David Lammy delivers his conference speech.
David Lammy delivers his conference speech.

What happened at this year’s party conferences?

Over the past month, Bond and our members came together in Bournemouth, Manchester and Liverpool for the Liberal Democrats, Conservative and Labour party conferences.

We met with our political supporters, supported our members in their lobbying and advocacy, and ensured that the UK international development had a strong presence at all the major party conferences.

Across the conferences, the key themes discussed centred around getting the SDGs back on track, how the sector can influence the forthcoming International Development White Paper, rebuilding the UK’s reputation as a trusted global partner and what International Development policy might look like following a potential change of government.

Conservative conference: 1-4 October

During his speech on the main stage, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly made little reference to UK aid and development. He mentioned UK humanitarian support to countries which have faced natural disasters this year, like Turkey, Syria and Morocco, and the UK’s unrelenting support for Ukraine, but little else.

At Bond’s annual drinks reception, which this year marked the first of a week of celebrations for Bond’s 30th anniversary, Bond’s Director of Policy and Advocacy, Gideon Rabinowitz, welcomed International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell MP. He took the opportunity to reflect on the White Paper consultation process, in which Bond played a key convening role, while highlighting Bond’s commitment to ensuring continued unity and strength across the sector. Minister Mitchell wished Bond a happy 30th birthday and highlighted that “we need to get the SDGs back on track and show the Global South we are serious about this.”

Mr Mitchell spoke about the International Development White Paper, which is due to be published in November. He reiterated the importance of cross-party input and endorsement, whilst also thanking the sector for its contributions. He stated that the paper needs to address the SDGs and climate finance.

Former Minister for International Development, Vicky Ford MP and Robin Millar MP, also spoke at Bond’s event. Vicky Ford discussed the importance of education, women’s health and reproductive rights, and the SDGs, drawing on her experiences in office as a DFID Minister. Robin Millar reflected on his trips to Zambia and Ethiopia with VSO and Unicef over the past year to learn more about the work of the UK aid sector. He also shared his perspective on UK aid and development as a Conservative backbencher.

During the conference, Bond members and allies held numerous fringe events on subjects such as climate change and humanitarian emergencies, trade and development, ending malaria and ensuring all children globally have access to education, engaging a range of MPs on the details of these important issues.

It was encouraging to hear Alicia Kearns MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, discuss how systems change is needed to ensure good trade, alongside how trade can be a tool of conflict prevention during the Halo Trust’s panel event on Trade Prosperity and International Development.

It was also welcome to hear Vicky Ford MP stress the importance of education for young people globally during Send My Friend to School’s Education in Emergencies roundtable.

Labour conference: 8-11 October

On the Sunday evening, Bond held its annual drinks reception in partnership with the Labour Campaign for International Development (LCID) to a packed out room, where Shadow Secretary of State Lisa Nandy said that a Labour government would bring back protection for the UK aid budget “to make sure it isn’t raided by other government departments anymore” and emphasised how the UK needs to show respect to partner countries.

Lord Jack McConnell, one of the Chairs of the APPG for the SDGs, highlighted the need to build up public support for UK aid and development, and Liam Byrne MP championed human rights.

On Tuesday, Bond, BRAC and the Labour Foreign Policy Working Group also held a joint panel event to discuss what the overseas development strategy should look like under a Labour Government. Bond’s Gideon Rabinowitz and Sandra Martinsone joined Lisa Nandy MP, Lord McConnell, former DFID Chief Economist Stefan Dercon, Jessica Toale, Labour Parliamentary candidate and Asif Saleh of BRAC.

The panellists discussed the impact of the UK aid cuts and how Labour will improve UK aid quality with Lisa Nandy stating that Labour wants to leverage the UK’s strength in private finance and banking “to tap into funding for middle income countries so we can focus more UK aid on lower income countries.”

Bond members and allies held numerous fringe events during the conference, covering climate change and conflict prevention, global finance reform, feminist development policy, equitable partnerships, tackling child poverty and extreme poverty in the UK and globally.

During a speech from the main stage, Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy outlined the approach Labour would take if in government to foreign policy, emphasising the shift they would make towards standing up and playing a role globally, convening world leaders and partners and “reconnecting” with the wider world. …

Lib Dem conference: 24-26 September

Bond also joined representatives from several of our member organisations, and Liberal Democrat MPs and activists for the LDID (Liberal Democrats in International Development) fringe event on Sunday 24 October, in Bournemouth.

The event included a range of panel discussions, including “Securing a Better Future Through Education”, supported by the Global Partnership for Education & Send My Friend To School, “De-mining: Unlocking Opportunities for Development and Food Security”, supported by The Halo Trust & Mines Advisory Group and “Midpoint Reflections on the Sustainable Development Goals”, supported by Bond and the Coalition for Global Prosperity.

Parliamentarians including Richard Foord MP, Lord Purvis and Lord Oates discussed these issues from a liberal perspective, and reiterated the party’s commitment to reinstating the 0.7% target for UK aid and for the UK championing the Sustainable Development Goals at home and abroad.

Following the discussions, there was a drinks reception with Liberal Democrat MPs and party activists, along with representatives from Bond and our member organisations. It was a great opportunity to build links between the work of the international development sector and the Liberal Democrats.


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