Stand up for the poorest by sitting down with your MP

By the time you read this I imagine I will be in amongst the throng of more than 1,200 people travelling to Westminster to lobby their local MPs on making life better for the poorest in the world.

Tea Time for Change is set to be the biggest lobby since the Coalition Government came to power, and it looks like it’s going to be quite a day.

Not only will Westminster Central Hall, opposite the Abbey, be decked out in all manner of bunting and teapots and cakes, but we’ve also got some pretty high profile people coming to speak. In the first session before lobbying begins, International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell will take the floor in a show of support for all those who have made it to London for such an important show of solidarity.

In the afternoon session, when our main lobbying will have taken place, we have Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Harriet Harman. It will be fascinating to hear what each frontbench spokesperson has to say, especially in light of recent criticism from right wing media of the money designated for overseas aid.

Just as a tiny recap, in case you were feeling wary about how useful international development aid is, I have a few facts and figures. Thanks to international aid:

- Measles deaths have been reduced by 60 per cent worldwide

- Smallpox has been eradicated

- Polio is nearly wiped out.

- 41 million more children received primary education in 2005 than they did in 1999

- The average chance of a child surviving to the age of five has doubled.

- According to some estimates, aid has added one per cent to the annual rate of economic growth in the countries where the poorest billion people live.

- In emergencies, aid has made the difference between life and death for hundreds of millions of people. (In 2009 alone, the World Food Programme supported by the UK government, provided life-saving food and nutrition for over 100 million people affected by natural disasters, conflict and crises that left them without food.)

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

But what the Tea Time for Change event will be taking to the heart of Government is the fact that aid on its own is not enough to enable poor communities to help themselves.

I’m going to sit down with my MP Heidi Alexander and ask her to push for more transparency in multi-national companies so that when they operate away from home in places where rules and regulations are lax, citizens can see where payments have been made to oil the wheels for access.

I’ll also be asking her to call for an end to tax havens which mean big companies can get away with not paying their dues. And I’ll be discussing – over a cuppa and maybe a slice of cake – the idea that the UK Government has to look at new ways to fund international development, through mechanisms such as a tax on financial transactions.

It’s going to be a busy day. To all of you who make it to Westminster Central Hall, on behalf of CAFOD, and all the Tea Time for Change member organisations, thank you for standing up for the poorest by sitting down with your MP.

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© Pascale Palmer is Senior Press Officer (Policy & Campaigns) for CAFOD. www.cafod.org.uk

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