2008 Wish List

The UK directors of major NGOs tell us what they would like to see happen in 2008

Shami Chakrabarti - Liberty

These seasonal lists are normally a bit of polemic mixed with an ounce of idle hope. Not so this time. I sense the beginnings of a new progressive consensus for fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK. Arguments for extending pre-charge detention in anti-terror cases have collapsed beyond repair but unlike her recent predecessors, the Home Secretary has had the sense not to close the door to further movement. Across democratic politics and every strand of society, people know that a belief in human dignity, equal treatment and justice could yet unite and embolden the oldest unbroken democracy on Earth.

Barbara Stocking – Oxfam

For 2008 I wish for an end to the conflict in Darfur. From January 1st I wish for a UN/ African Union force in Darfur which is able to protect the people, especially the women, who are subject to appalling attacks. That for me would also make it possible for us to regain some access to the many people in need by dealing with the banditry which is putting civilians and humanitarian workers at risk.

Then I would like to see an inclusive peace agreement supported by the Sudanese Government, rebel movements and the people themselves.Then, when the situation is peaceful and, at long last, people who want to go home feel able to do so safely, there needs to be sufficient donor support to allow this to happen.

This is all possible, but it will take political will and determination right across the world to make it happen.

Mike Lake - Help the Aged

We've had the Government's thinking on the design of social care services - the unfinished business for 2008 is the funding issue. A promised Green Paper will discuss how much we need to put in to this chronically underfunded service which faces serious challenges because of demographic change, and how much should be tax-funded and how much should individuals contribute. Outside Government, there is some consensus about the way forward: the key question is, will the Government grasp the nettle? What's needed now is action to secure access for all older people to high quality, affordable social care.

Donna Covey – Refugee Council

Ideally, of course, I’d like to see asylum seekers and refugees treated fairly, and given sanctuary when they need it. I’d like them not to be vilified and scapegoated by the media, politicians and the public.

But I know that’s a big ask, so I’ll start with a small one. I’d like the government to stop making asylum seekers whose claims have been refused destitute. Starving people into accepting a return to a country where they fear persecution can never be an acceptable government policy. All asylum seekers should have access to food and shelter while they are here. And they should be allowed to work – allowing them to support themselves and their families, as well as contribute to our communal well-being.

Adam Sampson - Shelter

In short, another year like the last will do for me. 2007 saw housing back up to the top of the political agenda, with commitments to build three million homes and a huge wedge of funding into new social housing. If we get more of the same in 2008, with the stream of new policy initiatives continuing unabated, I’ll be happy.

And if the Conservatives swing in to support the new drive, particularly at local authority level where the battle to free up the land for building is likely to be fought out, I’ll be ecstatic. So long as we avoid a housing market crash and a repossessions crisis, that is.

Oh and I hope that Fabio Capello doesn’t break our hearts.

Dame Mary Marsh - NSPCC

After an important year in which the issues for the well being of all children and young people in the UK have been high on the agenda and then set as key priorities for 2008, we have to secure delivery on this. I hope that there will much more participation by children and young people both in activities they enjoy and in wider contribution to their communities. I look forward across all four nations to better provision for their health, safety and learning and real progress towards the target of halving child poverty by 2010.

John Sauven - Greenpeace

2008 must be the year that the UK Government gets serious about tackling climate change. Gordon Brown must start the year by rejecting new nuclear power stations, an expensive and dangerous distraction from the real solutions – renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The proposed third runway at Heathrow must be blocked on climate grounds, as the proposal threatens to permanently derail our long term Co2 targets. We need a network of marine reserve to protect our fragile fish stocks, as well as renewed efforts to protect the world’s last remaining tropical forests. Finally, we need a new industrial revolution to jump start the UK’s renewable energy sector. This Government tells us that we face tough choices if we are to tackle this problem effectively. Now is the time to make them.

Kate Allen – Amnesty International

In 2008 I’d like to see a successful Beijing Olympics - and not just in terms of medals for team GB (though a few golds wouldn’t go amiss). The Chinese authorities promised that the Olympics would bring improvements to human rights and so far that simply hasn’t happened. Free speech is restricted, thousands are executed each year, detention without trial continues and people who stand up for human rights are brutally repressed. But there is still time to bring in reforms: Beijing 2008 could be a celebration of all that’s good about China and the Olympics could leave a lasting legacy for human rights