International development review - academic meeting: notes - 1 October 2020

Notes from the Scottish Government Minister hosted roundtable with academics from partner countries and UK – to discuss evolution of approaches to international development held on 1 October 2020.

Attendees and apologies

Academics attended from the following instutions and a range of government officials listened in on the session. 

Institutions who contributed to the event:

  • University of Northumberland
  • University of Rwanda
  • Institute of Political Analysis and Research Rwanda
  • Lusaka Apex Medical University
  • Queen Margaret University
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Zambia
  • University of Global Health Equality
  • University College London (Presentation)

Items and actions

This meeting was hosted by Ms Jenny Gilruth, Minister of Europe and International Development on the 1 October 2020. The meeting was hosted under Chatham House Rule, but in the spirit of open government and transparency, the below is a summary of the discussion without attribution.

One academic also submitted views on the questions but did not join the event in person. Permission has been obtained to share their presentation (see PDF document at page 4 below).

A wider range of institutions were invited but either did not accept or did not attend.

Summary of discussion

Question 1) Impacts from Covid-19: What do you see as the biggest impacts on International Development because of the current pandemic?

How would you prioritise the challenges? What are the opportunities? And how should we change to progress these?

  • Yet to see the real impacts from Covid and the controls to manage Covid, but all social pressures existing before the pandemic have been exacerbated. Therefore do not do a handbrake turn because of Covid but Covid it makes it clearer on the key points of intervention. We are seeing wide spread impact so rather than prioritising education over commerce, recognise that inclusion and good governance is needed in all aspects – both are under threat more than before.  Need to take a forensic lens on what works.
  • All areas currently supported by SG are all threatened by Covid. Therefore no need to necessarily change orientation, but do ask partner countries what they need and how can you help to build resilience for the next pandemic.
  • Many areas have been weakened e.g. education. In Rwanda teachers have left and we don’t know if we will get them back. Economic sustainability is a major threat. The African economy will shrink and it will be dramatic. Need better relations with the governance system, need to help make partner countries more resilient.
  • A real and growing concern is food security. Covid and food security are closely interconnected and the progress we have made over the last few decades is being reversed. This will impact on health e.g. stunting and child development.  Focus on capacity building and research e.g. collaborations with universities and other institutional facilities. Longer range investments are appropriate for Governments to make alongside emergency measures. However, whilst critical, trying to tackle issues through longer term capacity strengthening has become more difficult.

Question 2) Gender impact and inequality: Women and girls have been disproportionally impacted by Covid-19 and the policy responses to controlling the virus. What should we be prioritising in our programme to have the best long-term impacts for the societal inclusion of women and girls?

Are there other factors we need to consider from other marginalised people?

  • In the context of Latin America, significant increase in gendered and domestic violence and militarisation.  Covid has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities for women and girls.  As people have been more confined to their houses, access to resources and help has been reduced - parallel to increase in domestic violence. This problem is worldwide and Covid is creating conditions for inequality. People in general are much more stressed, they are not going out as much and tensions in the home are exacerbated.  They are turning on the weakest i.e. women and children. In tackling this, inclusiveness is the core pillar. In countries who are debating the need for inclusiveness, we need to build trust between government and civil society. Inclusion and gender equity should be at the forefront of any support given.
  • As already stated food insecurity - recommend increasing support in agriculture - Big gap in agricultural mechanisation and cooperative-based production.  How do we better build capacity and share knowledge to improve food security?
  • Women and young people need financial training to aid better financial management – how to save as well as access to money. This is different in Africa compared to the West – people do not get access to money. 
  • Youth job creation is needed. Africa have vibrant young people just like everywhere else – we need to invest in them. Offer job security and promote the private sector to create jobs for young people. Need to attract small investors.
  • In terms of principles, partnership and inclusion are key. SG funding has great potential due to its linkage with Scottish civil society and the multiplier effect on investment. Encourage people to people links.  The challenge with sectorial thinking and prioritisation is you end up with a long list.

Question 3)  Impact of the Black Lives Matter movement: The international development sector has been criticised for ‘white gaze’ given the power dynamics between global north donors and global south recipients. Is this criticism justified?

What are the best approaches for a devolved administration like the Scottish Government to readdress the balance?  How do we ensure we listen to the right people?

  • The BLM movement is important, but only if it is translated into local language and context.  In many African countries white police vs black citizens is not an issue. Here it means inclusiveness, fair in justice, equality in chance. Systems are there to promote the people who are in power and that’s how you continue to promote a system of white supremacy. I might be more skilled than you, but I have to follow your lead because you have the power. Cannot change if you expect partner countries to follow your ways of delivery.
  • Covid has restricted travel and that had brought into sharp focus the value and expertise in the global south. Bring them to the forefront and breaking that model.
  • The principles are valuable and a good starting point. There are tensions in the principles -  about breaking the white gaze vs. expertise from Scotland being shared with the world - sense of us in the global north taking our knowledge to the global south, what we need to prioritise is learning from each other. This is another example of white supremacy. Need to challenge the idea that experts have to come from the north. While expertise can exist anywhere, need to revisiting language, and maybe best to articulate our partnership and co-creation to take forward this principle and Scotland needs to do better about evidencing how we learn from each other. Need to join expertise.
  • One of the things that causes tensions is an inability to understand each other. Critical to ensure researchers and students visit - exchange programmes to develop understanding of culture. Exposure is needed. Collaboration at high level is needed.
  • Social economic injustices should not be negated. This is long overdue and appropriate to challenge e.g. university practises. BLM certainly stimulating close examination of history and practices within university sector. The decolonisation of the curriculum should have happened before now.
  • It is also important to be attentive to difference across different ethnic/tribal/indigenous identities and power differentials across these groups.
  • Co-creation is a useful term. Do not think Scotland should partner if all it has to offer is just cash. Need peer-to-peer knowledge / expertise to create mutual learning. Agree with starting with principles plus looking for opportunities to map local strengths.

Presentation provided by University College London (not used during the meeting).

Academic roundtable presentation - 1 October 2020
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