General Election 2017: Where does each party stand on development spending?

In 2015 David Cameron’s Conservative government passed a bill that enshrined in law, the UK’s commitment to the UN’s aid spending target of 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income). This resulted in £18.01bn worth of spending on development aid in 2016 meaning that the UK was the third largest net donor behind Germany and USA and just one of eight countries to hit the UN percentage target. Some of the budgets achievements can be found on Department for International Development’s (DFID) website and include: 11.3m children being supported in primary and lower secondary education, 9.9m women using modern methods of family planning and 64.5m people being reached with one of more water sanitation or hygiene promotion intervention.

In the lead up to the election the validity of the budget and the budget’s purpose have been called into question time and time again. From Question Time debates to articles in the press suggesting a split in the Conservative party on the issue. This blog post will not act as an evaluation of the 0.7% target it is merely an attempt to present an apolitical piece regarding each of the major parties stances on aid spending.

The Conservative Party

The Conservative party under Theresa May remain committed to the 0.7% of GNI target and the continuation of aid spending that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda.

Interestingly the manifesto opens the door for a potential redrawing of the definition of development assistance, “we will work with like-minded countries to change the rules so they are updated and better reflect the breadth of our assistance around the world. If that does not work, we will change the law to allow us to use a better definition of development spending.”

Currently the definition used by the UN is the official OECD (The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) definition of Official Development Assistance (ODA). This definition states that aid must be provided by official agents or by executive agencies. In addition, each transaction is administered with the promotion of economic development and welfare of developing countries at its root as well as being concessional in character conveying a grant element of at least 25%. It has been noted that this change in definition may be an attempt to appease some conservative ministers who believe that the UK does more than its fair share in development spending especially when considering the average spend for other wealthy countries is just 0.4%.

The Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, The Scottish National Party (SNP) and Plaid Cymru

All of these party’s stances on development spending is much simpler in that they all support the continuation of the commitment of 0.7% of GDP budget and the alignment of this spending with the SDGs. In the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s cases this would mean holding the Westminster government to account in the continuation of that budget level.

The Green Party

The Green party are the only party proposing that there should be an increase in the level of annual spending. They would increase the overseas aid budget to 1% of GDP.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

UKIP are proposing the most drastic of changes to the current budgetary layout of aid spending. They have run on the idea of “Trade not Aid” and propose to reduce the aid budget to 0.2% over time, along with the promotion of free trade deals with the developing world. They argue this would save around £10bn per annum that could be redirected to the NHS. In addition to this they would close DFID and have a single minister for overseas development working out of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to administer aid.

Feature Image: Tony Hirst | Flickr


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.

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