Thursday, April 22, 2010

Where Was the Foregin Policy?

Tonight's Leaders Debate on Sky is being picked over by pundits ad nauseum, so thought I would add my own twopenny worth.

It was meant to be in foreign policy (although less than half was - especially if you take a pointed question about the Papal visit as being less about foreign policy and more about relationships with faith communities, which the leaders seemed to do). So we got Europe (sort of), Afghanistan (a lot) and the Special Relationship with the US (again, sort of). But nothing on overseas aid.

Four or five years back, that would have been in the top three questions asked by the audience or the pundits. Not now - the world's poor have dropped off the agenda again. Depressing. Inevitable, but depressing, because this election will once again be fought about who is going to put more pounds in my pocket - and the swing voters in middle England will be the ones who's pockets that party will want to promise to line. Our own poor, and the poor of the developing world, once again, not getting a seat at the table.

Update 4 May 2010:
Well, it seems the lack of Development related policy or questions was no surprise to some, and that that other have been dissecting the limited differences between all the parties (who all adhere notionally to the target of 0.7% of GDP going in aid by 2013). All well and good. And the One Campaign has got all the party leaders to go on record with their fairly trite statements on aid policy. All seem to be saying the same things, and none of them are bad. But I fear that the world's poor have genuinely slipped off our radar as a nation.

In Sarah Bosley's Global Health Blog in the Guardian this morning there was a pointed piece about Avastin, a bowel cancer drug that can (in very small doses) cure wet age related macular degeneration. But the drug companies are peddling the low doses of Avastin at a hugely inflated price and under another brand name. And this goes on all the time with diseases in the developing world, where treatments are denied the poorest of the poor because of profiteering. But this gets hardly any media or political attention.

This morning I led a morning devotion on Ezekiel 16 (one of the stronger passages in a pretty hard hitting prophetic book). Verses 49-50 say something quite scary - the sin of dear old Sodom, destroyed by sulphurous fire in Genesis, was not as is widely assumed, homosexuality, but rather that they sat back comfortably engrossed in their own pleasures and problems while the poor and vulnerable around them starved.

I fear for our nation - that we have let our own concerns (however relevant and valid they may be) deflect us from the real needs of the poor and our obligations to them as the rich world. And what judgement awaits us for this? Hmmm, read the rest of chapter 16 in Ezekiel and beyond...

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