What will 2024 bring for international development?

I’m thrilled to have joined Bond as the new CEO, starting last November.

In my first blog, I thought it would be helpful to outline a few key moments in 2024, and what they might mean for the sector.

Here are my top four moments to look out for next year:

The general election

This will be a big moment for much of our work, particularly on policy and advocacy. Current polls indicate that Labour is likely to win, although that could all change by the time the election is held, likely in the spring or autumn of 2024, with January 2025 as the latest possibility.

As of now, development is unlikely to be a high priority for any of the main parties. Neither the Conservatives nor Labour are likely to make big commitments to increase UK aid spending, although smaller parties, such as the Lib Dems, have included commitments on 0.7%. The recent government reshuffle seems to suggest that the current government wants to fight the election more on the centre ground politically, which should be good news for our work.

For Bond members, there will be strategic questions about how much we want development to enter the public debate and how we avoid getting trapped in the so-called ‘culture wars.’ There are active discussions happening on this in the Bond policy and lobbying groups, and we encourage members to join. Bond has been working on a draft manifesto of exciting new policy priorities that we plan to discuss with all parties, and Bond members are working to mobilise members at constituency level.

We will also be holding a webinar with Bates Wells in January to explain and discuss the latest electoral campaigning rules, which we urge everyone to attend so they’re not caught out.

For all the main parties, what they do in the first 100 days following an election may be more important than what they put in manifestos, and so having new policy ideas for development – across the whole of government – will be important. Please do get in touch if you’d like to be part of this conversation.

Fresh thinking needed on financing

Linked to this, another big discussion of 2024 will be around how to finance international development efforts. While a return to spending 0.7% is unlikely to come soon, there are three areas for optimism on this agenda.

The first is the growing interest in compensatory financing mechanisms. Progress at the COP on the new loss and damage fund shows that compensatory financing isn’t out of the question. Bond members are developing new proposals around this agenda, and we’re planning to convene on this in the New Year.

Secondly, there are growing discussions about how to leverage more and better financing from the international system. Bond members are working hard on debt, pushing for legislation to make sure the private sector cancel debt when needed. Discussions about the Bridgetown agenda, led by Mia Mottley of Barbados, are likely to continue to gain traction in 2024. This was a big theme for the recently launched White Paper on International Development and we should expect more action in 2024. In an election year, we have an opportunity to advance our work in tax, trade and other ‘beyond aid’ areas.

More immediately, we’re starting to see signs that more aid spending may target the poorest people and countries. This should be good news for our work on inclusion and the social sectors. We’ll need to keep pushing the government to make sure that pledges become a reality.

Protracted conflicts likely to continue throughout 2024

Unfortunately, 2024 looks to be year of continued conflict and crises, with the Israel/OPT conflict showing no signs of abating while the Russia/Ukraine war continues, as well as many other conflicts around the world which are out of the public spotlight. This follows an extremely tough year in 2023, with a 32% increase in people needing humanitarian assistance.

For many Bond members, this means we’re becoming even more thinly spread in terms of our programmatic work, and political and media attention on some of the world’s forgotten crises will be even harder to generate. The impacts of these crises in terms of migration, funding etc are likely to be severe, and Bond members will need to keep making the case for humanitarian support, the importance of international humanitarian law and actions to tackle the root causes of crises and conflict.

Opportunities for progress on locally led development

It will be a key year for the sector to make further progress in ensuring we as a sector are actively anti-racist, decolonised and locally led. The new International Development White Paper commits the UK Government to developing a new strategy on how the UK will “support local leadership on development, climate, nature and humanitarian action”, which Bond will be looking to actively support members to engage on.

Meanwhile, the imperative to be actively anti-racist and decolonised will remain incredibly important, and Bond will continue to work with our membership to drive this agenda forward. A lot of progress in this area has already been made and we will need to continue to build on it in 2024 if we’re to be fit for the future.

There will be lots more happening in 2024 – including a US election which could see Trump back in the White House, a G7 focused on food security and migration in Italy, and a G21 in Brazil. Back in the UK, cost of living pressures may start to ease, although Bond and our supporters will continue to feel the pinch.

Yet overall, I’m optimistic about what we can achieve, and I look forward to working with all of you in an important and exciting year ahead.