Election 2019: All the main parties are competing on global justice – except for one


09 December 2019

Normally during election time it’s sad to see global issues relegated to the bottom of the political agenda. This hasn’t been the case in 2019. The party manifestos are full of pledges that we’ve been pushing for over the last few years. Here are my own highlights that I want to share – and I hope Global Justice Now supporters feel proud.

1. We need to change the trade system

We’ve helped make the US trade deal a major political issue in this election. In turn, that’s helped push a debate about the need to transform the trade system. Gone are the days when politicians can simply parrot ‘free trade is good.’  

Labour, the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru all call for a more transparency and democratic system for negotiating trade deals. The SNP, Plaid and Labour call for protection for the NHS in trade deals and all parties call for a reversal of the damage trade deals do to the environment and social protection, though the Lib Dems and Conservatives ironically put a lot of faith in the ‘free trade’ model.  

Labour explicitly rejects the ‘race to the bottom’ in trade deals, proposing a binding charter to protect workers rights, while the Greens calls for an end to the toxic ‘corporate court’ system which allows big business to sue governments in secret tribunals, and promises to hold corporations to account for their operations overseas. The SNP, Labour, Greens and Lib Dems all call for a tightening up of the arms export regime.  

2. We need to transform international development

While all parties promise to maintain aid spending, and spend more on the climate emergency, Labour calls for a transformation of international development, directly adopting many of our campaign calls, including:

  • Support for decent public services across the world, rather than privatisation of healthcare and education
  • A food sovereignty fund to help small farmers produce sustainable and locally needed food  
  • Radical reform of the CDC group, which currently funds some awful private sector projects, into a green development bank 
  • A shake up of the international patent system to ensure pharmaceutical giants are unable to prevent hundreds of millions of people getting vital medicines

The Greens promise an increase in aid, and a promise to share sustainable technology with countries in the global south, while the SNP call for a ‘climate justice fund’, mimicking their own fund set up several years ago.  

3. The Hostile Environment must end

Labour, the Lib Dems, Greens, SNP and Plaid all call for an end to the government’s ‘hostile environment’ for migrants.

Labour promise to end indefinite detentions, close two detention centres, scrap the minimum income requirement for migrants coming to live with families, and pledge to restart Mediterranean search and rescue missions and work with France to close the terrible migrant camps there.

The Lib Dems promise to end indefinite detentions, prevent sharing of information between public bodies and the Home Office which could be used to legally harass migrants, move some refugee policy to DfID, abolish minimum income requirements, and close seven detention centres.

The Greens, most radically of all, promise to scrap the Home Office and create a ministry for sanctuary, close all detention centres, suspend deportation flights and give migrants access to public services. The SNP focus on family reunification and moving some powers away from the Home Office.

As part of a broad movement, we’ve helped changed the discourse on migration, allowing opposition parties to take a more supportive approach to migration. Though there is much further to go.

4. We need to control the power of Big Pharma  

Labour accept the findings of our campaign work on medicines, pledging to establish a generic drug company to break pharmaceutical monopolies, promising to issue compulsory licences where necessary and to help southern countries produce their own affordable medicines, sharing technology where drugs have been made with public money. Labour also promise to support a UN binding treaty on corporations, ensuring big business is held legally responsible for its human rights impact overseas.

5. We need climate justice – but we’re not there yet

There is a huge amount about the climate emergency across the manifestos, including the all-important target date by which we need to reach net zero emissions (the Greens win that one, followed by Labour). There’s much less on the international perspective, but it is there. While the Lib Dems promise to increase international climate funding, they are vague about it, and it will come from aid it seems. The SNP propose a climate justice fund (a small one already exists in Scotland), and the Greens propose more finance and technology. Meanwhile, Labour are specific on raising funding to £4bn a year and – like others – a ban on all aid and export support for fossil fuels.

It’s good – but we’ll need to think much more about the international implications of a ‘green new deal’ in the years ahead.  

Devastating policies

Almost all of these pledges stand in stark contrast to the Conservative Manifesto – which represents a push for ever more extreme trade deals, a continuation of hostile environment policies, no sign that any lessons have been learnt on using aid to fund big finance and big business, and a number of devastating policies on the environment.    

But whoever wins the election on 12 December, we’ll be here, pushing the internationalist agenda forward.

To all our supporters - and especially members who keep our campaigns in operation – thank you for all your work in getting us to this stage.  

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