SMP chair Ken Ross and Chief Executive David Hope-Jones were delighted to meet with the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on 8th May to discuss the bilateral relationship and brief her on the Scottish Government-funded Malawi and Scotland: Together for Sustainable Development Conference.
The First Minister was given copies of the official report from the Lilongwe Conference, which saw 350 key stakeholders in the Malawi-Scotland friendship come together and share their views on priorities and principles for the next chapter of the bilateral relationship.
The First Minister was briefed on the 15 cross-cutting themes which came out from the two days of discussion, with four overarching points in particular standing out:
1. Think big!
The SMP relayed the challenge from keynote speaker Dr Matthews Mtumbuka for all parties to ‘think big’ and be ambitious in this next chapter in the longstanding friendship. There was consensus across the two days that the model of engagement between Malawi and Scotland is innovative, distinctive and effective, and is ready for further development. Our challenge in the coming years is to find ways of scaling-up this model and sharing it with others, while retaining the core elements of civic leadership and dignified two-way partnerships.
2. Government, Parliament and Civil Society
A key defining element of the relationship is the constructive synergy and close working which exists between Government, Parliament and civil society. Civic activism inspires the cross-party involvement of elected members, and this all-party support encourages government action, which in turn supports civic participation. In this way, a virtuous circle is created, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
3. Partnership not projects
Sustainability comes from the fact that this is not simply a diverse number of individual time-limited projects but rather thousands of individual people-to-people partnerships, underpinned by long-standing friendships, not just short-term funding.
4. Governance as foundational
There was a strong response from all six strands that all cooperation is reliant on good governance and that zero tolerance is required to corruption at every level. We need to do more to work together, talking about good governance at every level, sharing learning and experience, and exploring ways of strengthening governance and accountability across NGOs, business, Parliament and government. Malawi and Scotland have a relationship of trust and of mutual understanding which has strong potential to make a valuable contribution in this area.
The Malawi and Scotland: Together for Sustainable Development Conference had a specific focus on safeguarding. Through two-way learning and respectful dialogue, delegates committed to the highest possible standards of safeguarding. This remains a top priority for the people, government and parliaments of both our nations.
The First Minister continues to be impressed by the scale, reach and impact of Scotland’s friendship with Malawi, with an estimated 45% of Scots able to name a friend or family member with a link to Malawi. It was suggested that this level of activism and support says something important about Scotland and the sort of outward-looking nation we wish to be.
The meeting also focused on the extent of youth leadership in the relationship, a key theme in the bilateral relationship.
The First Minister was grateful to all at the SMP and our sister network, the Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP), for their work coordinating, supporting and representing the bilateral relationship. She was interested and inspired by the outcomes of the conference and will continue to follow developments closely. After the forthcoming elections in Malawi, MaSP will meet with the President of Malawi in a parallel meeting, to give a similar brief from the conference.
The First Minister enjoyed the meeting and her Government looks forward to continuing to work closely with the SMP and its members to help further develop the 160-year-old bonds of friendship which exist between our two nations.
Read the full Conference Report which summarises the key outcomes from the various discussions over the two days, including the Conference Statement which was unanimously agreed by all who attended (Click on the 'Full Screen' button below).