The Muslim Charities Forum’s seven hopes for the next government
The Muslim Charities Forum, the network of British Muslim charities working for social good both here in the UK and abroad, is calling on all political parties to adopt a set of commitments ahead of the General Election.
These seven pledges were devised after dialogue with MCF’s members and the wider charity sector, which if adopted, will allow them to continue their crucial work of alleviating suffering across the world.
1) Maintain commitment of 0.7% GDP to overseas aid and the continuation of DFID as an independent department
0.7% GDP towards international aid is the UN’s target for all developed countries, and the UK enshrined this into law in 2015. With sustained political pressure to reverse this, international development charities are calling on the next Government to maintain the 0.7% commitment and keep DFID as a standalone department and not be merged with other departments. We also believe aid money should be used purely on humanitarian causes and not leveraged in any trade negotiations, as has been proposed in the media and through some pressure groups.
2) Improve the Lobby Act 2014 so charities can advocate on behalf of those in need
The Lobbying Act 2014 has had a chilling effect by constraining the voice of charities and threatening civil society space in the UK. Most charities feel the Lobbying Act makes it more difficult to pursue their missions, particularly those working on politically sensitive or controversial issues. This legislation should be revisited so that charities are not marginalised, or their voices side-lined.
3) Review counter-terror financing laws
International NGOs (INGOs) struggle to use mainstream banks because of excessive and overly risk-averse counter-terrorism regulations. These measures have disproportionately affected Muslim INGOs. From bank account closures to monetary transfers being blocked with no notice nor explanation – charities are being hindered in their crucial humanitarian work due to the misapplication of counter-terror financing laws.
4) Commitment to challenging Islamophobia
One of the main challenges for UK-based Muslim charities is Islamophobia. The unwarranted targeting and scrutiny of Muslim-based charities is disproportionate compared to other charities, especially similar faith-based ones. The ‘othering’ of Muslims, from sections of the media and supposed thinktanks to even some senior politicians has very real consequences to the work and wellbeing of Muslim charities. Anti-Muslim prejudice must be tackled robustly, and every charity should be able to carry out their work irrespective of their faith or cause.
5) Tackle and prioritize the climate emergency
We are in the midst of a climate emergency. Climate action must be a priority across all parts of government. This includes ending support for fossil fuels, discontinuing fracking and halting any future airport expansion. Instead, to achieve a target of net zero emissions, urgent investment is required in the clean economy, including renewable energy and electric vehicles. Those who suffer from the consequences of climate change the most, both in the UK and abroad, are often the disadvantaged and underprivileged. Climate change is a humanitarian issue.
6) Develop an ethical foreign policy
The foreign policy pursued by successive governments have caused great suffering across the world. As a consequence of actions abroad, many millions have required humanitarian assistance. We need an ethical foreign policy which upholds and promotes peace, universal rights and adheres to international law. As such, we need to ensure that arms sales are conducted within the law and the UK should be a leader in conflict resolution and reconciliation.
7) Urgent action to address social crises on our doorstep
Many issues domestically have largely remained untouched in recent years. From record levels of homelessness to increased usage of food banks as a result of food poverty – urgent action must be taken to address these social crises. In order to do this, there has to be a commitment to ensuring civil society is properly and proportionately funded. Political decisions have real-life consequences and greater consideration must be given as to not adversely affect vulnerable members of society.