Think Global extra, January 2021
Date: 22 December 2020
Happy new year, and welcome to the January issue of Think Global Extra, our monthly activist newsletter. There’s no doubt that 2020 was and unprecedentedly difficult year in recent times, and the difficulties look set to continue into 2021, with only the prospect of widespread vaccination by the middle of the year to create some optimism. We stepped up our efforts to extend that hope to the global south during November and December, including with a day of action, and have included more that activists can do to further the campaign below.
Despite all the difficulties, 2020 has reminded me just how special and important Global Justice Now’s groups network is. I look forward to working with you all in 2021.
- People’s Vaccine campaign / Access to medicine
- Climate justice
- Trade justice
- Aid watch
- Coming up in 2021
December saw a hugely busy time for the campaign for vaccine justice for the global south. Our joint press release with Oxfam International and other global allies, highlighting just how few people in the global south will get access to any vaccine even by the end of 2021, was covered around the world from Italy to India. Our activists also helped pile the pressure onto both governments and companies to make concessions over the patents which are preventing wider access to the vaccine.
Successful People’s Vaccine day of action
Thank you to everyone who took part in the global day of action on the People’s Vaccine on 14 December. Together with our allies we mobilised people in the UK, US, Ireland, Spain, Germany and South Africa to put pressure on the three pharmaceutical companies that have published their Covid-19 vaccine results.
We bombarded Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca with hundreds of phone calls to demand that they join the World Health Organisation’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). This global pool was set up to help companies share their patents and share how to make the vaccines with other companies. Joining C-TAP will mobilise more manufacturers to expand production so there are enough doses for everyone, everywhere.
We also unleashed thousands of social media posts and emails with the same message. It was really exciting to see people around the world taking part in solidarity and sending a message that cannot be ignored.
Suspending global patent rules
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) met again in December to continue discussions on the proposal to suspend the global rules on patents for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines in the face of the pandemic. One hundred countries from the global south support this proposal while rich countries, including the UK, continue to oppose it. Almost all these rich countries have hoarded vaccines in advance of production.
The WTO operates on consensus and so if rich countries continue to oppose this proposal, it will fail. However, global south countries have so far managed to keep these discussions as a live issue into early 2021 with a decision-making point in the spring. This still gives us time to campaign on this.
Global Justice Now supporters have sent over 4,000 emails to the UK government about this and the government has mentioned that are aware of the strength of public feeling. We have also noticed their tone changing at the WTO from being straightforwardly opposed to being open to other policy options that they were previously opposed to. So even if rich country governments don’t give in at the WTO, the pressure we’re creating could lead to important concessions.
If you haven’t yet done so, please take our online action and share it with your contacts. This page also includes a video of parliamentarians from the global south calling for support for the proposal.
If you want to do more on this, either as an individual or a local groups, it would be great if you could ask your MP to write to Liz Truss, the trade secretary and Alok Sharma, the business secretary, to urge the government to support this proposal. You can also send your MP our parliamentary briefing on the TRIPS waiver.
People’s Vaccine sign-on statement
To help with raising awareness and building support for a People’s Vaccine, we have written a solidarity statement to call for the policy changes that are needed to ensure that the world can produce enough vaccines for all countries – not just rich countries who have the power and wealth to hoard supplies in advance.
We’d like you to approach local groups and organisations in your area and ask them to sign on: for example, local trade union branches, political party branches, churches and other faith groups, and diaspora groups. It helps both to spread the word and demonstrate the broad support for our demands.
You can find the statement and a way for each organisation to sign up here: globaljustice.org.uk/call-peoples-vaccine
Group talks and public meetings
If you want to build your understanding of the pharmaceutical campaign or hold a public webinar on the issues you can invite our campaigner, Heidi Chow to speak at your events. Please contact [email protected] to arrange.
The horrible history of Big Pharma
In December we published a report looking at some of the key players in the pharmaceutical sector and some of their truly disgraceful behaviour over the years. We’ll be doing more with the information we’ve collated in the report during January, but you can already read the report on our website.
UK fossil fuel finance
After years of campaigning by frontline communities and civil society, the government finally announced at the Climate Ambition Summit in December that the UK will soon stop using public funds to finance fossil fuels overseas. This is a huge victory for our campaign and for all the activists who have lobbied the government. Thank you for all of your support!
However, we can’t stop our campaign just yet. Firstly, there is a lot of small print to work out and plenty of loopholes, or ‘exclusions’, that the government may still try to add to the policy. A consultation will take place in the coming weeks which will determine the speed and details of the moratorium.
We have also found out that there are at least seventeen further projects, including the controversial East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, which are still in line to potentially receive funding from the UK before the ban comes into place. It would be a cruel joke for a series of investments to be rushed through after so much hard work.
Our campaigner Daniel Willis’ article for the Ecologist has further details of where we stand. Please contact Daniel ([email protected]) if you can help us influence the government’s consultation. He is also still very happy to speak at group or public meeting online about this – potentially organised alongside a local ally such as an XR or Friends of the Earth group.
The COP26 Coalition of organisations campaigning for climate justice held a global online gathering in November, one year ahead of the reorganised COP26 UN climate talks. Thousands of people attended over 150 workshops and talks. A few of those talks have been turned into videos on the coalition’s YouTube channel, with more promised We’ll let you know when those sessions Global Justice Now organised are available.
Global Justice Now staff are engaged in the coalition’s various working groups, but you don’t have to be officially representing an organisation to get involved. Contact James O’Nions if you’re interested in doing this, or would like an update on the coalition’s plans for 2021: [email protected]
We had a success with the Trade Bill in the House of Lords, which has now been amended to give parliament a say on trade deals. The trade democracy amendment, tabled by Lord Purvis, was passed by 308 votes to 261 with support from Labour, Lib Dems, Greens, many cross benchers and even one Conservative peer. This is a tribute to your long-term campaigning on this over the past four years.
Now the bill will return to the Commons where we have to defend what we have won. If you have not already, please can you email your MP and ask them to support the trade democracy amendment. Many people are not aware of how little power parliament currently has over trade deals and what is at stake in the Trade Bill. If you have time between now and January, could you write a letter to your local newspaper (or community blog or similar) to highlight the issue? We’ve prepared a template letter that you could use.
Trade and climate change
We’ve been making the links between trade and climate for a while, in briefings, blogs and webinars. We now have a new leaflet to help with this. How trade deals are fuelling climate breakdown helps explain the key role that trade rules play in underpinning drivers of the climate crisis. It’s a short A5 leaflet – good for handing out on stalls in future when that may hopefully be possible again. We’ll send some out to groups in the February print Think Global, but feel free to email [email protected] to order copies whether you’re in a group or not.
We are hoping to produce further resources on this, and look in more detail at what a climate friendly trade deal might look like. Part of this is avoiding inadvertently supporting false solutions. For instance, a new, small set of negotiations, ACCTS (Agreement on Climate Change, Trade and Sustainability) is being touted as a way to make trade work for climate. But in reality it sticks to the same broken model of trying to further take the brakes off trade, leaving everything to the market and to out of control globalisation. We urgently need to find a way of doing trade deals that works for the climate but sadly ACCTS is not that. The real answer lies in managing trade and investment in the public interest, setting boundaries and giving direction so that trade can support people and planet.
US trade deal and others
Things have been fairly quiet on the US trade deal during the Trump administration’s lame duck period. Nick has revised his book to take account of the election result – although most of the book is about the substance of the deal, which we think is unlikely to change much, so didn’t need any updating.
Sadly, the UK-Kenya deal mentioned in the last Think Global has been signed, but at the time of writing, Ghana and Cameroon have resisted. They are both in similar positions to Kenya of being among the only countries in their regions that are not classed as ‘least developed countries’ (LDCs). We have been working with parliamentarians to raise the need for the UK government to take a more constructive, flexible approach, and succeeded in getting this debated as part of the Trade Bill.
At present, the UK has been using the threat of losing existing trading arrangements at the end of the Brexit transition to bully the countries into signing vastly unequal trading arrangements. Instead, we want the UK to offer them the same trading arrangements as they give to these countries LDC neighbours.
- UPDATED: Trade Secrets, Nick Dearden’s short book on the US trade deal (as a printed book, pdf, ebook and web pages).
- NEW: How trade deals are fuelling climate breakdown, four-page leaflet
- NEW: MP briefing on post-Brexit trade with Ghana and Cameroon
- Stop the US Trade Deal A5 leaflet
- Organising locally against the US trade deal, our online guide
- Five reasons modern trade deals are terrible for the climate, four page briefing
- Trans-Pacific Powergrab, our 2018 briefing on why we shouldn’t join the Trans-Pacific Partnership
The final weeks of 2020 saw a flurry of activity as the government tried to press ahead with plans to cut the international development budget, spend more of the remainder ‘in the national interest’, and further reduce any public scrutiny of aid spending.
In late November, the Chancellor used the Spending Review to announce plans to cut the international development budget from 0.7% to 0.5% of Gross National Income. The 0.7% target was established in UK law in the 2015 International Development Act and, although a temporary reduction in this level is allowed under the legislation, the government’s decision to make the cut to 0.5% on an indefinite basis means they will have to pass a vote in the Commons early next year. Over 2,500 of our supporters wrote to their MPs opposing this move. Thank you to everyone who took action.
Although several senior Conservatives have hinted that they could rebel against the government already, more would be needed to overturn the government’s large majority. Perhaps even more worrying than the potential cut, however, was the new framework for aid spending announced by Dominic Raab which hardly mentions poverty reduction at all. See Nick Dearden’s article Don’t just defend aid, make it just, (New Internationalist, 27 Nov), for analysis of where we go from here.
There were two pieces of good news in December, though, which demonstrate that with co-ordinated action we can change the government’s mind. As reported above, the government has announced it will no longer use development funds to finance fossil fuels. And plans to scrap the International Development Committee, an important aid scrutiny body in parliament, have been shelved. So long term cuts to aid are far from certain.
If you haven’t written to your MP about the aid cuts yet then you can use our online action to send your letter. If you have, and you have received a reply suggesting that your MP opposes the aid cuts, please encourage them to sign EDM 1285 to register their disapproval and build cross-party opposition to the cuts.
We are planning to host a public meeting (ie a webinar) on the future of aid early this year. If you would like to arrange a local talk on the campaign, please contact our campaigner Daniel Willis (daniel[email protected]).
- The future of aid after DfID, 4 page briefing, July 2020
On 18 December, International Migrants Day, we published a new pamphlet on the case for freedom of movement. We’ve been working on it for some time, but it was put on the back burner due to the sudden urgency of other issues around the coronavirus crisis. Nevertheless, we hope it is a useful contribution to the debate around migration and stakes out an evidence-based position based on human rights and anti-racism. We will print some copies in the new year, but in the meantime you can read it online:
Although we don’t yet have dates, we’ve started work on plans for several ways we can support activists in the early months of the year. One will be an opportunity for local group members from around the country to meet up on Zoom, share experiences of group activity (or inactivity) during the difficult circumstances of 2020, gain a bit of moral support, and make the best use of the fact that more of us are comfortable with online meetings.
We’re also planning a more formal training course in strategic activist skills.
Holyrood 2021 elections
This year sees the next Scottish parliament elections, and with the multiple crises of the climate and nature emergencies, the global pandemic and the attacks on multilateralism by the populist right around the world, we believe this is a crucial time to demonstrate an internationalist outlook and to speak up for cooperation and understanding between nations. While much of the focus of the Holyrood elections is inevitably on domestic policy, we are calling on all parties standing candidates to also show their commitment to internationalism and global solidarity by including our suggestions in their election manifestos. You can read our manifesto for global solidarity here.
We’ll be in touch closer to the elections in May with ideas for how to call on MSP candidates to commit to global solidarity. But Jane and Liz in our Scottish office would also love to hear your ideas, so please do get in touch at [email protected].