By Tom Fenton
Students from ‘ONE Durham’ took part in a campaign outside the Bill Bryson Library on Tuesday 11th November in support of an international campaign to fight corruption and tax avoidance.
The group is part of a wider international advocacy organisation, ‘ONE campaign’, which has six million members across the globe.
They campaign on anti-poverty issues relating to Africa, working with political leaders to combat preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and they demand greater transparency so governments are accountable to their citizens.
Set up last term, the group now has around 40 students who, according to co-President Sophie Jewsbury, “are actively interested in volunteering”.
The society, founded by Jewsbury and Ellie Ratcliffe, has held a number of photo campaigns and talks, including by two MEP candidates in April.
Jewsbury told Palatinate: “We were really happy about the reception that we received from students. Sometimes advocacy can be met with some cynicism – people question the effectiveness of petition-signing and awareness-raising efforts.”
Ratcliffe agreed: “I thought the event went well — we had a lot of engagement from students throughout the day, wanting to find out what we were doing.
“Because we’re a new society it’s great to have people interested, and the campaign outside the library was a great way to let people know more about what we do!
“I feel like we definitely made an impression; but most importantly the people who were interested enough to find out what we were doing seemed really interested in the ONE campaign.”
Jewsbury said: “ONE does not fundraise – it seeks to make change by raising awareness amongst the public and lobbying the decision-makers to change policy (their mantra is, ‘we don’t want your money, we want your voice’).
“The Trillion Dollar Scandal campaign last Tuesday was in support of ONE’s international campaign against corruption and tax avoidance.
“ONE have worked out that a trillion dollars are siphoned out of developing countries every year, through money laundering, tax evasion and embezzlement.
“It is money that could be otherwise used to fund the fight against poverty, disease and hunger. The leaders of the world’s 20 most powerful countries – the G20 – are meeting in Australia this November to make decisions that will affect billions of lives.
“We need them to take further action in four areas: public information on who owns companies and trusts; transparency of payments in the oil, gas and minerals sectors; automatic exchange of tax information; and open government data so citizens can hold their leaders to account.”
One member of the group wore a mask of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, who supports their proposals.
Photograph: Charles Capel