Larry Elliott’s piece in Monday’s Guardian highlighted the failure of the IF campaign to challenge the British government on the key issues of poverty, inequality or development, and posed the same existential question as Sunit in his post on this site last month, namely: what is the non-governmental sector actually here for, if it is not to hold government to account? Sally Copley has responded on behalf of IF in the letters pages of today’s Guardian, claiming that the campaign might one day get tough on Cameron but still bigging up the prime minister (contrary to all available evidence) as a force for good in the world. Against this, another letter went in from a small group of us agreeing with Larry, and noting that it was precisely the concerns he expressed that led to our establishing the Progressive Development Forum last year.
The two responses encapsulate neatly the divide in the British international development sector at the present time. On the one side, aid agencies linking up with the British government to create a ‘golden moment’ on hunger while leaving unchallenged the unequal power relations that condemn people to persistent poverty. On the other, social justice organisations and trade unions pressing for positive alternatives to Cameron’s agenda, and openly challenging a government which is wedded to promoting the most extreme forms of neoliberal capitalism, in the UK and abroad. The coming G8 festivities offer an opportunity for NGOs to choose which they feel to be the more appropriate response to government-led austerity and structural adjustment. Watch this space for more details of the full programme of anti-G8 actions and events currently being planned for the week of 8-15 June.