With the 2019 General Election campaign in full swing, parties across the UK will soon be publishing their manifestos ahead of polling day on 12 December. These documents are not just lists of policies or headline-grabbing promises. Rather, they set out competing visions of a future Britain: what the UK is at its best, where our national focus should lie and, ultimately, who we are as a country.
At Save the Children we don’t wait until an election to think about Britain’s role in the world. Every day, in 120 countries around the world, we are fighting for children’s futures.
But what happens in this UK election will matter for children far from our shores. Few other countries have the opportunity to make a more positive impact for children across the globe.
So we decided to write our own Save the Children manifesto. It sets out what this country and the next government need to do to help children to learn, grow and have the future they deserve – in the UK and around the world.
Here’s what we’re calling for:
1 Ensure our aid budget makes the biggest impact for the world’s poorest children
The UK is a world leader in aid. Since 2015, British leadership in international development has helped more than 14 million children gain a decent education, provided humanitarian assistance to 32 million people and helped improve nutrition for more than 60 million women and children. UK aid saves and changes lives and is a critical element of British soft power. That’s why the next government must:
- Recommit to an aid budget of 0.7% of national income, to ensure that our support for the world’s poorest people is proportionate to our country’s wealth and that the UK continues to show leadership in international development.
- Retain an independent Department for International Development to ensure our aid budget is fully focused on tackling poverty and suffering, and its objectives aren’t blurred by the aims of other government departments.
- Focus our aid on the areas that can make the biggest impact for the world’s poorest children by supporting strong and sustainable health and education systems.
2 Help every child survive and thrive
Among the leading causes of children dying today are diseases that are preventable and treatable – such as diarrhoea, malaria and, the biggest killer of all, pneumonia. But these preventable and treatable diseases are exactly that – preventable and treatable. By focusing on simple interventions, UK aid can help save millions of children’s lives. That’s why the next government must:
- Champion health care for the poorest people, promoting universal health coverage, lending British expertise and encouraging all nations to spend 5% of their gross domestic product on health by 2030.
- Seize the global opportunities in 2020 to protect millions of children from preventable deaths: the replenishment of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, hosted by the UK, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit in Tokyo. The UK must make ambitious commitments to ensure all children have access to vaccines and good nutrition.
3 Protect children in conflict
Today more children than ever before – at least 420 million children globally – live in areas affected by conflict. They face appalling risks of being killed, maimed, sexually abused, recruited, abducted, denied humanitarian assistance, and having their schools and hospitals attacked. Through Britain’s leadership in humanitarian response, its soft power and military expertise, and as a vocal leader on the importance of upholding international humanitarian law, our country has an opportunity to champion the protection of children in conflict. The next government must:
- Update the UK’s Protection of Civilians strategy to make it fit for the modern world, including recognising the specific needs of children and other vulnerable groups.
- Use the UK’s influence to drive the global response to crises, especially through our country’s role on the UN Security Council and other multilateral forums.
- Continue to deploy the expertise of the Department for International Development to the frontline of global crises, restoring services and saving children’s lives.
4 Make the early years count for children in the UK
One of the biggest domestic issues facing the next government is child poverty. The impact on a child’s life of growing up poor is huge: children in poverty are more likely to start school without the foundations they need to learn. The consequences can last a lifetime.
For parents with young children, and who are struggling to make ends meet, we know that childcare costs are the biggest barrier they face when thinking about returning to, or progressing in, work. The next government must:
- Provide childcare support to parents on low incomes before they need to pay childcare fees – don’t make them go into debt to pay for it.
- Develop a strategy for helping schools, nurseries and health visitors to support parents on low incomes to engage in their children’s learning in England. (Health and Education are devolved issues, so the UK government does not develop policy on those matters for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.)
- End the two-child limit on benefits in order to lift thousands of children out of poverty and help every child to get an equal start.