A major conference exploring how grassroots projects can provide lasting solutions to world poverty is taking place in London on Friday.

Organised by London Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, the Global Poverty Summit aims to galvanise support for non-governmental solutions to helping the world's poor.  It is backed by international figures including former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who have both recorded video messages.

Mr Kamall said: "The centralised, top down approach has failed the poorest in our society. Globalisation's riches do not always trickle down to their level and while welfare may help recipients get through the day, it does not provide a route out of poverty. In too many communities there is an absence of hope.

"International aid and large NGOs have a role to play, but I passionately believe that there are solutions to be found in local communities across the world. Empowering people to tackle some of the toughest issues in their communities is incredibly inspiring."

The Summit, held under the auspices of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, will hear from speakers from around the world who have put these principles into action.

Bob Woodson is a former civil rights activist whose Woodson Center is helping to revitalise urban neighbourhoods in the United States. Dorothea Arndt will explain how the Hand-in-Hand organisation fights poverty in the developing world by training small groups of women how to use their own pooled savings to start businesses and providing access to micro-loans. Hand-in Hand aims to create 3.7 million jobs worldwide by 2021 and is already 80% of the way there.

There will also be representatives from a retraining and education programme in rural Romania and a cycling scheme delivering food prepared by refugees in Cairo.

Closer to home, the London Community Foundation connects those in need with people willing to give. It has distributed more than £55 million over 22 years to projects such as Streets of Growth, which helps young people out of a life of drugs and gangs and into training and employment.

The Cato Institute's Michael D. Tanner, one of the United States' most influential thinkers on innovative solutions to tackling poverty, is a keynote speaker.

Mr Kamall said: "All these schemes have one thing in common. They work from the bottom up, are not necessarily reliant on the state or trickle down economics for their survival and offer hope to those who have little or none.

"The event's aim is simple. To produce a report providing clearly defined steps for community organisations, philanthropists and all the charitably minded amongst us to tackle poverty and exclusion within our local communities."

 

 

Labour MEPs were under fire today for potentially jeopardising jobs and the drive for renewable energy at Yorkshire's giant Drax power plant.

They faced criticism after supporting Green MEPs in moves to impose severe restrictions on use of one of the generator's prime sources of biomass fuel, roundwood.

The fuel is produced from off-cuts as a by-product of the timber industry and at Drax is sourced only from sustainable forests to strict criteria.

But in a vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today on a new framework for renewable energy, Labour supported a Green amendment effectively banning use of roundwood as bio-mass fuel.

Despite the support of UK Labour and their colleagues in the Socialist and Democrat Group of the European Parliament, however, the amendment was voted down.

Yorkshire and the Humber's Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir MEP said: : "Roundwood makes up some 40 per cent of the fuel used at this ground-breaking power station. Drax is targeted to produce 16 per cent of the UK's renewable energy, but that will be undermined without roundwood as an important part of the fuel mix. To ban it would be crazy. It flies in the face of all the evidence about sound ecology.

"Drax has been hailed a poster child for renewable power and green electricity. It supports 6,000 jobs in our region at the plant, at docks on the Humber and the Tyne and across the supply chain. Fortunately for the Drax company, for its workforce and for our energy mix, they did not get their way."

 Fellow Yorkshire and the Humber Conservative MEP John Procter added:  "Labour MEPs are fully aware that Drax has spent millions of pounds converting the power station entirely to biomass, yet today they put the project at risk by backing this needless ban. They have let Yorkshire down by undermining the company by supporting moves that would have cost our region jobs and damage the UK's renewable energy sector."

 

 

European Union negotiators must decide whether they want a Brexit deal that prioritises people or the EU project, the UK's most senior MEP said today.

Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, co-leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, told the European Parliament that voters were watching to see whether politicians were capable of putting the interests of ordinary people ahead of their own.

He said: "Voters, citizens and workers don't care about legal technicalities, they don't sit at home hoping the UK is made an example of. They simply want both sides to sort it out.

"They want to keep making a living, keep selling their products, keep their jobs, keep travelling and keep safe.

"So, quite simply, the EU needs to decide whether - is this a deal for the European people or a deal for the European project?"

Mr Kamall was taking part in a European Parliament debate on last month's EU summit at which it was agreed to move Brexit talks onto the second phase, when the withdrawal agreement and the future UK/EU trade relationship will be discussed.

He insisted the goal of both sides must be to secure a  unique, mutually advantageous deal.

"While the UK asks for a bespoke deal, EU negotiators are asking which template. But we all know that while a specific trade deal may act as a template for others, no two trade deals are exactly alike. After all, the Canada-EU agreement was bespoke."

He added: "The ECR Group believes that this is a question not limited to Brexit but a fundamental question about the very future of the EU.

"Is the EU serving the needs of its peoples? Is the EU offering solutions to the core challenges its member states face? Could the EU do less, but do it better?

 

Responding to the European Commission's proposed negotiating mandate today, Conservative MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, Ashley Fox, said: “We fully expect Gibraltar to be part of the transition period and for the EU to be cooperative in negotiating this arrangement. It's in no-ones interest that Gibraltar suddenly leaves the EU in March 2019 without time for businesses and workers to adapt.

"If we are to reach an agreement that protects Gibraltar's sovereignty and their interests then we must enter these talks with the spirit of co-operation, not confrontation, with Spain and the rest of the EU. However, under no circumstances will the UK discuss Gibraltar's place in the British family.  

"The UK government has been clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, that includes Gibraltar's participation in the transition period and the future arrangement."

 

Conservative MEPs' call for an inter-governmental summit to end the ongoing persecution of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims was backed today by the European Parliament.

Over 600,000 Rohingyas have been forced to flee their homes and seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh and at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in August alone. The crisis has been called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing by the UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Today's resolution follows an extraordinary debate on the crisis in the European Parliament this week which was secured by Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir's impassioned plea to Parliament President Antonio Tajani. Mr Bashir hopes that an inter-governmental conference would guarantee the safe return of the Rohingyas to Myanmar, restore their citizenship rights and set up an inquiry into all allegations of crimes against humanity.

Mr Bashir said: "Inaction is simply unacceptable in the face of such cruel persecution and such human disaster. I am pleased colleagues from across the European Parliament joined Conservative MEPs today in calling for the international community to act to end the ongoing crisis."

"I believe there is now real momentum, a growing international consensus that the world cannot stand by and watch as a whole people are wiped out and driven abroad."

Pope Francis felt unable to even mention the Rohingyas by name in a speech in Myanmar last month as the situation is so delicate. Instead he only referred to the Muslim minority as he encouraged the country to "respect the rights of all who call this land their home".

Conservative MEP Sajjad Karim, who has also campaigned for an end to the persecution of the Rohingyas, said: "For many, many years now Member after Member of the European Parliament have stood in this chamber and highlighted the plight of the Rohingya. It seems that those calls have fallen on deaf ears and today we arrive at a situation where even the Pope cannot go there and call these people by their true identity.

“It is clear that whilst there is much that is being done by the European Union today, unless and until we insist on a regularisation and status for these people, they are going to continually find themselves in this position time after time. I hope today's vote offers the Rohingya a chance and spurs on the international community to act."