Monday, June 13, 2005

Mark Ramsden told me about this article sometime ago now but unfortunately I have not been able to read it sooner due to a lack of time. I thought some of the points the article raised and some of the comments made were interesting.
The second paragraph of the article starts “In just over a month's time, up to 200,000 people will converge on the G8 summit in Scotland for a rally organised by Make Poverty History”. The fact that there is the potential of 200,000 people travelling to Edinburgh to protest on an issue which does not necessarily come too high on the list of issues which people think of when voting is surely a sign of the success of the Make Poverty History movement.
The article also refers to Oxfam as “the UK's biggest development organisation”. I am certain that Oxfam didn’t get to this position easily. It had to work and get results to ensure it had the support of the public and the money to be able to do things and the only way you can get people to give you more of their support, money and time is by getting results.
The article also quotes someone as saying, "They (Oxfam) have incredible access, and what that has meant is that Oxfam are the ones who are always asked to speak for the whole development movement. And they differ on policy from other groups. They have decided that, in the longer term, their lot is best served by being in with Labour and they go out on a limb to endorse the government." Well when you have a movement that consists of over 400 different organisations it is highly likely that the bigger organisations will be approached for comment by the press or for information by those you deal with. The point about difference on policy I am almost certain that if most of the organisations that are members of the Make Poverty History movement asked ten different members their opinions on policy they would that they differ at some point this is bound to happen in all sorts of organisations whether they are political parties, trade union, students unions, NGOs.
The article goes on to say “The dilemma is acute: to what extent should NGOs not just co-operate with Whitehall but be seen to be integral to a government campaign? In my personal opinion cooperation with Whitehall is a means to an end, so as long as you can get what you want co-operate with Whitehall as long as it not against the principles or beliefs of your organisation.
On the issue of criticizing the government I think Politicians are like students and need to be congratulated and rewarded when they have done well and told how they could have done something better. So for example when the government makes a commitment to reaching the 0.7% of GDP to International Aid target by 2013, NGOs and International Development charities should welcome this but also bring it to the public and governments attention that if the government spent some of the money it currently using subsidising the International Arms Trade it could meet this target sooner.
Another issue which single issue groups don’t pay attention to when they make demands of governments is that the responsibility of the government is to ensure various issues are taken care of such as foreign and commonwealth affairs, the economy, constitutional affairs, culture, media, sport, defence, education, environment, rural affairs, health, international development, trade, industry, transport, pensions etc not just the issue that you are interested in.

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