UK general election manifestos: What does it mean for the Alliance?

With a general election due to take place on 8 June, we review the commitments on aid and HIV made by the main political parties during the campaign.

Aid spending

Two years after Britain became the first major economy to meet the UN target, there is now cross-party consensus on the need to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development aid.

However, both the Conservative and Labour parties hint that there may some ‘tweaking’ of the commitment, should either of them form a future UK government.

The Conservative Party manifesto points towards a renegotiation of the rules that govern how aid money is spent. These rules currently mean that Official Development Assistance (ODA) money do not include activities like peacekeeping.

Current evidence suggests that UK aid spending is already diluted in this manner, with costs to house refugees in the UK included as part of its ODA spend. In 2016, the amount of refugee costs funded through ODA increased by 59.2%. (1)

At a pre-election debate hosted by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Bond on the 31st May, Andrew Mitchell, the Conservative Party representative and a former Secretary of State for International Development made it very clear that, if elected, they would look to agree broader parameters for the definition of aid with other OECD members. Failing that, they would look to change UK law.

At the same debate, the Labour Party said they too are open to “tweaking” the definition of aid, to include peace and security. The Liberal Democrats’ aid spokesperson, Baroness Sheehan, said they would keep the current definition.

Economic prosperity is a key part of the current UK aid strategy. In post-Brexit Britain, there have been concerns that a re-definition of aid could lead to it being further subsumed within UK trade policy, with some commentators predicting a post-election merger between the Department for International Development (DfID) and the Department for International Trade, an approach adopted recently by Canada and Australia and previously supported by the ex-Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel.

The Labour Party’s stance is that economic growth requires not only job creation but also power sharing and access to essential services. They promote the use of trade unions and cooperatives in developing countries.

Global health

Health continues to remain a priority for all three major political parties, reflecting its salience as a development issue that UK electors engage with. Indeed, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats make explicit references to tackling infectious diseases, like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

All parties welcomed the UK’s increased contribution to the Global Fund (2), and see this as the vehicle for the AIDS response. This is despite the financing gaps the Global Fund faces and the need for ongoing bilateral investment in the HIV response by the UK. All parties promised to devote more funding and resources to research and development.

The Labour Party has also committed to establishing a Centre for Universal Health Coverage, a potentially interesting and welcome addition for the HIV response. Its inclusion could point to an acknowledgement of the importance of investing in communities to remove the structural barriers to health.

Sustainable Development Goals

The idea of “leaving no one behind” is central to the new global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Whoever wins this general election is likely to be in power until 2020, halfway to the 2030 deadline for the goals. It is not surprising the SDGs featured prominently in all three manifestos.

All parties make commitments to aspects of the SDG agenda, including ending extreme poverty, improving access to education and promoting the rights of women and young girls worldwide.

Labour also promised to put in place a cross-governmental strategy to ensure that the SDGs are fully implemented and regularly reported on.

Human rights

Commitments to improving human rights are also evident across all three manifestos.

The Conservative manifesto re-commits to improving women’s rights and ending modern slavery. Strengthening civil society organisations is at the heart of the Labour Party’s proposals, with a commitment to reinstate the Civil Society Challenge Fund. The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto commits to a new strategy to promote the global decriminalisation of homosexuality and advance the cause of LGBT rights.

(1) Aid spending by Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors in 2016 Factsheet, April 2017, Development Initiatives

(2) The UK pledged £1.1bn over three years to the Global Fund in September 2016, comprising of £900 million core funding, including a £90 million performance-based tranche

Read more in the party manifestos: