Tuesday, 28 February 2012


One Step Beyond' - Ethical Volunteering to Support Fairtrade

Last chance to book a place to meet Moses Rene, Fairtrade farmer, St Lucia

  • See how the Fairtrade premium changes lives
  • Learn about the double jeopardy of climate change and complex EU trade rules
  • Find out how ethical volunteering supports Fairtrade producers

Don't miss out on this opportunity to hear first hand from a Fairtrade farmer about how you too can help make a difference

Bonnington Lecture Theatre, Nottingham Trent University
Wednesday 29th February
12.30 - 2.00pm

For more information on this event follow the link: http://www.ivj.org.uk/brochures/ntu_fairtrade.pdf


To find out more about the IVJ placements in Africa, the Caribbean and Bangladesh follow the link below
http://www.ivj.org.uk

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Press release

Saturday 25 February 2012

For immediate use

Ed Miliband: This week the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords must join with Labour to hole David Cameron's health plans below the water line

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Opposition, writing in tomorrow's Sunday Mirror ahead of votes on the Health and Social Care Bill in the House of Lords this week, said:

Before the election, David Cameron promised the country he was a different type of Tory.

The NHS was central to that promise.

But he didn't tell you at the election that within months of coming to power, he would order the biggest ever top-down reorganisation of the NHS.

He didn't tell you that he would divert billions of pounds to his bureaucratic shake-up and away from patient care.

He didn't tell you that he would bring in new rules which say up to 49% of the beds in an NHS hospital could be set aside for private patients.

But this is what he is doing.

He didn't tell you because he wanted to con people into thinking the NHS was safe in his hands.

The reality is on his watch, the NHS is getting worse.

The bad old days of long queues for some operations, lon ger waiting times in A&E and fewer nurses are coming back.

The number of NHS nurses has now fallen by 3,500 since the general election. By the time of the next election there will be 6,000 fewer nurses.

The billions spent on David Cameron's unwanted reorganisation could save these jobs.

His plans will distract staff who will have to cope with huge organisational change and they will put profits before patients and bring in creeping privatisation.

That is why we are fighting against Cameron's plans.

Those plans can still be defeated.

But this week is the time for everybody to stand up and be counted.

This week the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords must join with Labour to hole David Cameron's health plans below the water line.

The House of Lords has the chance to puncture the arrogance of an out-of-touch Prime Minister who thinks he knows better than patients, nurses and doctors and persuade him to drop this bill.

If they do not the betrayal by the Lib Dems in allowing this bill through will be bigger than the row over university tuition fees.

They will betray not only the people who rely on today’s NHS but also generations to come.

It will strike at the heart of Britain's proudest institution.

The choice is not reform or no reform. But what kind of reform and whether it makes our NHS better or worse.

Go to any hospital just now and you will hear the opposition from doctors and nurses about this bill, their worry about how much harder it will make their jobs.

I think they're right.

Even members of his own cabinet are telling David Cameron to think again.

He cannot just plough on.

Labour will fight to stop him and finish off this bill.


Ends

Tuesday, 21 February 2012


Press release
Tuesday 21 February 2012
For immediate use
Balancing the books to deliver fairness and prosperity - Rachel Reeves MP
-CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY-
Rachel Reeves MP, Labour's Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in a speech today to the IPPR, said:Let me start by thanking IPPR for giving me this opportunity to speak today. In the 1990s, the IPPR was a driving force behind the development of a new economic agenda that married economic efficiency with social justice.And today again we are fortunate to have people like Nick, Tony, Graeme and Will helping develop policy for the new economic era.The work of the IPPR and others is showing that it’s the centre left that is best placed to answer the big challenges of the twenty-first century:- the challenges of financial regulation and building a stronger economy, bringing to Britain new industries and new jobs- the challenge of reforming public services and the welfare state to better serve families and communities– the challenge of finding new ways to offer people security and opportunity amid accelerating economic and social change.But a challenge that is just as important and pressing, facing governments around the world, is the challenge of managing our public finances.And as Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have said, it is a challenge that we cannot afford to flunk or flinch from.Compared to the issues that fire us up as politicians and campaigners, like reducing poverty and expanding economic opportunities, deficit reduction is perhaps a dry subject.But it’s precisely because we on the centre left believe that active government along with good schools, hospitals and other public services can transform lives, and make our country fairer and more prosperous, that we must ensure we pass the test of fiscal credibility.If we don’t get this right, it doesn’t matter what we say about anything else. Earning people’s trust that we will be responsible custodians of public money is the precondition for gaining the right to be heard on any other issue.Sound public finances will always be the indispensable platform for delivering better jobs, better services and a strong, growing economy.What I want to demonstrate this morning is that being trusted with the nation’s finances, and building a stronger, fairer Britain, are imperatives that are not only compatible; they are also inseparable.But first I want to say something about the current Government’s failure to get to grips with the economic and budgetary realities. Because it’s by understanding their failure that we can build a more effective response.When the Conservatives and their Liberal Democrat partners took office, no one could be in any doubt about what they regarded as their central purpose.“This new coalition is founded”, Osborne said, “on an agreement to significantly accelerate the reduction in the deficit”. It was “the very first item on the first page of the Coalition agreement”.In autumn 2010, George Osborne was boasting that his tax rises and spending cuts had “put us on a path to eliminate the deficit in a period of four years”.Now you would expect me to criticise the Government for the choices it has made: – the choice to reduce the tax burden on the banking sector - at the same time as asking more from families with children.– the choice to prioritise pet projects, such as free schools, elected police commissioners, and David Cameron’s disastrous top down NHS reorganisation - even as school repairs are cancelled, police officers lose their jobs, and patients wait longer.But let’s be honest: being fair on working families, standing up to vested interests, or protecting and improving our schools and hospitals, were never going to be this Government’s strong suits.So let’s just judge them by their own standards - the goals they set themselves - the promises they made to the British people.The Chancellor might claim today’s borrowing figures show his plans are on track, but he is only on track for targets which have already been revised up by a staggering £158 billion. This is extra borrowing to pay for the costs of economic failure – slower growth and higher unemployment – rather than to support the economy through difficult times. And it’s more borrowing than was required by Alistair Darling’s more balanced plan. George Osborne has had to abandon his promise to eliminate the structural deficit by the end of this parliament, with at least two years of additional austerity beyond 2015. And last week Credit Ratings Agency Moody’s switched its outlook on the UK from “stable” to “negative”, citing concern about the impact of fiscal austerity on Britain’s growth prospects.Let me be clear: Labour has never said that said Britain’s fiscal policy should be set according to the demands of ratings agencies. We all know what a poor guide they proved to be on the banks’ creditworthiness in the run up to the crisis.And on sovereign debt they have been inconsistent – calling for faster cuts one day, then decrying the slowing growth that result the next.But this was the standard George Osborne wanted us to judge him by: – when Standard and Poor’s put the UK’s credit rating on negative outlook in the midst of the financial crisis, George Osborne said Britain’s “economic reputation” was “on the line”– and when the rating was later restored to “stable”, it was Osborne who proclaimed it “a vote of confidence in the coalition Government’s economic policies”.The point is we have a Government failing on its own terms:– they said they’d cut Government borrowing, but they’re borrowing £158 billion more than they planned– they said they’d balance the books by the end of this parliament, but they won’t. – they said they’d live or die by the verdict of the credit ratings agencies – but even now they are sounding the alarm bell.So where did it all go wrong for George Osborne?It went wrong because, as Ed Balls warned in his Bloomberg speech a year and a half ago, deficit reduction requires three pillars:spending reductions, yestax increases, yesBut if you cut spending and raise taxes too far and too fast, and don’t have people in work and businesses succeeding, you cannot get your deficit down, because your tax take falls and your benefit bill goes up.And the fact is, when this Government took office, focusing exclusively on further and faster tax rises and spending cuts, business and consumer confidence collapsed, firms postponed investments and stopped taking on workers.Britain’s growth faltered.First the Government blamed the snow. Then they blamed the Royal Wedding.Now they’re blaming the Eurozone, when in fact rising exports were the only reason why the economy didn’t fall into recession last year.It’s time the Government took responsibility for their own actions and their choice to cut spending and put up taxes too far and too fast that choked off our recovery more than a year ago. Not only are there huge social costs to this experiment:– the failing businesses– the closed libraries and children’s centres– the tragedy of another lost generation of young people out of workBut there are huge consequences for the public finances too.Just look at what happened to the OBR’s projections for the public finances over the 12 months between the chancellor’s spending review in autumn 2010 and the autumn statement in November 2011: – £17.8 billion wiped off VAT revenues– £51.2 billion off income tax revenues– £30.9 billion off corporation tax revenues – an additional £34.7 billion in unplanned spending on tax credits and social security benefits.Rising unemployment and a stagnant economy means spending is higher and tax revenues lower. So George Osborne is now on course to borrow £158 billion pounds more than he planned – a damning indictment of his failed experiment.And the costs of George Osborne’s failure go beyond even this. Because the longer we languish in low gear, the more permanent damage is done. Businesses that close, or miss opportunities to invest and grow market share, aren’t just a cost to our economy now – they’re a permanent setback to Britain’s growth and our ability to pay our way in the world, and a massive cost that future taxpayers will always be paying for.860,000 people have been out of work for more than a year now. Losing hope, motivation and skills – a huge waste in benefits today and in growth potential for the future.And as David Miliband’s commission on youth unemployment highlighted, the cost of today’s unemployment must be counted not just in immediate benefit payments, but in a long term legacy of lower life chances, that will cost our economy and the Treasury billions more for decades to come.So the course George Osborne has chosen isn’t just making it harder to deal with the deficit - it’s building up costs that will make it harder to achieve fiscal sustainability over the decades ahead.The point is not just that you need jobs and growth as well as a credible deficit reduction plan. The point is that a plan to reduce the deficit without a strategy for jobs and growth is not a credible plan at all.The reason we know the Chancellor is off course is because the Office for Budget Responsibility is telling us so.And if we look a bit closer at the rules Osborne has set, we can see that they look increasingly flimsy themselves.The two rules are:–to “achieve cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the rolling, five-year forecast period”– and “for public sector net debt as a percentage of GDP to be falling at a fixed date of 2015-16”.The first rule amounts to saying that the Government promises to promise to eliminate the structural deficit five years forward from any given point.But because that five year horizon moves forward with every year, the delivery on that promise can advance ever further into the future. Indeed this has happened already, with George Osborne pushing his target for deficit elimination back by two years.As the Institute of Fiscal Studies has said, “a government that continually promised to tighten in future, but never delivered on those promises, would not technically be judged to be breaking the rule”.Or as another commentator has pointed out, it is rather like someone promising to give up smoking in five years’ time – a promise which can always be kept, without ever stopping smoking, because its fulfilment is always five years in the future.So as Robert Chote, Director of the OBR has agreed, this rule does not guarantee “long-term sustainability”.The second rule gives the Chancellor a target with a fixed date, but because it is not about the level or trajectory of public debt, but only about its immediate movement, it could be met in all kinds of ways, shifting borrowing from one year to another, far from relevant or sensible for ongoing fiscal stability.The IFS, polite to the last, describes this rule as “curious”.As they point out, “if debt were to fall as a share of national income in 2015-16, but increase in every year up to then and in every year after, the supplementary target would still be satisfied.”The IFS view, then, is that the two rules in combination are insufficient “to ensure fiscal sustainability”.So, even with the Government’s borrowing plans being thrown out of the window, the Chancellor continues to meet his rules, because it’s so easy to fudge them. With the Government’s plan hurting but not working, for the rest of my time today, I will set out Labour’s alternative – not just on fairness, protecting public services, and securing growth; but crucially on how we can get our public finances on a sustainable footing.For Labour, unlike the Tories, deficit reduction is not an end in itself. But fiscal discipline is the absolute precondition for all that we want to achieve, across every other area of policy.There are three key elements to our approach that I will address: – targeted action to get the recovery back on track– tough decisions to control spending and fill the tax gap– and reform to entrench fiscal sustainability.First, on, jobs and growth.It’s because we want to see the deficit reduced that we are urging the Chancellor to adopt measures to support businesses and get people into work.Specifically:– a national insurance break for small firms taking on extra workers– a temporary tax cut for hard-pressed families – with VAT being the fairest and quickest option available– further cuts in VAT on home improvements– accelerated investment in infrastructure– and a serious programme to tackle the worsening youth jobs crisis, funded by a tax on bank bonuses.Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth is a temporary and targeted stimulus to restore confidence, strengthen investment and raise employment – to get the growth we need to bring in the tax revenues and bring down the welfare bill. Some people have asked: how can your solution to the deficit be to borrow more?My answer is: it’s George Osborne that’s borrowing more - £158 billion more than he said he would borrow.But not borrowing to give a boost to businesses and people looking for work. Instead borrowing to fill the gap left by falling tax revenues, and the rising numbers of people out of work.Borrowing to pay for the cost of his reckless gamble that has failed.When Labour left office, borrowing was coming in lower than planned, and unemployment was coming down too.Labour’s five point plan for jobs and growth is not an exception or postponement of our plan to reduce the deficit – it’s an essential and integral part of it.But the reality is, even with growth back on track, Labour’s approach to deficit reduction would involve tough decisions on spending cuts and tax rises.We faced these issues in Government. Alistair Darling’s deficit reduction plan was based on decisions and commitments that allowed the recovery to take shape, but ensuring tax increases and spending cuts were fairly balanced, with, for example:- real cuts to departmental budgets, but priority public services protected- a tax on bank bonuses and a new 50p rate of tax on incomes above £150,000.Since the last election, the economy has gone into reverse because of this Government’s choices.And because we can’t know now what state the economy or the public finances will be in at the time of the next election:-we’ve been clear that we can’t make promises today about reversing cuts or tax rises- and we’ve warned that further tough choices will be needed to clear up Osborne’s mess and finish the job of deficit reduction in the next parliament.That’s why Ed Miliband and Ed Balls have written to the shadow cabinet, and asked me to work with them, on first: identifying where waste could be eliminated and substantial savings made; and second, how they would switch spending from lower to higher priority areas. Different choices within tight fiscal constraints: choices based on our values and priorities, which I believe are also the values and priorities of the British people.Labour’s willingness to take decisions based on the right priorities has already been demonstrated in the position we’ve taken on public sector pay.When workers in the private sector are facing pay restraint, a 1% average limit on annual increases is necessary to minimise public sector job losses.But we would freeze pay at the top to fund higher increases for those earning below £21,000 – meaning teaching assistants, care workers, and hospital porters would be hundreds of pounds better off under Labour.Another choice we’ve said we’d make differently is on taxation and tuition fees– while under the Conservative-led government banks are benefiting from a 5 per cent cut in corporation tax, – Labour thinks that money would be better used bringing down the cap on tuition fees, to help young people worried about the costs of going to university.These are instructive examples of the care Labour would take, and the difference Labour could make, to ensure the heaviest burden of fiscal consolidation is borne by those with the broadest shoulders, not those already struggling to make ends meet.And when resources are so constrained, we must also be absolutely ruthless in demanding maximum value for taxpayers’ money - unlike the Conservative-led Government, which seems to care so little about public services that it is shockingly casual and complacent about wasting scarce resources.We’ve uncovered extraordinary examples of questionable spending in Whitehall:- from £900 spent on cosmetics at the Ministry of Justice- to £69,000 spent on music and piano stores by the Ministry of DefenceWhile Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change, has exposed £72,000 spent on away days by the Department for Energy and Climate Change; and £192,000 spent on first class train tickets by the Department for the Environment.Meanwhile my Shadow Cabinet colleague Jon Trickett has exposed the false economies of rushed redundancy programmes- with £90 million paid out to departing civil servants in just the last three months- at the same time as over £30 million is spent on temporary and agency staff to fill those gapsWe’ve seen a total failure to rein in excessive pay at the very top of the public sector- with serious questions being raised about the level of bonuses and the extent of ministerially sanctioned tax avoidance in Whitehall, quangos and other public sector bodies.And we’ve seen incredible sums ploughed into pet projects- more than £100 million spent on installing elected police commissioners – money that could have paid for 3,000 new police constables- £600 million added to the free schools budget in November – money that could pay for the extra 100,000 primary school places we so desperately need- and £1.8 billion set aside for the costs of NHS reorganisation – half of which would keep 6,000 nurses in post for three yearsAnd that is the approach we are taking across every department, every budget,– as we challenge the Government’s careless complacency – and prepare for the tough choices we would face as an incoming Labour Government.Subjecting every line of expenditure to the same tough tests:– protecting the living standards of struggling families– prioritising employment, productivity and growth– a ruthless insistence on value for money– and ensuring that, at a time when everyone is paying a tough price for the failings of a few, those who gained most in the good times cannot evade or avoid their responsibility to make a fair contribution.And all these individual decisions need to be taken within a clear fiscal framework.And so, as Ed Balls announced at the Labour Party Conference, we will be committing to new fiscal rules that will get our current budget back to balance.Labour is ready to complete the job of deficit reduction in the next parliament.I want to finish by saying something about the long term reform of our economy and how that relates to the fiscal challenge.The financial crisis raised big questions about Britain’s economic model - about inequality and irresponsibility; about stability and sustainability. And in response, Ed Miliband has kickstarted an important debate about the new economy this country needs to build. And in fact, fiscal sustainability, and the reform and rebalancing of our economy, go hand in hand.Because Britain should not be too reliant on forms of tax revenues – such as those arising from the housing market and the financial sector – that can be volatile and vulnerable to external shocks.And when we think of some of the pressures on public spending – - the money we spend on tax credits to top up low wages- the money paid in housing benefit, some of it to irresponsible landlords- the money paid to help older people manage expensive energy bills- the money spent on pension credit to make up for low saving rates and inadequate pension provision.It’s clear that a more equitable and responsible capitalism would mean less need for the state to step in to correct or repair the outcomes of an unfair or failing market.This is an exciting agenda that we have only just begun to explore. But it is clear that a fairer and more balanced economy would mean– a more reliable and resilient tax base– as well as fairer outcomes and more resilient families and communitiesso as well as delivering a stronger economy and a fairer society, a more responsible capitalism will also help us deliver long term fiscal sustainability. So in conclusion, let me reiterate and reemphasise my starting point:First, fiscal discipline is fundamental to Labour’s thinking and policy development, underpinning every proposal we make, every argument we advance– not only because our wider message will not be heard if people see us only as spenders, and not also as reformers–but also because we simply will not be able to deliver the changes we want to make in government if we do not have strong public finances.This is not a matter of matching or mimicking the Conservative-led Government. Far from it. The Government’s approach to deficit reduction has been increasingly exposed as empty without the jobs and growth that are essential to fiscal sustainability.And Labour has a distinctive approach to deficit reduction and fiscal responsibility in which our values and priorities shine through:– timely and targeted action to secure the jobs and growth we need to get the deficit falling– different choices within tight fiscal constraints, that put fairness and prosperity first– and reform of the British economy, with more reliable revenues and a redefined role for Government.The debate about deficit reduction and fiscal sustainability is a debate that we on the centre-left can and must win.Because sound public finances and a stronger, more stable economy will give us the solid foundations we need to build a fairer, better Britain.Thank you.
Ends

Thursday, 16 February 2012

FOREIGN PRESS CENTER BRIEFING WITH AMBASSADOR-AT-LARGE FOR GLOBAL WOMEN’S ISSUES MELANNE VERVEER, IMAM MAGID OF THE ALL DULLES AREA MUSLIM SOCIETY (ADAMS CENTER) AND PRESIDENT OF THE ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA (ISNA), AND MOLLY MELCHING OF THE NGO TOSTAN, WORKING AT THE GRASSROOTS LEVEL TO EDUCATE COMMUNITIES ABOUT THE NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF FGM/C THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C. TOPIC: FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION/CUTTING (FGM/C) WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2012, 11:00 A.M. EST AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Welcome to each and every one of you. We have gathered here this morning to discuss a very serious issue. It is one that touches many parts of the world – Africa in many places, the Middle East in places, Southeast Asia, even immigrant communities who come to the West who engage in the practice, which is variously called female genital mutilation or female genital cutting. It is one that has serious impacts, touching some 100 million to 140 million women. Another 3 million girls and women are at risk of being cut this year alone on the African continent. Now, why do we worry about this problem? Why are we concerned about it? Why is there an international movement and regional and local movements to work at the abandonment of this practice? It is because it is a serious violation of human rights and a very serious public health issue. It is one that is, in practice, essentially a right of passage, but a right of passage with very serious consequences, resulting in poor health, in pain, certainly childbirth pain, infection, very difficult childbirth complications often, even infant mortality and maternal mortality. And it is one that often is claimed to be done in the name of religion, but we’ve got the imam with us this morning to certainly disabuse us of that argument, because essentially it is a cultural practice and not one mandated in any Qu’ranic values or other religious tenets. There has been over the last many years a concerted effort to address this issue. It has manifested itself both in the passage of laws by countries, but as you can imagine, as important as laws are in saying this is a violation of human rights, it’s really the application of a commitment on the part of people on the ground who recognize that this is an issue that should be abandoned. And so it is essentially the work that happens at the grassroots level with village leaders, with men, with boys, with the whole community. And we’re going to hear this morning about what I think is one of the preeminent programs anywhere in the world, run by Molly Melching, to my right, who is here from Tostan, which had its start in Senegal. And I can remember years ago traveling with then First Lady Hillary Clinton and meeting firsthand some of the villagers who went through this process, abandoned this practice as a result, as the village leaders – the imams, the wise leaders in the village – understood that this was harmful to the women in the village to their daughters. And they then, as you will hear, took their cause and grew this movement from village to village. That is one of the most successful and effective ways in addressing this. We at the State Department and the United States Government are joining the international community in the International Day of Zero Tolerance for this practice. It actually took place a few days ago, but we will be marking it tomorrow at the State Department with an address by Secretary Clinton as well as Congressman Joe Crowley, who has been very active on this issue, and a very distinguished panel, including both the woman to my right and the gentleman to my left, Imam Magid. And they represent some of the best work that is going on on this issue, and the imam is working in the local area here but he has worked overseas on this and he is a powerful witness to what can be done. The United States Government has been supporting a variety of programs through efforts by various offices at the State Department dealing with refugees, dealing with human rights issues. The Office of Global Women’s Issues has been supporting some grassroots programs. And USAID, our development agency, has been significantly involved in being supportive. So with that very, very general overview, let me turn it over to two people who have done extraordinary work in addressing this issue at the local level, where it touches people’s lives and where they are abandoning it. I was telling Molly earlier that about a year ago I witnessed an abandonment ceremony in Upper Egypt that was just extraordinary to be witness to, because there were literally hundreds of people from the encompassing region with their religious leaders – men and women, boys and girls – all very honestly talking about what they had learned about how this has had a deleterious impact in some ways, certainly in terms of health, on the lives of their girls and women, and they were abandoning it. So there is very important work going on around the world, and let me turn to Molly first to hear about what Tostan has been doing and what she has seen about what works and what doesn’t work. MS. MELCHING: Thank you so much. Thank you for inviting me here today to be with the imam, who is doing wonderful work. And thank you for highlighting this important issue, which is really an important issue to discuss at this particular moment in time because we are having success with many other organizations who are working on this issue around Africa now and even in other countries around the world. I am Molly Melching. I went to Senegal 37 years ago. I went for six months and ended up staying for much longer. And when I went to Senegal, I realized that many women, particularly women and girls, adolescent girls, living in villages did not have access to basic information which they needed in order to make important decisions about their health, about their families, about their communities. And when I realized that with information in their own language – this is really important – the only education really offered to them was that of formal school in French, which is very different from these women’s experiences, and giving them an education in their own language, which was so critical for them and with which they could do so much – they could get so much information that they did not have – we started a basic education program. And in 1991 I founded Tostan as a nongovernmental organization, a 501(c)(3) organization registered here in America, but we have our headquarters in Senegal. And we are now in eight African countries. We started our program, and in the beginning we didn’t even discuss FGC. And this is very interesting because it was through education, education around human rights, democracy, about the right to participate, to be able to stand up and give your opinion on issues of the community, around the right be free from all forms of violence, the right to be free from all forms of discrimination, especially the right to health, and our responsibilities related to all those different human rights. It was through this dialogue in the safe space of a classroom where women and men and adolescents came together to discuss these issues in their own language for the first time that people started saying, wait a minute, we do have negative consequences to certain practices that we are now really imposing on our children. There was no way that a girl could not be cut in these communities because going through this practice was necessary for good marriage. It was necessary for a child to have a good reputation to be able to cook food, to serve water; you had to have gone through this practice. And it was because of this dialogue, first in the classroom, and then as people really learned the facts, they learned all about their health, how bodies develop in a healthy way; it was through dialogue with the village religious leaders, going and asking the religious leaders, “Is this an Islamic practice?” and learning that it was not, that people decided we can end this practice, we do have an alternative. And it was through this program that villagers decided to stand up. And the first public declaration was in Malicounda Bambara in 1997, July 31st. At the time, we didn’t realize this was African Women’s Day, but it is African Women’s Day. And so it was the first village that stood up and abandoned. And they had many problems. They were attacked, insulted by all of the family that they belonged to – the extended family. And we were very lucky because an imam who had also been through the program who was in another village, he came to the village, he saw what was happening and how the women were suffering from having made this courageous decision. And he said this is not the way to abandon FGC. The way to abandon a social norm where there are sanctions if you do not practice it is rather for you to go out and get the whole social network, the whole extended family, on board with this decision – not just part of it, not just one group. And that includes not only the neighboring villages, but these may be villages that are in other countries in Mali or Gambia or Guinea. And it may even include family that lives here in the United States or in France. And it was after that that he himself walked from village to village – this is Imam Demba Diawara – and he got people to come together and come to consensus around abandoning this practice. And what he did – and I give him full credit for having started a vast movement that has now led to 5,002 villages in Senegal having abandoned this practice through their social networks, through consensus, in a very peaceful, unified way, a way that gives them full dignity for having made this decision. It’s not about blame and shame. It is not about going out and saying this is bad, we’re fighting against it. No, it’s about people getting the information they need to make good decisions and then coming together within their families; and then we have what they call the public declaration, where people actually decide as an extended family to abandon the practice, and the next day everyone knows that this is no longer expected, as it was before. And this has moved to other countries now. We have in Guinea 528 communities in Guinea have now abandoned, thanks to a program with USAID-Guinea and UNICEF-Guinea. And the Gambia, 127 villages; Mauritania, 78 villages; Somalia and Djibouti and Guinea-Bissau have all made public declarations for the abandonment of this practice. And we see the movement growing. There is a momentum. And this is why this event is critical, because it is events like this that help people see that this can happen in our generation. Ending this practice can happen in our generation if we move forward and educate women. We’ve said it – we’ve said it so many times – basic education empowering education in national language will lead not only to the end of FGC but to so many other practices being ended. Child marriage is also ending through this empowering education. Domestic violence has ended in almost all our communities because the women have stood up and said no, we no longer accept this, we know our human rights, this is not part of what we are – our goals for the future, and we have come together and decided, so no one accept this anymore. So it’s a wonderful event, and thank you so much because without the men, without the religious leaders like you, Imam, this movement would not be occurring today. And this is so important that all members of the community be involved in this movement. Thank you again. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Thank you, Molly. And Imam. IMAM MAGID: Thank you, Ambassador, for your leadership and for having us to come together on a very important issue today. And I will like to say you are a champion on this. You have brought people together, indeed a catalyst to bring imams and advocates toward this issue. I would like to say that the role of religious community in addressing this important issue, the FGC, it is crucial because of some people have used religious argument, as the ambassador said eloquently. And I was in Darfur and we spoke to midwives – just about two weeks ago, three weeks ago I was there – and there’s a local imam, very powerful imam, just like the imam mentioned in Senegal, who eloquently addressed the issue. And a lady that’s been doing this for 20 years stood up and said, “This will be the last time for me doing these kind of things.” And then – even she give some suggestions. She said the midwives who deliver babies, they may need to increase their fees of delivering the baby instead of being paid to do this kind of practice, and so they can abandon the practice. The issue also here, is – the cultural sensitivity. You and I were speaking earlier of the language sensitivity, using – the use of language. And it’s very important, when addressing it from the religious point of view, is to use the Koran to address the issue, rather than to say it is Islamically unacceptable. From the Islamic point of view, Islam respect human dignity and human honor and human life, and one of the objectives of Islamic law is to preserve female wife. Being from Sudan, I have seen women lose their life, actually, because of the practice giving birth. Marriages went very bad and domestic violence occurred because of a lack of intimacy in relationship. Therefore, this is really about saving family, bringing honor and dignity, enforcing good values, and bringing good values and what you call social norms and moral norms. And therefore, I really see this like a milestone, our meeting here today, and I would like really to thank you, Ambassador, for leading us. MODERATOR: So with that, we will take a few questions here in D.C. For the callers that are joining us internationally via our hub, if you would like to join in the queue to ask a question, I ask that you press * and then 1. We’ll take a few questions here in D.C. and then we’ll shoot to you, so please begin to queue up if you’re interested in asking questions. With that, we’ll take the first question here. QUESTION: Good morning and thank you for standing up for us women. We are the victims. You are the one standing up for us. Thank you for what you’re doing. I’m from Mali. You did not mention the statistics in Mali. And you brought an imam. Why you did not bring a priest? Because my friends who are Christian are also circumcised. Why this discrepancy? You should brought also a priest to tell us about the view – the Christian view on female circumcision or fibrillation. So I don’t know if I have a question, just to salute you for what you’re doing for us. We used to say that we believe in the duality – I’m a Muslim, by the way. We used to say that we believe in the duality of humankind, so we have to circumcise. We take a tiny bit of the clitoris of female and also we cut the male, so to make the female fully female and the male fully male. So we believe in that, but because of Islam, we stopped that. We know that circumcision is ancestral practices that Islam and Christianity adjust themselves to. It’s not religious wheel or religious practices. It’s ancestral African practices. It started from Egypt to the rest of Africa. I know that in the Mandingo land in Mali during the empire time, when the male decided to have a male circumcision, the woman was very strong. They also decided to have a circumcision for – female circumcision. So this is a tradition in – enough going on in Africa before even Islam. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, thank you for that, and it just says that much more about how difficult it is to change traditional norms no matter in whichever way they are being promoted. MS. MELCHING: We also are – we are in Mali now. We are in 38 communities in collaboration with USAID. And I was just visiting there two weeks ago, and the women had been to a declaration in Senegal, and they told me this was amazing for them because they didn’t realize that this was possible. And suddenly, it became a choice that they had gone through human rights, they were out with their neighbors and their other villages, in the other villages discussing the human rights. And I said to them, “Well, I don’t know if this would be possible in Mali because it’s such a deeply entrenched practice in Mali; the statistics are very high in Mali.” And they all looked at me and they said, “Yes, it is possible here, too.” We can do the same thing. If we get our extended family on board, if we all come together and decide that this practice really is not helping us to achieve our goals of health and well-being and peace for the future, we will do the same thing. So I have lots of hope for Mali, and hopefully with the USAID supporting us, we may actually see many more declarations in Mali. There have been some other declarations. Other NGOs are working. (Inaudible) in Mali is doing excellent work in communities, working with communities. And we are going to be collaborating in the years to come. So there is much hope for Mali, I think. IMAM MAGID: Absolutely. MODERATOR: All right. In the back. I ask that you please just state your name and your news organization. QUESTION: My name is Thomas Gorguissian. I am with Al Tahir Egyptian daily newspaper. My question mainly is about – after all these years, I mean, for 20 years, I am hearing about this and I have a lot of friends who are activists in this part – in Egypt, and working in this field, and we support them, I support them. Is the abandonment increasing, or is it the same as a ratio? I mean – and is still people are practicing, from your perspective in working in this field – for what reason if the region is saying no, if the health issue is saying no, if the gender – gender-wise and human rights-wise, it’s no? And this is the second part. And the third question is: I saw in the paper that you are distributing – I mean, part of this – I don’t know if it’s mentioned, Iraq, how it has moved from Africa to Iraq. MS. MELCHING: How it – I’ll start with your last question. Most of the other countries that practice FGC actually started in your own country. This practice, we believe, started 2,200 years ago in Egypt, and then spread down across to West Africa. And so you have a country like Yemen which got this practice from Egypt. And from Yemen, then it moved on to other countries as people moved out of Yemen and migrated to India and other countries. They took the practice with them. So you see that many of the countries who do now practice FGC originally started in Egypt. And yes, there – people are still practicing. Why, you say, do they still practice? And we believe it’s because it is so deeply entrenched, and being a social norm – when I say social norm, what do I mean? I mean that it is a practice that has very strong sanctions if you do not do it. It’s not just any practice that happens that it does not depend on what I do, doesn’t depend on what you do. If I do not cut my daughter, she will not have a chance for good marriage. And as a mother, you can understand that if your daughter may not have a chance to marry a respectable person, you will say, look, I’m not sure if other people are really ending or not. And so you may decide to continue, knowing that this has been a criteria for the past hundred years, and that still in some of these communities, it is still very highly valued. This has been one of the major problems. It’s only when people come together and make the decision together and say this will no longer be a criteria, we will no longer expect it – and then when they put sanctions, new sanctions so they become – it becomes a new social norm not to practice and there will be sanctions if you do – but community sanctions. And this is what we’re saying. The law does not always do that, but a community law will do that. It’s through the community decision saying we will put sanctions on you if you do this. And how is that happen? We now have – when these type of things happen, the community itself is the one that goes and denounces. We’re not saying it doesn’t still happen. It does. And we’re not saying that there aren’t cases where communities have declared where you actually have cases, because a lot of times, there will be a neighborhood in a community and they intermarry in other places. They don’t intermarry within the social network that abandoned, you see? So you have to reach out to all those different networks. It’s long work and it’s – it all depends upon education, upon amazing, courageous people at the grassroots. I’m not doing this movement. It’s the people in the villages that have done amazing work, going from village to village. One woman who lost her two daughters to FGC has been to 148 villages telling people about that and saying we have to come together, we have to stop. And she’s had amazing success. But they’re the ones who are doing this work, and it’s when we can reach more and more people that we will have, finally, an end to this practice. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: And if I could just add, I think that really is the crux of the issue, that you go to so many places where educational levels are very, very low; there aren’t rights awareness programs, health programs. And you not only need that, which was the genesis of so much of the work of Tostan, but you need to have it in a concerted way where it can touch large, large numbers of people. And while this movement is going forward, making a difference – you’ve got more and more declarations of renunciation – you still have so many places that haven’t even been touched by it. So I think that’s the reality we still confront. QUESTION: Just a clarification -- MODERATOR: Please wait for the microphone. QUESTION: Just a clarification, because I asked at the beginning, do you see any decline or you don’t see it? MS. MELCHING: We are seeing decline. We had an evaluation done of the villages that declared 10 years ago, and they said that over 70 percent of people who had abandoned 10 years ago actually did abandon after 10 years. So this was what really reinforced the work we’re doing and led us – and particularly UNICEF, which has been behind this movement from the very beginning and has been very helpful in organizing seminars around these workshops to get people aware of this new approach, really, to ending FGC. And they wanted to be sure that this was really leading to results, and so this helped us. Now the DHS studies are coming out, and we believe that when the question is asked, “Are you going to cut your daughters in the next – your daughters who are under 10,” we believe there will be a real decline in the number of women who are going to cut their daughters. We won’t see on the DHS studies the decline in the country because it’s only girls 15 and older, but I think that we will be seeing decline in many countries. There have been much work around FGC in the past with other organizations also, and much international information around the problems relating to health issues that were never really available before. And as people become more aware that this really is a health issue, they are starting to abandon in many places. MODERATOR: Imam, would you – IMAM MAGID: I would like to say that is declining because of the effort done by also religious leader to speak against it. I would like to just stress that’s the issue that – I’m from a country where there’s Christians and Muslims, but unfortunately practiced more by Muslims than by Christian. We have to admit that. And therefore, to have the imam being on board is really – is – was very crucial. I can tell you that the young generation now who have female children, they’re not doing it in many places. And therefore, social media, Facebook, using all of these tools to educate young people, if the young couple make a pledge in Sudan, in Mali, and in Senegal, you will see it really declining very fast. MODERATOR: We are – before we take any more questions here, we’re going to go to Carrie Denver from our hub. Carrie, are you there? MODERATOR: Yes, I am. Thank you, Andrea. We have callers connected in our U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal, and also at the Ugandan Media Centre. And I just want to remind callers to press *1 when they want to enter the question queue, and to please state your name and affiliation before you ask your question. We’re going to start today with our Embassy in Dakar, Senegal. Your line is open. QUESTION: Good afternoon. My name is Aisha Dabo. I am working for the African Press Agency. Basically, I have two questions. Thanks to you for the advocating that you’ve been doing, especially in Western – West Africa. There have been a lot of declarations and women have abandoned, and some have been trained in income-generating activities. But there is a – kind of a tendency of these women going back – female circumcises going back and doing it, especially to babies, because if there is a the mother that brings a child, a baby, to be circumcised, it can just be done in a room and no one will be aware of that. So how are you people going about that? Because there have been people who will declare and then be doing it underground. My second question is: There have been few laws, especially when it comes to FGMC – cross border FGMC practices in West Africa. How are you working with government in these countries for the effective implementations of these laws? Thank you. MS. MELCHING: Thank you, Aisha. We, as you notice and I said, we do not specifically target cutters in our program because we found that most of the evaluations done on programs that just address cutters and giving them other projects, income generating activities, really has not worked for the exact reasons that you have said. That often, what they’ve found, what the evaluators found, is that those cutters who then had projects, when the projects were over went back or were not – they were older, and they could not really carry through with these projects. And in general, the population council that did most of these evaluations was highly recommending that this not be the methodology or the strategy to use for ending FGC. Our strategy at Toston, we believe very strongly, that it is really through the community, the entire community, women and men and adolescents – before we were doing our program just with adolescents, and the – I’m sorry, with adults – and they were making declarations to end FGC. But the adolescents came along and said we want to be cut because our sisters were cut. And we found that if we started doing the program with adolescents also, they suddenly started realizing, oh my goodness, we do have human rights, we now understand what this is. They didn’t understand, really, before. So we find that it’s really the community approach, with everyone involved – and the cutters. When that happens, then when the cutter does go back, as you say – and that has happened – in one of the communities in Tambacounda – in the region of Tambacounda – a cutter actually went through a declaration and then she went to another village that wasn’t part of the declaration and she cut three girls. And who denounced her? It was the community itself from which she came. And they said, “You have dishonored us because you have made this declaration and you went against it.” And they went to the local authorities and she was in prison because of this, and then declared she would never do it again. This sent out a very strong message. So we believe this is the right way to go about doing this. It’s so important that the whole community be involved. Secondly, you ask about cross-border. We understand that this is so important. It’s a really good point that you make. And it also brings me to say that there were 17 villages from Mali who declared an end to FGC through declarations that were held in Senegal. But because the family lived – and the same family lived over in Mali, they came and were part of the declaration in Senegal. There is no law in Mali, that’s true. At this particular time, we are concerned that a law passed in Mali might actually do more harm than good. I think this is what people are afraid of. There would be such a huge backlash because, as you know – and we have a woman sitting here from Mali – it is so deeply entrenched, and there has not been this critical mass of people leading the movement to end the program – or the practice that there have been backlashes against ending of especially a law or a family code. So it is a problem in terms of working in Guinea-Bissau, where there is not a law. But again, we’re trying to build critical mass among the population so that it will be the people themselves who put pressure on the government to pass these laws. And once that happens, we believe, the government will be more likely to pass the law because quite frankly, it’s a political issue. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, and enforcing it, that was part of the question. How do governments enforce these laws? And I think what Molly has been saying is, when you have a critical mass, it gives that much more energy and possibility to the enforcement, and then to support the kinds of programs that continue the movement, making progress. I remember, years ago, when Senegal first passed its law. And Secretary Clinton was then first lady, and she reached out to the president of the country to thank him for his leadership. And his response was this was because of the villagers. And I have never forgotten that, because he was reacting to a movement that was moving across the country and beginning to have very positive impacts that then the government joined. MS. MELCHING: Absolutely. IMAM MAGID: Yeah. And one other thing that I have seen also, if the Imam was turned up before the congregation and he says, “I have daughters and I did not do this to them,” that sent a strong message because people say, “Are you asking us not to do our daughters; how about your own daughters?” And it happened – myself by the way, I have five daughters. I have no boys. (Laughter.) And when I was visiting my family – my cousin, my sisters, and so forth who have children – daughters, they are not – they have not done this to them, and then they have established a kind of a moral pressure on other members of the family. For it begins with the individual, taking a stand and the issue, because the responsibility is of the parents to say no to the practice. MODERAROT: Kerry, do you have other questions? OPERATOR: Senegal, you’re line is still open. Do you have any other questions on your side? QUESTION: Yes, thank you. My name is Inoh Ndri. I work for West Africa Democracy Radio. And I just want to know what type of means you have to verify that the practice is really abandoned after the public declarations of abandonment, because of my own experience in Central Ivory Coast, the same women continue to practice. The practice – they include those or sent convoys of women nightly or secretly to other areas where the practice is still prevailing. Also to the imam, how are you making sure that other imams are joining the fight? Because in Ivory Coast, for example, many imams encourage women to send their daughters to the same place, a secret place inside the forest, to practice what you are blaming. IMAM MAGID: It’s very interesting. Actually, I was thinking before I was – I arrived here, when I was coming, to say what can I do today after the Ambassador have called us to – there’s another call, and Molly is the champion in this issue. What can we do to support this? And I thought maybe you can create an imam for abandoned FGC. (Laughter.) And therefore, stay tuned. There will be a website for that – (laughter) – and we’ll have imam to sign into it. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: So you have it here, the declaration of a new organization. (Laughter.) IMAM MAGID: Yes, yes. MS. MELCHING: So important – IMAM MAGID: Yeah. Supporting her. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Very good. MS. MELCHING: Well, supporting the women -- IMAM MAGID: And support the work of the -- MS. MELCHING: -- and it’s part of the communities that have the courage and the -- IMAM MAGID: Yes. MS. MELCHING: -- to stand up and do this. It would be an amazing support to them at this time. IMAM MAGID: Excellent. Absolutely, yes. MS. MELCHING: And again, you said that women have laid down their blades. So I assume you’re talking about a cutter’s declaration to abandon, and I come back again, and say that it cannot be just the cutters that abandoned. You have to go from the demand side of this. You have to say that as long as the communities still think that it is necessary for good marriage, you will never end this practice. It has got to be the communities, all members of the communities, not just the cutters, who come together and say we’re going to abandon this or you will continuously have women who turn back, and do it because the demand is there. When the demand stops, there will be no one else to cut. And so, we want to emphasize that this has been our experience in Senegal and again, as I said, you said what proof? We did have a very in-depth evaluation done by probably the best known evaluators around FGC, because it’s a very difficult practice to evaluate the abandonment of, as you can imagine because of ethical issues. But we have the best known one who does the – the organization that does the DHS studies. And they were very, very surprised when they saw the very high level – over 70 percent. It’s the first time in history that we have such a high level of abandonment. It was after this moment that UNICEF became very, very engaged – on a very high level started holding meetings, USAID became engaged. They’d been – not that they hadn’t, but it became clearer and clearer that this community-led approach, this community powered approach, is the one that can lead to the abandonment of this tradition, and I must add again, many others also. Other issues – domestic violence, child marriage – we’re up against many issues that can be solved through the community coming together through community education, empowerment, and decision making. It’s so critical. MODERATOR: Okay. We’ll take a few questions here and then we’ll shoot back to our hub. And just a reminder to state your name and your news organization. QUESTION: Hello. My name is Linord Modou with the Voice of America television. As it was mentioned earlier, female genital cutting is practiced by diverse cultures, diverse religious background. But I’m curious to find out why it’s so – there is this general perception that it’s very popular among the Muslim communities. I’m just curious. IMAM MAGID: I have to speak from the responsibility as an imam. I’m – I want it to be abandoned in all communities, but I have to speak to my community. And I know that we practice in the Muslim community, and around the globe there’s many Muslim community who have imams and some people will support this kind of practice. Before I have address my area of influence, I have a hope to indeed in all communities, but they have to address it in the community that I’m belong to. The other things that the – because some people have different literature in support of this some religious. And therefore, the greatest callers of Egypt, like Dr. Salim al-Awa, who has written a book on this, now translated in English, have addressed this issue so that anyone who would like to use a religious argument to justify it will say there’s no justification for this. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: If I can add, I – the use of the term “popular,” I think, is a little disarming because – that’s what you said, why is it so popular? QUESTION: No, I said it’s the perception. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: The perception of popularity. And I think goes back to what Molly said about how deeply entrenched this is, and there are sanctions if you do not behave in a way that is the predominant mode of behavior. And one of the things that was instructive to me, as someone who saw what was happening as the movement was taking hold, was the way women, younger women who were going through the process that she described of a human rights education, health education, democracy education, when asked how do we use this, I mean, how can this help us, the response was well, what do you want to see changed in your life? The answer was, “We don’t want this practice to be occurring.” And they needed a tool which then became community awareness and discussion and the kind of synergy that takes place as people come together understanding how something does have very negative consequences even though it’s deeply entrenched, that change begins to come. But certainly, if the choice were given, and so many have told me – African women had they had the choice, they would not have embraced it as a choice. QUESTION: Thank you very much. I’m Iftikhar Hussain, work for Voice of America (inaudible) region service, Pakistan and Afghanistan. My question is – I joined late discussion – how the United States is involved in improving the conditions of women in Pakistan. Well known organization just released yesterday a report saying that more than 8,000 women – violence were reported against them, and more than 1,500 were raped, and around 1,000 committed suicide, and these are just horrific figures. We do understand that apart from those political things from Washington and Islamabad, a lot is going on, but what specifically how the U.S. is engaging was vis-à-vis the condition of women is involved in Pakistan? AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, I think that this is a very important question, and it’s one that we have been engaged on in many different ways. In fact we had a review in my office just two days ago on a range of issues to positively impact the women in Pakistan because the human development numbers, as you well know and sort of hinted at, are extremely low in terms of education and literacy and economic opportunity. And certainly, while violence against women is a global scourge, it is a terrible scourge in many parts of the country. And so what we have in place are large numbers of programs, particularly through USAID, focused on these areas. There has been a rather significantly financially endowed program run through a Pakistan NGO to focus on access to justice issues and issues specifically focused on violence against women in terms of support for protective shelters, but also addressing the justice system and the recourse. So the problem is a major challenge, but it is not one that is not being addressed in ways that we are doing it, and certainly other countries’ development agencies are engaged as well. So it is one that certainly has our attention. And we have a – when we were going through the Strategic Dialogue with Pakistan, there was a specific working group focused on empowering women. And several of the projects that came out of that had to do with economic empowerment because where you can have economic empowerment, you see a decrease in violence against women and you see a betterment of life across the board. And then there – the government has been supporting the – the Benazir Bhutto income generation support program, which goes only to women, and the United States has been significantly supportive of that as well. MODERATOR: Kerry (ph), do you – do we have another question from the hub? OPERATOR: I don’t have any questions in the queue right now. Thank you. QUESTION: Thank you again for what you are doing. I’m really impressed because men are engaged now, because men used to not be informed at all in discussing about this matter. It was women among women. So my question is that we used to have some practices, like to learn how to – the medicinal, the herbal – herbs. During that four weeks of this female circumcision period time, while there is a retreat, the family used to go to different village, they would learn a lot from traditions, not only how to be a mother, to become a wife, to know about herbs to treat some kind of diseases, because as a consultant to UNICEF, I had a booklet on these kind of practices in Africa. And you said it’s predominant in Islamic society. I would say no, it’s predominant where male genital circumcision is – exists. Where male are circumcised, that’s where mostly female are circumcised. There is no religious value in that. It’s African tradition. So we know that in Africa. We know that where you circumcise male, that’s – in those country, female are circumcised. If you go to the south, where male are not circumcised, there are no female circumcision. When you go to east, like Ethiopia, it’s different. It’s a mutilation. It’s different than the circumcision we have in West Africa. So there are many type of female mutilation, genital mutilation in different area of Africa. So my point is those practices we used to have, those traditional value to teach women how to be a wife, a woman, to know about herbs, to – lot of societal practices would – what do you do about those now? If we don’t circumcise, fine. So who is teaching us those value nowadays? MS. MELCHING: I just would say that when the first community stood up, which is a Bambara community from Mali, that was the first question I asked them. I said, “Would you like to do alternative rites?” And they said, oh, that’s a romantic notion of – that you have, because we haven’t been doing those rites for many, many, many years. And as we went around, we found that there not many groups around Africa – if you look at how – who are doing those rites to this day, there are very few. We found some in Kenya and some in the Gambia – some in Malia, but not many. And the women told me that much of the rites were about how to get women to obey men, how they must learn to be patient. (Inaudible) is one of the most important values, being patient even if your husband beats you, if he – if you have to go through the most horrible of – you have to accept and be patient. And they said, “You know what? We don’t want our daughters to go through that anymore. We want them to go through a human rights program. We want them to be empowered. We don’t want them to lose their religion. We don’t want them to – we want them to maintain our values.” A Bambara woman, who is the leader of the group, she said, “People said to me, ‘I’m losing my culture, my tradition.’ And I said, ‘Today, I am more Bambara than I have ever been. Why? Because my values are values of health and peace and unity and well-being, and that’s what we are doing in our community.’” That tradition should not be an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And what is the end? The end are the moral norms. And if the tradition is not leading to that, we must abandon them. However, we do have traditional programs in our program, and they teach traditional massage, they teach the traditional medicines that are being used that can heal as much as – we are very careful because you have to be very careful about using leaves and plants, and you have to know how to do the right amount because we’ve had problems with that also. So – but we do have a traditional healer who goes around to our communities, who works with people on maintaining positive traditions. We believe – and I think this is why our program has so much success. We’re very respectful of the culture, of the values, and the language, and the words that you use. For example, we never showed pictures. We didn’t have to. We didn’t have to show girls with blood, and knives, and – we didn’t have to do that. We’re very respectful. People – these are not bad people. These are wonderful mothers who love their daughters. They are not – this is – I – this – I – mutilation means cutting with the intention of harming. Look it up in the dictionary. It means cutting with the intention of harming. How many of you think that an African mother wants to harm her daughter? She does not. She wants her daughter to succeed. That is why she cut before and that is why she is now ending. She has the information she needs to make the right decisions. And this is what is happening. We need to get this information out to women – this is so important – and to men. As you said, men are – didn’t – they said – they say to me, “I just didn’t know. We didn’t know. The women hid this from us.” You said that. This information is what is critical. And when it happens, there – you will see enormous change, and allowing people to come together in consensus deciding to abandon and choosing health, choosing well-being, choosing peace and unity. We don’t use methods that divide people. That is what African culture is about. That is the beauty of African culture. If you use methods that divide people, like you tell a girl to just run away, that may solve that one girl’s problem, but what about all the other girls who are left behind? But if you can get the whole community, the whole social network, to come together in unity to make this decision, there’s where you are respecting African culture. It is the decision of the whole group. And this is what we as Westerners need to learn from Africa. AMBASSADOR VERVEER: Well, and I think it’s also giving the young women an opportunity to express – and the women to express – how they have felt, what they are undergoing in terms of health and pain, and then to have everybody listen to that and say, “We don’t want you to go through that.” And that leads to the declaration of abandonment. But it is that opportunity to be able to engage a process where you’ll be listened to. IMAM MAGID: Yeah. All I guess to say regarding the customs you are talking about, because I’m from Sudan and I know that we practice for a while in Sudan, the whole idea, the notion of what they call it female circumcision, which is wiseco, female circumcision, is to have the woman become submissive. And the woman doesn’t have desire, and it is there to fulfill the desire of her husband. And therefore, that notion of teaching her at the time of circumcision is actually stealing her away – taking away her rights as a human being and in being able to express her feeling and have needs like in – like her husband to be – have – will have need. And the issue that I would like to say that – of teaching people values of marriage, I would suggested to the imam, and we agreed on that when I was in Darfur, is to infuse the idea of premarital counseling. And we do that now in our mosque in America, where we teach a person, a husband to be and a wife to be – their rights, their mutual rights, and the respect of the marriage institutions, and how to fulfill the needs of one another, because women have been used to fulfill all of the need of men. And that’s why they circumcise them or they are doing the cutting of so-called circumcision. MODERATOR: With that, unfortunately, we’re going to have to end. Thank you all very much for joining us. I’ll try and get the transcript to you as soon as possible. IMAM MAGID: Thank you.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ayoub mzee being introduced to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Eritrea, His Excellency Mr Osman Saleh by the Eritrea Ambassador in the UK H.E T. Gerahtu





















Monday, 6 February 2012

The NEPAD heads of state and Governments Summit at the 18th Ordinary Assembly of the AU SUMMIT IN ADDIS Ababa-Ethiopia


Ayoub mzee in the NEPAD Summit
H.E Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo-The president of Equatorial Guinea charing the NEPAD summit in Addis Ababa


President Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo Republic


President Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon,



H.E Mbingu wa Mutharika -Malawi President


H.E Paul Kagame Rwanda President

H.E Goodluck Jonathan - the Nigeria President

Ambassador Augustine Mahige - UN special rep in somalia.Mr. Mahiga brings to this position many yearsof both Government and United Nations experience. He combines extensive experience in conflict management, mediation, humanitarian and recovery/development activities. In particular, Mr. Mahiga has lengthy and pertinent experience in the Horn of Africa and other parts of the continent, which will be invaluable in his new position.
Since 2003, Mr. Mahiga has served as the United Republic of Tanzania’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. In this capacity, he has been actively involved in various United Nations reform initiatives, including co-facilitating negotiations on establishing the Peacebuilding Commission (2005) and co-chairing intergovernmental consultations on System Wide Coherence reforms, including Delivering as One in eight pilot countries (2008). Ambassador Mahiga has been engaged in intergovernmental and informal working groups on issues of development, peace and security, human rights, and strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the African Union.
Before joining the Tanzanian Foreign Service in 1983, Mr. Mahiga worked in the President’s Office as Acting Director General and Director of Research and Training from 1977–1983. He served in various capacities with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), including as Chief of Mission to Liberia, Coordinator and Deputy Director of the humanitarian and refugee crisis in the Great Lakes Region, and UNHCR Representative in India, Italy, Malta, the Holy See and the Republic of San Marino.
Mr. Mahiga holds a PhD in Philosophy and International Relations from the University of Toronto, Canada. He was born on 28 August 1945 and is married with three children.
The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation to Mr. Ould-Abdallah for his




The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)
The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is a programme of the African Union created by Africans, for Africans and implemented by Africans.
The NEPAD was adopted at the 37th session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2001 in Lusaka, Zambia. It is meant to develop values and monitor their implementation within the framework of the African Union.
NEPAD is a merger of the Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme (MAP) and the OMEGA Plan. The merger was finalized on 3 July 2001. Out of the merger, NAI was born. NAI was approved by the OAU Summit Heads of State and Government on 11 July 2001. The plan was endorsed by the leaders of G8 countries on 20 July 2001. The policy framework was finalized by the Heads of State Implementation Committee (HSIC) on 23 October 2001, and NEPAD was formed.
What is NEPAD?
. NEPAD is a vision and programme of action for the redevelopment of the African Continent. . NEPAD is a plan that has been conceived and developed by African leaders. . NEPAD is a comprehensive integrated development plan that addresses key social, economic and political priorities in a coherent and balanced manner. . NEPAD is a commitment that African leaders are making to African people and to the international community, to place Africa on a path of sustainable growth. . NEPAD is a commitment African leaders are making to accelerate the integration of the African Continent into the global economy. . NEPAD is a framework for a new partnership with the rest of the world. . NEPAD is a call to the rest of the world to partner Africa in her own development on the basis of her own agenda and programme of action.
Goals
. To promote accelerated growth and sustainable development. . To eradicate widespread and severe poverty. . To halt the marginalisation of Africa in the globalization process.

Press release
Sunday 5th February 2012
Embargoed until 2200Hrs Sunday 5 February 2012

Miliband tells Cameron: Save 6,000 nurses by abandoning NHS reorganisation now


Ed Miliband will today (Monday) accuse the Government of directly damaging frontline patient care with its unnecessary and unwanted top-down reorganisation of the NHS.Talking today about frontline pressure right across the NHS, he will point to new figures released by Labour that show the number of NHS nurses has now fallen by 3,500 since the general election and that indicate the total fall in nurses could be at least 6,000 by the end of this Parliament.At the same time Labour will highlight that the funds set aside to pay for the costs of the Health Bill’s reorganisation would be more than sufficient to protect all of these 6,000 nursing jobs if Parliament chose in the coming weeks to abandon the reorganisation.The Labour leader, along with Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, will be visiting s taff and patients at the Princess Royal University Hospital in Kent.It comes as Labour launches the next stage of its campaign against the Government’s Health Bill which is returning to Parliament this week.Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, will say:"In tough times and with little money around the very first priority should be to protect the frontline NHS. Instead we have a government blowing a vast amount of money on a damaging top-down reorganisation at the same time as it is cutting thousands of nurses, with more than 3,000 already gone."Labour’s priority is protecting the frontline, not a pointless and damaging reorganisation of the NHS. So we are calling for the Bill to be scrapped, and for some of the money set aside to fund this reorganisation to instead be made available to the NHS to protect the thousands of nursing posts either already cut or set to be cut in the coming years."It is a clear and simpl e choice for the Government: by stopping this damaging reorganisation we can fund 6,000 nurses."In opposition David Cameron told people he could be trusted to protect the NHS. In government he has put Tory free-market ideology ahead of basic patient care."Last year, the Government set aside nearly £1.8bn to pay for the costs of Health Bill reorganisation that could only be used once the Health Bill is enacted. Labour is calling for £750m of the money being used to fund the reorganisation to be used instead to fund 6,000 nursing posts over the Spending Review period, replacing the 3,500 nurses that have already been lost, and protecting a further 2,500 posts that research suggests will be lost in the coming years.Andy Burnham MP, Labour's Shadow Health Secretary, will say:"In just over 18 months in government, the Coalition has taken a successful and confident NHS and turned it into an organisation that's demoralised, destabilis ed and fearful of the future. It is reckless in the extreme to plough on with this reorganisation when organisations that represent 1.2m NHS staff are lined up against it. It threatens seriously damaging the key relationships that underpin the NHS. By allowing existing NHS structures to disintegrate before new ones are in place, the Government is creating a loss of grip and focus at local level and the NHS is showing signs of increasing distress."
Ends

Editor's notes:
1. The 2011 Spring Supplementary Estimate set aside £1.785bn to fund the costs of Health Bill reorganisation, which could not be spent until the legislation had been enacted: “Part of the provision under subhead G2 in RfR1 is subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill, which has passed second reading in the House of Commons. The provision sought, £1,785,000,000 will not be used for the service or for any other purpose until the enabling legislation has been enacted.” (2011, p.75)2. The number of full-time equivalent (FTE) qualified nurses (excluding midwives, health visitors and school nurses) has fallen from 281,431 in May 2010 to 277,915 in October 2011 (latest figures), a fall of 3,516 (NHS Information Centre, Monthly NHS Hospital and Community Health Service Workforce Statistics in England - October 2011). The figure refers to the change in ‘Qualified nursing, midwifery & health visiting staff’ net of changes in the numbers of midwives, health visitors and school nurses. (When midwives, health visitors and school nurses are included in the total, the overall fall in qualified nursing, midwifery & health visiting staff is 3,000 (2,968).)3. Recent research by the Royal College of Nursing suggests that many more nursing posts may already have been earmarked for cuts (Frontline First: November 2011 update, Royal College of Nursing). The RCN analysis identified 5,000 nursing posts at risk, comprising both qualified nurses and healthcare assistants. Here we assume that half (2,500) of these 5,000 posts are qualified nurses.4. According to calculations by the House of Commons Library, the average total cost of employing a nurse for three years through 2012-13, 2013-14, 2014-15 is £124,800, including employer NICs and pension contributions (calculations based o n NHS Staff Earnings, estimates, July 2011 to September 2011). The total cost of supporting 6,000 FTE posts at £124,800 is therefore £748.8m.5. The list of professional bodies which have come out in opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill include: The Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Radiologists, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.6. Labour's Policy Review is currently looking at workforce pressures among health professions, including among doctors, nurses and midwives, in addition to broader workforce planning issues.
















CCTV africa reporters

Ayoub mzee at the new AU headquaters in Addis ababa

Ayoub mzee with trafiic officers-outside riders in Adis ababa

a habash resaurant and eatery















Sunday, 5 February 2012

Deputy Secretary Burns Travels to Africa January 26-30, 2012

Ghana President John Atta Mills hosting Deputy Secretary Bill Burns during his visit to Accra. Photo courtesy of the Office of the President of Ghana


Deputy Secretary Burns meets with Ghanaian alumni of U.S.-sponsored exchange programs in Accra.



Deputy Secretary Burns meets with Ghanaian alumni of U.S.-sponsored exchange programs in Accra


Deputy Secretary Burns meets with President of Ghana John Atta Mills.


Dr. Edwig Nagabirwa of Wagagai Health Center in Entebbe, Uganda, explains the facility's operation to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns (right) and the visiting U.S. delegation. To Dr. Nagabirwa's left is Dr. Dithan Kiragga, Chief of Party for U.S. Mission Uganda's Health Initiatives for the Private Sector (HIPS).



Deputy Secretary Burns visits Wagagai Medical Center in Entebbe, Uganda. The Center is an excellent example of a private-public partnership and one of over one hundred clinics in Uganda that benefits from the HIPS program. From left: Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House Grant Harris; Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Johnny Carson; Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns; U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Jerry P. Lanier; Dr. Edwig Nagabirwa of Wagagai Health Center; Wagagai Limited Managing Director Pim de Witte, and; Dr. Dithan Kiragga, Chief of Party for Health Initiatives for the Private Sector (HIPS









































Two films dedicated to jailhouse lawyer, author and former Black Panther, Mumia Abu-Jamal

UK Premiere of Justice Denied, an independent documentary featuring an interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, on death row in 1996. 11:00-12:30 NFT2
+
In Prison My Whole Life, UK –USA 2007. Dir Marc Evans. 97mins. Story of Mumia Abu-Jamal, political activist.
14:00-16:30c NFT1

Chair: Colin Prescod, Institute of Race Relations. Key speakers: Selma James, who edited and introduced the UK edition of Jailhouse Lawyers, Avery F Gordon, Professor of Sociology, University of California and director, Marc Evans


The film screenings and discussion centre on the life of award-winning journalist, imprisoned activist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal who in 1982 was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a police officer in a trial widely condemned for constitutional violations as well as for racism. His death sentence was overturned in 2001 due to errors in his original sentencing hearing. However, Mumia remained on Death Row until December 2011, ten years after his sentence was voided and still continues to suffer harsh discriminatory treatment. It took a complaint by Archbishop Desmond Tutu for Mumia’s shackles to be removed during visits. Mumia records weekly radio commentaries from prison, two of his books are best sellers and his latest book: Jailhouse Lawyers: Prisoners Defending Prisoners v USA, is just published in the UK. Mumia continues to elicit wide support and admiration from notable celebrities including writers Alice Walker, Danny Glover and Noam Chomsky and musicians such as Snoop Dogg and Moss Def.
At 11:00 the BFI Southbank will screen Justice Denied a previously unseen documentary in the UK and features the last televised interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal on death row.
At 14:00 we will screen In Prison My Whole Life, an award winning film that was nominated in 2008 for 'World Cinema - Documentary' with the award of 'Grand Jury Prize' at Sundance. Colin Prescod from the Institute of Race Relations will chair discussion after the film and introduce key speakers including director Marc Evans; Selma James, who edited and introduced the UK edition of Jailhouse Lawyers and Avery F Gordon, Professor of Sociology, University of California and.
Tickets £5
This event is part of AFRICAN ODYSSEYS, a series of films by and about the people of Africa and its diaspora. In 2007 the BFI teamed up with cultural leaders and activists and set up a monthly programme of films that are introduced and discussed with key speakers.
The event is listed here. You can learn more about In Prison My Whole Life here.
The BFI Southbank is open to all. BFI members are entitled to a discount on all tickets. BFI Southbank Box Office tel: 020 7928 3232. You can find out where we are and what we do from our website.


































For over 15 years, Talib Kweli has been the king of New York hip-hop. Now, Kweli brings the incredible power of his live shows to the UK with 2 very special nights in London and Manchester Spring 2012. He'll be premiering material from his latest release "Gutter Rainbows", an album that marks a new stage in the long and ever-evolving career of Talib Kweli, as well as performing some of his greatest tracks from his illustrious career.





































Press release
Friday 3 February 2012
Speech on banking - Ed Miliband
Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party, said today in a speech at the Thomson Reuters Building:This has been a turbulent week for the British banking industry. On Sunday, Stephen Hester gave back his bonus, and on Tuesday, the forfeiture committee revoked Fred Goodwin’s knighthood. But these moments do really not change anything in themselves. This is about more than one man, one bonus, or one knighthood. These are symbols – and symptoms - of public discontent with a system that is not working as it should. For our economy. And for our society. That is why these moments do not and should not signal the end of the debate. Because, three years on from the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the debate is really only just beginning.We need a banking system that serves a more responsible capitalism, working for the majority of people and enabling us to pay our way in the world.Everyone can agree that the kind of tug-of-war we have seen in the past fortnight over bonuses is bad for the reputation of the banking sector. Nobody in this country - neither the banks’ most staunch defenders nor their most outspoken critics - believe that a public argument between executives, shareholders, politicians and the public is the best way for any sector to set pay. London is one of the world’s great financial centres and Britain’s banking sector is one of our most important employers. It is in all our interests to find a better way forward. But if things carry on as they are, I believe the same row over pay and bonuses will erupt again. So how do we make sure that that does not happen? We need to learn the most important lesson of the week: we cannot have a banking sector so divorced from the rest of the economy and the rest of society.We succeed or fail together.It is not about the politics of envy. It is about a culture of responsibility.We need what you might call 'one nation banking'. We need banks that serve the real economy.We need banking serving every region, every sector, every business, every family in this country. And we need banks run in a way that people believe are consistent with their values – the values of Britain. It is something I have been talking about for months: responsibility - from the benefits office to the boardroom.But to understand how we get there, we must understand how we got here. On almost any measure you choose, banking and finance is going through exceptional times. Everywhere you look, pillars of the conventional wisdom which have stood solidly for thirty-odd years are crashing to the ground. Until 2007, it was hard to imagine that: light touch financial regulation would be so thoroughly discredited; financial instruments designed to make each bank safer would make the banking system as a whole riskier; we would be facing interest rates lower than we have seen for decades without lending rising as a result; bank bonuses could be in the billions even as banks’ share price fell; all the banks in this country would be backed by an implicit government guarantee; and two of the biggest would be largely owned by the Government. We all know this has happened because something has gone deeply wrong.My party has accepted responsibility, along with governments round the world, for not doing more to prevent the crisis with regulation.We now must ask questions about the future of banking which have not been asked for a generation.The banking sector can choose either to continue down the path which led us to big bonuses, busts, and bailouts.Or it can take a different path. Today, I want to talk about that different path. Banking has to change. Throughout most of our parents and grandparents’ lives, banking was not prone to wild swings in value.It directed lending towards businesses and entrepreneurs efficiently and soberly.And the idea of a vote in the House of Commons to affect the pay of an individual banker would have been as outlandish as the idea of a vote to censure the pay of an individual doctor or lawyer. Thirty years ago, the word ‘banker’ was often used as a compliment to suggest solidity and reassurance. Since then, however, the sector morphed from something our parents and grandparents would have recognized into something else, with the rise and increasing dominance of investment banks. We can't turn back the clock. This mustn’t be about recreating a bygone era of banking. But if the rules and norms of banking have changed before, they can change again. And they must change. After the crisis and the bailout, we are left in a situation which nobody would have wanted. Where thanks to the crisis, ten per cent of this country’s tax receipts fell away between 2007 and 2008 alone.Banks have accepted they bear the burden of responsibility for helping to cause the crisis.The consequences of their reckless irresponsibility in that era are felt every time a library closes.Every time a school can’t afford a new book.And every time a policeman or policewoman is taken off the beat.Those consequences are being felt by everyone in society. The banking sector needs to understand this. People who did not cause the financial crisis are paying the price. And many feel that those who did cause the financial crisis are not. When most people see their incomes stagnate, their bills go up, their public services cut, and their jobs increasingly become insecure, pay and bonuses at banks seem to carry on as if the crisis never happened.The public services we rely on to educate our kids, look after us when we are ill, or help us afford a lawyer if we’re in trouble, cannot go back to normal any time soon. So when people see the pay of those who caused the crisis continuing to be so abnormal, they are understandably angry.This is a call for banking to recognise that continuing on its current path will lead to further isolation from society, greater public anger, more years in which each payday is a newspaper headline.This is a call on banking to recognise that it should take the path of change. To recognise that it is not isolated from the economy or society. To recognise that we succeed or fail together.We have a proud history of banking in this country.Banking has performed an invaluable service to the economy from Midland Bank's role restructuring the cotton industry in the 1930s, to Barclays' role in financing high tech start-ups in Cambridge in the seventies and eighties, And since the crisis, we have seen some welcome steps.Notably, the Independent Banking Commission’s recommendations about the ring fencing of retail and investment banking. And more recently, the way HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and Standard Chartered have put up £2.5 billion for a business growth fund focused on British firms.But there is still a long way to go before we achieve one nation banking.Public discontent is, if anything, on the rise - as the long lasting impact of the crisis in living standards becomes clear.For all the reform of the way bonuses are paid, they remain on a scale beyond the imagination of the vast majority of the population.Although the Government has welcomed the Vickers proposals, their implementation remains a distant prospect.And most importantly, business frustration with the banks they rely on is as high as ever. Still, too often, they see the bank, not as a partner in a shared project, but as a problem to be overcome.I saw this only on Monday in Scotland when a wind turbine manufacturer complained that while he had employed 20 people in his factory it could have been 30 if only he had got the loan he needed from a leading British bank. Similar stories can be heard from thousands of other businesses around the country. Banks must not be isolated from the rest of the economy. Banks must lend to small businesses so we can get the growth and jobs we need for the future.That is how Britain will compete in the world. As things stand, that is still not happening enough. Lending was down £10.8 billion last year. There are two reasons why not enough capital currently reaches the small and medium sized enterprises in this country which are crying out for it. The first is that it’s always hardest to get credit when the economy is in a downturn, even though that’s when small and medium-sized firms need finance the most. And the second is that it is cheaper for banks to lend to big companies than small ones. Particularly when credit is already being rationed, lending to small firms is often deemed not worthwhile for banks. The market on its own does not work for small businesses. All the most successful economies around the world recognise this: from Asian capitalist states like Singapore, through active industrial states like Germany, to supposedly free market states like the USA.And they make sure that the state helps finance to reach the small and medium sized enterprises which need it. This isn't about picking winners. It is about the state getting the market moving, like our most successful competitors have been doing since the fifties.It’s no coincidence that in Britain we haven’t done as much to develop a Mittelstand like Germany.Or fast-growing young companies like Apple and Intel - both of which got growth funding from the US government’s Small Business Investment Company programme.When it comes to competing internationally, our small and medium sized companies are fighting with one hand tied behind their back. One nation banking means the private sector and the state need to work together in partnership to get the system working for small business.It means we will need a much more diverse and competitive banking system which is more rooted in our communities.And it means looking at the case for a British Investment Bank which would provide government backing for entrepreneurs when the market fails. How we achieve these goals is at the core of our business policy review. But one nation banking is not just about banks serving the economy. It also means that banks cannot be isolated from the rest of society either.They cannot expect their decisions to be immune from public debate. There will always be some who see public criticism of private decisions, like excessive bonus payments, as illegitimate. It is an argument I want to tackle head-on. I believe it is right to address these issues.Firstly, for economic reasons. The economy relies on banks to lend to small businesses. If banks show greater restraint on pay, there will be more money left over for them to lend to businesses. This is a point forcibly made by the Governor of the Bank of England.And in the aftermath of a crisis worsened by excessive leverage, if they show restraint on pay, there will be more money left over too for them to repair their balance sheets.The second reason is because banks have been taking one-way bets which have affected us all as taxpayers. Banks which were too big to fail were able to take positions in the knowledge that if they profited they could keep the gains, but if they didn’t, the taxpayer would absorb the losses. I believe in rewards for entrepreneurs and wealth creators. Exceptional rewards for exceptional performance.But even banks in this country which are not publicly owned still enjoy an implicit taxpayer guarantee whose value is estimated as at least £10 billion.That means that many of the bets they make are one-way bets, backed by an implicit taxpayer-funded safety net. Thirdly, we need change is because banks have a responsibility to society. Because at the core of one nation banking is the idea that as a country, we succeed or fail together. We are not isolated individuals, and however affluent we are, whatever the world we inhabit, we owe responsibilities to each other.So what does that mean in practice? What are the steps that banks need to take if they to reflect better the values of the British people - the values of their customers. It starts with transparency. That means that banks should publish the details of all their large bonuses. Pay packages at the top should be simpler, so that we can easily understand who is paid what, and shareholders can hold them to account more easily.We have called on the Government to implement rules we legislated for to make banks reveal how many employees are earning over one million pounds, so that shareholders can hold them to account.It is absurd for David Cameron to claim this simple effective measure is too onerous for banks and will make British banks uncompetitive. It is the very least the public has a right to expect and demand.The next priority is to improve accountability at the top.That means accountability to employees so that companies put some of their ordinary workers – maybe a teller normally at high street bank window - on the committee which sets executives’ top pay. If you can’t look a member of your own staff in the eye when you receive a huge bonus, you should not get it. We need to simplify the current rules on pay packages so that say that executives get just one salary and just one bonus.When banks are majority owned by the taxpayer, the Government must exercise some shareholder oversight on top pay. All I ask is that the Government should practice what it preaches to other shareholders and take some responsibility for the pay and bonuses of publicly-owned banks. But – after transparency and accountability – must come the recognition that executives have a responsibility to wider society. Of course, there is an international market in banking. But there is also a national imperative: that everybody, from top to bottom, reflects our values of responsibility.The kind of responsibility shown by the chairman of RBS, Sir Philip Hampton, who recognised that taking his bonus at a time when families are feeling the pinch was wrong. The kind of responsibility which others in the banking sector could learn from manufacturing in this country: when the crisis hit, managers took pay cuts to save jobs and retain talent for the long-term.Responsibility means ending the culture of excessive bonuses.This bonus culture has ultimately been corrosive. It has enriched individual bankers, but weakened the banking sector as a whole by encouraging a form of risk which crossed the line into sheer recklessness. Exceptional rewards for exceptional performance means million pound bonuses should not be handed out to people for just doing their job. It means that performance-related pay should be related to your performance. It should be earned, not expected.A reward for exceeding expectations, not meeting them.I am not talking about the couple of thousand of pounds that employees, including bank tellers, might receive.I am talking about the couple of millions of pounds which too many people seem to receive as a rule, not as an exception.The first step towards tackling this problem is recognising it.Some will argue that the best remedy is the discipline of the free market. But this argument was proven wrong the day the sector collapsed and had to be rescued by the taxpayer. Anyone who looks at recent history will find it hard to believe that the discipline of the market will prevent runaway bonuses.The answer is to change the rules and change the culture.That is what the House of Commons will debate on Tuesday. We will say that that too many are getting bonuses which are too big, too often. All companies must show responsibility, but banks have a particular responsibility because they are either directly or indirectly supported by the taxpayer. We will give MPs the chance to vote on having another bank bonus tax to get 100,000 of our young people back to work. But we will also ask MPs to vote on ending a bonus culture based on one-way bets rather than genuine reward for exceptional performance. It will not be legislation and it will not be binding. But it will be another step towards hearing the voices of millions of people up and down this country who do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay without seeking any extra reward on top, let alone one worth millions. Because the alternative to this path of one nation banking is a banking and finance sector which continues on its current path. The path which it has been on for the last decade or so. The path which leads to a gradual separation from the rest of society. We are once again at risk of becoming a country separated economically, geographically, and socially.We are once again at risk of becoming two nations in this country. That is not the kind of society in which I want to raise my children. And it is not the kind of society in which the vast majority of people in this country – including bankers - want to raise theirs.It is over 160 years since Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novel, Sybil, in which he warned of:“Two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones or inhabitants of different planets.”For the banking community and the rest of us, that is how it has felt this week.That is not good for Britain and it is not good for banks. We need a healthy and successful banking sector, creating jobs and wealth, helping the real economy and connecting to the rest of society. Responsible capitalism can only be built with a successful banking sector. I believe we can achieve this by changing the rules of the system and the culture of our banks.That is how we will have a fairer society and an economy which pays its way in the world.That is how we will create one nation banking.
Ends