This week, Bond and members descended on Liverpool for the Labour Party Conference to spend five days discussing policy and other current issues of the day.
Tackling the climate crisis was central at the Labour Party Conference this year, with the conference slogan advocating for “a fairer, greener Britain”. This focus was felt, right across the board in domestic policy, but it was also central to Labour’s new vision for foreign policy and development.
Labour’s promises on foreign policy and development
Speaking on the main conference stage on Tuesday, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said that the climate crisis is the biggest challenge the world faces. Lammy announced that the next Labour government would introduce a ‘green dimension’ to its foreign policy, making the climate crisis a standing item on the agenda of the prime minister’s National Security Council, pushing to create a new international law of ecocide and advocating for climate action to become a fourth pillar of the United Nations alongside peace, human rights and development.
Lammy announced his “restore the moral compass to Britain’s foreign policy”, saying that Labour would be “a voice for peace, development and freedom across the globe”. Both Lammy and shadow cabinet minister for development, Preet Gill also highlighted the central role of women and girls, supporting calls for feminist foreign and development policies.
Lammy signalled Labour’s direction of travel on UK aid and development by announcing that “a Labour government will restore our 0.7% aid target” which received a large round of applause from conference delegates. He also announced that there would be no more cuts to UK aid under Labour. In her speech on Tuesday, Preet Gill added that Labour will legislate to ensure UK aid spending helps tackle climate change. Devex reported that this legislation would be designed to be similar to the International Development Gender Equality Act of 2014, where the minister who is responsible for development is accountable to parliament for the climate impact of UK aid spending.
David Lammy said that Labour will “fix the problems of the government’s badly mismanaged merger with a new model to deliver development”. However, Lammy also stressed the need for everyone to accept that DFID is gone, he said he wanted to assess the challenges currently facing the world and develop a new model that fits the 21st century. Lammy said he was very keen to listen to the sector on what this should look like. Other shadow ministers such as shadow health and social care secretary Wes Streeting, shadow foreign office minister Bambos Charalambous and shadow cabinet minister for international development, Preet Gill, voiced their support for an independent department.
In her speech in the conference hall, Preet Gill provided some more detail, saying that this “new model” would have “the independence needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century: one that recognises the link between development and climate”. Gill also confirmed that its “mission will be to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals”.
As with all conferences, there were many fringe events hosted by businesses, think tanks, charities and INGOs.
Bond held its annual drinks reception, in partnership with the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID), including guest speeches from Preet Gill, former Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn, and Member of the Senate of Colombia María José Pizarro. Gill made it clear that Labour will bring back 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) invested via UK aid and spoke passionately about Labour’s desire to stop talking about “aid” and “charity”, and instead focus on solidarity.
On Monday, Bond held a panel event in partnership with the Labour Foreign Policy Group with shadow ministers Bambos Charalambous and Preet Gill joining former first minister of Scotland Lord McConnell and others to discuss Labour’s vision for foreign policy and development. Charalambous outlined that the next Labour government will put development at the heart of foreign policy because “aid is intrinsic to peacebuilding and good governance”.
Our members and allies were also out in force at the conference this year, hosting discussions on climate and social justice, humanitarian crises, drug policy, and Labour’s vision for foreign policy and development.
Faith organisations held an event with Christians on the Left exploring how Labour could support locally led, child-centred and solidarity-based development. Health Poverty Action, STOPAIDS and CBMUK held an event outlining a new vision for global equity. During the event, shadow ministers and others discussed the potential for creating a new department for global equity to play a key role in decolonising development and promoting social justice across the world. Shadow minister Fabian Hamilton called for new thinking and approaches based on the values of justice, fairness and equality.
We will be at the Conservative Party Conference next week, so look out for our highlights on all things international development. Check out relevant events at the conference here.