of UN Agencies called upon all governments to honor their obligations and build the new development framework in line with existing human rights norms and agreements.

The resonance of their appeal, however, remains to be seen, as negotiations on the CSW outcome document will resume today and will continue until at least the official end of the event, Friday 21st March.

With the CSW being the regular battleground between progressive and more conservative forces, ‘winning’ an official CSW recommendation to create a stand-alone goal on gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment for the new agenda post 2015 will be a key outcome sought by women’s rights advocates, including ActionAid, in the forthcoming week.

ActionAid subscribes to the Feminist Declaration Post

Mindful that the struggle for women’s rights is global, ActionAid representatives from UK, Uganda, Kenya, Australia, Sierra Leone, India and other countries have joined forces with women’s, feminist and civil society organisations from all regions of the world in a common effort for strong CSW conclusions.

We are one of more than 340 organisations subscribed to the Feminist Declaration Post 2015, 'Gender, Economic, Social and Ecological Justice for Sustainable Development', calling for the new development agenda to be based on universality of human rights, substantive equality, end the shocking inequality of wealth, power and resources, and ensure that poor women are put at its centre.