Originally first posted @ http://www.leftfootforward.org/2013/10/labour-should-help-africa-vaccines/
“What are the lines then, Jim?”.
One can imagine Ed Miliband asking MP Jim Murphy, the new shadow secretary of state for International Development, this question.
Sitting in one of Parliaments’ gilded, judge-like thrones, Ed might be expecting ideas to address the failure of British banks to comply with money laundering-prevention laws. Or maybe an attempt to put Jim Murphy’s fingerprints on the Ivan Lewis/Tessa Jowell campaign to invest in early childhood?
What could his bold and radical idea be?
How about investigating why African states don’t appear to grapple with their health problems more directly and provide more of their own vaccines?
Let us just note – to begin with – that there are a number of domestic programmes and native providers of vaccines in Africa. However, taking a broad economic look at the problem, a more Labour-inspired approach could be sourced; one that signals a 2015 Labour government as bold and globally leading on the values of social justice.
The past 20 years have seen a massive redistribution of economic power to the emerging world and, thanks to an increase of generic medicines and globalisation in general, it is arguable that we don’t have to be so protectionist of our pharmaceutical industry anymore.
The notion of ‘International Development’ is a multifaceted and inherently complex concept, which varies according to the specific country conditions and the donor governments one is referring to. The notion of ‘International Development’, particularly when it comes to donating vaccines to Africa, could do with an injection of boldness and new ideas.
Handing out the leftovers of a pharmaceutical companies’ drug portfolio is not enough – by a long stretch.
Some are waking up to realise that the western-donated-vaccine model, with vaccines that aren’t originally designed for Africans countries and that cost too much, is not sustainable. Working on the frontline in some of the more resource-poor African states, Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) argues that vaccines from the Western taxpayer’s purse cost too much and are not designed for the needs of hot countries like Africa.
Dr Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s vaccine-access campaign, says:
“It [donated vaccines] looks to us like a big subsidy for pharma – there is no other way of saying it really.”
With the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report ranking 13 sub-Saharan African economies among the top 100 in the world , African leaders are seeing that their macroeconomic policy and fiscal reforms are working.
Yet when it comes to closing the financing gap for vaccine programs, a number of governments have not been innovative or brave enough.
African leaders can and should follow through to bring reforms to their healthcare markets. The time is right for this to start changing; and if a Labour government doesn’t guide this change, the Chinese government will and will reap the rewards.
Currently, the foreign Advance Market Commitment (AMC- a global vaccine funding mechanism) gives drug companies an incentive to offer vaccines. The ideological argument that was once put forward was that with time, as African becomes more prosperous through a healthier work-force, local markets will be able to compete.
Ideas such as the one that birthed the AMC are laudable; for while donations and the motivation vaccine funds embody are extremely humane, issues of absolute country ownership and long-term sustainability still exist.
In closing, there are two important things to consider.
Firstly, there is a growing African middle-class that is driving demand and organically creating market capacity and opportunity for a different response to donated vaccine programmes. Secondly, Gambia’s departure from the Commonwealth may or may not be the start of a trend.
From his gilded seat, Miliband could eye the opportunity to take on the global leader status his old teacher Gordon Brown benefited from.
By proposing something truly progressive and economically forward-thinking, along the lines of true development (i.e. Africa producing its own vaccines), Labour could also win over those to the right (limiting foreign aid) and ensure the BME vote isn’t truly neglected.
Originally posted @ http://www.fabians.org.uk/maternity-cuts-widen-the-equality-gap/
Ok, let’s just put it out there: fringe events first thing in the morning are about as attractive as Danny Dyer films and sometimes, as tiring and predictable to sit through. Still, Danny Dyer has just joined EastEnders so there is an appetite for these things and Brighton delegates did turn up in good numbers early Monday morning, so what do I know? Well, I do know the Fabians Women Network were proud to join with the Young Fabians Health Network to serve a tasty discussion on the future of maternal health in austerity Britain. With the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), NCT, Maternity Action and a good number of delegates feeding into discussions, the agenda to address gender equality focused on maternity services in the UK.
In tough economic times, women not only bear a heavier burden, but policies to close the gender gap generally fall by the wayside. Professors Francesca Gains and Claire Annesley from Manchester University’s School of Social Sciences have proven as much1,2, investigating when policies to promote gender equality managed to capture government attention during economic downtimes. They have shown that government attention for gender equality issues is higher when economic indicators are positive and unless you work for the Chancellors’ office, you would be hard pressed to describe recent economic indicators as ‘positive’. Indeed, it takes high public confidence in the economy to secure government attention for gender equality issues and other studies support the conclusion that costly gender equality policies only get attention in response to legal or institutional challenges. That’s why for the benefit of British women, we’re proud to align with institutions like the Royal College of Midwives to combat the lack of investment in Maternity services over the last 3-4 years.
So, early Monday morning, our panellists kicked things off by serving up details on the lack of investment and the trouble it is causing. Jon Skewes, Director for Policy, Employment Relations and Communications at RCM remarked that because of a dearth of midwives, new mothers are sent home too early. New mothers find feeding difficult and aren’t getting enough help. They’re in pain, or unsure of how to care for their babies and Midwives & Maternity teams feel frustrated and helpless under the increasing pressure.
Some academic studies have shown the economic progress of women has stalled3. Evidence [e.g. gender pay gaps] is strongly suggesting labour market outcomes won’t be the same for men and women and the earlier debt crisis has compounded the reluctance of some on the right to recognise that society depends on the state. An equal society for men and women is the ‘great war’. The 2015 battle for women’s votes has been set: Labour’s childcare call, free school meals from Lib Dems, Tory married tax breaks. Improving maternity services can be a deadly and effective weapon.
Director of Maternity Action, Rosalind Bragg explained how cuts to NHS maternity services are impacting on care, saying “there is a growing sense of frustration at the short-sighted nature of cuts to NHS maternity services”. In fact, the Care Quality Commission and the RCM have each raised the alarm about midwifery numbers. The UK has been experiencing a baby boom. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of babies born each year has increased by 21%. During this time, midwifery numbers have increased by just 15%. Recent birth rates have not declined.
Furthermore, in 2005, an estimated 30,000 women each year lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination. Pregnancy discrimination has increased since the economic downturn and latest figures put this number at almost double. Women who lose their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination tend to experience a signiﬁcant drop in income. Of those women who lost their jobs as a result of pregnancy discrimination, 8% pursued formal action and only 3% took their claims to the employment tribunal. That’s dismal. Women face signiﬁcant barriers to exercising their rights including: competing demands of motherhood, access to advice services, employment tribunal fees and negative attitudes towards maternity rights.
We think we’ve got clear election-winning solutions to address pregnancy discrimination (i.e. gender inequality) following the economic downturn; adequate funding for advice agencies; dropping planned employment tribunal fees; and clear statements from Government on the value of maternity and parental rights to families and the economy.
All our panellists, including NCT’s Senior Policy Adviser Elizabeth Duff conceded that the Government’s response to the growing problem within maternity services did not inspire confidence. Although the then (May 2012) Minister for Health announced that women will have one named midwife to oversee their care during labour and birth, there has been no mechanism to support this announcement: no new money, no stipulation in commissioning arrangements, and no monitoring process to assess compliance. Without any framework for implementation, that announcement looks on the floor. That’s Danny Dyer cockney rhyming slang for ‘poor’ by the way.
Women deserve a stronger voice, particularly when they are giving birth. The hunger for this deserves to be addressed. Without a Brussels Sprout [doubt], we can do grandma sweater.
1 Whistling in the dark: The Conservative’s strategy for winning women’s votes is optimistic and directionless | The Political Studies Association (PSA).
2 Annesley, C. and Gains, F. (2012) ‘Investigating the Economic Determinants of the UK Gender Equality Policy Agenda’ British Journal of Politics and International Relations
This post briefly examines coalition rhetoric across the two political dimensions. These are the economic and social spheres. This post wishes it could examine, in-depth, how elites frame their rhetoric towards drawing out specific reactions from their audiences by using their individual political credibility. For the Liberals, this implies ‘progressive’ forms of rhetoric, whilst for the Conservatives a more ‘market orientated’ form of rhetoric is utilised. Through emotive and/or logical language, it becomes possible for such elites to construct appealing rhetoric for their chosen audience. Central to both, however, is the national interest. The importance of the national interest overrides previous ideological concerns. For example, it enables the current coalition to claim governing legitimacy. Broadly defined, the national interest is conflated as the growth of capital, the promotion of ‘wealth creation’, enabling social welfare. In terms of the coalition, tied to this interest are economic and social reforms designed to promote a specific re-conceptualisation of morality rooted in more traditional values. Consequently, you could look at the reform agenda and form your opinions based simply on the language they use to describe and explain it. In any event, everyone is trying to do what’s best in the national interest.
You’re making that slow slide back to the twoscoreandone you. Geeky books and papers by the bedside table. Discussing new ideas and theories with your echo. Video games till night fall while they’re at the cool hipster party, just a stone’s throw away from you. Something’s don’t change mate.
It is hard not to admire the unmitigated effrontery. UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom is trying to turn his latest offensive comments into a discussion over diplomatic mystification. I say ‘latest’, as he has shown good form for narrow-minded and culturally damaging remarks. In 2011, he said small firms would have to be “stark staring mad” to hire young women because of the risk of maternity leave. And in 2010, Mr Bloom was ejected from the European Parliament for directing a Nazi slogan at a German colleague. Mr Bloom’s unsophisticated approach to politics is clearly divorced from reality of a modern Britain.
Presenting this case as an ‘I-didn’t-directly-insult-anyone-so-it-can’t-be-racist’, however, serves at least two main purposes. To show how casually racist remarks are made nowadays and to show how politicians like Godfrey Bloom are misunderstanding the modern international development narrative. The intriguing aspect of his remark, however, was the speech that prompted it: about foreign aid and the perceived lack of domestic focus it brings. Now, I wonder if this has been a well choreographed set up? Deliberately misinforming the argument with political-incorrectness, hours before his party publishes its list of approved candidates for next year’s European elections. Who says UKIP don’t have a decent election strategy?
Of the numerous wrongs of the “Bongo Bongo” comments, the disrespectful homogenisation of a people ranks highly. Indeed, as an elected representative, Godfrey Bloom has every right to raise the issue of how choices about foreign aid are being made in government. What he certainly doesn’t have the right to do, is put these in offensive terms that reignite a colonial imagery of a people who only play on bongo drums. He argues the use of such a term was advantageous as it has raised the profile of overseas aid. And most would welcome the debate about foreign aid, but by his logic, referring to all unemployed people in the north as [insert own politically-incorrect term here] would be an acceptable way to open the debate on Jobseekers’ allowance in Wordsley, West Midlands? In an increasingly challenging domestic political context, Mr Bloom does not have to apologise for questioning the direction of UK international development policy. He must apologise, however, for the lack of civility and concede such comments go beyond political correctness.
Now, putting aside the gall of a seemingly uncivilized man, it is time to tell a much fuller story about international development. One of Mr Bloom’s points of contention appears to be around the government making altruistic decisions on the taxpayer’s behalf. One hopes Mr Bloom is sophisticated enough to recognise the indirect benefits UK government and British businesses enjoy as a result of foreign aid. Ostensibly, countries such as India, Nigeria and South Africa do not need UK government foreign aid. However, businesses looking to reap the benefits of said emerging markets (before China, US et al) largely welcome the influence procured by foreign aid and the opportunity for business that good governmental relationships provide. It is essential we support developing countries to maximise and diversify their revenue base for both domestic and international economic gains. Yes there are domestic challenges to address, but I hope Mr Bloom and his proponents recognise the dynamics of the international markets we face and it’s relevance in addressing them.
The Queen’s Speech a few months ago, did not include a commitment to legislate for the 0.7% ODA/GNI development target to become law despite the promise in the Coalition Agreement to do just that. In fact, the Tories went one step further in their Manifesto and pledged to “legislate in the first session of a new Parliament to lock this level of spending every year”. The decision to omit legislation of 0.7% from the Queen’s speech reveals that appeasing the right and Tory backbenchers unhappy with the 0.7% commitment has triumphed over a cast-iron promise. One hopes the Prime minister doesn’t follow UKIP down this rabbit hole. Britain’s global influence may wain further if we allow offensive comments like Mr Bloom’s to rule the international development narrative.
Yes, there are points to be made about “sending all that money abroad when we have so many problems”. So too, it is fair to question the wastage of foreign aid to corrupt governments in these developing countries. On the other hand, Mr Bloom should be advised that regrettably, no system of governance in the world is without wastage. For every Ray-Ban sunglass and apartment in Paris, one can point to a bankrupt NHS hospital, a local council overladen with iPads, or ask to see a ministry of defence contract come in on time and under budget.
Crucially, however, it must be recognised that development aid is minute within the overall context of worldwide foreign investment, which continues to increase over time. As highlighted by a recent study at the University of Hong Kong (http://bbc.in/11tFQ1z), remittances from the African diaspora alone to the continent totalled $51.8bn (£34bn) in 2010, easily outweighing the sum total of ODA (Official Development Assistance) to the region which according to The World Bank came to $43bn (£28bn) for the same year. That is to say that the imagery of Africans being dependent on foreign aid has become outdated as Africans are increasingly doing it for themselves. Furthermore, the African diaspora are acutely aware of local and regional corruptions and engage in a better range of economic development-promoting behaviors when investing in their homeland(s): hiring more local labor, paying direct to those in need and at higher wages.
Mr Bloom has the right to put the issue of foreign aid on the table but to my mind, a more sophisticated argument will ask how government can utilize the African diaspora community for a more efficient international development policy for example. The discourse on international development it is not necessarily synonymous with that of domestic challenges. We’re in trouble if the government is giving money to fictional countries so perhaps Mr Bloom should think about trying to marry his direct-politick talk with the sophistaced realities of government.