Shadow Security Minister Dame Pauline Neville-Jones is, according to the monthly ConservativeHome survey of grassroots members, the most popular female member of the shadow cabinet. Elevated to the Lords at the same time as Sayeeda Warsi she has been working away at developing a coherent Conservative security policy – taking a tough line on domestic extremism and developing a global perspective on threats and opportunities. Although, by many accounts, she has struggled to adapt to the political cut-and-thrust she is set to be a very authoritative minister.
Earlier this week she delivered a speech to the World Islamic Economic Forum in Jakarta. Key extracts are published below.
We could see a reversal of progress on international poverty: “According to the World Bank, from 1981 to 2001, the number of people living on less than $1 a day went down from 1.5 billion to 1 billion. Improvements in global literacy went hand-in-hand with this. This favourable trend could now go into reverse. Just one indicator of what is at stake.”
Private capital flows to emerging economies are set to collapse: “In 2007, net private capital flows to emerging economies were $898 billion… The Institute of International Finance estimates that net private capital flows to emerging and developing countries will be just $165 billion in 2009 – a decline of 82 per cent from 2007.”
The early stages of the world recession have already caused low level political instability: ” The United States intelligence community has looked at some of these issues. Its current Threat Assessment observes that ‘roughly a quarter of the countries in the world have already experienced low-level instability such as government changes because of the current slowdown. Europe and the former Soviet Union have experienced the bulk of the anti-state demonstrations’. In other words, have already been and will continue to be a rise in social unrest directly attributable to the economic downturn. No doubt not all of it will be peaceful.”
One third of the world’s nations may struggle to cope with the economic challenge: “The US Threat Assessment goes on to say that ‘although two-thirds of countries in the world have sufficient financial or other means to limit the impact for the moment, much of Latin America, former Soviet Union states and sub-Saharan Africa lack sufficient cash reserves, access to international aid or credit, or other coping mechanism.”
Under-pressure governments may become repressive and protectionist: “If the crisis goes on for more than a couple of years or so some governments are likely to be toppled. The political insecurity of governments can itself be a potent driver of both repression and economic nationalism which they may see as shortcuts to greater security.“
Extremists and terrorists may exploit the economic downturn: “We know that a number of factors contribute to the vulnerability of individuals to extremist messages of any kind, including poor education, unemployment, poor local services, isolation and lack of effective political rights or a combination of all of these. The economic crisis is likely to exacerbate such factors, sharpen the effects of underlying conflicts and potentially increase the appeal of the terrorist message.“
The importance of increasing food supply in the years ahead: “The World Bank predicts that, by 2030, demand for food will increase by fifty per cent- largely the effect of population increase. But how will suppliers meet it, when things like climate change and poor weather conditions can reduce crop output? Will improved husbandry be enough? …Over thirty countries have reduced exports, introduced export restrictions or stockpiled food. Food protectionism is a bad start. And countries like Saudi Arabia and China have responded to the prospect of increased costs and the possibility of shortages by seeking long-term food purchase agreements, buying land leases or, indeed, buying tracts of agricultural land outright in places like Africa. That makes other countries’ problems greater as the tracts of land are not being secured for trading purposes, but for the direct shipment of products to their own populations. Food prices are likely to be driven up by autarky.” In response PNJ suggests reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, a greater proportion of aid spending to be devoted to food security and, possibly, “a more internationally organized system of storage for certain basic food stuffs.”
In the speech PNJ also warns against cartelisation of the energy market and against protectionism. She says that the G20 may now be a more appropriately diverse group of nations to manage the scale of international economic challenges we face:
“My protected market is your closed factory and angry workforce… Maintaining the open system – requires possibly unpopular decisions about keeping markets open and thus putting some local jobs at risk and is a much bigger immediate challenge to political leaderships. But it is the route more likely to bring long run sustainable security. But while governments can be protectionist on their own, they have to cooperate to keep markets open. As a proponent of liberal capitalism, I want to see it heal itself and continue to be the motor of international economic development and welfare. To achieve this, we need to use global mechanisms. The G7 is no longer inclusive enough and it is right that the G20, despite being somewhat unwieldy as a steering mechanism, is at last – some might say rather late – taking primacy.”
It’s a wide-ranging informative speech and you can read the whole thing here.