Yesterday the UK's Labour Party released its election manifesto, and today the Conservative Party did the same. These manifestos represent commitments about what each party will do, if elected, in the next parliament.
I will do an international development comparison of the 3 manifestos after the Liberal Democrat one comes out tomorrow, but I was interested to see a commitment by the Conservatives to embed the 0.7% aid-to-gross national income target in law. The Government has already committed to this. For the major Opposition party to also make this pledge--this is new.
As I said in a February blog, a 0.7% commitment in law is neither sufficient or necessary for development to occur, but it is helpful. It is helpful because (a) aid has supported development and can be even more effective in doing so (see my article in the Atlantic Community website) and (b) because legislation for 0.7% can help everyone hold the government to this aid commitment.
But, caution is in order. Manifesto pledges are not always met. The bill may not happen. And if it does happen, the draft version of the bill gives the Secretary of State some rather easy outs if progress to the target is not being met. And with a bill in place to incentivise the ramp up of spending there needs to be a stronger set of safeguards as to what kind of overseas development assistance the 0.7% bucket can be filled up with.
The Conservative manifesto pledge will make the 0.7% less of wedge issue between the two main parties. It also probably increases the likelihood of 0.7% being written into law in the next parliament--whoever wins--and that is a good thing.