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22 November 2022

Labour disowns “patronising and paternalistic” foreign aid

The party would focus instead on boosting employment and climate change in its development projects.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Labour would reform Britain’s strategy on foreign aid to shift away from “patronising or paternalistic” projects and focus support on boosting employment and tackling climate change.

David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, will vow to modernise international aid and build “relations of equals” with countries in receipt of British funding in the annual Christian Aid lecture in London tonight (22 November). He will also recommit Labour to returning foreign aid spending to 0.7 per cent of GDP after the budget was shrunk to 0.5 per cent by Rishi Sunak – a move which attracted a backlash among Conservative MPs and the aid sector.

The speech will outline how a Labour government would make tackling climate change a central priority for aid spending. Labour’s plans include pressing the UN to add climate action to its three pillars of sustainability, coordinating private sector support for development that gets people into employment, and “prioritising partnership and economic development over paternalism”.

“In an age of authoritarians, and acute crises in poverty, conflict, global health insecurity and climate change, we need to modernise international development,” Lammy will say. “Aid in the 2020s must not be patronising or paternalistic, and instead build new relations of equals, based on respect and mutual trust.  

“Multilateralism, development and diplomacy are still the best tools in our shared aspiration for lives of dignity and opportunity, at home and across the world. But 12 years of Conservative government has broken our relationships and trashed our reputation as well as our economy, leaving Britain disengaged.

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“The last Labour government made Britain a world leader in development, helping to lift three million people out of poverty each year. By innovating the delivery of aid, setting up a new task force to coordinate private sector support for development in line with the government’s priorities, legislating to put climate action at the heart of the aid budget, and leading internationally as a global convener in development, we will shine a light for human progress once again.”

He will also set out plans for a UK-EU foreign affairs and security pact and pledge to restore Britain’s international reputation using new and old forums such as the G7, G20, Commonwealth, a clean power alliance of developing and developed nations, and a global food summit.

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Labour would reform the merged Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (which absorbed the Department for International Development in 2020) to recognise that “development and diplomacy are related but distinct”.

The lecture will be hosted by Dr John Sentamu, the former Archbishop of York, at St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, from 6.30pm.

[See also: “You don’t trash your neighbours”: David Lammy on global Britain under Labour]

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