This Report on the Scottish Government’s contribution to international development covers the period from April 2019 to December 2020 but, when looking back over the past 11 months in particular, no report can be written without acknowledging and focusing on the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an unprecedented global crisis, leaving no country or people unaffected. Despite the effects of the pandemic, the Scottish Government’s commitment to our partner countries of Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan has not wavered.
In light of the pandemic in 2020, the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government announced a review of our International Development work. The issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement were also a key driver of the review. The review has looked to address “white gaze” in our approach to international development and to refocus our contribution on areas where we can make the biggest difference against the backdrop of the new reality of COVID-19. I look forward to separately providing an update on the outcomes of this review in due course.
Beyond that review, I am hugely grateful to see that, despite the challenges the pandemic has created, significant progress has been made in all of our International Development Programmes over the last 18 months. With Scottish Government support, our delivery partners in Scotland and overseas have worked extremely hard to adapt, where possible, to continue project delivery, ensuring vital work has continued in the areas of Health, Education, Water and Climate, Sustainable Economic Development, Civic Governance, and Renewable Energy. Our delivery partners have shown inspiring dedication, resourcefulness and innovation whilst all the time learning and sharing ideas. Some of these lessons learnt as part of these adaptations, in particular how we use technology, also provide opportunities to rethink some of the ways in which we work in the future; and this, of course, is also an element of our review.
COVID-19 did, however, impact more heavily on the delivery of some projects which, despite best efforts on the part of all concerned, were not able to continue. In light of our commitment to our partner countries, however, I was pleased to have been able to ring-fence and then reallocate £2 Million of the International Development Fund, to contribute directly to the COVID-19 efforts of Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. In allocating this funding, I wanted to ensure that it would support national Government’s COVID strategies and preparedness for COVID vaccines. We are pleased to be partnering with UNICEF in early 2021 to support children across all three of our partner countries, and also help prepare the health systems in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda for the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine.
This support is vital as we all work towards beating this virus in a spirit of global solidarity. I was therefore extremely disappointed in the UK Government announcement of its reneging on its legal commitment to invest 0.7% of the UK Gross National Income (‘GNI’) in Oversees Development Assistance (‘ODA’), reducing it to 0.5% for 2020. The Scottish Government, in contrast, have protected the International Development Budget which in itself is already additional to the international contribution that Scotland makes through the UK Government aid budget. As the First Minister has made clear and I reiterate here, the Scottish Government believes this move away by the UK Government from its 0.7% commitment to be a deplorable decision that will hit the world’s poorest and most marginal communities at a time of great need. In times of national and global crisis we must stand together to support and protect the most vulnerable; this is not the time for rich nations to renege on their global commitments to the world’s poorest.
After almost one year in post as Minister for Europe and International Development, and in a year that has brought more challenges that many of us have seen for decades, I would like to say how incredibly proud I am of our achievements, with our partners overseas and here in Scotland. I would like to thank all of our partners for their continuing commitment, passion and dedication towards working together to improve lives, especially in the face of such challenges. Our combined efforts continue to make distinctive contributions towards addressing global challenges and injustices.
Minister for Europe and International Development