Scottish Government Programme for Government:

03 September 2020

On the 1st September the Scottish Government published its 2020-21 Programme for Government, setting out its plans for the coming year and beyond, including the ring-fencing of £2m of existing international development funds for Covid-19, and announcing a review of its international development policy.

This article sets out our understanding of what was announced in the Programme for Government and presents an initial comment from Scotland Malawi Partnership. We look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government to learn more and actively support the government’s continuing work with Malawi.

Further information about the international development review is now available HERE.

Re-commitment to international development:

The Programme for Government recommits the Scottish Government to being an outward-looking, good global citizen, ready to engage and support others as it continues the global effort against COVID-19, and commits to working with others to tackle the global climate emergency. It also commits to maintaining the same international development partner countries, including Malawi.

The Scotland Malawi Partnership warmly welcomes the continued commitment of the Scottish Government to international development and Scotland’s 161-year old friendship with Malawi.

Ring-fenced Covid-19 funds:

The Programme for Government announced that £2m from the SG’s existing International Development Fund this year has been ring-fenced to support its partner countries in tackling COVID-19, saying further information on the detail of this allocation will be forthcoming.

Covid-19 continues to be a real and increasing threat in Malawi and the Scotland Malawi Partnership welcomes all commitments to supporting Malawi in its fight against the virus. Since March, funded by the Scottish Government and as part of our Covid-19 Response Strategy, we have facilitated strong, regular communication channels to support coordination, collaboration and shared learning between Scotland and Malawi as we both fight Covid-19. Over 250 organisations and key individuals have taken part in our regular Scotland-Malawi Covid-19 Coordination Zoom meetings, with input from Malawi’s Presidential Covid-19 Taskforce.

Informed by very strong participant feedback (96% of respondents rate ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’; 93% say this approach is strengthening their links with Malawi), we continue to believe that a coordinated response is key, and that all new work should build on the five months of sharing in which we have been able to support coordination and collaboration, share learning and -most importantly- listen to and be led by those leading the response in Malawi.

After widespread consultation across Malawi and Scotland, in May, the sector agreed Scotland-Malawi Principles of Good Practice for Covid-19 Support, with eight principles set down for operational organisations (NGOs, civic links, etc) and eight for funders. These principles continue to garner strong support, from NGOs and funders, and we hold ourselves and our members accountable to them.

We welcome the Scottish Government’s commitment to supporting Malawi fight Covid-19 and we encourage the Scottish Government, and all Scottish-based funders, to work within the eight published principles of good practice for maximum positive impact.

Review of International Development Policy:

The Programme for Government also sets out the Scottish Government’s intention to review its approach to international development, to ensure that work is focused where the biggest difference can be made against the backdrop of Covid-19.

We understand the review of the Scottish Government’s International Development work will consider:

- programme themes;

- programme design/spend profiles - in particular how best to deliver on needs-led development, take account of and address race and inequality issues, and ensure that as much funding as possible reaches those in our partner countries who need it most;

- future-proofing our programme - with a clearer human rights approach set out to underpin its commitment on policy coherence, including how they best to respond to climate change commitments; and proofing against the reality of pandemics such as COVID-19 in terms of sustainability of the initiatives that they fund.

The Programme for Government recognises that the Scottish Government’s approach: “of working with others collaboratively, has been a key feature and strength of our international development work to date”. We strongly welcome the SG’s commitment to working with the sector as it opens a discussion on its approach to international development, and we look forward to being an active part of this discussion, helping to represent the views of our 1,200+ members.

We applaud the consultation process the Scottish Government followed in 2016, when it last updated its international development policy, and we encourage the SG to follow a similarly engaging, transparent and effective process again now. The 2016 review invited input from across all sections of Scottish civic society and published an independent collation of the responses received, before announcing the new policy.

We fully support the SG’s existing international development policy, which was informed by this nationwide consultation (see ‘10 things we love about the SG’s new ID Policy’ and ‘10 recommendations for the implementation of the Policy’), but we appreciate the desire to update elements of this approach in light of this new Covid-19 landscape.

We believe the Sottish Government has an innovative, distinctive and effective international development programme. Successive Scottish Governments have made far-sighted, long-term commitments to working with and through civic society in the delivery of their international development agenda. The constructive synergy between the governmental and non-governmental has unleashed a powerful multiplier effect: inspiring the people of Scotland and Malawi to work together for mutual benefit. This multiplier effect means for every pound invested by the Scottish Government in Malawi, around ten pounds (c£49m annually) comes from the people of Scotland. We feel this is an extraordinary achievement.

By way of comparison, the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund is slightly smaller than the island of Jersey’s Overseas Aid programme. We feel that what has allowed the Scottish Government to achieve such disproportionate impact, praise and emulation is this distinctly Scottish approach which inspires mass participation across all of Scotland and Malawi. This approach continues to transform lives for the better in Malawi and beyond, and attracts strong public, media and all-party political support. We encourage the Scottish Government to continue this approach.

In recent months, as the debate around decolonization, inclusivity and representation has, rightly, taken centre stage, we feel it is to Scotland’s credit that its approach to international development, in government and civic society, has chosen to be defined for decades by a spirit of genuinely dignified people-to-people partnerships, and has welcomed mass participation in equal, inclusive and inspiring ways. We feel it is more important than ever that this approach continues to define Scotland’s contribution as a good global citizen in this next chapter.

We look forward to feeding into this latest review of the Scottish Government’s international development policy and helping ensure Scotland’s unique contribution in this area continues to be relevant, effective and impactful, through the Covid-era and beyond.

Direct exerts from the Scottish Government 2020-21 Programme for Government:

International Development:

“Scotland is committed to participating as a proactive international partner, including our future approach to European engagement following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. We are ready to engage and support others as we continue the global effort against COVID-19. We are also committed to working with others to tackle the global climate emergency. In the course of the next year, we will update Scotland’s International Framework and Policy Statement in light of the COVID-19 crisis to ensure it clearly articulates our international position and priorities. …

Scotland’s commitment to being a good global citizen is part of its attraction as a destination for inward migration. Delivering on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), not just as a nation but as a partner for developing countries, is important as we move into the recovery phase. Our work on Policy Coherence – considering not just our needs but the needs of others overseas – is vital as we strive to build a green economy and “leave no one behind” in line with the ethos of the UN SDGs.

That approach, of working with others collaboratively, has been a key feature and strength of our international development work to date. We have worked closely with our partners to deliver projects in areas such as health, education, justice and renewable energy, despite the recent and ongoing challenges of COVID-19. Our peer-to-peer projects (involving NHS Scotland, Police Scotland and Scottish Water) support the development of our partner countries. We have continued to commit to Scotland being an outward-looking, good global citizen, making distinctive contributions towards addressing global challenges and injustices, by sharing our knowledge, skills and technical expertise in our partner countries, and learning from them.

It is clear COVID-19 will remain a threat for some time to come. We will therefore also begin to review and open a discussion on our approach to international development, ensuring that we are focusing our contribution on areas where we can make the biggest difference against the backdrop of the new reality of COVID-19, and ensuring that as much of our funding as possible reaches our partner countries which need it most. We will ring-fence £2 million of the International Development Fund in this year to contribute to COVID-19 efforts in our partner countries”.

Climate Justice:

“Climate justice recognises that the poor and vulnerable at home and overseas are the first to be affected by climate change, and will suffer the worst, yet have done little or nothing to cause the problem. Our world first Climate Justice Fund will continue to support communities in our partner countries of Malawi, Zambia, and Rwanda become more resilient to climate change. The powerful work done to date will help inform how we best support climate justice initiatives beyond 2021”.

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