A Conservative Vision for International Development

Stephen Crabb MP & Huw Merriman MP were part of a panel that launched a paper at Conservative Party Conference arguing that we need a distinctly Conservative vision for international development. CFID is delighted to have directly contributed to the creation of this paper and that so many CFID members were actively engaged in the policy panel.

Read below Stephen Crabb's and Huw Merriman's piece in The Telegraph.

We need a distinctly Conservative vision for how we spend international aid.

Clarity of purpose on aid and development is essential as we become a Global Britain.

This year, a seventh consecutive Conservative manifesto committed to the UN’s target of spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas aid. In 2017, as we set out to shape a new global role for the United Kingdom, our commitment to tackling hunger and disease in the poorest nations on earth is indisputably a cornerstone of modern Conservatism.

What is less well asserted, at a time of debate and reflection within the party, is a Conservative vision for aid and development; a set of ideals to guide future policy and spending. As the party which finally completed the long-term objective of successive UK governments to meet the international aid target, we believe there is a special duty on Conservatives to provide that vision.

And as we pursue a future outside of the European Union, creating a "Global Britain", this clarity of purpose is more necessary than ever.

Alongside party colleagues, both in and out of Parliament, we have launched a paper that seeks to start a wide-ranging discussion about aid. When it comes to the UK’s aid spending, we know from our constituency mail that the public can often feel disengaged and sceptical because they rarely feel the difference it makes or meet the people whose lives it saves.

We want to challenge this within our party by taking ownership of development policy, and asking Conservatives how they want this powerful foreign policy tool to be deployed. There is no such thing as public money, in the words of Mrs Thatcher, so those who fund the Government’s role in tackling global poverty should be at the heart of shaping it.

We have set out a vision – an approach to development that is unashamedly focused on the poorest, freeing them from the tyranny of poverty so that they can provide for themselves and the next generation.

Our vision applies the best of British skills, expertise and business to the world’s toughest problems. And we are clear that trade and economic growth are the route out of poverty – but aid is a key to unlocking this, by building healthier and better educated work forces. Aid does things which markets fundamentally cannot. Done well, it both stimulates growth and ensures that this growth is sustainable.

To this end, the Secretary of State is right to focus on the importance of job creation, but there is room for innovation – in particular, to unlock the potential of the millions of small businesses in developing countries. A truly poverty-focused aid agenda will prioritise not just increased international investment, but growth in every town and village.

Aid spending must also be shaped by a rigorous, Conservative focus on value for money, not just for the benefit of the taxpayer, but because any pound we waste is one less that can be put towards educating children who have been forced from their homes by conflict, or investing in job-creating businesses in areas too unstable to attract private money.

We want this to be just the first contribution to an ongoing debate as to how our Conservative values can best serve the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people, and we need the infrastructure to support it.

A Conservative commission for international development policy could lead the discussion, soliciting input from across the party – and putting the brightest brains on the centre-Right to the task of shaping our role in building a better world, in the way that the Centre for Social Justice has done for policy relating to domestic poverty. This kind of dedicated institution could catalyse innovation and harness the compassion of those in and around our party who are determined to play a role in ending extreme poverty.

We are proud of the role that Conservatives have played in making the world a healthier, safer and more prosperous place. But to maximise the difference we can make we need to cement not just a commitment to international development, but a vision for how we as Conservatives approach it – this will better serve British taxpayers and better serve the world’s poorest people.

Stephen Crabb is MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire. Huw Merriman is MP for Bexhill and Battle.

(This article was originally published on the Telegraph Online on 2nd October 2017.)