Honourable Minister, Anne, Ken, delegates, everyone – thank you for being here today for this important conference. And thank you for the opportunity to address you. Muli bwanji and alll protocols observed.
As the new Minister for International Development I have had three brilliant days in Malawi – and I have enjoyed and learned so much.
In the short time I’ve been here, I now fully understand why Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa – the warmth of the welcome that I have received has been extraordinary and I am most grateful to you all for the kindness you’ve all shown, and the great experience I’ve had on my first visit to Malawi, including today. Zikomo.
Taking place, as it is, during the UN’s Global Goals week – this event offers an opportunity for us all to build on what is already an internationally recognised success story.
The modern partnership between our countries was, as many of you know, formalised in 2005, with the signing of a Cooperation Agreement between our two Governments. And, in the 13 years since then, the ties between our two nations - which of course go back more than 150 years – have become stronger and stronger and more productive than ever. And of course, in April this year, our two Governments reaffirmed our commitment; updating our formal relationship in respect of the Global Goals, and reaffirming our collective determination to help Malawi achieve those Goals, during the visit of His Excellency President Mutharika to Scotland.
And, as many of you will understand well from your own experiences and initiatives, the strong relationship between our countries significantly benefits Scotland too.
Indeed, more than 100,000 people in Scotland are directly involved in our partnership; so are more than 200,000 people in Malawi. That is remarkable – and growing.
The strength and breadth of our ties is demonstrated just by looking around this room. Together we have representatives from universities, colleges, schools, faith groups, businesses, charities, social enterprises and many other organisations.
And that strength, depth and diversity of our shared connections has also been obvious to me on my visits over the last few days. Seeing first-hand the positive work that we are doing - together.
To give you an insight into what I’ve seen in the last days.
On Wednesday I went to the fistula unit at Bwaila Hospital here in Lilongwe. It treats more than 400 women every year, and also gives patients help to rebuild their lives – for example, by providing training, or meeting school fees for the youngest patients.
As well as being an inspiring and important project in itself, the Fistula Unit is also testament to the strong partnership between Scotland and Malawi – Ann Gloag and her Freedom From Fistula Foundation – and the committed staff who run Bwaila under the remarkable and passionate leadership of Margaret Moyo.
Symbolic and demonstrate in their everyday work the difference that collaboration and compassion between our two nations can make.
I also went to the Dental Department at Kamuzu Hospital, and heard how the new funding from the Scottish Government will support the partnership between Lilongwe’s College of Medicine and the University of Glasgow to establish Malawi’s first dental school, to train more dentists and provide better dental equipment and make a difference for many as a result.
The donation of refurbished dentist chairs from NHS Glasgow to the College will help amplify our support, as part of a wide range of initiatives on which Scotland and the College have collaborated for over 10 years. If anyone from the team at the College is here today, thank you again for such an inspiring visit for all that you are doing.
Then, yesterday in Dowa, I saw the remarkable work that Mary’s Meals are doing in schools across the country providing a nutritious meal to more than 1 million children here in Malawi, with support from many people, in many communities across Scotland.
Whether it’s these projects I’ve mentioned or any others that we’re all involved in, it’s inspiring to acknowledge the difference that’s been made by working together.
Indeed since the original Government-Government partnership agreement was signed in 2005, our work together has produced many remarkable achievements, and especially in education and health:
- we have helped to quadruple the annual number of medical graduates in Malawi
- more than 10,000 women have been screened for cervical cancer. More than 100,000 people in southern Malawi have received emergency treatment for meningitis
- in education, hundreds of women teachers have been trained. New national educational standards have been implemented
In addition, programmes supported by Scotland have brought renewable energy to more than 80,000 people in rural Malawi.
And just this week I was pleased to see on the ground how a partnership between the Scottish and Malawian Governments – supported by our Climate Justice Fund - is mapping the water and waste infrastructure which currently exists in Malawi. This will make it easier to identify where new facilities are needed, or where existing sites need to be maintained or replaced, and play a really meaningful and important role in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, in helping Malawi to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 of providing clean water for those who need it.
The Malawi Scotland relationship and the links which civil society groups across Malawi and Scotland are building every day, are helping to change lives and transform communities.
That is what we’ve been building together – and that is why we’re here today.
It is important to be clear, and reiterate, that this partnership is just as important to Scotland as it is to Malawi. Scottish school children, when they learn about Malawi, become better global citizens.
Scottish universities, when they partner in projects here in Malawi become better centres of knowledge.
And, in very practical terms, many of our joint projects – such as sharing health data - will help both of our nations.
Our shared relationship exists – not because a donor is giving to a recipient – but because two partners chose and continue to choose to co-operate pro-actively, for the common good. We are working together because of our shared history, our shared aspirations, and our shared sense of purpose. And now we are working together in pursuit of the United Nations Global Goals.
And we are doing so because this partnership approach is, also in tune with our shared values - compassion, solidarity, internationalism. For Scotland, being a good global citizen involves co-operating freely, in an outward-looking way with other countries and other organisations – and our relationship with Malawi epitomises that broader ethos.
For all of these reasons, President Mutharika and the First Minister met in Scotland earlier this year and signed their, our, renewed partnership agreement.
It reflects our shared commitment to the United Nations’ Global Goals; And it recognises that Scotland and Malawi both “live in a world where [we] increasingly face shared challenges that affect [us] all, in which a sense of global citizenship and solidarity is key to making progress.”
The agreement is between our two governments – but it acknowledges that government action is not sufficient on its own. As the long history of the Scotland-Malawi relationship has demonstrated, we can only succeed with the support of wider society.
Anne, earlier today you emphasised this when you welcomed us.
Ken – you also emphasise the benefits of collaboration very clearly in the publication you’ve prepared in advance of this conference; when you say that “the Government-to-Government relationship draws its vitality and finds its effectiveness from the multitude of links made by civil society”.
And it is in that spirit that today’s conference is so important. Today and tomorrow are a real opportunity for the full range of partners from civil society in both of our nations to pause, together, to consider our work, and focus with determination on the Global Goals and our shared commitment to achieving them.
This opening day, in fact, is specifically intended to allow us to reflect on where we have come from, together - and then discuss where we want to go - together.
And in some ways, perhaps the single most important outcome I hope that there is from this conference, is renewed, reinvigorated, re-emphasised commitment from civil society - new energy that reflects - and gives effect to - the new agreement between our Governments.
Renewed determination that reflects the theme of this year’s United Nations Global Goals Week – which is “the power of collaboration”.
There are also other important outcomes I believe the conference can achieve. In particular – I want to briefly cover the two themes addressed on day two.
Safeguarding is an issue which is of paramount importance to all organisations which are involved in providing support and help to the most vulnerable members of our communities.
Without it, vulnerable individuals – those who most need help – are at risk of abuse and exploitation.
Safeguarding is a subject which all governments and international development organisations need to prioritise and I am glad to see this conference giving it the attention it requires.
To build a culture where safeguarding sits at the heart of what we do, empowering those with whom we work and ensuring their voices are heard, is essential. And while we recognise that changing social attitudes, shifting social consciousness takes time – in all countries, but when it comes to safeguarding, it is essential that we all take responsibility in order to protect all those whom we are committed to serve, and the common good that we believe in.
And, the voices of women and young people needs to be accelerated and are vitally important in this process. Across the world – and this certainly holds true for Scotland, as well as other developed countries – across the globe, we cannot continue to underuse the talents and potential of more than half of the population. The under-representation of women must change and the empowerment of women in all areas of life need to be accelerated.
That is why Scotland has welcomed some of the steps that Malawi has taken in recent years on the journey towards achieving gender equality. And, we have also supported our own initiatives to promote gender equality in Scotland and Malawi. For example, we support a Tearfund project in Chapita which works with local communities to reduce child marriage.
Later today, I’ll visit Malawi’s police training college to see how Police Scotland – funded by the Scottish Government - are helping the Malawian police force to protect children, and reduce gender-based violence. Something that is important to all of us; in both of our countries; in both of our societies and to our shared futures.
This conference’s focus on young people is also important and welcome. In Scotland, we are currently celebrating our Year of Young People – a series of events, largely designed by young people, which celebrate their potential and achievements.
Here in Malawi, of course, 2/3 of your population is under the age of 25 and I am very happy to see young people here today. And so helping young people here to make the most of their potential is a national necessity.
And that is why I’m very proud to announce today a further £50,000 from the Scottish Government for the continuation of the Alison Cameron scholarship programme, which we instituted last year, to support more girls in Malawi to attend and complete their high school education and to encourage female empowerment and in recognition, from the people of Scotland, of the personal contribution and commitment of that Colin and Alison Cameron have made to the relationship between Scotland and Malawi, at both government and civil society level, over the last 50+ years.
Friends, in conclusion, particular thanks to Vera, Anne, Ken, and David and all the staff, Board, volunteers and members of the both the Malawi Scotland Partnership and the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Your hard work and dedication in ensuring this conference is a success is very much appreciated. And I look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead.
Delegates, I hope you all have an enjoyable, informative and motivating two days and leave this conference inspired to continue your vital contributions that are creating lasting positive changes for both our nations.
Working in collaboration, for the benefit of each other, and the common good of both peoples, and in a spirit of friendship, I wish you a successful and productive conference, and look forward to working with you as we continue to strengthen our partnerships, in order to achieve the Global Goals - together.
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