The ActionAid Public Affairs team is continuing its tour of the three main parties' conferences and is this week in Manchester for the Labour Party's Annual Conference. Last week we were in Brighton for the Liberal Democrats and next week we will be in Birmingham for the Conservative Party Conference.
The Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, Ivan Lewis, yesterday delivered his speech to the Labour Party Conference to outline his and his party's vision for the UK's development policy.
As with the other two main parties we are spending some time with the Opposition to make sure that our campaigns and work in communities across the world is recognised by policy makers. Now is a crucial time for all political parties as they draw up their plans on development as the world looks beyond 2015 to agree a new set of governing principles that will decide how the richer countries direct their help towards the world's poorest.
At the Labour Party Conference, which this year is in Manchester, each Shadow Cabinet member delivers a speech on his or her brief which broadly outlines their approach to the issue and what they would do if there were to be a Labour Government at the next General Election.
It was fantastic for us to see the Shadow Development Secretary place the need to tackle tax havens at the heart of his speech, and that he drew inspiration from some of the work that ActionAid is doing in Malawi on support for children and early years' development.
We were especially pleased to see the strong reference to tax havens. For the past year we have consistently argued that there is a fundamental link between tax and development. In advancing the latter, one cannot ignore the former. The House of Commons' own International Development Committee itself recommended that the Government do more to address this link.
Ivan Lewis made clear that the main focus of any future Labour Government would be on early years development - in effect aping the Sure Start approach created by Labour when in power. He stated that it would be the aim of a Labour Government to frame the next set if worldwide development goals around early years development and the rights and opportunities of the child.
Leading this process would be Dame Tessa Jowell MP (former Culture Secretary) alongside Sarah Brown, wife of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown. At ActionAid we firmly believe in the need to ensure that children, women and the wider community are empowered to find their own pathways out of poverty and where barriers to accessing food, education and fundamental rights are removed.
There were many other aspects of the speech that reflect the approach that ActionAid would advocate. There was a strong reference to the role of women in peacebuilding, which builds on a recent report of ours and we support his call for the Government to retain its commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on aid (which, as Ivan Lewis made clear, would remove aid spending from short-term political considerations and tie our spending to the overall prosperity of the economy). He also reiterated the need to focus in ending countries' dependency on aid - more of our work on which can be found here.
That the Labour Party has now accepted the need to do more on this, and the fact that it has set its development policy with the need to tackle tax havens in mind is a fantastic endorsement of the hard work and passion of our campaigners, supporters and activists.