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Full Transcript | David Cameron | London Conference on Libya Speech | 29 March 2011

"A new beginning for Libya is within their grasp and we will help them seize it."

Let me welcome you all to London.

Foreign Ministers from more than 40 countries - from America to Asia - from Europe to Africa - from the United Nations to the Arab world. All here to unite with one purpose: to help the Libyan people in their hour of need.

Today is about a new beginning for Libya - a future in which the people of Libya can determine their own destiny, free from violence and oppression.

But the Libyan people cannot reach that future on their own.

They require three things of us.

First, we must reaffirm our commitment to UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and the broad alliance determined to implement it.

Second, we must ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid where it is needed, including to newly liberated towns.

And third, we must help the Libyan people plan for their future after the conflict is over.

These are the three goals of this London Conference.Let me take each in turn.

Reaffirming our commitment to the UNSCRs

First, UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

Just twelve days ago, following an appeal by the Arab League, the United Nations passed an historic resolution to protect the people of Libya from the murderous brutality of Qadhafi's regime.

At the meeting Nicholas Sarkozy hosted in Paris, we made the right choice: to draw a line in the desert sand, and to halt his murderous advance by force.

Be in no doubt.

Our action saved the city of Benghazi.

It averted a massacre.

And it has given freedom a chance in Libya.

But be in no doubt about something else.

As I speak the people of Misurata are continuing to suffer murderous attacks from the regime.

I have had reports this morning that the city is under attack from both land and sea.

Qadhafi is using snipers to shoot them down and let them bleed to death in the street.

He has cut off food, water and electricity to starve them into submission.

And he is harassing humanitarian ships trying to get into the port to do what they can to relieve their suffering.

He continues to be in flagrant breach of the UN Security Council Resolution.

That is why there has been such widespread support amongst the Libyan people - and in the wider Arab world - for the military action we are taking.

It has saved lives, and it is saving lives.

As one Misurata resident put it: "These strikes give us hope".

Today we must be clear and unequivocal: we will not take that hope away.

We will continue to implement United Nations Resolutions for as long as is necessary to protect the Libyan people from danger.

Humanitarian Aid

Second, humanitarian aid.

Just as it is essential that the international community works together to stop the slaughter, it's vital that we get aid in to save lives. This has to happen now.

And it is happening.

Already we are seeing how the actions we have taken are helping to pave the way for humanitarian organisations to return to liberated cities.

Even in Misurata, humanitarian agencies have managed to get some supplies in.

In Benghazi, the ICRC, Islamic Relief and International Medical Corps are back in and are working hard.

In Ajdabiya, thousands of people have fled, but the hospital is reported to be functioning - though it urgently needs more nursing staff and supplies.

So supplies are getting in, but we need to redouble our efforts.

The whole international community needs to work together.

The UN's has an absolutely critical role in ensuring that humanitarian aid gets through to those who need it, especially in the newly liberated towns.

Building a stable peace

When the fighting is over, we will need to put right the damage that Qadhafi has inflicted.

Repairing the hospitals ruined by shells...

...rebuilding the homes demolished by Qadhafi's tank rounds...

...and restoring the mosques and minarets smashed by his barbarity.

It's never too early to start planning co-ordinated action to support peace in Libya over the long term.

It is surely the UN, working with regional organisations and the rest of the international community, who should lead this work.

Repairing physical infrastructure...

...ensuring basic services...

...and helping Libyans restore functioning government at every level.

Planning for the future

Third, we must help the people of Libya plan now for the political future they want to build.

Our military actions can protect the people from attack; and our humanitarian actions can help the people recover. But neither are sufficient to provide the path to greater freedom.

Ultimately, the solution must be a political one - and it must be for the Libyan people themselves to determine their own destiny.

That means reinforcing the UN sanctions to exert the greatest possible pressure on the Qadhafi regime.

And it requires bringing together the widest possible coalition of political leaders...

...including civil society, local leaders and most importantly the Interim Transitional National Council... that the Libyan people can speak with one voice.

Our task in the international community is to support Libya as it looks forward to a better future.

This will not be achieved in a matter of days or weeks.

The coalition of countries and organisations gathered here today must commit to seeing this task through.

I propose that today's Conference should agree to set up a Contact Group, which will put political effort on a sustained basis into supporting the Libyan people.

We should be clear about the scale of the challenge. It will mean looking afresh at our entire engagement with Libya and the wider region - from our development programmes, to our cultural exchanges and trade arrangements.

All our efforts must support the building blocks of a democratic society.

Freedom of expression

The right to free and fair elections

The right to peaceful protest.

Respect for human rights and the rule of law.

These aren't values that belong to any one nation.

They are universal.

They are embedded in the Vision of a Democratic Libya set out by the Interim Transitional National Council today.

And we should warmly welcome this commitment.


As this broad range of countries gathers here today in London, there are people suffering terribly under Qadhafi's rule.

Our message to them is this: there are better days ahead for Libya.

Just as we continue to act to help protect the Libyan people from the brutality of Qadhafi's regime... we will support and stand by them as they seek to take control of their own destiny.

Their courage and determination will be rewarded.

A new beginning for Libya is within their grasp and we will help them seize it.

Photo: Getty Images
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What's to be done about racial inequality?

David Cameron's words on equal opportunities are to be welcomed - now for some action, says Sunder Katwala.

David Cameron made the strongest, clearest and most high profile statement about ethnic inequalities and the need to tackle discrimination ever yet offered by a British Prime Minister in his leader’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
“Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience. It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname. Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names? … That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful. We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally”, said Cameron.
While the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, this was a powerfully argued Prime Ministerial intervention – and a particularly well-timed one, for three reasons.

Firstly, the Prime Minister was able to root his case in an all-but-universally accepted appeal for equal opportunities. It will always prove more difficult in practice to put political energy and resources behind efforts to remedy discrimination against a minority of the population unless a convincing fairness case is made that values cherished across our whole society are at stake. Cameron’s argument, that any party which tells itself that it is the party of the ‘fair chance’ and ‘the equal shot’ must have a response when there is such clear evidence of discrimination, should prove persuasive to a Conservative Party that has not seen race inequalities as its natural territory. Cameron argued that the same principles should animate responses to discrimination when it comes to race, gender and social class. Put like that, wanting job interviews to be fair – by eradicating conscious and unconscious patterns of bias wherever possible – would strike most Britons as offering as clear a case of the values of fair play as wanting the best baker to win the Great British Bake-Off on television.
Secondly, Cameron’s intervention comes at a potential "tipping point" moment for fair opportunities across ethnic groups. Traditionally, ethnic discrimination has been discussed primarily through the lens of its impact on the most marginalised. Certainly, persistent gaps in the criminal justice system, mental health provision and unemployment rates remain stark for some minority groups. What has been less noticed is the emergence of a much more complex pattern of opportunity and disadvantage – not least as a consequence of significant ethnic minority progress.

Most strikingly of all, in educational outcomes, historic attainment gaps between ethnic minorities and their white British peers have disappeared over the last decade. In the aggregate, ethnic minorities get better GCSE results on average. Ethnic minority Britons are more likely, not less likely, to be university graduates than their fellow citizens. 

As a result of that progress, Cameron’s intervention comes at a moment of significant potential – but significant risk too. Britain’s ethnic minorities are the youngest and fastest-growing sections of British society. If that educational progress translates into economic success, it will make a significant contribution to the "Great British Take-Off" that the Prime Minister envisions. But if that does not happen, with educational convergence combined with current ‘ethnic penalties’ in employment and income persisting, then that potential could well curdle into frustration that the British promise of equal opportunities is not being kept.  Cameron also mirrored his own language in committing himself to both a ‘fight against extremism’ and a ‘fight against discrimination’: while those are distinct challenges and causes, actively pursuing both tracks simultaneously has the potential, at least, depolarise some debates about responses to extremism  - and so to help deepen the broad social coalitions we need for a more cohesive society too.

Thirdly, Cameron’s challenge could mark an important deepening in the political competition between the major parties on race issues. Many have been struck by the increase in political attention on the centre-right to race issues over the last five to ten years. The focus has been on the politics of representation. By increasing the number of non-white Conservative MPs from two to seventeen since 2005, Cameron has sent a powerful signal that Labour’s traditional claim to be ‘the party of ethnic minorities’ would now be contested. Cameron was again able to celebrate in Manchester several ways in which his Cabinet and Parliamentary benches demonstrate many successful journeys of migrant and minority integration in British society. That might perhaps help to ease the fears, about integration being impossible in an era of higher immigration, which the Home Secretary had articulated the previous day.

So symbolism can matter. But facial diversity is not enough. The politics of ethnic minority opportunity needs to be about more than visits to gurdwaras, diversity nights at the party conference fringes and unveiling statues of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. Jeremy Corbyn’s first speech as Labour leader did include one brief celebratory reference to Britain’s ethnic diversity – “as I travelled the country during the leadership campaign it was wonderful to see the diversity of all the people in our country” – and to Labour bringing in more black, Asian and ethnic minority members - but it did not include any substantial content on discrimination. Tim Farron acknowledged during his leadership campaign that the Liberal Democrats have struggled to get to the starting-line on race and diversity at all. The opposition parties too will no doubt now be challenged to match not just the Prime Minister’s rhetorical commitment to challenging inequalities but also to propose how it could be done in practice.

Non-white Britons expect substance, not just symbolism from all of the parties on race inequalites.  Survation’s large survey of ethnic minority voters for British Future showed the Conservatives winning more ethnic minority support than ever before – but just 29 per cent of non-white respondents were confident that the Conservatives are committed to treating people of every ethnic background equally, while 54 per cent said this of Labour. Respondents were twice as likely to say that the Conservatives needto do more to reach out – and the Prime Minister would seem to be committed to showing that he has got that message.  Moreover, there is evidence that ethnic inclusion could be important in broadening a party’s appeal to other younger, urban and more liberal white voters too – which is why it made sense for this issue to form part of a broader attempt by David Cameron to colonise the broad centre of British politics in his Manchester speech.

But the case for caution is that there has been limited policy attention to ethnic inequalities under the last two governments. Restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab decided to give up his role chairing an ethnic minority taskforce for successive governments, unconvinced there was a political commitment to do much more than convene a talking shop. Lib Dem equalities minister Lynne Featherstone did push the CV discrimination issue – but many Conservatives were sceptical. Cameron’s new commitment may face similar challenges from those whose instinct is to worry that more attention to discrimination or bias in the jobs market will mean more red tape for business.

Labour had a separate race inequalities manifesto in 2015, outside of its main election manifesto, while the Conservative manifesto did not contain significant commitments to racial inequality. The mid-campaign launch in Croydon of a series of race equality pledges showed an increasing awareness of the growing importance of ethnic minority votes - though the fact that they all involved aiming for increases of 20 per cent by 2020 gave them a slightly back-of-the-envelope feel. 

Prime Ministerial commitments have an important agenda-setting function. A generation ago the Stephen Lawrence case opened the eyes of middle England to racist violence and police failures, particularly through the Daily Mail’s persistent challenging of those injustices. A Conservative Prime Minister’s words could similarly make a big difference in the mainstreaming of the issue of inequalities of opportunity. What action should follow words? Between now and next year’s party conference season, that must will now be the test for this Conservative government – and for their political opponents too. 

Sunder Katwala is director of British Future and former general secretary of the Fabian Society.