UK: Deputy leader candidates in call for ‘multilateral’ foreign policy

The Labour Party deputy leader candidates have today called for “greater multilateralism” in UK foreign policy at an event hosted by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Oxfam and Save The Children's rights.

Responding to questions on topics as diverse as Guantanamo Bay, Darfur, Iraq, arms deals, aid and international governance, several of the candidates also strongly advocated reform of key international institutions like the United Nations

The calls came this lunchtime at a debate on foreign policy at the headquarters of Amnesty International UK, with all the candidates distancing themselves from foreign policy-making based on narrow national interest. Meanwhile, there was strong support for more action on dealing with the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan, with Peter Hain saying stopping human rights violations there “should be the great moral crusade of our times”.

Harriet Harman, Peter Hain, Hilary Benn and Jon Cruddas had been speaking before an audience of 250 human rights activists, policy experts and political journalists, with Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears submitting personal statements to the event.

Meanwhile, Harriet Harman repeated her recent criticism of Guantanamo detentions and CIA “rendition” flights, denouncing “egregious breaches of human rights” in the “war on terror” and stressing the need for a UN resolution to condemn Guantanamo Bay.

Responding to the debate, the host organisations said:

“While it’s predictable that the subject of Iraq will hang over UK foreign policy in coming years, it is nevertheless vital that key foreign policy issues like the crisis in Darfur, respecting human rights in the ‘war on terror’, the need to regulate the international Arms, and relationships with countries like China, Zimbabwe and Iran, are not sidelined.

“Progressive policies on aid and trade were also thoroughly endorsed today - now we need to see follow-through and fulfillment of earlier promises.

“What we’ve heard today encourages us to believe that whoever wins the deputy leader race there is now the prospect of an extra voice in favour of a progressive UK foreign policy.

“We need a deputy leader - and indeed a prime minister - who can ensure that human rights and humanitarian principles lie behind every foreign policy decision.”

The debate, chaired by Guardian journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland, came just days before the close of the ballot for the deputy leader race and is likely to influence levels of support for the candidates.

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