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
  • Pakistan

We have three funding streams under the IDF:

  • development assistance (aid) projects
  • capacity strengthening initiatives
  • commercial investment initiatives


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

During 2022 to 2024, we are working on and designing new programming, which will start to come into effect from 2023, and will be in line with the outcomes of our 2021 Review. The majority of our new programmes in Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia will come online in financial year 2024 to 2025 as our current cohort projects in those countries come to a close. We will then revise these pagse to reflect our new programme as a whole. We have provided temporary individual updates in the meantime to relevant pages, to ensure ongoing transparency as our programme evolves.

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 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

We reviewed our approach to international development in light of COVID-19 in 2021 to 2022. We established a Global South Panel in 2022. The Panel will play a critical role in helping deliver the objectives set by Scottish Ministers and in ensuring we commit funds effectively and efficiently.

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 we ran the consultation, Meeting global challenges and making a difference - aligning our international development policy with the global goals.

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.

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.

This means we work across other ministerial portfolios to take 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

This also 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 looks at a wide cross-section of our 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 to December 2020. We are currently working on a new CIDR to cover calendar years 2021, 2022 and 2023, due to be published Spring 2024.

Safeguarding the beneficiaries of our international development work

In March 2018, we published our safeguarding statement, 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 sectorWe remain aligned with UKG on safeguarding against SEAH in the international aid sector.

From April 2018, through to March 2021 we provided 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.


Our primary objective is to ensure the safety of SEAH beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders. Structural, hierarchical, and situational power imbalances, often tied to gender, can pose risks to individuals. Those particularly vulnerable to SEAH include women, children, and individuals with one or more protected characteristics


Email: Central Enquiries Unit

Telephone: 0300 244 4000

International Development Team
Scottish Government
2H North
Victoria Quay

Back to top