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UK parties aid agreement

The international development community can take heart that all three major parties contesting the election promise to give 0.7 per cent of Britain’s Gross national income, a year to foreign aid. Both Labour and the Conservatives have also promised to ring-fence foreign aid. The Liberal Democrats said they will not make any commitments on foreign aid. The promise by the three parties to make the UN target law from 2013 is a step in the right direction say charities working over seas. This is two years ahead of the European Union’s collective commitment to reach 0.7 per cent by 2015. So far the UK seems to be on track."The UK public has stood by poor countries in good and bad times, so it is right that all parties have followed the public's lead," Dorcas Erskine, at ActionAid, told Reuters news service. But the cross-party agreement on an aid target hides the fact that all three parties have different views on how that foreign aid should be used.

The Conservatives’ plan to stop giving aid to Russia and China, instead focusing on the poorest countries, especially those in the Commonwealth. They would also set up a Poverty Impact Fund to support British aid organisations that don’t get government funding. The Lib Dems say they are committed to keep politics and foreign policy interests out of decisions on aid. They also want to modernise how the World Food Programme is run so it can also try and prevent hunger rather than just respond when food crises unfold. Labour says it wants to push for reform of humanitarian agencies and work to build an international agreement on "responsibility to protect". It will spend at least half of new bilateral aid in fragile and conflict-affected states. But the parties have been criticised for their e lack of detail about aid as set out in their manifestos launched this week.  "There is not much clarity on how any of them are going to achieve 0.7,” Alison Evans of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) think tank, told Reuters AlertNet news service. “And that's pretty critical."What is interesting going into this election is that, certainly for the three main political parties, I would say it's almost unacceptable for them not to have a reasonably progressive stance on international development - and I think that's different."

Britain was the fourth largest international donor in 2009, according to figures released this week by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. It gave just under £1 billion ($11.5bn) in official development assistance in 2009, which is about 0.52 per cent of its gross national income. That measure of UK aid has doubled under the Labour government, which has been in power since 1997.

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