Rory Stewart appointed Secretary of State for International Development

3 May 2019

Following the recent cabinet reshuffle, we are delighted to welcome Rory Stewart as the new Secretary of State for International Development.

Mr Stewart has previously served as the Minister of State for Africa, a Ministerial position straddling the Foreign and Commonwealth Officer and DFID. In this capacity, Rory Stewart responded for the UK Government in a September 2017 Parliamentary debate on the Scotland-Malawi friendship, which saw MPs from every Scottish party celebrating the SMP members’ work.

Mr Stewart powerfully concluded this debate, saying:

“…above all I pay tribute to the Scotland Malawi Partnership—genuinely one of the most unique, remarkable, interesting and human interweavings of two nations anywhere in the world.”

“…There are three things from which we can learn. The first is, to use a horrible jargon phrase, the civic multiplier—the way in which the Scotland Malawi Partnership, with a relatively modest amount of money, can draw on all the institutions to create a much richer partnership and be more than the sum of its parts. The second element, which has come through time and again in today’s speeches, is mutual respect. Everyone who spoke talked a great deal about equality and about how we can learn as much from Malawi as it can learn from us. Finally, there is the genius of co-ordination and connections. Since 2005 the work of the Scotland Malawi Partnership has been not to create the connections, but to find them and mine them—to draw them out of the soil and reveal to us that thick web of connections between two nations, essentially putting Malawians on the board. That is a very important part of the work of the Scotland Malawi Partnership.”

“…More broadly, the big lesson from the Scotland Malawi Partnership may be for the Department for International Development itself. The Scotland Malawi Partnership shows us a great deal.”

“…at the centre of the Scotland Malawi Partnership is its use of the idea of history and identity—something that perhaps the United Kingdom could be more confident in doing. We have heard a great deal about David Livingstone, but this relationship is not one that could necessarily have been taken for granted. Like all relationships, it was nurtured and developed. There was no inevitability about the relationship being between Scotland and Malawi. The hon. Member for Dundee West (Chris Law) could have made a powerful argument that the natural relationship might be between Dundee and Calcutta. There are many profound relationships between Scotland and many different parts of the world. Malawi was chosen for good reasons, and over time, through talking about it, that relationship has become more powerful, more interesting and more human. There is a great deal we can learn from that.

“There is also a precedent point: as the world changes, as African economies grow and as China and India come in, the amount of British money going into Africa will form a smaller proportion of those economies. Learning that we cannot necessarily do everything, and that we may want to take a leaf out of the book of the Scotland Malawi Partnership and learn how to operate at a smaller, more human scale in certain designated countries, may be important for the British Government.”

“[As part of a] positive discussion on how we can learn from the Scotland Malawi Partnership, I would like … to touch on what those lessons could be. The first is about learning how to operate at a smaller scale. The second is about learning how to use history and identity. The third is about learning how to use civic connections, and fourthly and most important lesson is about learning how to place the human at the centre.

“What is so striking about the Scotland Malawi Partnership is that it has found ways of engaging a whole human population. Britain could do that in Malawi or in Tanzania, Uganda or Nigeria. It is a very exciting way of thinking about how to do development in the 21st century. The fact that so many right hon. and hon. Members are here championing international development shows how these human connections give us the legitimacy and centre to make progress. I wish they would also champion international development in the main Chamber and champion the UK aid budget in the same way. I will end by saying zikomo kwambiri—thank you very much.”

Read the full debate here

The Scotland Malawi Partnership has written to Rory Stewart communicating our members’ congratulations on his appointment.  We look forward to working with the Secretary of State.

Photo credit: CC/ Chris McAndrew