Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Posts Tagged ‘International development

UN launches Broadband Commission

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The International Telecommunications Union, an arm of the UN, has set up a Broadband Commission whose aims will be to define strategies for rolling out broadband networks worldwide and to examine the applications for the improvement in the delivery of a wide range of social services.

An impressive list of global private sector business leaders, UN agencies, regulatory bodies and politicians, including the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, are to sit on the Commission, which will present findings to the UN’s Millennium Development Goals review summit in September. The Commissioners are intended to provide ‘expert input’ alongside an analysis of the deployment of broadband at all stages of economic development, with the ultimate intention of providing ‘practical recommendations on the possible routes towards the goal of high-speed networks at affordable prices.’

Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the ITU, commented that:

In the 21st century, affordable, ubiquitous broadband networks will be as critical to social and economic prosperity as networks like transport, water and power… Not only does broadband deliver benefits across every sector of society, but it also helps promote social and economic development, and will be key in helping us get the Millennium Development Goals back on track.

There’s nothing much wrong with that, and it helps to reinforce the notion that the developing world does – perhaps controversially – need modems and routers just as much as it needs other basic essentials as a means of delivering the social and economic benefits that will improve life expectancy and the social situation. So, the initiative is welcome, although it is important to emphasise that it needs indeed to look at the full range of ‘possible routes’. Whether decent debate about the range of ways of potentially achieving these goals is likely to ensue from the Commission’s appointments, and the short time-scale for its work to be concluded, is a moot point. Alternative visions than ones based on deregulation and the removal of barriers, and on a centre stage for competition, are both possible and need to be explored if the initiative is to achieve its aims.


Written by Calvin

13/05/2010 at 12:18 am

May Day 2010

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Greetings on labour’s day of remembrance, solidarity, celebration and re-dedication.

Here’s three things that remind me of why May Day remains important to the international labour movement, and of what solidarity means in the new decade of the 21st century if it is to be more than just a slogan:

1. At home: the last weekend of campaigning before the general election and the next big effort to ensure the BNP doesn’t gain a seat in parliament on Thursday. Of course, HOPE not hate is actively campaigning in key target areas and its organisers still need your support. Solidarity means uniting against the fascists.

2. Internationally: the draft text of the EU’s Free Trade Agreement with Colombia has been dissected by the TUC. Solidarity means freedom of association, and free from the fear of death squads for standing up for the rights of ordinary people – yet the proposed FTA brushes this under the carpet.

3. In Europe: At the European Trade Union Confederation, John Monks’s May Day message was based on the need to stand shoulder to shoulder with Greek workers to demand social justice and that the EU act decisively to stabilise the situation. Building the European project demands strength, not vacillation; perspective, not short-termism. Solidarity means having the dream and the vision for a brighter, alternative future – and the courage to express what that is when the practical situation demands it.

A May Day worth celebrating: and achievements to be won to demonstrate in practice what solidarity means.

[6 May edit: the TUC has reported events from May Day celebrations around the world here.]

Written by Calvin

01/05/2010 at 9:00 am

The Flowers of Guatemala

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Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC, has written to the Guatemalan ambassador in the UK to protest at the murder of Pedro Antonio Garcia, the fifth trade unionist to have been killed in Guatemala since November 2009, and at the attempted murder of Abel Barsilai Giron Roldan.

The letter points out that the murders and attacks are:

The most blatant aspect of a far wider policy which seems designed to destroy any form of independent trade union organisation and meaningful social dialogue in Guatemala

against the background of an escalation of attacks since 2005 documented by the ITUC. Shockingly, the local police commander is reported to have said, in the context of the attempted murder of Mr. Roldan, that ‘firing a weapon is not a crime’ – a phrase which not only gives succour to the murderers and to their sponsors, but which also appears to lend support to their campaign of terror.

The Flowers of Guatemala are blooming again.

Written by Calvin

17/02/2010 at 11:22 am

Tobin, updated

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The Tobin Tax was first proposed by Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin in 1972 as a levy designed to deter currency speculation (although he was building on the wider financial transactions tax proposed by Keynes back in 1936). Some sort of financial transactions tax has been back on the political and economic agenda in recent times as a way of dealing with one aspect of the conditions which have led to this last economic crisis (and, frankly, as a means of getting the bankers to pay (back) their share). The wiki entry on the Tobin Tax is good on the background and the recent history.)

An updated Tobin Tax, updated for the modern times and renamed the Robin Hood tax has now been proposed by a coalition of around 50 organisations dealing with poverty, including the TUC, as a way of raising funds from banking activities towards dealing with poverty and climate change, both in the UK and abroad. The campaign features a video produced by Richard Curtis and starring Bill Nighy – and, of course, you can sign up for updates and vote (more than 4:1 in favour, so far, now that stacks of multiple ‘no’ votes have been discounted), too. ToUChstone, the TUC’s blog, has produced several posts on the initiative today as, from a capital markets perspective, has labour and capital.

[Edit 15 February: now a margin of 10:1 in favour – while the multiple ‘no’ votes appeared to have come from two IP addresses, one of which is registered to Goldman Sachs, that Great American bubble machine. Doing God’s work again, Lloyd?]

The Connect Sector of Prospect has a policy of raising awareness of and support for the Tobin Tax dating back to 2001 and this blog supports also the updated initiative: it’s another aspect of a welcome return to Keynesian economic views; in deterring short-termism, it may well have a role to play in improving (long-term) corporate governance; the activities the target of the tax are those which fit well within the definition of being, in Adair Turner’s neat turn of phrase, ‘socially useless’; and the funds it will raise ought clearly to help with the worthwhile central mission of the coalition.

Without going into all the arguments of the naysayers, some of which are less worthy than others, it seems to me that, to be successful, the initiative needs to recognise the following:

1. this is not a cheap way of raising finance to meet long-term UN goals of all countries providing 0.7% of GDP for international assistance – it has to be extra

2. this is not a way of providing bankers with a route back to social acceptability, and neither does it deal with the behaviours which caused the crisis and the need to inject huge amounts of capital to bailing out the banks – both of which are issues which need to be properly tackled. Nevertheless, we do need to understand what role (very) short-term trading plays and why those engaged in it do it, given the tiny margins being quoted; at the same time, the tax needs to target what is demonstrably ‘socially useless’ activity undertaken within the financial services sector – and this itself needs to be cut off. The City needs to recognise this, too, much more than it does.

3. the potential for City creativity needs to be recognised and the issue of accountability to pay the tax properly covered

4. the monies need to be properly ring-fenced and used for specific goals. What can’t be allowed to happen is that money raised and sent overseas then finds its way back to this (or any other western) country in carbon trading schemes.

Overall, however, an initiative well worth supporting.

Haiti event at the TUC

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Just time for a short welcome for tonight’s event, supported by Prospect, and to express the hopes that all going have a great time. Don’t forget to take your folding stuff!

Tickets for the event are as rare as hens’ teeth – so well done if you’ve got one! – but, even if you can’t attend the event, you can still buy the t-shirt

The TUC has also published news of how trade union assistance is arriving in Haiti and being used for the good of the people there (and see also Owen Tudor’s post over at Stronger Unions) – so you know your donations are reaching their destination.

Written by Calvin

03/02/2010 at 5:30 pm

Haiti: trade union action

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Amidst news that the death toll in Haiti may be as high as 200,000 people (over 70,000 people have already been buried), and that cruise ships have continued to find private places to dock just 60 miles from the earthquake zone, TUC Aid has launched its own appeal for funds for emergency relief. You can find further information about the TUC Aid appeal and a chance to donate online – via, so you can be sure that funds will find their way to where they are intended – here. Over 3m Haitian people are in desperate need of food, clothes, shelter and essential medicines and tens of thousands are facing their sixth night out in the open.

You can also find full news on what trade unions are doing in response to this disaster over at LabourStart.

Written by Calvin

18/01/2010 at 12:16 pm

Colombia: lobbying continues against the proposed FTA

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The TUC has written to Baroness Ashton, the EU’s new High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, calling on her to abandon talks on a free trade agreement with Colombia on the grounds of the country’s appalling human rights record, not least with regard to the continued killings of trade unionists.

A free trade agreement with the EU would be a propaganda coup for the Colombian government and would essentially reward it in the trade and international arenas, while acting as an endorsement of its continued inaction on its human rights record. Colombian civil society and trade union organisations have called for a rejection of any attempt to reach such an agreement; the US government has rejected doing so and the EU should suspend its own negotiations. Worryingly, as the TUC’s toughly-worded letter points out, the promised engagement with the Colombian government on its domestic record via the existing Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) procedures appears not to have happened.

Connect is continuing its own lobbying activities, in line with its support for the Justice for Colombia campaign on the proposed agreement and in support of a special meeting on the issue taking place at the European Parliament on 9 December.

The TUC was also a signatory to the letter to the Editor of The Guardian last week which called for tougher actions against June’s coup in Honduras and asking governments not to recognise the fake elections which took place the previous Sunday.

As tough as conditions are at home for trade unionists, they are never as worse as they are for trade unionists in Latin America. Internationalism has the power both to bring greater unity to trade unions worldwide and also increases the number of reasons to belong to a trade union: solidarity needs to be more than just a watchword.

Written by Calvin

01/12/2009 at 1:00 am