Taking tea and solidarity to your MP

On 9 June 2011 this year I am hoping to sit down for a chat with my MP. Over a cuppa and maybe a custard cream, I am going to go right to the heart of the political decision-makers to get myself heard on some issues that affect people in poor countries.

Now, I have to admit that - despite the fact I work for an organisation that lobbies parliament, that over the years I’ve interviewed and chatted to some interesting folk from all walks of life, including politicians – the idea of a one-to-one with the MP for Lewisham East still makes me a little bit nervous.

But what is making me adamant to do it on this occasion is not only the opportunity to push for change where it matters for a huge swathe of the world’s population (more than 1 billion people in developing countries cannot access clean water and more than 2.5 billion lack basic sanitation), but the fact that around me there will be hundreds of other people from hundreds of other constituencies lobbying their MPs on the same issues.

What I’m talking about is ‘Tea time for change’. It’s a fantastic idea from the UK’s leading aid agencies (including CAFOD) to hold a mass lobby of UK politicians. It’s like a mega-MPs’ surgery and it will take up the whole of Westminster Central Hall in London. By bringing the constituents en masse to the politicians, we hope to make it a lot harder for decision-makers to ignore the call to end some of the biggest exacerbaters of poverty in developing countries.

At ‘Tea time for change’ we’re going to be making sure MPs know that effective aid, promised by the UK government, is vital right now but is certainly not enough on its own. In order for the wheels within wheels that perpetuate poverty to be dismantled, rich countries like the UK can do much more at a policy level to make sure that good development work is not undermined by bad international practices.

I, and the hundreds like me who will descend on Westminster, will be explaining to our MPs that multi-national companies must open up their payment books so everyone can see what money goes where and to whom in developing countries. This will give citizens the information they need to hold their governments to account about payments that could be used for development. Transparency means accountability – to shareholders, to the company’s country of origin and most importantly to the people in the country where these companies set up shop. And we’ll also also be calling for an end to companies getting away with tax evasion.

One of our other key asks will be for the UK government to put its heads together to find and support new ways of funding development, like a Robin Hood Tax on financial transactions, so that new money can be found to keep up with the needs of poor communities who face new challenges such as climate change.

And all this over a cup of tea! Sounds good doesn’t it?

Get yourself registered to meet your MP on 9 June http://bit.ly/fk8FsH

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(c) Pascale Palmer is Policy Media Officer for CAFOD (www.cafod.org.uk).

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