Covid has changed the world. Everyone—rich or poor, black or white, north or south—has felt its impact. We are still in the midst of that global pandemic, and while it has changed the job of Governments on every continent, it has also changed how we go about our tasks in this place. Here, in this chamber, that change is immediately visible. We are socially distanced and our visitor galleries are—I hope temporarily—closed. We are learning how to vote from elsewhere. We have not only had to pass emergency legislation, but we are still, unfortunately, requiring our fellow citizens to restrict what they do.
Every bit of the Scottish Government’s work has been affected by Covid, including the vital work in international development. In that area, as in all others, we are faced with a renewed and unexpected challenge. We must rise to the occasion, take heed and respond by refreshing our approach, intensifying our commitment and making sure that we protect and, indeed, enhance Scotland’s contribution to those most in need. I am privileged to lead the debate, but it must be owned by all of us here today.
It is 15 years since the then Labour-Liberal Democrat Executive initiated the international development fund. That offer in 2005 was firmly rooted in the historical links between Scotland and Malawi. Since that time, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan have joined as partner countries. I assure members at the outset of the debate that our group of partner countries remains unchanged. The review is very much focused on the wellbeing of those partner countries. As we reach the milestone of the 15th anniversary of our international development programme, we continue to be proud of the additional and unique contribution that Scotland makes.
Covid-19 has, understandably, impacted on our programme over the past six months. We have tried to mitigate the effects of that on our project partners, including by approving additional funding where we were able to do so. However, it is clear that Covid-19 will remain a global threat for some time. It is for that reason that it felt right to pause and reflect on the programme. That will allow us to consider how to future proof our programme and to consider the impact of movements such as Black Lives Matter in the context of international development.
Earlier this year, I listened to my colleague Humza Yousaf make one of the most powerful contributions in the chamber that I have ever heard. He spoke of the whiteness of Scotland’s judicial system and outlined the dire need for progress for Scotland’s black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. I left the chamber that day and thought about the vast and overwhelming number of white faces I have met in person, or virtually, since taking up office in February.
Writing in last weekend’s Scotsman, Susan Dalgety rightly asked:
“And what does Black Lives Matter, which emerged from the streets of America, mean to an African?”
I have been asking that question for many months now in my meetings with the sector. Last week, I asked it of an academic who works in one of our partner countries. She said:
“Black Lives Matter in America is not the same as in Africa. But if you come to my country and you put a white person in charge of a programme – when I could do that job, when I know my local community – that’s what Black Lives Matter means to me. That is white privilege.”
The problem of “white gaze” is clearly not one that the Scottish international development sector has to solve on its own; it is a global challenge for all Governments, but I believe that we should try to set an example in Scotland. Lauren Reese, writing in The New Humanitarian back in June, said:
“I want international development organisations to not just ‘do good’ in other countries, but to do better for their own employees and communities.”
She set out some key tests for the sector, including implicit bias and systemic racism training for all staff. That is a step in the right direction, but she argues that it should not be a tick-box exercise; rather, it should reflect the embedded structural inequality that racism creates.
The Malawi Scotland Partnership and the Scotland Malawi Partnership published a joint response to the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year, stating:
“We acknowledge and greatly regret that racism has been perpetrated in Scotland’s 161 year relationship with Malawi, while also appreciating that there are a great many examples of Scots and Malawians working together to fight prejudice. Scottish missionaries, particularly in the early twentieth century, were by no means free from the prevailing racist assumptions of their day. Many Scots became deeply identified with the black community in Malawi but Malawians were, quite rightly, alert to elements of paternalism and racism that they experienced even in the best of them.”
I am intent that we learn from that powerful statement from two of our core funded organisations in the review.
Refreshing our approach for the maximum benefit of our partner countries means looking at our whole programme and reviewing all the areas that we fund under the international development fund, including our partner country programmes, our small grants programme and our core funding to networking organisations and the development education centres.
We will also consider any read-across from the review to our humanitarian emergency fund and fair trade in Scotland policy, both of which, along with the small grants programme, were recently reviewed.
If we are serious about truly tackling the charges of white gaze, amplifying global south voices and partner-led development, and if we are to build programme sustainability against the threat of Covid-19, we need to be open to and serious about change. I hope that members will agree with that sentiment.
The draft principles of the review are key to both the review and our future approach. Members will note that the overarching ethos of international solidarity is embedded in the principles. Through the principles, we have also reiterated our commitment to a human rights approach.
I have mentioned our on-going commitment to partner-led development. I have written to all four partner country Governments and held initial meetings with their representatives in Malawi and Zambia. I am also, however, keen to hear from civil society in our partner countries. That is important if we are to conduct the review and ensure that the refreshed programme is truly inclusive. I will be speaking to our Malawian partners next week and I look forward to having similar round tables with Rwanda and Zambia.
On engagement in Scotland, I am equally keen to hear views on the draft principles—I am sure that we will hear some of them today. In recent weeks, I have attended the Malawi cross-party group and Scotland’s International Development Alliance’s annual conference to discuss the review. At the end of the month, I will host a round table with the sector in Scotland and tomorrow, I will attend one of the alliance’s quarterly meetings to discuss some of the review principles in more depth.
I found the round-table discussion that I held last week with international academics, including some from our partner countries, hugely useful in informing my thinking.
Members will note that this is not a strategic review of the kind that we had in 2016, and if this were October 2019, I am sure that our approach would be different. However, we should all be cognisant of the new reality that Covid-19 presents. There is an urgency about our work that did not exist six months ago. That said, I want to use today to listen to members and to reach consensus, as can be evidenced by the spirit of the Government’s motion.
I am a white Scottish Government minister, serving in an almost completely white Parliament, in a country where systemic racism prevents the black, Asian and minority ethnic community from achieving their full potential. I come to the chamber from a position of privilege, which I recognise. I cannot turn the clock back, but I can take responsibility by ensuring that we refresh our international development offer in Scotland to take cognisance of that historical privilege and work with our partner countries in developing solutions that tackle inequality. I hope that I will have the support of the chamber in doing so.
That the Parliament welcomes the renewed commitment of the Scottish Government to make the maximum possible contribution to the wellbeing of its international development partner countries, and notes its intention to refresh that approach in co-operation with the Parliament, its partner country Governments and charities and other bodies in Scotland and overseas in order to take full account of the shared global challenge presented by the impact and effects of COVID-19.
I am delighted to be able to take part in today’s debate on our approach to international development.
Since being elected to the Scottish Parliament, I have taken a keen interest in overseas aid and international development. I am sure that we can all agree that developed economies have a moral obligation to support countries on that journey.
We are lucky in Scotland to have not one, but two Governments involved in international development, and we must whole-heartedly salute what the Scottish and UK Governments do. The efforts of both are very welcome.
Scotland has a long-standing reputation for internationalism, but the links with our partner countries Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan are particularly strong. We therefore welcome the Scottish Government’s renewed commitment to international development, especially its on-going commitment to supporting partner countries. The ring fencing of funding to support our partner nations’ efforts to tackle Covid-19 would also seem to be a sensible approach.
However, given the new challenges that coronavirus presents to everyone around the world, it is right that we review our approach to international development. As well as considering Covid-19, we should target our aid for development to the places where it can make the most difference, while ensuring that assistance takes into account our climate change responsibilities. My colleagues and I look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government on the review, to ensure that we make the best possible difference with a refreshed Scottish international development policy. Having spoken to the minister on a number of occasions, I know that both of us wish that that will be achieved.
As I said when I previously held my party’s international development brief, we can maximise the benefits of our international development efforts only if we work together, both within and outside the chamber. That means working across party lines and with our partners across civil society, including community groups, businesses, schools, academia, the health sector, religious organisations and many more. We have all those in abundance in Scotland, and we should ensure that we continue to support them.
Given my role as co-convener of the Parliament’s cross-party group on Malawi, I am particularly aware of the success that that approach has had. Through the co-ordinating support of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, more than 1,200 links have been established between Malawi and organisations and key individuals across our country. Such partnerships in civil society have real benefits for people on the ground—not just in Malawi, but here in Scotland.
A study that was carried out by the University of Edinburgh a couple of years ago estimated that such links have collectively generated more than £49 million-worth of resources and finance, which has benefited more than three million Malawians. That is a staggering achievement, so I want to record my thanks to everyone who has been involved in making it happen. It is my view that continuation of such partnership links is vital and should be an integral part of the Scottish Government’s review.
In that vein of collaboration, I think that it is very important that we also consider and acknowledge the United Kingdom Government’s efforts in what has taken place. The UK is seen as a leader in international aid, and continues to be the only G7 nation to hit the target of spending 0.7 per cent of its gross national income on overseas development—a commitment that has been enshrined in law by the UK Government. As part of the UK family of nations, Scotland can rightly be proud of the work that it has done to support the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world.
UK Aid Direct, which uses the union flag as part of its branding, is recognised the world over and supports many projects and lifeline deliveries to ensure that the emergency food and medical supplies that it provides in areas of severe poverty, natural disaster or conflict make a real difference. As of April 2019, UK Aid Direct has directly supported an incredible 2.5 million people across 37 countries. The total value of the support that has been provided to the most vulnerable people has been about £150 million over the past five years alone.
The UK has also been playing a major and important part in the global fight against the coronavirus. UK Aid Direct has already contributed £774 million to tackling the pandemic globally, and is protecting millions of people in the developing world, including in areas of conflict.
A few months ago, the UK Government also hosted a global vaccine summit that raised $8.8 billion to support health systems to withstand the impact of coronavirus, and to ensure that the world will be protected when a vaccine is found. The UK also continues to be the Vaccine Alliance’s largest donor, having pledged £330 million per year over the next five years.
Next year, the UK will hold the G7 presidency, which will provide a huge opportunity for new international approaches to health security, and to protecting the most vulnerable people around the world from another pandemic.
Moreover, the 26th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will come to Glasgow next year. Climate change is a serious problem for everyone around the world, and has affected our poorest countries most significantly. It is vital that we collaborate to ensure that we tackle it.
Scottish Conservatives are fully committed to ensuring that Scotland plays its part in tackling poverty and hardship internationally. We support investment in international development here in Scotland and within the UK. It is important that we recognise the benefits that the efforts of both our Governments deliver to improvement of the lives of people in developing communities around the globe. I hope that members across the chamber will feel able to support that sentiment and to back my amendment.
I move amendment S5M-22949.1, to insert at end:
“; recognises that the UK Government has pledged £774 million in aid, as at the end of July 2020, to protect millions of people in the developing world from coronavirus, and welcomes the UK Government’s statutory commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on international aid, which became law in 2015.”
I congratulate the minister on her first debate as a front bencher, although she has had to sit in the second row of seats.
Scotland has an important role to play in international development, and that role should be underpinned with strong principles. Scottish Labour is proud of our international development achievements, which include setting up the partnership with Malawi and introducing the international development fund. The Scottish National Party Government has built on that success, and there is broad support across Parliament for our existing international development work and for the aim of maximising our contribution to our international development partner countries.
The purpose of the Labour amendment is to recognise the positives of our approach to date, and to highlight the importance of meaningful consultation as part of the Government’s review. I am pleased that the Scottish Government is inclined to support our amendment. On the Conservative amendment, although a statutory spending commitment for international aid is welcome, we should also recognise that it does not go far enough. Even though a percentage-of-spending approach to international aid is recognised Europe-wide, the spend can be vulnerable.
Since 2005, the Scottish Government has set a clear commitment to funding international development work. It initially focused on Malawi, and we have seen an expansion over time both in terms of the work and the budget. Just last weekend, the President of Malawi, Dr Lazarus—I do not know how to pronounce this—Chakwera, addressed the Scotland Malawi Partnership conference. He spoke passionately about the existing relationship between Scotland and Malawi and urged its further development, including by growing the number of civic links.
A number of organisations are doing valuable work in Scotland to promote international development. Many of them contributed helpful briefings ahead of the debate. We should recognise the positive contributions that they and others have made and continue to make. They, as are others, are working through the pandemic. I thank them for their efforts.
The programme for government set out the intention to review Scotland’s approach to international development. That review is now under way and has an intended completion date of the end of the year. That timeframe is short, and the framing of the review as a “refresh” is not particularly convincing; it appears to be more than that. Therefore, the need for proper consultation, which includes engagement with those who are involved in delivering the current approach, is crucial. The process must involve meaningful consultation and engagement with Parliament—including the relevant committee—with partner countries’ Governments, charities and bodies that are involved in Scotland and overseas.
There are strong links between Scottish civic society and civic society in our partner countries. That is an important approach that should be retained, because we can benefit from the knowledge and expertise there. There are good examples of partnership working and capacity building that should not be lost.
The key principles that underpin the review are not contentious, but are broadly supported across and beyond the sector. However, questions remain about the practical implications of how the principles are to be achieved, and who is being consulted and involved in determining that. I have spoken already about the importance of meaningful and transparent consultation that encompasses organisations that are already active in partnership work, as well as new voices in Scotland and our partner countries.
The principles also refer to the importance of future proofing, with a specific focus on climate change and Covid. The ring fencing of underspend this year to contribute to Covid-19 efforts in our partner countries is a positive practical measure, and I welcome the news that the views of partner countries will be heard in setting the related priorities.
We should apply future proofing in all areas of policy and law, but it should not be done in a piecemeal fashion. The need to future proof the international development programme in relation to climate change has to be done as part of wider steps to enhance policy coherence for sustainable development, so we need mechanisms to improve impact assessment, decision making and scrutiny across all aspects of Government and Parliament.
The details on the process of the review also highlight concerns that have been raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, including the need to address white privilege, which the minister talked about. We must recognise the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for action in all areas of our lives, including in our roles as parliamentarians.
That applies across all areas of policy. Within international development, there are complex challenges stemming from the power dynamics of colonisation, so it is important that institutions continue to scrutinise and improve how they work. I know that our non-governmental organisations, charities and other organisations are taking that seriously.
The review of Scotland’s approach to international development is a good opportunity to take stock, reflect on what we have achieved in our partnerships, and look to how we can improve what we do. In doing so, we need to continue to engage with and involve our partner countries and civic institutions in the process. We have an opportunity to set out an approach that builds on successful long-standing relationships, and to enhance our positive international contribution. We should seek to do that transparently and co-operatively.
I move amendment S5M-22949.2, to leave out from “, and notes its intention” to “in order to” and insert:
“; notes that work is currently underway to review its approach to international development with the intention of completing this by the end of 2020; calls for this review to include meaningful consultation with the Parliament, its partner country governments and charities and other bodies in Scotland and overseas; values the work done by organisations in Scotland to promote international development; recognises the important role of civic society in partner countries to Scotland’s approach to international development, and urges the Scottish Government to include them in a consultation to reflect their knowledge and expertise, and agrees that the approach should”.
With all that is going on at the moment, I thank the minister for carving out time for Parliament to debate the issue. As is the case everywhere, Covid is making its presence felt in the area of international development, not least by threatening to put back by a decade achievement of the sustainable development goals, as the International Development Alliance has warned. Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has profoundly challenged us to look again at the inherent biases in the way that our societies function. Again, that has a bearing on our approach to international development.
I therefore understand entirely why the Government wants to ensure that its strategy remains relevant, effective and true to our collective aspirations. However, I caution against making changes for change’s sake. Scotland’s international development budget, at £10 million, is relatively small and is dwarfed by the UK budget, thanks in no small part to my Liberal Democrat colleagues Lynne Featherstone, Michael Moore and Jeremy Purvis for securing the 0.7 per cent target in law. Sadly, I have to say that, by abolishing the Department for International Development and increasingly tying aid to trade, some of Alexander Stewart’s colleagues are not doing much to help to deliver the genuinely held spirit of the amendment that he has lodged.
Over the past two decades, however, Scotland has punched above its weight in the area. There are many reasons for that, which are interrelated and highly relevant in the context of the review of the Government’s strategy. What are those strengths? First, we should acknowledge that the strong cross-party support dates back to the first Lib Dem-Labour coalition and especially the personal commitment that was shown by the then First Minister, Jack McConnell. However, that has continued uninterrupted over successive Governments and Parliaments. Let us not underestimate the powerful message that that sends, particularly at a time when there are plenty of siren voices encouraging us to pull up the bridges and look inward.
In turn, that cross-party support draws its strength from the extent of civic buy-in from across Scotland. Like Alexander Stewart, I am a co-convener of the cross-party group on Malawi and, as such, I will shamelessly and proudly use the warm heart of Africa to illustrate my point. There is scarcely a community in Scotland that does not have some sort of link with Malawi, through individuals, schools, churches, community groups, businesses and others.
My former school on Sanday is a perfect illustration. After winning a competition that was launched by Jack McConnell to coincide with the signing of the 2005 co-operation agreement, the school on Sanday forged links with a school in Minga, on the outskirts of Lilongwe. That relationship has benefited pupils, staff and the wider community on both sides. That is another strength of Scotland’s approach to international development. Certainly with Malawi, it is a two-way approach that is based on mutual respect and benefit.
When the President of Malawi addressed members of the Scotland Malawi Partnership at the weekend, he said:
“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.”
I will finish by highlighting the co-ordination effort that President Chakwera referred to. The Scotland Malawi Partnership and its sister organisation in Malawi do tremendous work in identifying connections, making links and then facilitating and supporting relationships. That co-ordination is invaluable. It allows members to feel part of something bigger, more substantial and even more rewarding. It also allows Scotland to punch above its weight by levering in £200 for every pound spent.
That is why the Government’s international strategy is worth more than £10 million and why we can and should be more ambitious about what it can achieve, but it is also why we must take care to preserve and value what we have and avoid the temptation of change for change’s sake. I echo Claire Baker’s strong call for meaningful consultation and look forward to working with my friend Jenny Gilruth in delivering a strategy that can command cross-party support and of which this country can rightly be proud.
I welcome the great importance that the Scottish Government places on being a good global citizen. It is right that we play our part in tackling the global challenges of poverty, injustice and inequality. I commend the Scottish Government’s overarching ethos of international solidarity in an interdependent world.
Cross-party support in the Scottish Parliament for international development has been a key feature that has underpinned the Scottish Government’s international development work since 2005, and long may that continue. At the forefront of the Scottish Government’s efforts is the international development fund, along with the new humanitarian emergency fund, which aims to support and empower Scotland’s partner countries—Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.
All the Scottish Government’s international development work contributes to sustainable development and to the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally, under the framework of the United Nations sustainable development goals, which are the globally agreed priorities for tackling poverty and inequality in UN member states. Scotland was one of the first countries to commit publicly to those goals.
Sustainable development goal 16 is to
“Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies”.
Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain great threats to sustainable development. In 2018, the number of people who fled war, persecution and conflict exceeded 70 million, which is the highest level that the UN refugee agency has recorded in almost 70 years. In 2019, the UN tracked 357 killings and 30 enforced disappearances of human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists in 47 countries.
The helpful briefing that MSPs received from the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund speaks to the importance of human rights defenders and acknowledges that, around the world, it is increasingly dangerous for citizens to defend their human rights. SCIAF commends Scotland’s proud record of supporting human rights defenders. It encourages the Scottish Government to continue that work and urges it to challenge the drivers of human rights violations and environmental damage. It commends the Scottish Government’s human rights defender fellowship, which provides much-needed respite for human rights defenders, as well as learning and networking opportunities.
It is clear that Covid-19 will remain a threat for some time to come, and it is right that the Scottish Government is reviewing its international development programme in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. The review and open discussion of the approach to international development should ensure that the Scottish Government focuses its contribution on areas where it can make the biggest difference against the backdrop of the new reality of Covid-19. It should also ensure that as much Scottish Government funding as possible reaches the partner countries that need it most.
The UN secretary general urged Governments to be
“transparent, responsive and accountable” in their Covid-19 response, and to
“ensure that any emergency measures ... are legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory ... The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the ... law.”
Human rights put people at the centre. Responses that are shaped by and which respect human rights will result in better outcomes in beating the pandemic, ensuring healthcare for everyone and preserving human dignity. They are sound guiding principles for us all and are as true domestically as they are internationally.
I am pleased to take part in the debate, and I congratulate the minister on bringing such an important subject to the Parliament for debate.
Along with my colleagues, I welcome every commitment to safeguard and promote international development, and sincerely hope that the principles that underpin the review will be delivered in practice.
Coronavirus has shown our need to be ready for any global challenge. It has pushed us to think beyond the short term and join a wider humanitarian-focused conversation that seeks to find the most adaptable and effective ways to contribute to international development. Therefore, in the light of the pandemic, coupled with the continuing climate emergency, the Scottish Government’s commitment to increase funds for our partner countries is most welcome.
Indeed, every investment that seeks to improve health and wellbeing, improve access to education and tackle global poverty is made even more impactful through the fostering of connections and the sharing of expertise.
I am pleased that there is a UK-wide effort on overseas development. Since 2015, the UK Government has committed to spending 0.7 per cent of gross national income on overseas development every year. Moreover, to assist with the on-going Syrian conflict, which has been worsened by the Covid-19 challenge, the UK has pledged at least £300 million to support more vulnerable Syrians with food, healthcare, economic assistance and education. Such efforts are vital, especially under the increased pressures that we have witnessed on a global scale as a result of the pandemic.
Scotland’s international aid policy relies on the core value of partner-led and mutually beneficial partnerships. It is where such partnerships exist that international development works best. We have seen that in practice through the fantastic work of the Scotland Malawi Partnership, which other speakers have mentioned. Its approach has long left behind the unhelpful and, frankly, outdated mindset that viewed international development funding as an unequal balance of power involving donors and somehow lesser recipients.
Today, we see instead how the co-ordination and delivery of funding has been greatly advanced by a clear emphasis on localisation. For example, the current Covid restrictions on travel have shown the benefits of having locally partnered projects in place, as they have been able to continue their work to deliver funds in country with only minor adjustments. Tearfund’s projects are a prime example of that.
It is those partnerships, which are fostered through locally rooted, civic communities, that must be safeguarded and protected in the Government review. Previous consultations involving all stakeholders at both national and local level have proved to be invaluable in informing a joined-up approach. I therefore hope that the review will, in practice, carefully strive to include all civic groups in the conversation and be as transparent as possible. If that was not the case, a true disservice would be done to the collaborative working relationships that have been successfully forged over time.
Global interdependency has never been more pronounced, and the reliance on one another, fostered through inclusive and collaborative efforts between Governments, civic organisations and local communities, must continue to inform Scotland’s approach to international development. That on-going dialogue is essential to reducing inequality and maximising opportunity wherever possible, and I hope that it will be actively encouraged and utilised by the Scottish Government.
Covid-19 has been hugely challenging for all of us, but people in the global south have faced challenge on a different scale. To stay safe, we are reminded to wash our hands more often and for longer. In the global south, there are 3 billion people who have no access to hand washing at home and 900 million pupils who cannot wash their hands while they are at school.
It is right to review Scotland’s international development strategy in the light of the global pandemic, but it would be wrong for ministers and civil servants to carry out such an important review in-house, without full public consultation, including formal input from all of the hundreds of civil society organisations in Scotland and other countries that play such an important part in delivering Scotland’s international development agenda.
As the minister will know, the existing strategy has commanded cross-party support under successive ministers in successive Governments. I would encourage ministers, before contemplating any reduction in small grants, core funding of NGOs or development education, to reflect on the origins and purpose of Scotland’s international development strategy in considering how to adapt it to the era of Covid-19.
As the minister said, the origins of both the international development fund and the formal partnership between Scotland’s devolved Government and the Government of Malawi go back to 2005. They were conceived not as competing with or replacing the much higher levels of development assistance that the Department for International Development provided on behalf of the whole of the UK, but as adding value on the basis of Scotland’s established strengths. The most important of those strengths has been not the work of Government then or since, or the work of any party in any Parliament, but the network of mutually supportive connections between civil society in Scotland and civil society in developing countries, starting with Malawi.
Thousands of Scottish people, in hundreds of communities, churches and NGOs, have worked in partnership with counterparts in developing countries—not only the partner countries that have been mentioned, but other countries, too—for years. They did that long before devolution and have continued to do it, working together in a wide variety of ways.
Scottish civil society has matched support for development projects in the global south with support for development education at home, promoting global citizenship among not just countries and institutions, but individuals and communities. Many of those civil society individuals and organisations are members of this Parliament’s cross-party group on international development, which I convene, and other cross-party groups that members have mentioned. Many of them would be deeply concerned about any shift away from Scottish Government support delivered to partner countries through Scottish NGOs. That support helps those organisations and individuals to work in the world’s poorest countries, and develop projects that go directly to those who need them most. Even now, many are taking forward projects to respond to the impact of Covid-19. I look forward to the possibility that the minister will be able to attend our cross-party group, so that it can hear directly from her about how she perceives the review going forward.
It is important to say that 16 years ago, Scotland’s devolved Government did not conjure an international development programme out of thin air. It brought together what was already there—the different areas of activity of Scottish civil society and the different strands of Government funding of development NGOs and development education centres—and gave it the structure and support that Government was best placed to provide.
Significantly, that was all happening just as a reinvigorated DFID was taking development assistance to a new level on behalf of the UK as a whole, and doing so—as you know, Presiding Officer—from a base here in Scotland. That allowed Scottish voices to inform thinking about how to ensure that development aid went to the poorest people in the most disadvantaged places, giving greater weight to relationships between civil society here and civil society in those countries than to formal links between national Governments. Those formal links are important, but if we really want to reach the poorest people, the network of civil society connections helps us to do that.
To review where Covid leaves us and consider how to deploy additional resources would be good and welcome, but to abandon or downgrade the use of civil society as the best route for development assistance would be a grave error. To reduce the support for the promotion of global citizenship among people here in Scotland would also be a mistake. Doing those things would weaken Scotland’s reputation where it has always been strongest. Even more important, it would risk closing the lines of communication that best serve the world’s poorest people, at a time when they need us to hear their voices more than ever.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss international development in the Parliament and I declare an interest as an office bearer of the cross-party groups on Malawi and international development.
The Government’s review comes at a moment when the Scottish Government, like everyone else of good will, is looking at how best to work towards a better world post pandemic: a world that is fairer than the one that went before, that is more resilient to the diseases that hit the world’s poorest hardest, and that recognises the threat that environmental degradation presents to both our long-term and immediate human health.
One of the greatest privileges that I have ever had came during my stint as international development minister, when I had a chance to see the work that the Scottish Government was doing during brief visits that I made to Malawi and Zambia. It was clear to me then that the warmth of Scotland’s relationship with both those countries makes for a unique kind of partnership. Friendliness and respect are characteristics of Scotland’s relationship with all the countries that we work in. I am sure that others will mention Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan, but my time is short, so I want to say a little more about one country in particular: Malawi.
Nobody who has been to Malawi can have missed the continuing affection for Scotland that exists there, notwithstanding Scotland’s far from blameless role in the British empire, which the minister rightly pointed out. That affection is evidenced in many ways, not least in the fact that, when an independent Malawi quite rightly decolonised its place names, it left one European name, Blantyre, on its map out of the regard that it had for David Livingstone.
Statistics suggest that an amazing 45 per cent of Scots may personally know someone who is directly involved in Scotland’s work in or for Malawi, often through partner agencies such as SCIAF or Mary’s Meals. Those people have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children by ensuring that they have the cup of porridge in school each day that often makes the difference between their being able to attend school or not.
I want to make a particular case for the work that the Scotland Malawi Partnership and the Malawi Scotland Partnership, which is its sister body in Malawi, continue to do in promoting a dignified two-way partnership. As others have pointed out, such a partnership does not simply mean one-way charity, with benevolent donors on one side and grateful recipients on the other; it means recognising that Malawians have a great deal to teach Scotland. The partnership has been outspoken, passionate and provocative, and it has challenged both Government and the international development sector when required for the past 15 years. We must cherish that model. I hope that we will see it flourish in the future with continuing Scottish Government support as we seek to build further on those already very strong foundations.
The relationship between Malawi and Scotland was emphasised only last weekend when the President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera, addressed the annual general meeting of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. I hope and believe that we will continue to place that relationship at the front and centre of the work that Scotland does in the world.
Thank you, Presiding Officer.
I am thankful that we are having this important debate. The world is constantly changing, but perhaps the changes that we face today should focus our actions on finding more speedy resolutions. It is therefore quite right for us to review how Scotland contributes to international development.
New global challenges are constantly emerging, and the spread of Covid-19 threatens not only public health but the destruction of many economies across the world. Developing countries, with their fragile economies and healthcare systems, are without doubt at most threat from the pandemic. We cannot ignore the increased threat of climate change and environmental degradation. Whether through famines or floods, extreme weather is definitely playing havoc with our harvests, food production and livelihoods. Those things can hold back a country’s economic development. As if those global challenges were not enough to deal with, there are also the problems of disease, extreme poverty and the destruction that is caused by armed conflicts across the world.
It would be impossible for Scotland to solve every one of those global challenges on its own, but we certainly have a big role to play. I am proud that, as part of the United Kingdom, we are a pioneer when it comes to global aid. Since 2013, the UK has spent 0.7 per cent of its gross national income on international development, and we will continue to do so because there is a legal commitment to do just that. I agree with that.
The UK is also answering the global challenge of Covid-19 by pledging an additional £774 million in aid. Surely we can all welcome that commitment. Although Scotland’s contribution to international aid is smaller, it is no less important to our partner countries, such as Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.
As many members have already acknowledged, the partnership between Scotland and Malawi is unique and worthy of particular praise. The success of that partnership is rooted in historic and civic connections between the two countries, making progress more enriching and empowering for both. That can be typified by a simple statistic that has already been mentioned by Liam McArthur: for every pound that is invested by the Scottish Government, an additional £200 comes from Scotland’s civic society. That adds up to £49 million in support from individuals and local communities across Scotland.
There are many success stories of the Scotland Malawi Partnership and many involve the Highlands and Islands too. I am pleased to see that schools such as Culloden academy, Grantown grammar school, Inverness royal academy, Millburn academy and Lochardil primary school have all developed links with Malawian schools. Those school links help to build the next generation of global citizens and that will further deepen the Scotland Malawi Partnership.
I will pay special tribute to Andrew Walker, a retired police chief inspector from the then Northern Constabulary, who has supported the development of a victim support unit by the Malawi police service. The unit offers refuge, support, guidance and counselling to all victims who appear at the facility. It is really important.
The Scottish Government must always remember, as we all must, the lessons of the Scotland Malawi Partnership and continue to invest in that approach, which serves both countries so well. If that review strengthens what already works, then Scotland will continue to be a pioneer in international development. As part of the United Kingdom, we can make a huge difference, and one that we can be proud of.
Every contributor to the debate has highlighted the undeniable fact that Covid-19 has affected every aspect of our lives. As the minister said in her opening comments, it has changed the world. The underlying structural inequalities that existed long before Covid-19 have not gone away, but the pandemic has brought new challenges and that is reflected in both the Scottish Government’s motion and Labour’s amendment.
As Scotland’s International Development Alliance said in its briefing for the debate, Covid has led to a
“drastic setback to progress on global sustainable development”.
Tearfund Scotland noted in its briefing that
“The pandemic has not only made those in poverty more vulnerable and pushed them further into poverty, but has caused others to slide into poverty that were not at risk before.”
It is more important than ever that we have an effective approach to international development and Labour is therefore happy to support the Scottish Government’s review. However, as Claire Baker and Lewis Macdonald made clear, that appears to be more than a simple refresh of the existing strategy. It is therefore critical that that process is informed by robust and thorough consultation with partner country Governments and civil society, both in Scotland and abroad.
There is genuine concern over the scope of the current consultation proposals. Scotland’s International Development Alliance noted in its briefing:
“The discussion events already announced will not allow the full breadth of civil society in Scotland nor in partner countries to engage with this review”.
Tearfund Scotland pointed out that
“there is no mention of consulting civil society in focus countries” in the proposed review. The Scotland Malawi Partnership also highlighted the need for
“a transparent, engaging and accountable approach” to the review.
Engaging with communities and civil society in the focus countries and in Scotland must therefore be part of our approach to international development. That is why Labour’s amendment makes it clear that there should be meaningful consultation with all stakeholders.
As convener of the cross-party group on fair trade and chair of the Dumfries and Galloway fair trade steering group, I see on a daily basis the invaluable work of many of those stakeholders in promoting an important aspect of our contribution to international development: fair trade. I pay tribute to those who made Scotland a fair trade nation, the businesses, the Scottish Fair Trade Forum for its leadership and co-ordination and the volunteers across Scotland, working tirelessly in their local fair trade groups on a daily basis.
I will pay particular tribute to one such volunteer: the late Judith Mylne, who sadly passed away in April. Judith was a real champion for fair trade, whether it was running the Dumfries fair trade stall at the Dunscore fair trade big brew, or when she turned up at my advice surgery to bend my ear that not all the chocolate in the Scottish Parliament shop was fair trade. She never missed an opportunity and her extraordinary commitment to fair trade, from its very beginnings, often going above and beyond to promote its principles, led to her receiving the volunteer of the year award from the Scottish Fair Trade Forum in 2018.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Government reported back on its review of fair trade. That work provides insights that I am sure will help to inform the wider review of international development, because fair trade embodies so many of the principles that should underpin our approach to international development. Just over two years ago, I hosted an event in the Parliament to mark the launch of the international fair trade charter. That charter sets out the principles of fair trade: decent work, inclusive economic growth, gender equity, food security, sustainable livelihoods, ecological balance, thriving communities and people-first trade policies. All those aims align closely with wider social development goals. They should be at the very heart of the Government’s vision for international development.
Supporting fair trade is a proven way to advance those key aims and to respond to economic, social and environmental challenges globally. Many organisations have highlighted the need for an approach to international development that, first and foremost, empowers communities in partner countries, by amplifying their voices and supporting their needs. As a producer-led partnership, the fair trade movement fits in very much with that vision. It has been led by the voice of producers, as they set out the challenges that they face and the opportunities that they seek to take in order to shape the agenda for trade justice internationally. That movement’s leadership and partnership with others has led to the growth, reach and impact of fair trade.
The basic principles of fair trade—better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in developing countries and across the world—have never been more important than they are now. They must be central to our approach to international development.
I welcome the chance to close the debate on behalf of my Conservative Party colleagues. It has been a consensual debate, with support for the review from across the chamber. That is only right and what we should expect.
The Scottish Conservatives recognise the great importance of Scotland being a good global citizen and continually striving to become a better one. The work that the international development fund has achieved has been notable, especially in its contributions to the Climate Justice Fund and its response to humanitarian crises around the world, although particularly in Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan.
Covid-19 presents a new and dangerous threat to the world, and we know that it is likely to persist for some considerable time. Therefore, it is imperative that the goals of the international development programme are reviewed in order that we meet the challenges that are posed by the virus. The review also presents an opportunity for the Scottish Government to ensure that the programme was delivering on its aims before Covid-19; if it was not, to find out why; and to look at how it can continue to achieve those objectives in the new reality that we all face.
The Scottish Conservatives agree that needs-led development is important. Partner countries are best placed to recognise their own needs and lead their own development. However, there is a need to scrutinise the funded projects regularly to ensure that they are having the expected impact and are not—as in some cases with international aid—doing more harm than good. That, of course, will also ensure that funding is going to the right projects.
The funding of programmes that support partner country-led development should ensure that the rest of the proposed draft principles align. The need to recognise the white gaze in international development is important, and listening to local voices with a needs-led focus should ensure that a diverse range of opinions are heard. At this point, I should say that the term “white gaze” was a new one to me, but I now know and understand what it means, and I agree that it is a powerful phrase.
Covid-19 has shown us all the need for diverse and innovative forms of technology. That technology should rightly be utilised to forward the goals of the international development fund and promote health and wellbeing on an international scale.
In my last couple of minutes, I will reflect on some of what we have heard during the debate.
Alexander Stewart celebrated the fact that Scotland has two Governments and that both must be celebrated for the way that they support international development. We should recognise that the UK is probably the only country to consistently spend 0.7 per cent of its gross domestic product on international development, and that should be celebrated.
Like Claire Baker and Liam McArthur, I listened to the speech of the Malawi President, Lazarus Chakwera, the other day and was impressed by what he had to say about how partnership working is a huge success in his country. He told us that 300,000 people in Malawi are now involved, but his aim is to reach 500,000 people within the next three years.
Liam McArthur highlighted the fact that each £1 that is spent on international aid by Scotland leverages in another £200, so that the £10 million fund is worth so much more.
Ruth Maguire made an excellent, thought-provoking, to-the-point and moving speech, and I congratulate her on that.
Alasdair Allan reminded us that international aid is a two-way process and that Scotland can learn from Malawi just as Malawi can learn from us.
The Scottish Conservatives agree that, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to re-evaluate the goals of the IDF to ensure that it can best tackle the new challenges that the world faces in conjunction with the Covid-19 aims and objectives.
I thank all members who have contributed this afternoon, my officials and all the organisations that have provided briefings ahead of today’s debate. At the start of the debate, Claire Baker referred to the fact that such organisations are working through the pandemic at the moment, and I thank them all for their efforts.
In opening the debate, I highlighted the Scottish Parliament’s traditionally strong cross-party support for international development, and that has been evident again today. I also spoke about our on-going commitment to partnership and collaborative working, and that was a key theme that ran throughout the debate. It was good to hear Alexander Stewart welcoming the £2 million that the Scottish Government has ring fenced for the fight against Covid in our partner countries. We also heard from Lewis Macdonald about the historical links that the Scottish Government has had in international development going back to the time of the Executive.
Alasdair Allan spoke passionately about his experiences of working in Malawi. Unfortunately, I have yet to visit Malawi; it is on my list and I am sure that I will do so as and when we are allowed to travel again.
The purpose of the review is to refresh our international development offer. I am fully cognisant of the strengths in our unique approach in Scotland. Indeed, I spent much of my time during the summer months meeting our partners in country—virtually, of course—and hearing about some of the powerful effects of our work. However, Covid-19 has necessitated a refocusing of our purpose.
There have also been global events that made the review inevitable. I spoke earlier today about the Black Lives Matter movement as a powerful example. Only 3 per cent of UK charity chief executives are from the black, Asian or minority ethnic communities. Black Lives Matter is a global movement that grew up on the streets of America, but it has an undeniable relevance in Scotland. We can translate that global movement for our context, and we should translate what it means to the black Asian and minority ethnic community, given their persistent underrepresentation in the charitable sector across the UK and in Scotland. On that point, I am delighted that Peter Chapman now knows what “white gaze” means.
We should also take cognisance of how Covid-19 has changed the challenges that have always existed to international development. For example, gender inequality has arguably become much more present as a result of the pandemic. Edward Mountain mentioned famine and disease, and Ruth Maguire spoke powerfully about the field of conflict and the work of human rights defenders, which is work that the Scottish Government supports.
In Scotland, international development does not exist inside a policy vacuum. I take on board the point that Lewis Macdonald made when he spoke about the original purpose of international development in Scotland being to complement the work of the UK Government. Of course, the UK Government’s decision to merge the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development will impact on the international development sector in Scotland. Liam McArthur mentioned that in his speech. It is deeply regrettable that that merger happened with no consultation with the sector, which is in stark contrast to what I am trying to do with our consultation, which is already under way.
I agree with Liam McArthur that the decision to merge DFID with the FCO causes a good deal of anxiety among people who are involved in the international development field. Does that not make it all the more important that Scotland continues to deliver on the things that are distinctive about the Scottish offer including, above all, the work that we do through civil society in partner countries?
Lewis Macdonald is absolutely right to say that we have a unique contribution to make, but it is not just about civil society in Scotland; it is also about the needs of our partner countries. We have to listen to all the voices in the review. It is not just about one part of the sector dictating to Government, as it were. I have been keen to listen today and we have had a great debate, but we need to be cognisant that it is not just about one individual part of the sector.
Consultation was a key theme that ran through the debate. Liam McArthur, Claire Baker and Lewis Macdonald made salient points on that. I have already had some really useful discussions with the sector, but the principles are draft principles. I am keen to hear the thoughts of members on them but also those of some of the organisations that have contributed through their briefings for the debate.
I am going to think about Claire Baker’s concern about the timeframes and take it away from the debate. However, I want to be open with Parliament, which is why I brought the debate to the chamber. Liam McArthur said that we should not “change for change’s sake”, and he is absolutely correct. I do not want to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. There are lots of powerful and good examples of the work that we do through international development in Scotland, but it is about future proofing our programme so that it is fit for purpose against the backdrop of Covid-19.
I am also keen to balance the views of the sector in Scotland with those of our partner countries, as I mentioned in my response to Lewis Macdonald. I will work with members on that and it is my intention to return to the chamber, given the opportunity, following the review’s conclusion to allow us once again to reach consensus on how we can move forward.
As I mentioned earlier, I will begin a series of round tables next week with our partners in Malawi to get that vital input from civic society that has been a consistent theme of the debate. Later this month, I will host a series of round tables with the sector in Scotland, which refers specifically to Colin Smyth’s points.
I spoke earlier of our on-going commitment to our current international development partner countries—Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda in Africa, where we have our development programmes, and Pakistan, where we have championed girls’ and women’s access to education through a scholarships programme. It is because of that commitment to our partner countries that I wanted to conduct the review, to ensure that we continue to make the greatest contribution that we can in our partner countries against the shared global challenge of Covid-19.
Claire Baker mentioned policy coherence for sustainable development, which is not just for international development but cuts across all portfolio areas in the Government. I reassure members that the review will consider how we deliver on our commitment to policy coherence, which is how we ensure that we do no harm through our wider Government policies.
We know that smaller countries can achieve some of the greatest development impact overall, even with a small budget. In that regard, I am looking forward to meeting a number of European development ministers to discuss their development policies in order to learn from others about best global practice to the benefit of our relationships with our partner countries.
Last week, as the world reached an ominous milestone—the loss of 1 million lives from the Covid-19 pandemic—UN Secretary-General António Guterres, calling on all nations, said:
“As we remember so many lives lost, let us never forget that our future rests on solidarity—as people united and as united nations”.
We therefore commit, through our draft principles for this review and our future programme, to international solidarity, which is, I think, embraced and embedded in Parliament, too.
Similarly, speaking a few weeks ago at the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Guterres characterised the pandemic as
“not only a wake-up call” but
“a dress rehearsal” for challenges to come. He went on to say:
“The pandemic has taught us that our choices matter. As we look to the future, let us make sure we choose wisely.”
For that reason, we must embrace the wake-up call and make the right and wise choices for the future of Scotland’s international development programme. We do so while always maintaining an approach that is in tune with our values—compassion, solidarity and internationalism.