Millions of British people of all ages, backgrounds, and political inclinations are interested in international development and humanitarian aid. They prove that in the most practical way every day with contributions to charities in money, in kind, and through voluntary work. It results in donations that match or exceed any in the World.
Much of that commitment is mercy in action. It comes from ethical or religious conviction or, more widely and commonly, from the humane instincts of decency – of empathy with the women, children and men who are destitute or victims of warfare, of epidemic diseases, of climate change and disasters of nature. Of huge significance is the fact that it is sustained year after year. It manifests deep understanding of the reality that humanitarian emergencies are often worsened by and – in so many places – rooted in, long term, systemic underdevelopment and all of the fragility, exploitation, injustice, conflict and misgovernment which both causes and comes with it.
Out of that awareness comes the realisation that “giving to show you care” is a vital, personal way of adding to the efforts of Governments and organisations to relieve suffering and – crucially – to overcome the basic causes of endemic poverty across the World. It is not patronising, it is partnership between those who have some resources and those who are working to make a future for themselves and their communities .As Shakespeare might have put it, the actions are “twice blessed”. They are a credit to those who give and enablement for those who receive.
All of those countless people in the UK who share that recognition that they are part of an interdependent World have a direct reason to vote to REMAIN in the EU in the Referendum on June 23rd.
Inside the EU the UK is a leading partner in the most developed regional co-operation association of democracies in the World, the largest international development donor, and one of the biggest and most effective providers of humanitarian aid, on the planet.
Inside the EU, we have the right to help to shape policies and priorities, to extend the achievement of our national efforts, to amplify the effectiveness of the UK in the UN and other global institutions, and – by those means – to increase the impact of the charitable agencies striving to free our fellow human beings from want, ignorance, disease and disaster.
Outside the EU, we would lose the essential strength of combination, the reach of development efforts, the power to directly influence the direction and emphasis of strategies and – of huge importance – the delivery of development support and humanitarian relief.
The generous spirit of the British people would doubtlessly continue .BUT its results would be gravely diminished. Every giver, every fund-raiser, every volunteer who wants to combat and conquer underdevelopment should be aware of that.
Now, and for all of the future ,the realities of economics and politics, of war and peace, of globalisation and interdependence mean that effective actions to combat the causes and effects of poverty, want, climate change , chronic disadvantage and inequality have to be MULTILATERAL.
All of those complex and inter-related challenges transcend borders. Overcoming them is beyond the power of even the most powerful individual countries.
“Going it alone” simply does not, and will not, begin to be adequate.
Consistent, organised, co-ordinated multinational co-operation is the only rational approach to the multiplicity and diversity of the menaces, and of the opportunities to advance.
There is no practical substitute for that collective response to changed, and constantly changing, global conditions.
As we come to vote in the IN or OUT EU Referendum, that truth has manifest significance in a wide spectrum of policy areas.
It certainly applies to the UK’s engagement in the advance of international development and humanitarian aid.
The Union’s performance is, and has been, consistent and very substantial. If we are to improve it, we should be seeking to increase the opportunities offered to us through our membership. We should not even contemplate withdrawal. It would mean retreat from our duty as a prosperous nation to use our liberty to help those who are not economically or politically secure.
Inside the EU, we are influential participants in an unique multinational agency which has a range of resources, experience and capabilities that is not matched by any other national, or international, organisation.
The European Commission is mandated by the Member States to manage the EU’s development and aid roles. It means that the Union has the capacity, and the legitimacy derived from 28 democracies and proven expertise, needed to promote global prosperity and security.
As a country which understands the efficiency as well as the equity of equality we are dedicated to overcoming disadvantage because it weakens economically and generates resentment and its by-product, extremism. It is surely in the national and international interest of the UK to continue to multiply the effectiveness of our development commitment by being significant players in the development of the policy and the operation of the Union.
As signatories of the Lisbon Treaty, we are committed to pursuing the objectives of development and partnership and to acting, through consensus, to address the individual and thematic interests of all the Member States.
That consensus naturally reflects the political and geographic priorities of individual countries. Ours is to maximise the effectiveness of international development support.
As part of the EU, we not only work with 27 other Member States, we also share partnership with 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries as well as other States in Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the European Neighbourhood.85% of European Development Funds go to Low Income countries and no less than 40% goes to Commonwealth States.
In addition, EU membership gives us influence, and presence, in parts of the World where DIFID does not work.
In the crises in the last five years, for instance, in Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire and the Arab Spring countries, that has made positive development and aid outcomes possible.
Other institutions such as the World Bank and various development banks clearly have financial resources, but they also have much narrower remits with no voice on trade or on foreign and security policy. Meanwhile, the UN obviously has the political role but not the capacity to distribute on the same scale or pace.
That is why the eleven points of the European Commission’s “Agenda for Change” – including stronger emphasis on human rights and democracy, good governance, and investment in agricultural development – provides an extra opportunity for the EU to increase its focus and effectiveness.
The “Outers” who say that they would get advances in trade policy and agriculture outside the Union have to tell us how exactly we could have the same, or better, effect on international development – or, indeed, international economic agreements – without the weight and the scope that comes with our membership of the EU. Significantly, they make no effort to offer such an explanation. Instead, they proclaim “greater opportunities” without ever specifying what they would be in practice.
There are, realistically, no “pick and mix” options here. We are IN or we are OUT.
‘IN’ makes us part of the EU, the External Action Service, the Development policy, the European Community Humanitarian Aid Organisation (ECHO), which supports NGO’s and the UN and co-ordinates the work of European Civil Protection bodies in emergencies.
It also means that the UK is in the World’s largest tariff free Single Market which has the international trade negotiating capacity commensurate with that size, and vital to development.
‘OUT’ loses all of that capacity for essential collective action.
We would exchange a central role for a marginal one, influence for isolation, rights for desires.
That would contradict our basic interests when, in this time of rapid evolution –
- India, China and Indonesia continue to grow,
- ASEAN, in South East Asia, and NAFTA ,in North America, further develop as regional trade groupings
- The MERCOSUR customs union of Latin American countries progresses.
Against that background, the size, significance, and maturity of the EU means that Simon Maxwell of the Overseas Development Institute is right to say that “The cards in Europe’s hand look better by the day and must encourage more ambitious play”.
That is a necessity in the interests of the developed, peaceful UK and EU and to reflect and respond to the realities of peoples and parts of the World that are plagued by warfare and by want.
As we see only too plainly, human beings without hope in their homeland feel compelled to seek better chances elsewhere. They always have, they always will, whatever the perils.
It is pitifully obvious that not even sea borders prevent the migration of desperate people.
Faced with that, there are no “single country solutions”. The hope – or pretence – that such realities can be evaded by withdrawal from the EU is a delusion. The challenge should be faced and dealt with by a patient, cumulative combination of accommodation of refugees, assistance to areas most affected by migration, and – crucially – sustained aid to promote economic advance and security in and near the countries of origin.
None of that is easy. It all requires strong politically resolve and cooperation.
But without such coherent, combined and focussed action on a European scale, the crisis will expand beyond control with awful results for the needy and for the stability of our continent.
That will serve no-one and harm us all.
The choice is between dealing intelligently and systematically with the continuing crisis, in company with other Europeans through the EU, or seeing it grow beyond cure or mitigation .
Global financial, food and political crises, climate change, unmet aid needs , private and public sector corruption, outdated global governance structures and the emergence of economically adolescent giants like China as major players in international aid are truths of our time. All pose challenges for development policy across the World. Countering that, advances in transport, communications, science and technology all offer unprecedented opportunities for peace, plenty, justice and accountability.
For every sensible reason of prosperity and security, the UK’s energetic participation in confronting those challenges and exploiting those opportunities must be sustained .That means continuing to use the full potential of the EU.
We must continue to play a positive catalytic role which arises from the fact of life that the interdependence and integration of the World are making island status a matter of geology, not of destiny.
It has long ceased to be a haven of protection against perils that are borderless or a unique platform for opportunities which are boundless.
British engagement in the EU greatly expands the results of our country’s commitment to international development and humanitarian aid and extends our relationships and influence. It helps us to safeguard our own economy and security, to benefit from access to cooperation and commerce, and to exercise real sovereignty – our effective power to act in defence and advance of our needs
Politically, economically, morally and realistically we simply cannot afford to abandon these strengths by leaving the European Union.
That is why we must REMAIN.
Glenys Kinnock (Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead) is a former teacher, Labour MEP for Wales, Co-President of the EU-Africa, Caribbean Pacific Joint Parliamentary Assembly, FCO Minister of State for Africa and the UN.
A shorter version of this article was published on LabourList.