International Development: engaging with the Labour Party

As highlighted in the last newsletter, on 6 February, we hosted our monthly International Development (ID) Heads of Business meetings, which took the form of a round table discussion with our Senior Adviser Nick Forbes on engagement with the Labour Party. The discussion looked at the current position of Labour towards International Development, touching upon the Party’s views on the recent ID White Paper.

Our wider team at Strategy International has had a number of valuable interactions with the Shadow Cabinet and their teams over the past few months.  It’s no surprise that the primary focus for an incoming Government (of any colour) is likely to be on domestic policies. We should not expect too much of the political calendar in the first few months of a possible Labour Government to be devoted to high-profile initiatives on international development. Despite the Shadow Cabinet’s decision not to endorse the FCDO's ID White Paper as Development Minister Andrew Mitchell had initially hoped, Labour did not set itself against it either. This effectively reflects the fact that many aspects of the White Paper align well with the direction Labour envisions for the sector, including increased localisation, poverty alleviation, empowerment of women and girls, and addressing climate change. While there have clearly been significant political disagreements around international development in recent years, we can fairly say at this point that there is now a very large measure of bipartisan agreement on the priorities.

Following the discussion, the group agreed on a few points that BEI will discuss with  the Shadow ID team, to showcase the impact of the sector and how it can support Labour’s foreign and development policy objectives.

The main themes which we will be aiming to explore are:

1. Analyse and identify the key strengths of the UK international development sector:

  • What benefits the ID sector brings to the UK, domestically and internationally;
  • Alignment of ID sector activities and Labour priorities: ie prosperity, security, foreign policy priorities, UK’s place in the world – soft power and reputation;
  • Where ID fits into the “Britain in the World” policy theme

2. Maximise the impact of the UK’s collective ID effort:

  • “Making the whole greater than the sum of its parts”: emphasise the partnership between Government, NGOs, charities and the private sector

3. Understanding Labour’s approach to ID:

  • What does ‘poverty alleviation’ mean?

4. Identifying Labour’s priorities for delivering effective ID initiatives:

  • Bilateral vs multilateral: balance between supporting international institutions (UN, WB etc) and focused bilateral engagement supporting the UK’s relationships with developing countries
  • “Bang for the buck”: Approaches to collaborative projects to deliver the best ID outcomes
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