Day before UK general election, race remains close

The UK will hold a general election on December 12, 2019. Latest polling indicates that the Conservative party has a 10.4-point lead on the Labour Party. The gap has narrowed over the last couple of weeks. Despite the Conservative party’s consistent lead in polls, the race remains tight as they need to retain all the seats they currently have and win nine more additional seats to secure a working majority in Parliament.  

There are three possible outcomes according to pollsters – a Conservative majority, a hung parliament (where no party wins a majority) or a Labour majority government (by far the least likely at this stage according to polling).

In the event of a hung parliament, the Conservative Party will get the first attempt at forming a new government. However, this will be challenging as the Prime Minister has fallen out with his former allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland over his Brexit deal. The Liberal-Democrats, who also formed a coalition government with the Conservatives in 2010, have also stated they will not form a coalition with the Conservatives.

If the current government cannot gain a majority, the leader of the opposition will be given a chance to form one. The Labour party could form a coalition with the Scottish National Party. The Liberal Democrats have ruled out going into a coalition with Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of the UK Labour Party.

News article - The Guardian

United Kingdom

UK Labour party outlines food sovereignty policy

The UK Labour Party’s shadow minister for development, Preet Gill, has outlined the party’s policy to pursue food sovereignty rather than just food security in partner countries. 

The heart of the policy is a rights-based approach to support smallholder farmers to be able to own their own land and access seeds and technology required to maintain sustainable livelihoods and fend off hunger and malnutrition. The Labour Party proposes to do this by establishing a dedicated food sovereignty fund that would support smallholder farmers and indigenous groups to uphold rights.

Gill is critical of the current agricultural and nutrition policies of the Department for International Development (DFID). He argues that DFID’s agricultural policy pursues the commercialization of farming at scale in developing countries. In his opinion, this creates a risk of giving a handful of companies, that already hold a monopoly over global food production, even more power to exclusively own and provide seeds and fertilizers and further disenfranchise smallholder farmers. Gill also criticizes DFID’s nutrition policy, given its exclusive focus on calories and its failure to grapple with the wider issue of the need for food sovereignty and control.

News article - Open Democracy

United Kingdom

If victorious, Conservative party will hold significant review of UK’s foreign and defense policy after election

Boris Johnson, leader of the Conservative Party, has announced that if his party wins the next general election, it will hold the biggest review of the UK’s foreign and defense policy since World War II.

The review will include a look at the armed forces and intelligence services, counter-terrorism forces, and organized crime. It will also consider Britain’s foreign policy, and how best the UK can use its huge expenditure on international development.

News article - Defense News

United Kingdom

UK's Bank of England governor to become UN Special Envoy for Climate

Mark Carney, the current governor of the Bank of England, has agreed to become the UN special envoy on climate action and finance when he leaves his post early next year. Carney has stated that he will use his appointment to focus on next year’s United Nation’s COP26 meeting that the UK is hosting. He will focus on how the risks and opportunities of climate change can be better brought into the heart of the financial sector's decision-making.

News article - BBC News

United Kingdom

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

UK Liberal Democrat party’s manifesto commits to fighting climate change, supporting education access, human rights, and gender equality

The UK Liberal Democrat Party’s 2019 manifesto commits to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance. Their policy priorities for international development are tackling climate change, supporting gender equality, and promoting education and human rights. The manifesto includes commitments to:

  • Increase the development assistance budget to support climate change action;
  • Support gender equality through the economic inclusion of women and girls, education, reproductive rights, and an end to sexual violence in conflict zones;
  • Develop a global education strategy to educate the 230 million children worldwide who are not in school; and
  • Defend human rights for all, including LGBTQ+ and those persecuted for their religious beliefs. 

News article- Bond

Report- Liberal Democrat Manifesto 2019

United Kingdom

UK Labour party's manifesto includes radical commitments on international development and climate change

The Labour party manifesto commits to spending 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development assistance. It also commits to keeping the Department for International Development (DFID) separate from other parts of the British government. The manifesto sets out a radical agenda for reforming the UK's international development budget including: 

  • Turning CDC Plc, the UK’s development finance institute, into a Green Investment Bank mandated to fight poverty, inequality, and climate change; 
  • Creating a food sovereignty fund to help small scale farmers in the global south access land, seeds, and finance and uphold indigenous peoples’ rights to land; 
  • Increasing direct budget support to partner country governments to help finance public services;
  • Establishing a new unit within DFID to support partner countries to deliver effective health and education services; 
  • Promoting fairer international patent regimes to improve access to essential medicines and ensuring that medicines developed using UK taxpayer funds are made accessible to people in the global south as soon as possible; and
  • Providing more funding to grassroots women's organizations.

News article - The Guardian

Report - Labour Party Manifesto 2019

UK think-tank criticizes use of UK ODA for 'nanny state' interventions in partner countries

The Institute for Economic Affairs, a free-market UK think-tank, has released a new report criticizing the UK government for wasting international development assistance on 'nanny state' projects in partner countries.  The report says that £44 million (US$56 million) of UK taxpayers' money has been spent on lifestyle interventions, including initiatives targeting smoking, drinking, eating, and sedentary behavior. One of the examples they highlight is funding to support a research unit in China looking at ways to reduce the amount of salt people add to their cooking. 

The report criticizes the efficacy of lifestyle interventions and suggests the UK's international development budget could have been better spent investing in proven interventions like bednets to reduce the transmission of malaria.

News article - Daily Mail

Report - Insitute for Economic Affairs

United Kingdom Global health

UK Conservative Party pledges US$643 million to new Blue Planet Fund if re-elected

Boris Johnson, the current prime minister, and leader of the UK Conservative party has promised to create a new Blue Planet Fund if his party wins the general election in December. He pledged £500 million (US$643 million) of ring-fenced UK development assistance to the fund so that it can invest in UK expertise in marine science and conserve marine life in developing countries.  Some commentators have criticized the announcement as a shallow attempt to appeal to environmentally conscious voters ahead of the election. 

This pledge follows the Conservative government's announcement two months ago of a new £1 billion climate innovation fund, known as the Ayrton Fund.

News article - The Independent


United Kingdom

UK development assistance to Rwanda reaches US$1.3 billion

The British government announced that the UK has provided £1 billion (US$1.3 billion) in development assistance to Rwanda in the past two decades as part of a visit by Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary of the Department for International Development (DFID). This makes Rwanda one of the top recipients of UK development assistance. UK development assistance has focused on supporting sustainable and inclusive economic growth, social protection, agriculture, education, and land tenure issues.

Ahead of the UK-Africa Investment Summit in London in January 2020 and the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali in June 2020, Ryecroft’s visit discussed the modern UK-Rwanda partnership beyond just development assistance.

News Article – Kigali Times