Coronavirus (COVID-19): international development review - background

Background to the International Development: Programme for Government 2020 to 2021 review, discussion events and review reports.

Background to review

It was clear that COVID-19 would remain a threat for some time to come, and we must therefore pause, reflect and take stock, to future-proof against this threat.

For that reason, we set out in the Programme for Government on 1 September 2020 our intention to review our approach to international development - to ensure that going forward we are focusing our work on areas where we can make the biggest contribution and difference in our partner countries against the backdrop of the new reality of COVID-19. 

This review provided a real opportunity to consider how the Scottish Government’s international development programme, which is a key part of Scotland’s global contribution within the international community, responds to the new reality of COVID-19 in terms of delivering on our commitment to our partner countries. 

Scope of the review

Our partner countries will remain unchanged: Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda form the Scottish Government's sub-Saharan African project base; and in Pakistan we focus on girls’ and women’s scholarships.

It was decided that the review of our programme would consider issues such as:

  • programme themes
  • programme design/spend profiles - in particular how we best deliver on partner-led development, take account of and address race and inequality issues, and ensure that as much funding as possible reaches our partner countries which need it most
  • future-proofing our programme - with a clearer human rights approach set out to underpin our commitment on policy coherence, including how we better respond to our climate change commitments;  and proofing against the reality of pandemics such as COVID-19 in terms of sustainability of the initiatives that we fund

Our programme as a whole were considered within the review: in particular, we gave consideration to the balance of spend in future between Scotland and our partner countries, in the light of our commitment to partner-led development.

We wanted to review our approach against, and in line with, a set of key principles, to ensure, for example, that our programme:

  • supports partner-led development
  • takes an inclusive approach that breaks “white gaze”, in line with concerns raised recently by the Black Lives Matter movement
  • is future-proofed in relation to both COVID-19 and climate change

Review process

We are not running a formal written consultation in the way that we did in 2016, where at that time we were aiming to arrive at a new Scottish Government international development policy. Within this 2020 review, our partner countries are not changing. What we are looking at and reviewing instead is our approach to our work: to ensure that going forward we are focusing our work on areas where we can make the biggest contribution and difference in our partner countries against the backdrop of the new reality of COVID-19; and with a resulting refresh of our Strategy in mind.

Whilst the situation has changed considerably in Scotland and our partner countries, due to the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, what has not changed is our aim to be open, to work with partners and others as we move forward

During September/early December 2020:

  • reflecting our commitment to partner-led and inclusive development, we aim to discuss with each of our partner country Government as to their thematic priorities for our partnership for this next phase of post COVID-19 recovery – Minister Jenny Gilruth has written to our partner countries’ Governments; together with the in-country roundtable events with civil society in each of our partner countries that we have held/are arranging, their views will help us reshape our programme for the next few years to respond to the new backdrop of COVID-19
  • in Scotland, we are keen to discuss with the sector and others our draft set of key Principles – how we ensure our programme: supports partner-led development; takes an inclusive approach that breaks “white gaze”, in line with concerns raised recently by the Black Lives Matter movement; and is future-proofed in relation to both COVID-19 and climate change

As we then move forward with our review, we are resolutely committed to working with the sector and other stakeholders.

We are proud that international development has always enjoyed strong cross party support in the Scottish Parliament, as evidenced by the work of the CPGs - on International Development, on Malawi and on Fair Trade. Minister Jenny Gilruth wrote to the Conveners of each of these CPGs on 4 September, to advise of the review and committing to update Parliament as we take this important work forward.

In terms of time frames, we intend to have completed the review by the end of this year in order to respond to COVID-19.

COVID-19 IDF spend

  • on Tuesday 1 September, we also announced in the Programme for Government that we have committed to ring-fence £2 million of the International Development Fund this year to contribute to COVID-19 efforts in our partner countries – Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan
  • we will provide further details in due course as to where we will be allocating those £2m COVID-19 monies over the next Months. We will be allocating money across our partner countries
  • again, reflecting our commitment to needs-led and inclusive development, we will be looking to our partner countries’ Governments to hear their views on COVID-19 priorities

Discussion events

The Minister for Europe and International Development, Jenny Gilruth MSP, will talk to the Review and in particular the draft Principles at the following upcoming events:

September 2020

October 2020

  • 1 October: Scottish Government Minister hosted roundtable with academics from partner countries and UK – to discuss evolution of approaches to international development   
  • 3 Oct:  video message address by the First Minister to SMP AGM alongside Malawi’s President – Scottish Government officials in attendance at AGM. Watch First Ministers speech
  • 6 October: Scottish Government Debate in the Scottish Parliament, led by Minister for Europe and International Development, Jenny Gilruth – “COVID-19: Review of Scottish Government’s Approach to International Development”. You can catch up with the Debate on the Scottish Parliament TV websiteA full transcript, incl Minister’s speech is also available
  • 7 October: Scotland’s International Development Alliance - quarterly roundtable meeting of Minister with Alliance members. Agenda items on 7 October included focus on the SG’s Review of International Development: priority countries, consultation process, voices of small NGOs and their partners; How to amplify global south voices, the balance between localisation agenda and accountability; breaking away from “white gaze”; and Global Citizenship Education in Scotland

  • 14 Oct: Malawian civil society roundtable with Minister: MaSP-hosted two hour virtual roundtable with Minister – 50+ Malawian CSOs (10 to 15 from each region invited by MaSP to participate in the round table). We are keen to listen to the views of Malawi’s civil society in relation to prioritisation of thematic areas for the future in light of COVID-19 - the engagement will not be just about the “what” but also the “how” for ensuring sustainable outcomes for both Malawi national priorities and Scotland’s international development goals as a global citizen

  • 28 Oct: Scottish Government Minister hosted Civil Society roundtable with the Scottish international development sector: a 2hr workshop hosted by SG Minister for Europe and International Development.  This event will bring together a range of Scottish stakeholders to reflect on, and discuss, the draft set of Principles underpinning the Scottish Government’s Review. The four breakout groups will provide an opportunity for stakeholders feed into the review by sharing their thoughts and ideas on the draft Principles most important to them

November 2020

  • 3 Nov: Scottish Government hosted Civil Society roundtable with Minister planned with the Scottish international development sector: same event as that on 28 October, but this one is focused for those with a particular interest in Malawi. We suggest to sign up to this day if you have a particular interest in Malawi, to free up space for others on 28th
  • 3 Nov: Minister video message at NHSS Global Health Conference 2020
  • 4 Nov: Ministerial attendance at the Scottish Cross Party Group on International Development
  • 18 Nov: Rwandan civil society roundtable with Minister 
  • 24 Nov: UN Women discussion on equalities and COVID
  • 25 Nov: Zambian civil society roundtable with Minister

December 2020

As part of the Review process, the Minister for Europe and International Development, Jenny Gilruth MSP, will separately discuss both thematic priorities and the draft Principles with partner country Governments and civil society representatives during September/October.

Minister Jenny Gilruth is also discussing the Review with 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.

Review reports

Prior to the review we commissioned the following review reports for areas of international development and humanitarian assistance: 

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