Between these two poles lie the Conservative Party, Labour Party, and Liberal Democrats. Each party has relatively progressive proposals when compared to other EU countries, but they focus on extreme poverty reduction, and on UK security and prosperity, as the main goals of international development. Each party agrees that the aid budget should remain at 0.7% of GNI, that the new international Sustainable Development Goals should guide policy, that climate change must be restricted to a maximum rise of two degrees, and that low-skill immigration should be discouraged.
In order to tackle global poverty successfully, we must work out what is needed in order for people living in poverty to lead decent lives, establish how these needs can be met (both by their own governments and using outside assistance), and decide what a fair contribution to this effort by the British government would look like. Recent research suggests that additional funds will be needed if the international community is to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the field of health, education and security (Greenhill et al., 2015). In order to meet these targets, the UK may need to raise its contribution well beyond the 0.7 per cent target that OECD countries have already committed to. In addition to financial support, the British government must also seek to mobilize other donors, promote reform of the trade regime, provide access to new technologies, and tackle vested interests in the financial sector that have led to a lax regulatory regime (something that enables illicit financial flows out of developing countries). Taken together, there is widespread recognition that development policy should address poverty in a sustainable way and help people secure their human rights.
Gaby Atfield is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Employment Research, University of Warwick. Her research interests include worklessness and active labour market policies, low paid work and poverty, and social capital and social mobility. She is currently working on a range of projects looking at labour market disadvantage, particularly amongst young people.
UKIP’s trade preferences could be a powerful force for development, but given that this is their only policy – in a context of an otherwise diminished development agenda – the party cannot be trusted to meet the challenges that our world faces on this front. The Conservatives promise to push for wide-ranging changes to domestic institutions, but they do not take a stand on the inequities in the global economy that drive poverty. The Liberal Democrats, Labour, and the Green Party do take such a stand. Of these, the Greens offer the most robust solutions, and their policies are the most likely to enhance the ability of developing countries to promote the flourishing of their own citizens. Climate change – which is perhaps the key development issue of the century – is addressed most strongly by the Green Party, followed closely by the Liberal Democrats and then by Labour; the Conservatives and UKIP, by contrast, do not see climate change mitigation as a priority.
Some of these policies are echoed by the other parties. The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats both promise to clamp down on tax evasion through country-by-country reporting. The Liberal Democrats go further and suggest they will tackle tax havens, and promise to push multinational corporations to pay fair taxes in developing countries. On the matter of work, Labour is the only party besides the Greens that call for fair treatment of workers throughout the British supply chain. Labour also – uniquely – promises to advocate for free health care in developing countries. Neither Labour nor the Liberal Democrats include fair trade in the mix, but UKIP proposes to give the world’s poorest countries free access to the British market as a poverty-reduction mechanism. It should be noted that this is UKIP’s only development proposal; the party is otherwise committed to dramatically reducing Britain’s development agenda by closing down DFID and folding its essential functions into the foreign office.
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