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‘We don’t work in separate worlds’, Muslim Aid CEO tells Labour Conference

26 Sep 2019 News

Muslim Aid's chief executive has told an audience of Labour Party members and charity representatives that politicians and charities don't “work in separate worlds”, and should be more collaborative.

Jehangir Malik, chief executive at Muslim Aid, was speaking earlier this week at a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference, which had been organised by the charity. 

He emphasised the importance of politicians and charities working collaboratively in the long term as well as the short term. “I'd like to recognise that we need both political actors and humanitarian agencies to work together to provide a solution, and we don't work in separate worlds.”

He added: “We have to recognise that one: money will run out; and two: public interest will reduce.” He said he was keen to look at how government and the sector operates, “without being politicised or instrumentalised”.

‘Better ways of doing aid’

Also speaking on the panel was Helen Stawski, head of policy at the International Rescue Committee. She called for a government that stops its “knee-jerk” reaction to disasters.

She said the government should change its funding model to think in the long term for international development aid, and help groups rebuild social and economic systems.

There are “better ways of doing aid,” which should support resilience rather than undermining it, she said, adding: “Let’s listen to refugees. They’re saying they want to work and let’s have a government that supports that.”

Fears for the aid budget

Stawski added that she feared for the current government’s commitment to the 0.7 per cent of the UK’s gross national income budgeted for overseas development aid.

She said the Department for International Development should not only maintain the 0.7 per cent but be careful about diverting it to trade or the foreign office.

Alex Norris, Labour MP and shadow minister for international development, spoke about the difficulties when he personally started to investigate where funds allocated to DfID were being spent.

Changing the narrative

Malik spoke urgently about changing the current negative narrative on refugees and migrants.

Norris said in the past the Labour Party had been timid of talking about migration and had done a disservice to their constituents, by assuming people would be resistant to discussion.

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