Dr Lazarus Chakwera, the newly elected President of Malawi gave a passionate call for the Scotland Malawi Partnership to grow as he gave the Keynote address in a digital conference between the two countries. First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, similarly celebrated the bonds of friendship between the two countries, at this critical time.
Speaking as the Hon. Co-Patron of the Partnership, alongside HRH The Princess Royal, President Lazarus Chakwera used his keynote address to give Scotland three ambitious challenges:
- First, to scale up the Scotland Malawi Partnership, from 1,200 bilateral civic links to 1,500, and to increase the total number of Scots and Malawians involved from 300,000 to 500,000.
- Second, for Scotland to host, within five years, a high-level conference, to track and celebrate and progress made in the implementation of the vision set down in the September 2018 ‘Malawi and Scotland: Together for Sustainable Development’ conference.
- Third, to ignite a movement of climate change activists amongst our peoples and capture the imagination of Malawian youths. “The time has come to escalate the sense of urgency among our people regarding the threats to our indispensable relationship with nature”
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said: “This is a great opportunity to explore the key issues facing our two countries and the ways in which we can work together to address them.” She continued: “We are determined to engage ever more closely with our partners in Malawi. We want to ensure all the work we do is guided, first and foremost, by Malawi’s priorities and needs.”
“Scotland remains committed to the [Scotland-Malawi Global Goals Partnership Agreement]. It is important not just to our countries’ governments but to hundreds of businesses, charities, universities and organisations in both our countries.” She continued: “Since 2005, our relationship has made a lasting and beneficial difference to the lives of thousands of our people. We want to build on those shared achievements in the years ahead. That’s why I very much welcome events like this.”
The event was attended by around 350 organisations and key individuals across Malawi and Scotland, including churches, universities, NGOs, businesses, diaspora groups and communities, as well as MPs, MSPs, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh and former First Minister Lord Jack McConnell. Guests came from all walks of life in both Scotland and Malawi, and all were able to contribute equally, sharing their vision for the future of the people-to-people and nation-to-nation friendship.
The afternoon was a digital discussion event, in which hundreds of different people, in both nations, were able to share their views and experiences of the bilateral relationship and help to forge a vision for the future. Discussions included: the impact of Covid-19; how to further build diversity and representation; how to support governance strengthening in both nations; the climate crisis and the opportunities around COP26; how to grow the nation-to-nation friendship in this new digital world; and how to ‘build back better’.
The President of Malawi committed to working closely with Scotland to fight climate change, including at the global climate conference, COP26, which will be hosted in Glasgow in 2021. The President said: “I am eager to see this partnership between us become an example to the world of two nations approaching climate change with the sense of urgency, and in the spirit of collaboration, commensurate with the existential threat this truly is.”
The President’s inspiring and energizing speech, urged participants to re-double efforts, as the two countries stand together at this challenging time, in friendship and solidarity. He praised the work of the Scotland Malawi Partnership in helping coordinate and support Covid-19 cooperation over the last six months, despite Scotland’s own domestic battle with the virus: “It is remarkable that in the midst of Scotland’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic Scotland has still been working side-by-side with us in our own fight here in Malawi. The impact of your support to us in raising funds and coordinating efforts has been far reaching and inspiring. Thank you.”
The afternoon also specifically looked at themes around Black Lives Matter, including diversity and representation. It was timed to coincide with the start of Black History Month. There was a strong sense that the longstanding commitment to working in dignified, two-way partnership -a partnership of equals- gave the bilateral relationship strong foundations in this regards.
Since 2005, all Presidents of Malawi have accepted the ex officio honorary title of Co-Patron of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, alongside HRH the Princess Royal. The Partnership is very grateful for this support, and the vision, energy and passionate that Dr Lazarus Chakwera brings to the role.
The Scotland Malawi Partnership recognises this a key moment in the bilateral relationship. As Covid-19 continues to define our lives, with Scotland-Malawi travel dormant but digital engagements revolutionising how we work; as Malawi’s new government takes office, with a strong focus on new leadership and governance strengthening; as the debate around Black Lives Matter poses important questions about diversity and representation; as Scotland prepares to host COP26, its most significant global summit to date, with the unique opportunity to help define the global response to the climate crisis; and as the Scottish Government reviews its international development policy, it is more important than ever that, as a network of 1,200+ organisations and key individuals, we come together to listen, share and discuss the next chapter in the bilateral friendship.
David Hope-Jones, SMP Chief Executive said:
“It was wonderful to have so many across Scotland and Malawi come together for this afternoon of discussion and sharing. We were able to take some of the hardest, most serious, issues of the day and listen to hundreds of different views: from primary school children to the President.
Everyone was united in a shared vision for the future, a belief that while there are many challenges, and there will undoubtedly be changes, there are also a great many new opportunities open to us in 2020 and, together, the future of the Scotland-Malawi friendship remains brighter than ever.”
The afternoon was designed to uplift and inspire, and it ended with a special one-off, live performance by perhaps Malawi’s most famous comedian, Daliso Chaponda. Daliso joined for all the event, taking part in the discussion groups and sharing his own views and insight on the nation-to-nation friendship.
Since reaching the Britain’s Got Talent finals, Daliso Chaponda has been perhaps one of the most famous Malawians in the performing arts. His two outstanding BBC Radio 4 series (Daliso Chaponda: Citizen of Nowhere), have explored serious themes of identity, representation, global citizenship and migration in genuinely light-hearted and engaging ways. He has been an inspiring Malawian voice on the airwaves and on the television.