International development

We place great importance on Scotland being a good global citizen. This means playing our part in tackling global challenges including poverty, injustice and inequality.

At the forefront of our efforts is our annual £10 million International Development Fund (IDF), whose main aim is to support and empower our partner countries: Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, and Pakistan.

We have three funding streams under the IDF: development assistance (aid) projects; capacity strengthening initiatives; and commercial investment initiatives.


We have reviewed our international development programme in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Through the IDF, we are supporting:

We are also:


International Development Fund (IDF)

Since 2005 we have committed at least £3 million per year toward funding international development work. This was initially focused on Malawi, to reflect 150 years of collaborative development between out two countries.

From 2007 our work and budget expanded, with £9 million for projects in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. In 2017 we increased our IDF to £10 million a year, and continued to support more initiatives alongside it. In the December 2021 Scottish Budget, we announced that the IDF would increase to £11.5M from April 2022 – this reflects the Scottish Programme for Government 2021-22 commitment to start to raise the IDF to £15M from April 2022.

All of our international development work now contributes to sustainable development and the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally, within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Future funding opportunities under the IDF

During 2020/21, we undertook a review of our approach to international development in light of COVID-19. We are currently working on implementing the key outcomes of our review, including establishing a new Global South Panel. That Panel in turn will advise us on creating the new Equalities programme which we have committed to. Our review implementation work also means us working towards refocusing our funding streams, and transitioning our IDF programmes to meet the revised asks of our partner countries on programme themes. And looking at how we can better support their asks on capacity sharing and bilateral learning at institutional level, a key message from our global south partners during our review.

With the current projects in our Rwanda and Zambia development programmes due to end in March 2022, we would normally look to open a new funding round in 2021, for projects commencing from April 2022.  However, in light of our Review, and ongoing implementation work, we will not be opening a Rwanda and Zambia funding round at this time.  This will allow us to fully consider the findings of the Review, redesign our International Development programme, and consider how this will affect our programmes in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia.   This will also support our aim for better alignment of our 3 development programmes, and our new Equalities programme, providing equity, and allowing greater efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility across our partner countries.  Once we have redesigned our programme, and are able to advise of timings, we will update this website and at the same time advise existing and recent grant holders.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

In July 2015 the First Minister announced Scotland's intention to sign up for the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are the globally agreed priorities for tackling poverty and inequality in UN member states up until 2030.

In 2016, as we reached the 10th anniversary of our international development programme, we ran the consultation, Meeting global challenges and making a difference - aligning our international development policy with the global goals. Its purpose was to develop an updated policy that:

  • would deliver on our commitment to the SDGs
  • was in line with good development practice
  • would focus our IDF and other related work to where it could make a real difference, and the biggest impact in relation to our budget

Global Citizenship: Scotland's International Development Strategy

In December 2016 we published Global Citizenship: Scotland's International Development Strategy which sets out our contribution to the international community.

The strategy aligns with other policies that include Scotland's International Framework, the Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights, Education Scotland's International Strategy, the Trade and Investment Strategy, and the Internationalising Social Enterprise Strategy.

Following our review of our approach to international development in light of COVID-19, we confirmed that the Vision in our 2016 International Development Strategy remained. We restated in our new principles of the International Development Review that “The Scottish Government’s vision remains that through embedding the UN Global Goals, Scotland will contribute to sustainable development and the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally.”

Beyond aid: contribution to international development reporting

In our International Development Strategy (December 2016) we committed to the Beyond Aid agenda. This means taking a holistic approach to sustainable development, requiring all - government, local government, public bodies, private sector, communities and individuals - to adapt their behaviour in support of the Global Goals.

Within the Scottish Government, this means working across other ministerial portfolios. This takes account of the fact that development assistance and other initiatives funded under the IDF are one part of international development work. Some of the greater benefits to the world's poorest and most vulnerable can be brought about through policy changes, eg Scotland’s climate change policies.

Scotland’s climate change and climate justice policies show our commitment to Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) as part of the Beyond Aid agenda in action. Our leadership on climate change is a clear example of our commitment to “do no harm”.  Our Climate Justice Fund is another positive contribution to international development under a different ministerial portfolio. We have published more information about the relationship between international development and climate justice

Outside the Scottish Government, this means promoting the Beyond Aid agenda outwith government. This enables us to consider sustainable development and the impact on developing countries in particular, in everyday decisions and behaviours around social, economic and environmental choices.

Towards that commitment, we are increasingly working across our ministerial portfolios. In September 2018 we published our inaugural Scottish Government contribution to international development report. It takes a holistic look at a wide cross-section of Scottish Government international development activity, and presents it within the context of the UN Global Goals. In September 2019 we published our second Scottish Government Contribution to International Development Report for 2018-19. And in February 2021, we published our third Scottish Government Contribution to International Development Report for 2019-2020 to cover the period April 2019-December 2020.

Safeguarding the beneficiaries of our international development work

In March 2018, we published our safeguarding policy, which sets out our expectations on the standards from those we fund to provide services to those people and communities who look to our support at their time of greatest need:

“Where we are involved in funding, regulating, scrutinising or providing expert advice to charities involved in delivering international development, we are committed to supporting them, providing a proper framework, and holding them to account in order to achieve these objectives."

In October 2018, we attended UK Department for International Development (DFID) International Summit on Safeguarding and signed up to the Donor Commitments to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual harassment in the international aid sector

From April 2018, through to March 2021 we are providing additional funding to Scotland’s International Development Alliance, to develop and then continue to refine 'Safer For All' , the safeguarding support package for the international development sector in Scotland.


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

Telephone: 0300 244 4000

International Development Team
Scottish Government
2H North
Victoria Quay

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