UK Conservative party's manifesto pledges investment on maternal deaths, girls' education, but details of ODA spending are scarce

The UK Conservative Party’s 2019 manifesto sets out a series of international development policy pledges, including a commitment to:

  • End all preventable deaths of mothers and girls by 2030;
  • Lead the way on Ebola and malaria prevention;
  • Fight to ensure all girls have the right to 12 years education; and
  • Set up a new international partnership to tackle deforestation and protect wildlife; and
  • Establish a new Blue Planet Fund to help protect the oceans.

However, when it comes to the Conservative Party's commitment to maintaining the UK’s target of spending 0.7% of its gross national income (GNI) on official development assistance (ODA), the devil is in the detail. The manifesto contains a commitment to ensure the UK spends 0.7% of its gross national income on development, but not official development assistance. While this may sound pedantic, the wording matters.  

ODA is defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); the organization is mandated to establish and monitor adherence to its international definition of what counts as development assistance spending. The Conservative Party has for a long time championed the idea that a broader definition of assistance should be used to guide UK development assistance spending, which could incorporate security,  defense spending, and trade spending. Others have criticized the move to a broader definition, arguing that it would not only break with the OECD's international convention but also dilute the poverty focus of UK development spending.

Report - 2019 Conservative Party Manifesto