Think Global extra, September 2020
Date: 27 August 2020
Think Global is a monthly update for Global Justice Now activists and those interested in being active with us. It’s sent out on the first day of each month, either by both mail and email, or just by email (Think Global extra). We’d encourage all local group members, as well as those not in groups who want to do more than take online actions to sign up for the email version at globaljustice.org.uk/think-global
- Upcoming events
- Trade justice / US trade deal
- Access to medicine / Covid-19 treatment for all
- Debt cancellation
- Aid watch / No aid for profit
- Climate justice / US fossil fuel finance
- Useful links
1 September, 6.30pm
Join us for the launch of Nick Dearden‘s new book, Trade Secrets: The truth about the US trade deal and how we can stop it. Nick will be in conversation with Guardian journalist Zoe Williams.
Saturday 5 September, 11am
Due to the situation with the coronavirus, this year’s AGM will take place online. Members of Global Justice Now are warmly invited to join us, but you must register by 2 September. Local Global Justice Now groups have a group vote which they can delegate someone to hold in advance.
Wednesday 23 September, 7.30pm
From the Seattle protests against the WTO to our current fight against a US trade deal, join Nick Dearden and Luciana Ghiotto to discuss the history of resistance to the corporate trade agenda. Taking place as part of this year’s The World Transformed.
For the last eleven years, Global Justice Now has been part of the Take One Action film festival, screened in Scottish cinemas every September. This year the film festival is going online, which means film lovers beyond Scotland can watch the films and join the discussions and workshops. The events we’re particularly involved in are:
- Screening of The Fever followed by live Q&A. Thursday 24 September. A documentary about access to malaria medicines in Africa and the failure of institutions and big pharma to support local solutions. Start watching the film at 6.45 and then join the live online Q&A from 8.30pm with Heidi Chow. Book here.
- Holding corporations to account workshop. Sunday 27 September, 4pm-5.30pm. Featuring international campaigners and exploring how we can work towards a world rooted in social justice and environmental sustainability, in which corporations are fully accountable to people. Book here.
New organising guide
In the last Think Global we sent you a list of ideas for action coming from our activist assembly. We’ve now built on that to develop a new activists guide to Organising locally against the US trade deal. Intended as a practical guide, it gets straight into how we can win, with tips on bringing people together locally against the deal and lots of ideas for taking action.
We know we are campaigning in new and very different times with the pandemic. If your area isn’t in a lockdown situation, some people will be keen to try and do things in as close to possible in the traditional ways – holding protests, stalls and actions that demand a physical presence, albeit socially distanced. Others will not be able, or want, to do such things and will be more comfortable campaigning from home – whether that is putting a poster in a window, taking online action or getting on the phone to reach contacts. Both are equally valuable and the guide has ideas for both.
We want to keep adding to this list and sharing ideas between groups, so if you come up with new ideas, let us know: [email protected]
Day of action: 24 October
With each round of the negotiations so far we’ve run an online supporter action (they’re happening roughly monthly), and many groups have been holding online meetings on the deal. Several hundred thousand people have signed petitions by us and our allies. The next step is a day of action, where lots of people around the country can demonstrate the strength of feeling against the deal on the same day.
We’ve decided on Saturday 24 October. Although this is relatively short notice, we think it’s important to do this in the run-up to the US elections, to say whoever wins the election, the trade deal needs to be stopped. If Trump wins, clearly the fight will continue (on many fronts!). If Biden wins – well, TTIP was an Obama-era deal and there is a big risk that Biden will continue Obama’s trade policy. We have allies in the US who are already pressuring Biden to take a more progressive approach, and this day of action will be a way of adding our voice to theirs.
So please, mark the day in your calendars, start talking to people in your local group (whether a Global Justice Now group or something else you’re involved in) about what you might do, and together we can call for an end to this toxic trade deal.
Get in touch with Guy Taylor, [email protected] for support and advice if you need it.
New book: Trade Secrets
You have probably already seen that our director, Nick, has written a new book on the US trade deal, Trade Secrets, published last week. Based on thorough analysis of the leaked trade papers, as well as multiple other official documents and sources, it contains the key information and arguments that every campaigner needs to know about where this threat is coming from, what’s behind it, and how we can beat it.
You can still order a printed copy, download the ebook version, download the pdf or read it online at our dedicated microsite.
We’re now sending a regular email update on the US trade deal (roughly every two weeks) – now also called ‘Trade Secrets’, to match Nick’s book. If you’re not already subscribed you can sign up.
New A5 flyer
A number of local activists have said they would like a leaflet about the US trade deal, as the campaign postcard isn’t always appropriate. We’re in the process of producing one, and it will be ready within the next week or so. However it would be useful to know how many groups would like a bundle, so we can work out how many to get printed. Please let James know how many (100, 200, 500 etc) you think you could use: [email protected] – it will be cheap to print if we do them all in one go, so feel free to be ambitious!
Other trade issues
The Trade Bill is now in the Lords. In the Commons we saw for the first time a Conservative rebellion on trade democracy with eleven backbenchers joining the opposition in supporting an amendment that would have given parliament a vote on trade deals. Unfortunately that wasn’t not enough and the amendment didn’t pass.
Last time, the Lords did pass a very similar amendment and we hope that they will do the same again this time. We’re talking to peers that we worked with last time. The bill will need to work through several stages again in the Lords, and we anticipate that the vote on an amendment may come in early October. If we can again succeed in amending the bill in the Lords, the government will then try and overturn the amendment in the Commons and our job will be to defend it.
New UK-Kenya deal
The government has started negotiations for a UK-Kenya trade agreement – apparently expected to be done very quickly. We’re in discussion with groups in Kenya about this, and will keep you posted.
Upcoming Scottish trade events
Scottish activists’ online trade teach-in
Wednesday 30 September, 7.30pm-9pm. This webinar will be a chance to gain more in-depth knowledge of some of the key areas we are concerned about, with: Jean Blaylock on the climate emergency; Matthew Rice from Open Rights Group Scotland on big tech and data privacy; Chloe Alexander from CHEM Trust on cosmetics, toys and DIY products. If you’d like to join the webinar, email [email protected]
Campaigning locally in Scotland against the US-UK trade deal: online workshop
Wednesday 7 October, 7.30-9pm. Campaigning in this socially distanced world brings with it plenty of challenges. How do we utilise the tools we have, both online and offline, to bring people together and campaign to stop the US-UK trade deal? This is a participatory event which will include break out groups based on geographical areas to give you a chance to network and plan local action. For more information, email [email protected]
- NEW Trade Secrets, Nick’s short book on the US trade deal.
- NEW Stop the US Trade Deal window poster; download or order copies by emailing [email protected]
- US-UK trade deal: Threats to the NHS and drug pricing, three-page briefing on why, despite the government’s rhetoric, the NHS is still at risk from a US trade deal.
- What’s at risk in Scotland from a US-UK trade deal? A short booklet on the different ways that a trade deal with the US could affect Scotland.
- Trading with Trump, our 2017 briefing, is still a good rundown of the key issues.
- A short, shareable video (on Facebook or YouTube) on the risks of a US deal.
AstraZeneca and Oxford University
We are continuing to put the pressure on AstraZeneca and Oxford University. This vaccine project has hit the headlines because it is at an advanced stage of trials. This potential vaccine has been developed with millions of pounds in public funding from the government. But Oxford University has entered into a secret deal with British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and we suspect that AstraZeneca has taken control of this vaccine, leaving the company free to profiteer from it in years to come.
It has also been reported in the last few weeks that Oxford university were originally going to openly offer this vaccine to any manufacturer but after intervention from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, they then agreed an exclusive deal with AstraZeneca.
One of the trial patients approached us about our campaign. He has written an open letter to both AstraZeneca and Oxford University to make their deal public and also to demand that they share the vaccine with the world through the WHO’s patent pool. You can co-sign his letter here and again please share with your contacts.
To amplify the pressure, we have also been approaching the groups that are based in the locations of AstraZeneca’s offices around the UK to do a public action at their sites. Global Justice Oxford did this same action at Oxford University: watch the video on YouTube.
For all other groups, we are working on resources to support you with taking local actions to help keep up the pressure and will keep you updated.
Our campaign will continue to force the spotlight on the role of big pharma. The US pharmaceutical company Moderna has refused to price its potential Covid-19 vaccine at-cost, even though it has received almost $1bn in public money to help develop the vaccine. Moderna’s reported price tag of $50-$60 per course would be the highest price cited for a potential vaccine so far and makes this vaccine expensive for all countries and especially for lower income countries.
Even though Moderna’s vaccine trials are not finished yet, the company has already gained financially. Its share value has soared by almost 325% this year because it was the first vaccine to enter trials in the US and showed positive results early on. Moderna already stands to earn up to $8.1bn from its deal with the US government alone.
We launched an e-action this month to put pressure on the company to commit to a non-profit price for its vaccine as well as commit to sharing its vaccine with the WHO’s Covid19 patent pool. Please take this action and share with your contacts.
The government has been signing deals with big pharma for to secure vaccine supplies on a UK-first basis. Along with the US and EU, this dangerous trend of ‘vaccine nationalism’ will lead to the hoarding of initial supplies by rich countries, leaving countries in the global south without access. This happened during the Swine Flu pandemic of 2009. The government has secured access to six vaccine candidates and is now the world’s highest per-capita buyer, with 340 million purchased, around 5 doses for each citizen.
The only way to ensure that all priority groups are vaccinated first, regardless of wealth, is for the government to collaborate to ensure there are sufficient supplies. And this can only be achieved through global collaboration. We are pushing the government to commit to the WHO’s Covid-19 patent pool which would enable open access to all vaccines and treatments to every country patent-free. It would also facilitate the transfer of know-how and research to enable as many manufacturers as possible to make the effective vaccines.
In addition to speaking at the Take One Action film festival (see events section) Heidi Chow, our pharmaceuticals campaigner, will also be speaking at an event called Critical Conditions: big pharma and the economics of a Covid-19 vaccine. More info and reserve your place here.
- A Covid-19 vaccine should be affordable for all (4-page supporter briefing from March)
- Letter calling on the government to support the Covid-19 vaccines pool
There’s a renewed push in the campaign for emergency debt cancellation for countries in the global south this month, ahead of important G20, IMF and World Bank meetings in October.
The G20 announced a suspension of up to $12 billion of debt payments for 77 countries earlier in the year, but the severe economic impacts of the pandemic are continuing and so far the debt crisis has been delayed, not addressed. We need to push the UK government to support debt cancellation, not just debt suspension, including from private lenders like banks and hedge funds, when the situation is reviewed in October. So far private lenders have refused to cancel any debts, and in 2020 alone are owed $10.1bn by countries in the global south. That’s money which could be spent fighting Covid-19. We are working with Jubilee Debt Campaign, CAFOD, Christian Aid, ONE Campaign and Oxfam GB on two actions ahead of this.
Drop Debt, Save Lives: Virtual MP lobby
First up is a virtual lobby of MPs between 28 September and 16 October. We are encouraging supporters to set up a virtual meeting with their MP at some point in this period to show them the breadth of support for debt cancellation and ask them to contact the Chancellor Rishi Sunak ahead of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting on 16 October.
All MPs are being targeted, but there is a target list of 70 MPs we would particularly like to reach, which includes government ministers and MPs in swing constituencies. Check out the list here.
We will be looking for a trusted constituency coordinator to lead on arranging the MP meeting and act as a contact point for others in the constituency who sign up to take part. If you would be willing to be a coordinator for your constituency, please contact [email protected]
Registrations details and resources including an MP lobbying guide and a briefing to give to MPs will be available from the week of 7 September via: globaljustice.org.uk/debt-lobby
Cancel the Debt creative photo action
Secondly between now and October we are collecting creative photos of people spelling out the message ‘Cancel the Debt’. We will put together photos from people around the UK to deliver to the Chancellor ahead of the autumn meetings.
How to get involved
- Take a selfie, or ask a friend to take a photo of you creatively displaying the words “Cancel The Debt”.
- If possible, show where you are based eg by a town or street sign, or notable feature.
- Share your image on Twitter and use the hashtag #CancelTheDebt. Be sure to tag @GlobalJusticeUK so we can find your photos!
- If you have some extra time, also consider sharing your image on Facebook and Instagram using the #CancelTheDebt hashtag.
- If you don’t have a social media account, email your photo to us at [email protected].
- Inspire others by sharing your photo with friends and family.
Check out some of the pictures so far for inspiration via: globaljustice.org.uk/debt-photos
- Drop Debt, Save Lives supporter toolkit gives an overview of the campaign and the current actions
- Passing the buck on debt relief, our joint July 2020 research showing how the failure of the private sector to cancel debts is fuelling the debt crisis
- Exiting the permanent crisis in the global south, our April 2020 briefing, makes the case for a global financial reset in the wake of Covid-19
Parliament’s summer recess has not slowed the takeover of DfID by the Foreign Office (FCO) which is set to be finalised in September. This is despite criticism from MPs that the merger will seriously harm the UK’s reputation on the international stage, and from the development sector that the government misled parliament over the extent to which it consulted civil society before the announcement.
Thoughts will now turn to how aid is used after the merger, especially with the government planning to cut £2.9bn from the aid budget owing to the Covid-19 recession. Our latest briefing, The Future of Aid after DfID, highlights some of the shocking ways in which aid has already been used by FCO-managed funds and CDC Group in recent years to fund fossil fuels and private hospitals in the global south. We were also quoted on the front page of the Times (paywall) in a story about how the government’s business first approach to development has seen millions invested in corporate hotel chains, restaurants and coffee houses in the global south, with little analysis of they contribute to poverty reduction. With the FCO and CDC likely to take a bigger role in development spending after the merger, the worry is that these type of investments will become the norm.
The clearest sign that aid under the new Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) will become a tool for enriching UK businesses is the progress of the Prosperity Fund, which has had heavy input from the Foreign Office. This fund has been used to create amenable business environments in middle income countries (Brazil, India, China, Mexico and others) so that UK exporters can increase their market share. This is not aid as we know it, but is reminiscent of the “aid for trade” approach associated with the Pergau Dam scandal of the 1990s. In fact, it has just been revealed that the Prosperity Fund is working closely with Rodrigo Duterte’s government to increase UK trade with the Philippines, conveniently at the same time that UK defence manufacturers are selling helicopters and military equipment to the Philippines government. We’re conducting in-depth research in the coming months to further expose the Prosperity Fund’s dodgy dealings – watch this space.
You can help by writing to your MP, either as a group or individually, to express your concern about the future direction of aid under the FCDO, using information from our briefing. We already have a petition to the prime minister on this issue which could also help you to formulate a letter.
You could also organise a local zoom meeting with our campaigner Daniel Willis ([email protected]) to hear more about the corporate takeover of aid.
- The Future of Aid after DfID: Shocking development projects supported by the UK, four-page briefing (July 2020).
- Doing More Harm Than Good, 40-page report on CDC group (February 2020).
UK fossil fuel finance
Despite increasing public anger over the levels of financial support provided by the UK to fossil fuel infrastructure in the global south, the prime minister agreed to provide a new $1 billion loan to a gas project in Mozambique in July via UK Export Finance (UKEF). However, this appears to have prompted a rethink in government, with ministers increasingly worried about the potential PR impact of fossil fuel support on the UK reputation in the run up to COP26. Reports suggest that UKEF may soon cease funding fossil fuels. On this issue, campaigning seems to be working!
But there is still much more to be done even if this announcement is made. UK aid has provided at least £668 million to fossil fuels in the global south since the Paris Agreement was signed. In the run up to COP26, we need to keep up the pressure to ensure that all areas of government policy are working towards a just transition away from fossil fuels. We wrote to the Foreign Affairs Committee this month calling for exactly that – a complete end to UK financing of fossil fuels, for environmental protections to be upheld in trade deals, and for the UK to listen closely to the positions and demands of frontline communities at COP26.
With government policy in flux, raising this issue with your MP, of whatever party, could be important. The key points can be found in our online supporter action, which is also worth continuing to share on social media.
Updated climate webpages
The climate pages on our website have been updated, allowing you to easily find climate justice resources, online actions, information about the COP26 mobilisation and more. Check them out at globaljustice.org.uk/climate
- Decarbonising Aid: why the UK must end its overseas fossil fuel financing before COP26, four-page briefing
- The Case for Climate Justice, 16-page illustrated booklet (available to order)
Our Facebook group for Global Justice Now activists
Campaign resources page on our website
Think Global page (find current and previous issues, sign up for the email)
‘How to’ guides to activist skills