What the Labour manifesto says about international development

21 November 2019
Author: Paul Abernethy

The Labour Party has released its manifesto, “Time for Real Change”.  

We take a closer look at their plans and pledges on aid, climate change, human rights, conflict policy and other areas of international development. 

This is just a snapshot of the manifesto, so make sure to read the document in full. We’ll be analysing the other main parties’ manifestos as they come out. You can also find links to all the party manifestos that have been released so far at the bottom of this blog. 

Aid and development 

Labour recommits to the law that at least 0.7% of the UK’s gross national income on overseas development assistance. Labour will also keep a standalone Department for International Development (DFID), which the party founded in 1997. 

They also commit to uphold basic human rights by establishing a new “unit for public services’ within DFID that, by increasing direct budgetary support, will help governments build sustainable services for their citizens.  

Building on their 2018 “A World for the Many, Not the Few” strategy, Labour will implement a “gender transformative approach” to all development work, with more funding going to grassroots women’s organisations. They also commit to ensuring policy coherence across all international-facing government departments to ensure that all interventions go hand in hand.  

Climate change 

Billed as a manifesto for a “green revolution”, the manifesto has significant policy recommendations on tackling the climate crisis.  

The Labour Party, if elected into government, will use additional and new money to spend £4 billion on International Climate Finance, and will stop all aid spending on fossil fuels.  

They will also perform a “root and branch” review of the CDC, turning it into a Green Investment Bank, mandated to fight poverty, inequality, and climate change. They will also end all UK export finance support for fossil fuel projects and reject any future deals that compromise the party’s principles on climate. 

Human rights and conflict policy 

Building on their commitment of policy coherence across foreign affairs departments, Labour have committed to the immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen, and to Israel for arms used in “violation of the human rights of Palestinian civilians”.  

The party will also use the UK’s global influence to secure justice and accountability for breaches of human rights and international law, citing the recent bombings of hospitals in Syria as violations of these laws. They have also committed to advocating for human rights at every bilateral diplomatic meeting. 

The Foreign Office 

Labour has committed to significant changes in the Foreign Office. Building on their climate commitments, the party has said that under a Labour government, the Foreign Office will ensure that climate diplomacy will be at the heart of their foreign policy.  

To do this, they will work to “rebuild our climate expertise” throughout the department, pushing for new ambitious climate targets throughout the various global institutions.  

They have also promised to provide a further £400 million to “rebuild its capacity and expertise on human rights, climate diplomacy and conflict prevention”. This funding will replace the current cross-government Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) 

Trade 

Labour will ensure government procurement contracts are not granted to companies that are complicit in serious human rights abuses, requiring all UK trade agreements to be consistent with international humanitarian law. 

They will also introduce legislation to ensure transparency and parliamentary scrutiny of trade and investment agreements. 

Other major policies 

Promote fairer international patent regimes that do not prevent countries from accessing essential medicines and support efforts to increase the transparency of medicines pricing, so governments can negotiate fair prices. 

In the long term, ensure that all medicines developed with the support of UK taxpayer money are accessible to people in the global south. 

Support ongoing UN efforts to introduce a binding international treaty on business and human rights, and make companies legally accountable for failing to prevent human rights abuses or environmental damage in their operations and supply chains, including criminal liability in the most serious cases. 

Establish an aid-funded Food Sovereignty Fund to enable small-scale farmers in the global south to gain access to land, seeds and finance, and uphold indigenous peoples’ right to land. 

Other manifestos released so far (in order of release date) 

About the author

Paul Abernethy
Bond

Paul leads the political advocacy of Bond, working with parliamentarians and ministers in support of ending global poverty.