Think Global extra, November 2020

Welcome to the November issue of Think Global extra, the monthly supplement to our Think Global activist newsletter. Read it in conjunction with Think Global October.

Contents

  1. Trade justice / Stop the US trade deal
  2. Access to medicine / Vaccine justice for the global south
  3. Climate justice / End fossil fuel financing
  4. Debt cancellation
  5. News and useful links

 

TRADE JUSTICE

US trade deal

Day of action

Our day of action on trade has just taken place. It was co-organised with some of our allies in the campaign, as well as activists around the country. We know that events took place in Ayr, Barnsley, Bexhill, Bournemouth, Bradford, Cambridge, Cleveland, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hitchin, Kendal, Leeds, Liverpool, London (Westminster, Ealing and Clapham), Macclesfield, Manchester, Nottingham, Oswestry, Oxford, Portsmouth, Reading, Shrewsbury and York, while many people took action from their homes.

To get a flavour of what happened, you can watch our video about the day ; have a look at photos from some of the events; watch the recording of the online rally.

We will compile the photo messages that people sent into a photo album and send to Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

We produced two videos in the run up to the day of action, which are really good for outreach and spreading the word about the deal:

  • VIDEO: a farmer sends a message about the US trade deal
  • VIDEO: ‘What does the US trade deal contain?’

What next with the US elections?

Whoever wins the US election, we won’t let up the pressure on the US trade deal. There are innumerable reasons why we’re hoping for a Democrat victory, but trade isn’t the strongest of them. TTIP, the proposed EU-US deal which was successfully defeated, was an Obama-era deal, with Biden fully on board.

The drivers of the US trade deal are corporate, and that doesn’t change much whoever is the president. For instance, the National Chicken Council in the US trumpets that, earlier this year, it persuaded 47 members of Congress to sign a letter to the US trade lead, saying that a trade deal with the UK must allow chlorinated chicken. That’s getting on for 10% of the members of Congress – whose vote is needed on the deal, unlike in the UK.

That kind of corporate lobbying from agribusiness, but also from pharmaceutical companies, fossil fuel companies, internet giants, chemical companies and more – on both sides of the Atlantic – will not stop. So neither can we.

We may have some different pressure points with Biden – we will support our allies in the US who will be pushing for him to take more progressive positions. It’s also likely that the speed of negotiations may slow, at least in the next couple of months. But we won’t take our eye off the ball, or stop calling for the US trade deal to be dropped.

Next steps: Engaging others locally

If the day of action has got you on a roll, why not try organising a local statement which organisations of all kinds in your town, city or county can sign? Further guidance on this and other things you can do can be found in our guide to organising locally against the US trade deal.

UK-Kenya and the TPP

We’re continuing to work with allies in Kenya and here in the UK on the talks that are apparently happening behind the scenes on a trade deal. We’re calling instead for the UK to offer the same trading arrangements as it does to countries classed as least developed countries (LDCs). The UK (and the EU) offer trading arrangements to these countries without asking them to open up their markets to competition from powerful UK big businesses, in recognition that there is a vast inequality between our economies. Kenya is the only country in east Africa not be an LDC.

The UK government is increasingly talking up the likelihood of the UK joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP or CPTPP). This was the sister deal to TTIP, which has gone ahead despite resistance from civil society and the US pulling out. We’ve been talking with allies in Latin America, who are continuing to fight against the deal being ratified in their countries, and we’re hoping to do more on this in coming months.

Trade Bill

The Trade Bill is still in the House of Lords. The stage where amendments are debated has finished, and there was strong argument on the need for trade democracy. Amendments will be voted on in the Lords at the next stage. We’re still waiting for a date for that, but it is likely to be sometime this month.

Key resources

ACCESS TO MEDICINE

Suspending global patent rules

The governments of India and South Africa have put a proposal on the table of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to suspend the global rules on patents. The WTO global agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) contains the global rules on patents that all member states have to abide by.

The world is facing a global scarcity of any effective and safe vaccines that are discovered because global patent rules prop up big pharma monopolies. This artificially restricts supply, which boosts corporate profits but will mean countries in the global south will lose out as rich countries hoard all scarce supplies. 

Suspending the rules around patents on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments would be a massive game changer. It would break up big pharma monopolies on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments, allowing as many suppliers as possible to maximise global supply and enable lower income countries to access affordable vaccines and treatments to tackle Covid-19.

The WTO met in October to discuss the proposal for the first time and not surprisingly countries in the global south supported the proposal while rich countries – including the UK – opposed it. We are expecting two more meetings before the end of the year where countries will convene to discuss and decide on the proposal. We are developing plans alongside our global allies to ensure pressure is kept up on rich country governments, and have launched an online action to put pressure on the UK government to support this proposal.

Please take this action and share with your contacts.

AstraZeneca

Our local group in Oxford and our Cambridge youth group will be organising hand-ins to Oxford University and AstraZeneca respectively this month. Over 10,000 supporters have co-signed a letter written by trial patient Luigi, who approached us to support our campaign. The letter calls on both parties to make the deal they have agreed public and to share this publicly-funded vaccine with the World Health Organisation so that any country can access it.

We are also going to increase the pressure on AstraZeneca. We are currently making plans with our friends at Just Treatment to protest outside the company at the end of this month. On the same day, we will also launch a ‘communications blockade’ to jam up their communications and social media channels. These plans are still being developed and we will be sending out more details on how you can get involved in the coming weeks.

Key resources

 

CLIMATE JUSTICE

UK fossil fuel finance 

Pressure is building again on the government to announce an end to its fossil fuel support at the upcoming Finance in Common Summit (the first global meeting of development banks). The secretary-general of the United Nations, Antonio Gutierres, called on development banks to use the meeting to collectively announce an end to their financing of fossil fuel projects. This month also saw world leaders, including former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and former Irish president Mary Robinson, call on the UK to demonstrate climate leadership and a more ambitious approach to limiting global warming to 1.5°C ahead of the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year.

As we highlighted in our research in May, the UK development bank CDC Group has invested over half a billion pounds in fossil fuel infrastructure in the global south in the past decade. Despite claiming that they would stop financing fossil fuels under a new climate change strategy in July, CDC will keep funding gas power projects, and even announced that it had given a further £100 million to fossil fuels in the past year.

This makes a mockery of any UK claims to climate leadership at present. Putting an end to CDC’s fossil fuel support is vital - not just to reduce the carbon emissions created by its investments, but also to build momentum ahead of the COP26 climate talks next year.

Taking action

We need your help to remind the government that this policy needs to be changed now. Raising this issue with your MP, of whatever party, could be important - contact daniel.willis@globaljustice.org.uk for advice and a template letter.

You could also organise a Zoom meeting with your Global Justice Now, XR of trade union group with our campaigner Daniel Willis (daniel.willis@globaljustice.org.uk) to hear more about the UK’s financial backing for overseas fossil fuels.

If you’re on Twitter, you can tweet the prime minister encouraging him to make the announcement. For example:

You can't claim to be a ‘climate leader’ whilst pouring billions of pounds of public money into fossil fuels. @BorisJohnson - it’s time to announce that the UK will #StopFundingFossils as soon as possible! https://act.globaljustice.org.uk/prime-minister-stop-funding-fossil-fuels-overseas

Also make sure to sign and share our online supporter action.

From the Ground Up

From Thursday 12 November to Monday 16 November, the COP26 Coalition (which Global Justice Now is an active member of) will be running a global online conference. These dates are during the time that that the UN climate talks would originally have taken place in Glasgow, and we’re using the moment to build momentum towards the delayed talks in a year’s time.

From the Ground Up will have global participation and lots of interesting sessions, but we’re particularly involved in organising three of them:

Trade and the fight for climate justice, 2.30pm-4pm, Saturday 14 November
A session looking at precisely what it is about our trade regime that is driving us towards climate crisis while funnelling wealth into the hands of a tiny elite.

What is system change? 1.30pm-2.30pm, Sunday 15 November  
This workshop will look at why we need system change, what we mean by it and what struggles will get us there. With Shalmali Guttal, Pablo Solon, Christophe Aguiton and Samantha Hargreaves.

Financing the end of the world, 2.30pm-4pm, Sunday 15 November
On how governments and multilateral institutions in the global north are financing fossil fuel expansion in the south. Speakers from the Philippines, Mozambique and elsewhere.

Visit out our website for further details and to register for From the Ground Up.

Just and Green Recovery for Scotland 

There’s still chance to register to take part in the Just and Green Recovery coalition’s week of action, 4-11 November. Global Justice Now is one of 80 members in the Scottish coalition who have a number of demands to the Scottish government to ensure a just and green recovery from this pandemic – which includes international solidarity. At the beginning of November we are encouraging campaigners to contact their local MSP and arrange an online meeting together with other local constituents who care about these issues. There is also a webinar at the beginning of the week to help you become more familiar with the issues. Find out more: www.justgreenrecovery.scot

Climate justice booklet

We’ve now had over 1000 orders for our climate justice booklet, which is fantastic, although it has been challenging to fulfil them all with so few staff coming into the office. If you’ve ordered some, thanks for your patience – but do let us know if you ordered some more than three weeks ago and they still haven’t come. Email activism@globaljustice.org.uk

Key resources

 

DEBT CANCELLATION

October saw a Global Week of Action for Debt Cancellation as the anti-debt movement turned up the pressure on world leaders to take more decisive action on global south debt.

With the help of our supporters, we also took part in the Drop Debt, Save Lives virtual MP lobby. The aim of this was to encourage MPs to contact Rishi Sunak, ahead of his involvement in the G20 finance minister’s meeting, to highlight the wide base of support for debt cancellation across the UK. Although, ultimately, the G20 have simply kicked the can further down the road, that means there is still time to get involved and contact your MP about debt cancellation ahead of key meetings in November.

New publications

With allies we published a new briefing, Under the Radar that highlights the important role of private sector banks, such as HSBC and BlackRock, in the accelerating global south debt crisis. While the G20 suspended some debt repayments earlier this year, this did not apply to private sector debt. This means that the taxpayers’ money used to fund the G20’s debt suspension is not being preserved to fund public healthcare and the Covid-19 response in the global south, but is instead going right back out to pay off more expensive private sector loans. Countries including Ghana, Senegal and Zambia now spending far more on debt payments than they do on public healthcare, despite the pandemic, and are rapidly approaching a moment when they will have to default on their debt (particularly Zambia) unless urgent action is taken.

As our director Nick Dearden said in an article for New Internationalist, this highlights why the modern debt system acts like a ‘debtor’s prison’ and is in dire need of reform. Our campaigner Daniel Willis also wrote a short summary of the issue for Novara Media.

Taking action

There is still time to push for stronger action on debt cancellation this year. You can help by writing to your MP, either as a group or individually, to ask for a meeting where you can explain to them why this action is needed. We have plenty of resources and briefings to help you which we can share to help. For more information, contact our campaigner Daniel Willis (daniel.willis@globaljustice.org.uk).

Key resources

 

NEWS AND USEFUL LINKS

Please note that this will be the last Think Global of any kind in 2020. We skip December as it is not usually a busy time for activism. Expect the next Think Global Extra at the beginning of January.

Links

Our increasingly active 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