7 Thematic focus (Q7, Q8, Q9, Q11)
7.1 The third section of the consultation paper discussed the current thematic focus of the Scottish Government's International Development Fund, and sought views about how the Fund could be more targeted in terms of its thematic focus. At present, the Fund has eight thematic priorities: health; water and sanitation; education; governance and human rights; sustainable economic development; renewable energy; food security; and climate change. The programme also includes three cross-cutting themes: gender equality, human rights and inclusivity.
7.2 The consultation asked questions about which of the current themes are best suited to the partnership working approach taken by the Scottish Government (Q7a); which are best connected to the Global Goals (Q7b); whether there are alternative themes which might replace the current themes (Q8); whose expertise could be harnessed to deliver those themes (Q9); whether the cross-cutting themes add value to the programme (Q11a); and possible alternative cross-cutting themes (Q11b).
Question 7a: Scottish Government supports a number of thematic priorities across all the current priority nations. In seeking to focus our efforts better, and connect better to the Global Goals, which of the current themes do you think are best suited to our partnership working approach, and the specific priority countries we will work with? [Health / Water and sanitation / Education / Governance and human rights / Sustainable economic development / Renewable energy / Food security / Climate change]
Question 7b: Scottish Government supports a number of thematic priorities across all the current priority nations. In seeking to focus our efforts better which of the current themes do you think best connect to the Global Goals? [Health / Water and sanitation / Education / Governance and human rights / Sustainable economic development / Renewable energy / Food security / Climate change]
Question 8: Are there alternative themes that you believe should replace the current themes, to best support the partnership working approach and ambition to work with fewer countries?
Question 9: Using the themes identified above, when considering that the Scottish Government partnership approach draws upon expertise in Scotland, whose specific expertise do you think could be harnessed to help deliver the programme ambitions?
Question 11a: Currently Scottish Government partnership projects also adopt cross-cutting themes (gender equality, human rights, inclusivity). Do you believe these add value to project outcomes? [Yes / No]
Question 11b: Would you suggest further or alternative cross-cutting themes? [Yes / No] If so, which would you suggest?
7.3 There was a great deal of overlap in the views expressed across this group of questions, and thus the responses have been analysed together. Further, there appeared to be varying interpretations of Questions 7a and 7b, which meant that respondents did not answer them in a consistent way. The analysis of the (initial) closed part of these questions is therefore not presented below, but is included for reference in Annex 4. This chapter mainly focuses on respondents' qualitative comments in relation to thematic focus.
7.4 Across this group of questions, the main point made in the responses was that all of the current themes were important and well-suited to the Scottish Government's partnership approach to international development and all were connected to the Global Goals. Furthermore, all the themes need to be addressed in a coherent and holistic manner to tackle poverty. Thus, respondents had reservations about the Scottish Government's proposal to focus on a smaller number of thematic areas in its work.
Views on thematic focus (Q7a and Q7b)
7.5 As noted above, the main point made by respondents was that all of the current themes were well-suited to the Scottish Government's partnership approach to international development. Furthermore, all the themes were seen to be inter-connected (reflecting the multi-dimensional nature of poverty) and all need to be addressed in a coherent and holistic manner to tackle poverty.
7.6 Respondents argued that all 17 of the Global Goals and their associated targets could be mapped on to the current thematic areas. Moreover, the United Nations regarded the Global Goals as integrated and indivisible. There was a view that, rather than narrowing the focus of the programme to a smaller number of themes, the Scottish Government should consider broadening it and basing its work more closely on the Global Goals framework. There was a suggestion that focusing on a smaller number of themes could make the Scottish Government programme less comprehensive and lead to the unintended consequence of organisations redefining their work to fit with the smaller number of themes.
7.7 The alternative view, stated much less often, was that a more targeted focus on a smaller number of themes would have greater impact, particularly if the themes chosen were related to areas of excellence in Scotland. It was also thought that this would avoid duplication with other partners.
7.8 A third view - not necessarily mutually exclusive of the previous two - was that the thematic focus of the programme should be based on the priorities of each of the partner countries. The point was made that different themes may be more relevant for some countries than others.
7.9 There were also calls for a more direct focus on outcomes, rather than on thematic areas, and there were calls for a greater emphasis on monitoring and evaluation to ascertain the impact made in relation to each of the current themes in the priority countries.
Comments on specific themes
7.10 Notwithstanding the general reservations that respondents had about narrowing the thematic focus of the programme, there were a range of comments made in relation to specific themes. These comments were often lengthy and detailed, and irrespective of which themes were discussed, respondents gave reasons why a particular theme 'was essential', how it 'underpinned all the others', and that Scotland had specialist expertise in this area. The themes which respondents focused on were often related to their own areas of work or expertise.
7.11 It was unusual for respondents to suggest that any particular theme should not be retained in Scotland's international development programme. Where such comments were offered, they indicated no clear consensus among respondents about which themes should be dropped and which retained, although health and education were selected most often in response to Question 7a. (See Annex 4.)
7.12 Finally, a small number of respondents expressed specific concern about the possibility that the theme of 'governance and human rights' might be dropped. These respondents recognised that this was a 'challenging' area of work, with possibly less obvious, and less measureable returns on investment. However, those who supported the continued focus on this theme argued that 'effective, trusted government and institutions are the foundation of sustainable development'. There was also the view that the breakdown of good governance was at the root of conflict across the world, and this presented a risk to the security of Scotland. Therefore, a continued focus on this area was seen to be essential, and to have domestic as well as international benefits.
Connection to the Global Goals
7.13 As noted above, respondents made the point that all of the current priority themes were connected to the Global Goals and there was a view that they were all 'essential', 'interlinked' and 'indivisible'. Respondents suggested that the only rationale the Scottish Government should use for deselecting any of its current themes was that formal programme evaluation had shown that they were 'underperforming'. The point was also made that all countries signed up to the Global Goals had signed up to all of them, and that cutting back on any of the current themes might be perceived as a 'backward step'.
Alternative (or additional) themes (Q8 and Q9)
7.14 As well as asking respondents for their views on the future thematic focus of the programme, the consultation also invited respondents to: (a) suggest alternative themes and (b) provide information about whose expertise (in Scotland) could be harnessed to help deliver the programme in relation to any themes suggested. The detail provided in the responses to both of these questions is summarised in Annex 5, and the analysis presented in this chapter concentrates on general points and most frequently made suggestions.
7.15 Respondents made suggestions in relation to a wide range of themes; however, most were suggested by just one or two respondents. Some of the proposed themes were existing cross-cutting themes (see discussion of crossing-cutting themes below starting at paragraph 7.19) which respondents felt could be priority themes in their own right ( e.g. gender equality and inclusion). Other suggestions might be considered as sub-themes of current themes (for example, the suggested themes of ' HIV/ AIDS', 'public health' and 'undernutrition' might all be considered as sub-themes of health).
7.16 In general, suggested themes were not explicitly identified by respondents as alternative ( i.e. themes that would be substituted for one of the current themes). Indeed, in light of the common view, described above, that all of the current themes should be retained, this may indicate that respondents intended their suggestions as 'additional' rather than 'alternative' themes. There was also a view that the invitation to suggest alternative themes would simply provide an opportunity for organisations to promote their own interests, rather than allowing 'genuine excellence' determine where Scotland can make a difference.
7.17 Alternative / additional themes suggested by two or more respondents were:
- Gender equality: Respondents suggested that the existing cross-cutting theme of 'gender equality' should be considered as a theme in its own right aligned to Global Goal number 5 ('Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls'). Respondents highlighted the importance of gender equality in relation to health, education and human rights.
- Disability inclusion: This was seen as a theme that could contribute to the objective of supporting the world's poorest and most vulnerable.
- Emergency resilience: Respondents noted the increasingly complex emergencies around the world which can undermine development efforts. Work in this area was seen to transcend boundaries.
- Conflict mediation / resolution: Respondents commented that conflict causes poverty and hunger, prevents access to education and health services and entrenches inequality. They pointed to Scotland's expertise in violence reduction, conflict mediation and international diplomacy.
- Youth empowerment: Respondents said the involvement of young people helps to support the longer term sustainability of interventions. In addition, projects relating to governance and human rights and skills development targeted at young people were seen as helping to create a positive future.
- Information and communications technology ( ICT): Progress in this area was seen to be essential for operating successfully in a globalised marketplace.
- HIV/ AIDS: There were suggestions that this issue - which might be considered to be included within the 'health' theme - should be a theme in its own right.
- Entrepreneurship (including large-scale entrepreneurship and social enterprise): This theme was seen to support long lasting change and a move away from reliance on grants. Private sector development was also seen to be a key way to involve diaspora populations in international development.
7.18 Some respondents made general points about harnessing Scottish expertise to help deliver the programme's objectives with regard to these alternative/ additional themes. These included the following:
- The Scottish Government should not attempt to define prescriptively where the expertise should come from to support work under particular themes.
- Expertise may be found in partner countries as well as in Scotland. It was argued that the local expertise should be used where possible, and that reliance on Scottish expertise could be perceived as patronising. Partnership working should include 'non-traditional partners' too.
- Certain sectors of Scottish society could usefully become more involved in the programme. For example, local authorities have expertise in relation to education, water and sanitation, public health and sustainable economic development. Expertise available in the third sector was also thought to be overlooked (although it was suggested that remuneration would likely be required for third sector partners).
- The Scottish Government should consider establishing an online 'networking hub' where potential partners in Scotland can make contact and share information. Theme-based networking days could also be a way of sharing learning, building relationships with potential partners, and identifying and involving individuals and organisations with relevant expertise.
Cross-cutting themes (Q11a and Q11b)
7.19 As noted in the introduction to this chapter, the Scottish Government's international development programme also adopts three cross-cutting themes in gender equality, human rights and inclusivity. Respondents were asked if they thought the use of these cross-cutting themes added value to project outcomes, and whether there should be additional or alternative cross-cutting themes. Both questions on this topic included both a tick-box (yes / no) question, and space for respondents to give their reasons for their responses.
7.20 Altogether, 113 respondents (81 organisations and 32 individuals) replied to Question 11a asking whether the current cross-cutting themes added value to project outcomes. Table 7.1 shows that most respondents (85%) answered 'yes' and 6% answered 'no'. Ten respondents (9%) said they did not know. Individuals were more likely than organisations to reply 'no' to this question.
Table 7.1: Q11a - Do you believe that the current cross-cutting themes (gender equality, human rights, inclusivity) add value to project outcomes?
7.21 Respondents generally expressed their support for the current cross-cutting themes, and highlighted ways in which they added value to the programme. There were, however, also some reservations (mainly from those who answered 'no' or 'don't know') about the practical application of the cross-cutting themes in project development and delivery.
Views on the added value of cross-cutting themes
7.22 Most commonly, respondents thought that the cross-cutting themes did add value to the programme and, in general, they wanted to see the application of the cross-cutting themes strengthened.
7.23 Some thought that they should be 'mandatory' in all projects and 'not just a box-ticking exercise'. These themes were seen to relate to 'fundamentally important issues of equality and mutual respect', and to be key to ensuring that 'no one is left behind'. A cross-cutting focus on gender equality was thought to be particularly important, as 'gender inequality is a critical factor in poverty' across all countries.
7.24 Respondents also noted that these cross-cutting themes are core elements of the Global Goals, and the point was made that the use of the cross-cutting themes was consistent with the Scottish Government's own priorities. At the same time, it was noted that 'inclusion can be expensive'. For this reason, respondents thought the implementation of cross-cutting themes should be funded appropriately.
7.25 Respondents highlighted a range of positive effects of the current cross-cutting themes:
- They help to accelerate and maximise the benefits of projects and, in particular, they help ensure that the most vulnerable groups benefit from programme activities.
- They ensure that project outcomes are truly sustainable, as half of the population is not left out - thus building a fairer, more inclusive society.
- They encourage the development of local decision-making in a more balanced way, which was seen to minimise violence and conflict, support democratic rule, and help to counteract historical or cultural discrimination.
- They bring about a more holistic approach to international development, add depth and coherence to the Scottish Government programme, and help support the achievement of the Global Goals.
7.26 However, other respondents voiced caution: they thought the cross-cutting themes should be considered, but not required. This group suggested that the current cross-cutting themes can be difficult to apply in some project contexts and thought it was important to be realistic about the change in social norms and conditions that can be achieved through a project-based mechanism. The consideration of the cross-cutting themes can enhance project quality, and they should be considered so long as they do not detract from the main aims of projects.
7.27 Less often, those who expressed support for the added value of the cross-cutting themes also raised concerns about their practical application. Respondents acknowledged that the promotion of human rights is critical to good development, but they also recognised that a focus on human rights can alienate nations who may perceive this as a 'Western' concept, and accuse Western nations of a double standard. In such contexts, a focus on human rights can be difficult to implement in practice. Respondents emphasised the importance of cultural sensitivity.
7.28 Such respondents also highlighted that a focus on equality and human rights can have unintended consequences. In relation to projects working with women they noted (i) incidences of domestic violence linked to male opposition to projects where women have been involved in financial savings schemes; and (ii) that women can be overwhelmed by taking on additional roles, given their existing caring responsibilities.
7.29 Respondents who replied 'no' or 'don't know' to this question - indicating disagreement with or uncertainty about the value of cross-cutting themes - echoed some of the concerns expressed above that:
- It is important to be culturally sensitive and avoid 'imposing our values' on other countries, which could ultimately hinder intended outcomes. There were suggestions that: (i) the focus on gender equality, human rights and inclusivity should be left to NGOs, and that appropriate checks could be carried out to ensure good practice in these areas among agencies - rather than attaching additional requirements to individual projects, and that (ii) partner countries should determine their own priorities.
- Including cross-cutting themes was 'trying to do too much with not enough resources'. Some respondents thought that adding additional requirements to projects could distract from the main purpose of the project.
7.30 There was also a view that, while these cross-cutting themes were important, it was unclear how they were working in practice. It was suggested that the Scottish Government should set out its vision for a theory of change and impact, rather than focusing on cross-cutting themes.
Additional or alternative cross-cutting themes
7.31 Finally, respondents were asked about whether there should be further, or alternative, cross-cutting themes.
7.32 Those who answered 'yes' to this question suggested a wide range of further or alternative cross-cutting themes, and it is not always clear that respondents had a shared understanding of what a 'cross-cutting' theme is, or how it would be applied.
7.33 Many of the suggestions for additional cross-cutting themes simply repeated suggestions made at Question 8 for alterative (or additional) themes. At the same time, some respondents suggested that current priority themes ( e.g. climate change, education, and renewable energy) should become cross-cutting. Others suggested themes that could be seen as sub-themes of current priority themes, rather than cross-cutting themes per se (for example, 'Systems of education (primary, secondary & tertiary)' and 'Health care models (resource utilisation)').
7.34 In most cases, suggestions for additional cross-cutting themes were made by just one respondent and respondents did not always explain why their suggested theme should be considered as cross-cutting. The most frequently proposed cross-cutting themes were in relation to:
- Climate change: Respondents highlighted the importance of ensuring that all projects made a positive contribution to environmental protection and did not result in the unintended degradation of environmental resources.
- Equalities (beyond gender) (including sexuality, disability (both physical and mental), ethnicity, and religion): Respondents noted that inequalities of all types were increasing, despite efforts to counteract this trend. While respondents recognised that equalities may be incorporated under the 'inclusivity' and/or 'human rights' themes, there were also suggestions that it would be better to 'spell [this] out more clearly'.
- Governance and leadership: There was a view that an important role of development is to support and challenge national governments to be more responsive to, and more effective, in meeting the needs of their citizens.
- Capacity building among beneficiaries / local communities: There was a shared belief among respondents that engaging with local communities and involving them in projects was important for achieving sustainability.
- Children and young people: Respondents noted the very large populations of young people in many developing countries. A greater focus on these populations was seen as vital, given the potential for conflict, migration and breakdown in traditional societies.
- Justice, peace and reconciliation: Respondents discussed the importance of fostering inclusive societies and of countering violent extremism. The particular needs of Rwanda were highlighted where, it was thought, there was still fear and mistrust among survivors of the genocide.
- Technology: Respondents emphasised the importance of developing IT skills in developing countries, and felt that this was an area where Scotland excelled and could make a contribution.
- Entrepreneurship: The private sector has skills in developing business models to support the short, medium and long-term sustainability of projects and initiatives. Moreover, private sector resources were seen to be greater than those of international development agencies.
- Rurality: This was described as a 'high area of need' where continued support would help to ensure sustainable growth, which would require 'genuine collaboration for the greater good'.