Think Global extra, May 2021
Welcome to the May issue of Think Global. This month we’re continuing to prioritise our campaign for a People’s Vaccine, including with some ‘in real life’ protests. We’re also asking groups and activists to start thinking about mobilising for the 6 November when the UN climate talks are due to come to Glasgow.
- People’s Vaccine campaign
- Scottish parliament elections
- Debt cancellation
- Climate justice
- Trade justice
- Global Justice Now news
In mid-April as we started to see devastating scenes of over-burdened hospitals in India running out of oxygen, we were involved in bringing together a People’s Vaccine Alliance initiative which saw 175 former heads of state and Nobel Prize winners writing to President Biden to support the proposed waiver of Covid-related patents at the World Trade Organisation to enable the rapid scale-up of vaccine production across the world.
Since then the Irish government and the Belgian development minister have indicated they could support the measure, suggesting positions are beginning to shift. The EU’s official position remains opposed, but dissent from EU governments is a sign of progress.
The pharmaceutical corporations we’ve been targeting as part of our campaign hold their annual shareholder meetings in April and May, and we’ve been using this opportunity to further expose their role in global vaccine apartheid. Some of this has been online, where we highlighted just how much money Pfizer is looking to make from its vaccine with share graphics and this blog post from Nick.
However, our allies in the US are protesting outside of US-based pharma companies’ shareholder meetings (Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna) and we are taking the lead to co-ordinate protests outside of AstraZeneca offices in the UK.
The Global Justice Now youth network has taken the lead on organising protests outside the AstraZeneca AGM at its Cambridge headquarters on 11 May, as well as outside its second biggest site in the UK in Macclesfield on the same day. Please join these protests if you can!
|We demand a People’s Vaccine
Tuesday 11 May
Cambridge: Meet 11am, AstraZeneca, 136 Hills Road, CB2 8PA (Facebook event)
Macclesfield: Meet 12noon, Macclesfield railway station, for a march to the AstraZeneca site (Facebook event)
If you have any questions about these events, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Heidi has also written a blogpost to explain why we are targeting AstraZeneca, especially as the company could be seen as the best of a bad bunch, at least on the surface.
G7 summit – meet your MP
With the UK government hosting the G7 summit in Cornwall from 11-13 June, there is a great opportunity to use the profile of the event to publicly put pressure on the government to drop its opposition to suspending patent rules at the World Trade Organisation.
There’s lots planned for around this time – including the hand-in of a petition with almost two million signatures on it. You can make a really important contribution to this by meeting with your local MP to hand in the petition and ask your MP to write to the government on this issue, as that’ll really help to increase the pressure.
So please make contact with them in good time beforehand and if possible, book a meeting ahead of the G7 summit. If you’re planning on doing this, then please let us know (email@example.com) and we’ll give you a version of the petition that you can hand in, a briefing for your MP and a draft press release that you can send to your local newspaper.
Summer campaign stalls
As restrictions continue to lift in the summer, we are hoping that groups can start hosting stalls again at outdoor events, markets and in high streets. We are producing a new summer activism pack for the pharma campaign that will be dispatched with the June Think Global. This will include new campaign postcards, some eye-catching posters and other campaigning tools.
If you definitely have something planned and would like extra postcards sent etc, let Liz know: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fighting for a People’s Vaccine, 6-page briefing, February 2021
- The Horrible History of Big Pharma, 44-page report, December 2020
In mid-April we publicly launched our own manifesto for the Scottish parliament elections on 6 May. Scotland’s place in the world: a manifesto for global solidarity contains policy asks on five key issues that we campaign on: climate, debt, aid, trade and access to medicine. More than ever today we need politicians with an internationalist outlook who will act from a position of solidarity with the global south – and that’s what our manifesto highlighted.
The launch garnered us a big article in The National. We previously sent the manifesto to all the main parties, and have now written directly to the leaders of all those parties, as well as calling on our Scottish supporters to get in touch with MSP candidates in their local area.
Obviously it’s very close to the elections now but if you have time, and you didn’t do it already, you could still contact your local candidates and ask them the questions that Liz suggests in her blog.
We’ve also been working on a joint election project with the Just Green Recovery coalition – the campaign in Scotland for a Covid-19 recovery plan that puts people and planet first. You can read more about this at https://www.justgreenrecovery.scot/election
Finance ministers from rich countries once again decided to kick the can down the road on debt this month. The G20 ministers’ meeting on 7-8 April agreed to extend their limited debt relief initiative, for the final time, until the end of this year. We were among several organisations condemning the G20 for again failing to take action against the big banks profiting from debt during the pandemic.
Part of the problem with the G20 initiative is that it only applies to debt between governments and not to the large amount of bond debt that many low-income countries owe to big banks like HSBC and BlackRock. Zambia, for example, owes 59% of its total debt to these private creditors. This month, Zambia defaulted on its debt again; the second time since private creditors refused to negotiate with them last year. Civil society leaders in Zambia have condemned the banks for this, highlighting that high debt payments are leading to “a reduction in money available for nurses, health clinics and hospitals”.
Taking action on private creditors
Our campaign, aiming to build pressure on these banks and on the UK government to take action against them, is steadily growing – over 5000 people have now used our action form to email the CEOs of BlackRock, UBS, JP Morgan and HSBC calling on them to cancel the debt. We continue to draw attention to tour campaign in the media, and are planning several actions to build pressure on the banks in the coming months.
We need to ensure that these vastly rich speculators are held to account and take action to ensure that governments have the funds to respond to their pandemic. You can write to the CEOs of Blackrock, UBS, HSBC and JP Morgan to demand debt cancellation via our website.
If you’d like to organise a local event or action on debt cancellation, contact email@example.com. We’re working with Jubilee Debt Campaign, CAFOD and Christian Aid on this campaign, so these groups could also be allies locally.
- Under the Radar, briefing on private sector debt and coronavirus, October 2020
- Exiting the permanent crisis in the global south, economic justice briefing, April 2020
In April, US president Joe Biden held a special climate summit in order to try and pull other world leaders back onto a path towards significant carbon emissions reductions. Ahead of the summit, Biden announced a target of a 50% reduction in the United States’ own emissions by 2030 (based on 2005 levels). Our response (which was picked up by Reuters) was that while the announcement was a relief, and even an improvement on the Obama era, the US needs to cut by 70% by 2030 to deliver its fair share given its responsibility for historical emissions.
Nevertheless, the summit has created some momentum which the climate movement can seek to push further. With the next UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) taking place in Glasgow in November, climate justice campaigners in the UK have a special responsibility to build a significant public response.
Mobilise for 6 November
That’s why we’re asking Global Justice Now local groups and activists to get together with others in their area to mobilise towards 6 November. Nationally we’re part of the COP26 Coalition, which is encouraging local groups to set up a local version of the coalition as a temporary umbrella to work under.
A first step could be to set up a public meeting, for instance with the title: UN climate talks come to Britain: Why we need climate justice. If you would like help or advice with doing this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We have an illustration which groups can use on a Facebook or Eventbrite event.
On Saturday 6 November itself there will be a significant demonstration in Glasgow, and probably in other cities. The original plan was to get everyone to Glasgow, but given Covid uncertainty, the coalition can’t confirm exact plans until a little nearer the time. There will certainly be a ‘counter summit’ of some kind in Glagsow, and Stop Climate Chaos Scotland is organising a low-cost ‘host an activist’ programme which will launch by summer.
But whatever the final mobilisation plan, it is vital that we’re organised at a local level so we can make our voices heard as loudly as possible.
- Decarbonising Aid: why the UK must end its overseas fossil fuel financing before COP26, four-page briefing, 2020
- The Case for Climate Justice, 16-page illustrated booklet
- Climate injustice: how corporate courts block climate action, four-page briefing, March 2021
- How trade deals are fuelling climate breakdown, four-page A5 leaflet
Corporate courts and climate action
The new phase of the trade campaign is underway, focussing on the impact of corporate courts on climate action. Corporate courts have long been used to oppose environmental protections. Now that we are finally seeing more governments around the world begin to take long needed action to tackle the climate crisis, we are seeing more and more corporate court cases challenging those actions.
We’ve launched a petition calling on the government to:
- Drop corporate courts in the UK-Canada trade deal
- Exit the Energy Charter Treaty
- Stop joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
We’ve also got an action to email Liz Truss more specifically on the UK-Canada deal. The deal has been signed, and has corporate courts in it, but those clauses are currently suspended until they’ve been reviewed. At the moment, the government hopes that review can happen behind closed doors and be a bit of a formality. We have three months from the start of April to change that.
Nearly three quarters of mining companies globally are headquartered in Canada, and nearly half of all investment in mining goes through the Toronto Stock Exchange. Canadian mining and energy companies are active in corporate courts, suing governments for action on climate change.
Hindering coal phase out
There is a new useful short video explaining the RWE corporate court case, which is a good resource to share online or show at webinars or your group meeting. RWE is suing the Netherlands over the phase out of coal-fired power stations – another company, Uniper, is doing the same. They’re using the Energy Charter Treaty to do so, which is an investment deal between more than 50 countries specifically on the energy sector, which includes corporate courts. Several other European countries are considering exiting. So far the UK wants to stay put, but if we can ramp up the pressure that could change.
- NEW: Climate injustice: how corporate courts block climate action, four-page briefing
- How trade deals are fuelling climate breakdown, four-page A5 leaflet
- 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
- Trade Secrets, Nick Dearden’s short book on the US trade deal (as a pdf, ebook and web pages)
The controversy over government plans to cut the aid budget by nearly £5 billion this year has continued this month as questions have been raised over government transparency on the issue.
Firstly, doubts have been raised over whether the prime minister intends to offer parliament a vote on the matter at all. While previously it had been suggested that the cuts would come to the Commons before they came into force, no such vote has yet taken place, despite the start of the new financial year. Government spokespeople appear to have backtracked on previous suggestions that a vote was necessary under current legislation, prompting anger among MPs. If no vote takes place in parliament, a legal challenge from the charity sector is likely. Either way, we will be ready to mobilise in opposition to the cuts.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has created further confusion on what exactly the cuts will look like. A long-awaited announcement on which programmes would face biggest cuts raised more questions than answers as only broad budget headlines were provided in a written statement, quietly pushed out in late April. Global Justice Now has already called for the UK development bank, CDC Group, to face heavier cuts as it has failed to demonstrate development impact in numerous areas.
If you’d like to organise a local event or action on the future of UK aid, contact email@example.com.
- Healthcare for all?, report on CDC’s investments in private healthcare, January 2021
- The future of aid after DfID, briefing on the DfID-FCO merger, June 2020
Our AGM on 5 June
If you haven’t already done so, please register now to join our AGM on Saturday 5 June. Like last year, it will take place on Zoom and is open to all members. It’s a great opportunity to better understand the organisation’s strategy and ask questions of the director and council.
If you are a member (members pay a monthly or annual subscription) you should have just received an invitation to vote in our council elections. Fully affiliated local groups also get a vote, and you may need to set aside some time during May to agree who to vote for. All groups will be emailed a unique link to the online voting site and candidate statements are included in the site, but because you have to log in, you may find it easier to circulate the pdf candidates’ booklet to members. There are fifteen candidates for twelve places, and results will be announced at the AGM.
James O’Nions will be off work for around six weeks from the beginning of May for medical reasons. During that time you might hear from our head of Scottish campaigns, Liz Murray, who will be stepping in to manage the team. Sam Lund-Harket will also be going up to full time to help cover some of James’ work.