Liberal Democrats

International Affairs


Demand better for our world

Britain should be a country proud of its role overseas. We are a country of liberal, cooperative, compassionate values; our behaviour on the world stage should reflect that.
Sadly those values are under threat. Some mistakenly believe patriotism in our outlook must mean narrow nationalism.

Liberal Democrats demand better. We believe Britain, working with our partners, can be a positive actor supporting peace and security throughout the world.

Liberal Democrats will champion multilateral organisations like the UN and NATO to most effectively tackle our shared challenges, and take action to live up to our values where the Conservatives have not done so.


Continue to spend 0.7% of national income on aid: reducing poverty, defending human rights, protecting the environment and preventing violent conflict.

Defend international co-operation against the rising tides of nationalism and isolationism.

Suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia and control arms exports to countries with poor human rights records.


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This is a challenging time for peace and security across the world. Terrorist organisations prosper, the conflict in Syria continues to present a significant problem to the region and the world, and rising tensions between Russia and the USA threaten a longstanding balance of power.

The UK has a proud record of playing a leading role in the European Union and in international institutions like the UN, NATO and the Commonwealth and should continue to do so, promoting wherever possible the liberal values of freedom and opportunity for all. We will:

  • Champion the rules-based international order, which provides a strong basis for multilateral action to address the world’s most pernicious problems including poverty, armed conflict, disease, climate change, and the abuse of human rights including forced marriage, so-called ‘honour’ killings, and Female Genital Mutilation.
  • Use all aspects of government policy – trade, aid and diplomacy as well as military cooperation – to strengthen UK efforts to prevent violent conflict.
  • Work with our international partners to address the ongoing refugee crisis, which has seen more people displaced across the world than ever before.
  • Support the UN principle of Responsibility to Protect, focusing on conflict prevention, and only resorting to military intervention to prevent mass civilian atrocities if all other means of resolution have been fully exhausted.
  • Improve control of arms exports by:
    - Implementing a policy of ‘presumption of denial’ for arms exports to countries listed as Human Rights Priority Countries in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual human rights report.
    - Enforcing end-user certification on all future arms export licenses with an annual report to Parliament on this certification.
    - Creating a public register of arms brokers.

Liberal Democrats believe that despite efforts to prevent violent conflict, sometimes military intervention is necessary. The UK should only militarily intervene when there is a clear legal and/or humanitarian case, endorsed by a vote in Parliament, working through international institutions whenever possible. We will encourage dialogue and mediation to reduce conflict between and within countries, working through the UN and other agencies.

In response to current major conflicts worldwide, we will:

  • Work with international partners to tackle violent extremism manifested by organisations like Daesh and Boko Haram, paying special attention to UK citizens who have fought overseas for terrorist organisations, and may become significant sources of terrorist activity if and when they return to Britain.
  • Seek new ways to bring an end to the conflict in Syria, working within the UN to break the deadlock in the Security Council. We will work to deter the use of chemical and conventional attacks on civilians, and demand humanitarian access and the release of political prisoners and their families.
  • Remain committed to a negotiated peace settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which includes a two-state solution. We condemn disproportionate force used by all sides. We condemn Hamas’ rocket attacks and other targeting of Israeli civilians. We condemn Israel’s continued illegal policy of settlement expansion, which undermines the possibility of a two-state solution. We support recognition of the independent State of Palestine as and when it will help the prospect of a two-state solution.
  • Suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to their consistent targeting of civilians, in breach of International Humanitarian Law, in Yemen. We will work with international partners to re-commence the peace process in Yemen.
  • Promote democracy and stability in Ukraine and neighbouring countries against an increasingly aggressive Russia. We will work closely with European and other international partners to exert maximum economic and political pressure on Russia to stop interfering in the affairs of sovereign Eastern European nations, and will stand by our obligations under the NATO treaty in the event of threats to NATO member states.

The UK must be able to defend itself and the territories for which it has responsibility, support its neighbours and allies, and engage in humanitarian intervention. The security challenges the UK faces are shared by our partners and allies in the EU and NATO and the UK is more effective and more resilient when we work closely with those partners. We will:

  • Commit to spending 2% of GDP on defence.
  • Strengthen our armed services and address critical skills shortages by recruiting STEM graduates to be armed forces engineers, providing ‘golden handshakes’ of up to £10,000.
  • Recognise the expansion of warfare into the cybersphere, by investing in our security and intelligence services and acting to counter cyberattacks.
  • Work to lead international nuclear disarmament efforts
  • Maintain a minimum nuclear deterrent. We propose continuing with the Dreadnought programme, the submarine-based replacement for Vanguard, but procuring three boats instead of four, and moving to a medium-readiness responsive posture. This would mean replacing continuous at-sea deterrence – instead maintaining the deterrent through measures such as unpredictable and irregular patrolling patterns.
  • Build on the framework for defence co-operation that is already well-established with France, the Netherlands, Germany and other European partners, and promote European defence integration where appropriate by enhancing European defence industry co-operation.

Liberal Democrats recognise the vital role the UK’s armed forces play in the defence of the nation and believe that it is the role of government to safeguard the interests of service personnel and veterans. We will:

  • Support the Armed Forces Covenant and ongoing work to support veterans’ mental health.
  • Review the current Career Transition Partnership (CTP) with a view to extending its remit to provide free Further or Higher Education for anyone who has served in the Armed Forces for 12 years or more.
  • Improve the quality of service housing by bringing the MoD into line with other landlords, giving tenants the same legal rights to repair and maintenance as private tenants.

Liberal Democrats have always been – and remain – strongly committed to ensuring justice and equity for poor people around the world. We believe that the UK must continue to play a leading role in ending poverty and promoting environmentally sustainable development, through implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We will:

  • Maintain our commitment to spend 0.7% of UK Gross National Income on overseas development assistance, in line with the OECD definition, which we legislated for in the last Parliament.
  • Invest to eliminate within a generation preventable diseases like TB, HIV and malaria and explore new ways to support research and development into vaccinations and treatment to combat these and other deadly diseases and infections.
  • Develop a global education strategy to address the urgent funding crisis causing 263 million children to miss out on schooling.
  • Lead international action to ensure global companies pay fair taxes in the developing countries in which they operate, including tightening anti-tax haven rules and requiring large companies to publish their tax payments and profits for each country in which they operate.
  • Continue building the resilience of poorer countries to resist future disasters, investing in healthcare and infrastructure and training emergency response volunteers, and respond generously to humanitarian crises wherever they may occur.
  • Provide greater resources for international environmental cooperation, particularly on climate change and on actions to tackle illegal and unsustainable trade in timber, wildlife, ivory, and fish.
  • In light of the US government’s dangerous and anti-science attacks on international programmes of vaccination and family planning, which impact disproportionately on the health of women and children, seek to protect global spending on these essential provisions.

Liberal Democrats believe that British foreign policy and international aid should seek to promote the liberal values of human rights and democracy throughout the world. We will:

  • Support free media and a free and open Internet around the world, championing the free flow of information.
  • Support the current UN initiative to protect journalists and to combat the impunity with which many countries treat those who attack reporters on the frontline. To this end, we will provide ad hoc funding to UNESCO's International Programme for the Development of Communication.
  • Campaign strongly for the abolition of the death penalty around the world.
  • Champion global anti-corruption initiatives to safeguard global security and economic development and maintain a strong voice in international platforms on ending corruption. We will implement outstanding commitments made by the British Government at the 2016 Global Anti-Corruption Summit.
  • Publish a government anti-corruption strategy.
  • Introduce Sustainable Development Goals audits of new trade, investment and development deals, reviewing the impact of the deal on People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnership
  • Maintain funding for the BBC World Service, BBC Monitoring and the British Council.
  • Develop a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world, and advancing the cause of LGBT+ rights.
  • Prioritise support, protection and equal rights for women and girls, which is both right and essential for effective, sustainable economic development. We will aim to end female genital mutilation worldwide within a generation.
  • Appoint an Ambassador-level Champion for Freedom of Belief to drive British diplomatic efforts in this field, and campaign for the abolition of blasphemy, sedition, apostasy and criminal libel laws worldwide, having already been responsible for ending them in this country.