3 Scottish Government's ambition to improve its international development programme (Q1)
3.1 In carrying out its policy refresh, the Scottish Government stated that it wished to preserve the best elements of its current approach to international development work while also introducing greater targeting to 'make a real difference and most impact in relation to [the available] budget'.
3.2 The first question in the consultation asked respondents if they supported the Scottish Government's overall ambition with regard to its international development programme.
Question 1: Do you support the Scottish Government ambition to improve its International Development Programme through focusing our efforts more effectively? [Yes / No]
3.3 One hundred and twenty-one (122) respondents answered Question 1. The vast majority (96%) replied 'yes' to this question (see Table 3.1), indicating a high level of support for the Scottish Government's ambition and its intention to focus its efforts more effectively.
Table 3.1: Q1 - Do you support the Scottish Government ambition to improve its International Development Programme through focusing our efforts more effectively?
3.4 The consultation questionnaire did not ask respondents to expand on their answer to Question 1, but many explained their overall views in response to subsequent questions. The section below provides a summary of the comments made throughout the consultation questionnaire which discussed views on the Scottish Government's overall aim of improving its international development programme though focusing its efforts more effectively.
3.5 Most of the views expressed were common to those answering 'yes', 'no' or 'don't know' at Question 1, and so the summary below does not distinguish between these groups on a systematic basis.
Views on the Scottish Government's overall approach
3.6 There was widespread support for the Scottish Government's activity in this area. Respondents highlighted Scotland's 'distinct' approach to international development, with its emphasis on partnership working, civic engagement, capacity building and long-term commitment, as exemplified by Scotland's work with Malawi. Respondents frequently drew attention to the success of this approach and evidence pointing to the 'multiplier effect' associated with this way of working.
3.7 There was a high degree of consensus that adopting a partnership approach in pursuing international development work was central to good practice, and was key to efficient and effective working and the achievement of long-term sustainable outcomes. There was praise for the Scottish Government's efforts in respect of partnership working.
3.8 There were, though, two less common views, each expressed by a single individual: (i) that the provision of aid compounded the challenges faced by developing countries and that there should be a move towards relationships based on trade not aid and (ii) that the Scottish Government should not be involved in international development work, as this was a reserved matter.
3.9 Although there was general endorsement of the Government's broad approach in this area, there was also a wide range of suggestions as to how its work might be enhanced, as discussed in the remainder of this report. These suggestions included: making changes to specific policies, procedures and practices; taking more account of existing international expertise and activity in this area; and moving towards an approach driven by the Global Goals and the Beyond Aid agenda.
Views on achieving improvement through greater focus
3.10 For the most part, respondents expressed support for the proposal to focus efforts on (i) a reduced number of priority countries and (ii) countries in the same geographic area. They believed that this would benefit the programme and lead to greater impact, particularly given Scotland's relatively modest budget. Most often, respondents favoured a focus on sub-Saharan African countries. This reflects the profile and interest of the respondents. (See Table 2.3 above.)
3.11 A few respondents expressed reservations about geographic targeting. These respondents were concerned about the possible implications of a loss of funding for needy groups or more neglected areas in countries that are not chosen as priority countries.
3.12 There was, though, less support for narrowing the thematic focus of the Scottish Government's work. Some thought this would maximise efficiency and effectiveness, and the development of expertise. More often, however, respondents favoured an integrated and holistic approach to addressing the Global Goals, and did not think a narrowing of thematic focus would be helpful in this respect. Those expressing reservations about this proposal also noted the importance of responding to priority needs in individual partner countries, and maintaining flexibility in the programme.