Secretary of State sets out agenda against “indivisible struggle”

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Poverty and climate change are an ‘indivisible struggle’, a Cabinet Minister told Lancaster students last week.

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, visited the university on Friday of Week Five and spoke to a group of  around fifty people in the Faraday Lecture Theatre.

Alexander leads the Department for International Development (DFID), which was created by the Government in 1997 to tackle poverty around the world and promote sustainable development.

“In the previous eighteen years [to 1997] the UK aid budget halved,” said Alexander. “I’m proud to say that since 1997 it has tripled. It’s a conscious decision the Labour party made.”

DFID is also concerned with climate change, an issue Alexander believes is inextricably linked to poverty.

“Some of the poorest countries on earth have been hit the hardest [by climate change],” he told SCAN. “It’s not a future threat in the developing world, it’s a contemporary crisis.”

Alexander cited his experiences travelling in Bangladesh and Kenya, where the impacts of climate change have already been felt with changes in weather patterns affecting millions of people’s lifestyles.

In his speech Alexander concentrated mainly on environmental and economic issues. He spoke about the forthcoming climate change negotiations on Copenhagen in December and concerns that no agreement will be reached.

“The world has a choice on whether to come together or just split apart on climate change,” he said.

Following the speech Alexander took questions from the audience on a variety of subjects ranging from the World Bank to nuclear disarmament to the influence students can have on the sweatshop industry. Students, he said, are vital to ensuring that clothes producers in developing countries get a fair deal.

“People in this room have more influence than you realise,” he told the audience. “The voices [designers] listen to most are the voices of their customers.”

Alexander was in the Lancaster area to join the Lancaster and District Fairtrade Group in celebrating their fifth anniversary at Lancaster Town Hall. Recently he announced that £12 million of Government funding would be invested in Fairtrade.

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