Think Global extra, July 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
Trade justice / US trade deal
Climate justice / Decarbonising aid and more
Access to medicine / Covid-19 treatment for all
Aid watch / DfID merger
Mobilising against the US deal
We have just had our first ever online Trade Activists’ Assembly, in which over 150 people took part. It was an interactive discussion, with groups discussing what the US trade deal means for the climate, food standards, health and the NHS, and digital issues, and coming up with ideas for how we can mobilise around this.
The most important is that we need to keep talking. There are two key ways of doing this:
Join the online discussion tool, Slack. This is a place to stay in touch with other activists campaigning on the deal – you can have discussions on themes with activists across the country or create a space to connect with others near you. It’s quick and easy to sign up and can help us plan and share ideas.
Sign up to receive our new email updates on the trade campaign.
These are seven ideas the assembly came up with that you could do now:
Share something online, including:
Put one of our new posters in your window - and contact local shops and businesses and ask them to put a poster up too.
Make a birthday cake for the NHS’s birthday on 5 July!
Take a photo of it and share it online along with your message against the US trade deal - copy your local MP into a tweet
If you’ve got the skills, write your message in the icing on the cake too!
Organise a local webinar. You could send an email to local organisations and groups to see if they are already planning action on trade and arrange a joint meeting:
Record a 1 min video explaining your opposition to dirty trade deals and share it online
Write a letter to your local newspaper
We also brainstormed groups that you might be able to reach out to locally who could be potential allies in campaigning on a US trade deal and came up with this list. The assembly also came up with lots of ideas that might take a bit more work, which we will take away and see if we can follow up on.
Just under 350 of our supporters in Scotland have emailed their MSPs asking them to sign the Scottish parliament motion on the risks to Scotland from a US-UK trade. If you didn’t do it yet, then there’s still time. And if you did it already, please share it.
The US and UK continue to have regular rounds of negotiations for two weeks of every month, with further exchanges in between, attempting to do this deal very quickly. The equivalent of trade minister Liz Truss in the US, Robert Lighthizer, has cautioned that it is not expected that Congress could actually be approving a deal by the US election in November (to be actually voting by then, Congress would have to have the text by August) but did still say it might be possible that text could be ready for Congress to see by then.
Following leaks before the start of the most recent round of negotiations that the UK was preparing to climb down on the issue of allowing imports of chlorinated chicken and other lower standard products, the public outcry was such that they have been forced to reverse position yet again. That’s down to action from supporters like you, but also a huge range of others, including the National Farmers Union, the consumer group Which? – even the Daily Mail has been campaigning against this. This is an issue where there are unexpected and unusual allies – and the government has shown itself responsive to public pressure. We need to keep that pressure up though, because this isn’t the first time they’ve gone 180° and then 180° back again on this, and it probably won’t be the last.
Other trade issues
The Trade Bill is moving quite fast through parliament. We’ve been campaigning over the past three years for the need for parliament and the public to have a say on trade, including ensuring the MPs have a vote on trade deals. With your support, last year in the previous parliament we had a success when the previous Trade Bill was amended to ensure this. But that was too much for the government and the whole bill was dropped – and the new bill has none of that in it.
However there is some hope. Opposition parties have still been fighting for trade democracy, and we have been approached by a handful of backbench Conservatives who also have concerns. These backbench Conservatives have now tabled an amendment that would put back what we had won previously. We currently expect this to be debated at the end of July, and will be sending an email shortly to ask you to encourage your MP to support the amendment.
Covid-19 and ISDS
We updated you last month on the outrageous risk that countries could be facing a wave of cases from transnational corporations suing governments over actions taken to respond to the Covid pandemic. We’ve been working with other civil society organisations globally, and coordinated a global sign on letter.
The letter has now been signed by 630 organisations from over 90 countries, who are calling on governments to urgently take action to shut down this threat. The groups include global trade union federations, global health groups, international development organisations and a huge range of others.
We’ve sent the letter to the UK government and we are working with MPs to urge the government to take practical steps around restricting and suspending the use of ISDS over the pandemic, as well as putting an end to the risks of ISDS forever.
Trading with Trump, our 2017 briefing, is still a good rundown of the key issues.
Our resources for organising a public meeting on the US-UK deal. They were produced in December and relate to physical meetings, but contain lots that is relevant for online meetings.
- Coming soon: Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden has been writing a booklet-length guide to what we can expect from the US trade deal, which we’re working to produce as quickly as possible.
New climate justice booklet
We have just published a 16-page illustrated booklet making the case for climate justice. As you would expect, the booklet highlights the global injustice of climate breakdown and situates the problem in a global economy dominated by corporate power, which itself has its roots in colonialism. You can order copies of the booklet (using our online form) for distribution locally, although please be aware that most staff are still not working from the office, which means it will take longer than normal for these materials to arrive with you.
This month we published new analysis (briefing) on how the UK has given nearly £4 billion to fossil fuel infrastructure overseas since the Paris Agreement was signed. Not only does this go against the UK's commitments under the agreement, much of the funding has also come from the international aid budget. Our development campaigner Daniel Willis wrote for the Ecologist on why this practice must come to an end and what should happen in its place.
Fortunately, as the Guardian reported, the government is considering ending its commitments before COP26. This means that it's the perfect time to contact your MP, whatever party they’re from, and ask them to support a ban on overseas fossil fuel financing in parliament and to write to the Prime Minister about it. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information on how best to approach this.
A just green recovery
Along with 80 other organisations in Scotland we signed an open letter to the first minister calling for a ‘just and green recovery’ from the Covid-19 pandemic. Going back to business as usual isn’t an option. There’s also now a public petition online, which echoes the demands in the open letter. Liz Murray spoke on the global angle to this campaign in a recent webinar run by Friends of the Earth Scotland (Liz is at 51 mins).
The next UN climate talks (COP26), originally due to take place in Glasgow this November, have now been officially postponed until November 2021. They will still take place in Glasgow. Although understandable, the move delays any further progress on emissions reductions commitments. Global Justice Now is an active member of the UK civil society coalition which will seek to mobilise people to demand urgent action around COP26.
Climate Justice Forum
On Wednesday 29 July, 6pm-8pm, we’re holding a Climate Justice Forum for Global Justice Now activists and staff to share what we’ve all been doing around climate justice issues and discuss what some of the climate-related priorities might be for the organisation in the year ahead. If you’d like to join the meeting (on Zoom), then please register via our website.
Oxford University and AstraZeneca
Oxford University scientists are developing a potential Covid19 vaccine. You may have seen coverage of this vaccine in the media, as the government has already ordered 300 million doses. 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 – especially if Covid19 become endemic and annual immunisations are required.
Together with our allies in the UK, we have written open letters to both AstraZeneca (pdf) and Oxford University (pdf) to call on both parties to publish their secret deal so we can see if patients are being put before profits with this publicly funded vaccine. We now want to ramp up public pressure on this deal. At the end of June, Global Justice Oxford turned up at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, where the research is being conducted, to wash their windows as a call for transparency!
We will also be launching a new e-action next week to put pressure on AstraZeneca to publish their deal with Oxford University as well as to commit to sharing the vaccine, along with the technical know-how on how to produce it, with the WHO so that other countries can access the vaccine patent-free. We can send the link to this action to you when it’s ready.
The advance vaccine order by the government is part of worrying trend of ‘vaccine nationalism’ - this is where rich countries secure vaccine supplies for themselves first. The US and four EU countries have also secured advanced supplies. These moves could trigger further attempts by other rich countries to hoard initial supplies and leave countries in the global south without access.
These moves are not just morally questionable but are self-defeating because this is a global pandemic where no one is safe until everyone is safe. Moreover, there are no guarantees in vaccine research and a more effective vaccine may emerge first from another country. We are pushing the government to collaborate with other governments and support the WHO efforts around fair allocation and its Covid-19 patent pool which will enable open access to all vaccines and treatments to every country patent-free.
In Scotland we’re calling on the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to commit the Scottish government to using its powers to override any patents that big pharma may put on Covid-19 treatments. The public petition on this is still live. Please do sign and share.
The announcement that the Department for International Development (DfID) will be merged with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has angered many this month as the government seeks to spend more aid in the interests of British business and diplomatic objectives (e.g. setting up new free trade deals). As we highlighted in our response, this move risks destroying the effectiveness of UK aid and limiting any public scrutiny of what it is being used for.
Our aid campaign has highlighted many of the reasons this merger is a bad idea in the past, and why marketising development should be opposed by internationalists. But this process didn't start with the merger; it is part of a far longer trend of consecutive Conservative governments aiming to reposition the UK as a major global economic force and recover some of its former colonial power over the global south.
That is why, although the chances of reversing the merger appear slim, we are opposing this longer-term trend which has seen more money going to private hospitals, fossil fuel projects and unaccountable private equity funds. In addition to signing the online petition here , groups or individual activists may wish to raise your concerns about the future of UK aid with your MP.
If you have any questions about what to say to your MP, or would like to arrange for our campaigner Daniel Willis to speak to an online group about our aid campaigning, contact him on email@example.com.
Doing more harm than good: Why CDC must reform for people and planet (30-page report on DfID’s private sector investment arm, published February 2020)
Our annual general meeting is set for Saturday 5 September and will take place via Zoom. Please register by 2 September, as we have to check registrations against membership records. Find the agenda, other information and the registration link on our 2020 AGM page.
The next Think Global will be the September issue, as we will be taking our usual August break. However, we are aiming to send a small selection of the latest materials out to local groups sometime in July, Covid-19 working conditions permitting.
The Global Justice Now office is still not open as normal, with staff working from home. One person is coming in each day, and we have just put a system in place to allow us to answer the phones 9.30am-1pm each weekday starting next week. However, the best way to contact the activism team remains by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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