Scotland Malawi Partnership AGM: External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson's speech - 26 November 2022

Speech delivered by External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson to the Scotland Malawi Partnership AGM in Edinburgh, 26 November 2022.

I want to send my best wishes to all attending this year’s Scotland Malawi Partnership AGM.

Although I cannot be with you today, I am delighted with this, the first opportunity for you all to meet in person in over 3 years.  It is always inspiring to see such enthusiasm and commitment across the room, and across Scotland, for our special relationship with Malawi.

We meet today, in the midst of immense global challenges, which are reshaping the lives of us all, and in particular the people of the Global South, including Malawi. It is through these toughest of times that we must show the strength of our relationship and it is important now more than ever that we remain committed to Malawi, and our other partner countries.

So, I want to begin by thanking you all for your unrelenting efforts in these challenging times – “Zikomo kwambiri”!

I am proud to reflect on what we have achieved together over the past year. For example, the Scottish Government is proud to support and provide funding to the Kamuzu University of Health Sciences and their partnership with the University of Glasgow. It is heartening to see the relationship between these two institutions grow from strength to strength.

For example, the success to date of the Maldent project, to set up Malawi’s first dental school with our support. The first cohort of students commenced their studies in August 2019. I was pleased to hear, because of the project, there are now more dental students than registered dentists in Malawi – a massive achievement.

I would personally like to give my thanks to the team for all their success with the project to date and I look forward to seeing this progress over the years ahead.

Across our whole programme, the Scottish Government remain in close contact with our partners in Malawi and are aware of the immense challenges they face.  That is why I am pleased to announce that we shall be offering six-month extensions to the existing cohort of projects until September next year. These extensions will allow extra time for activities to be completed and sustains another significant investment in the iNGO sector over the next year.

I want to use this opportunity to outline today, given these immense challenges, how the Scottish Government’s International Development Programme is changing.

 A key outcome of our recent review was the need to listen to and be driven by voices from our partner countries. This is why, my colleague Minister Neil Gray, convened and met with our new Global South panel in September.  This Panel will enable us to access a wider and more diverse range of voices and experience and lend expertise to our Programme.

The Scottish Government also recently met with Honourable Minister Nancy Tembo and others within the Government of Malawi. They sent a clear message there was a need to “streamline” Scotland’s international development offer. They reflected we have an opportunity to expand the transformative impact of our programmes by focussing on delivering a portfolio of higher-value projects.

That’s why, going forward, following our review, and subsequent discussions with Government, our Programme will be designed to have a streamlined focus on investment in health and education, and in particular for women and girls.

Although we are in the process of designing the specific shape of our programme with our partner countries, I am pleased, today, to be able to provide a short, high level, overview of the thematic focus of our programme.

In discussions with Government of Malawi, education was highlighted as the “priority of priorities” and in particular, the education of women and girls.

That is why the Scottish Government is in the process of designing an inclusive education programme. The aim is for this programme to enable transformative change, supporting access to education for those often excluded, including women and girls.

On health, our future programme will focus on reducing the burden of Non-Communicable Diseases. We shall work with partners to expand equitable access to safe and quality care and deliver on our commitment to support vaccine equity. We will continue to invest in institutional partnerships, building on Scotland’s legacy of delivering impact through fostering links with our partner countries. 

We shall announce further information on these programmes in the coming months.

On climate, I am proud the Scottish Government was among the first to put climate justice at the heart of our international climate action and we are pleased to continue our longstanding support for Malawi through our Climate Justice Fund. This was trebled to £36 million over this parliamentary term, with £8 million being allocated specifically to Malawi over the next three years through our Climate Just Communities Programme. This shall take a participatory approach to support more resilient and inclusive communities.

I am also proud of Scotland’s leadership role in Loss and Damage. Last year at COP26, Scotland became one of the first countries to commit funding for Loss and Damage, which we have followed with a further £5 million this year at COP27 in Egypt, focused on Non-Economic Loss and Damage.

It is also important we consider not only what we will fund, but also how we deliver our funding. We shall at all times look to align our programme with our International Development Principles.

The programme will also, wherever possible, take a participatory approach to design and decision-making processes with active participation from a diverse range of local women and girls and relevant marginalised groups.

Evidence demonstrates the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has deepened pre-existing inequalities and worsened gender inequality issues.  That is why we will also mainstream gender equality throughout our new Programmes, designing interventions that have a positive impact on gender equality and the empowerment and rights of women and girls. I am delighted to see this will form part of your discussions today.

In addition to this, as outlined in our review, we will also bring forward a new targeted Equalities Programme, with the first funding being our £500,000 per annum Women and Girls Empowerment Fund. This new Fund will be focused on direct funding support to civil society organisations in our partner countries. Through a participatory approach, the voices of those with lived experience will be at the heart of the programme design.

In all this, we recognise the importance of supporting civil society at home and in partner countries. That is why we shall provide a new Fund to support Global Citizenship. Responding to recent focus group discussions, this will include a new Fund for smaller organisations in Malawi and Scotland to access support for advocacy and institutional capacity strengthening. 

I am also pleased to announce today a continuation of our support for civil society links between Scotland and Malawi. We shall continue to provide over £370,000 to core-fund the Scotland Malawi Partnership and Malawi Scotland Partnership for another year.

In closing, I hope you are as excited about the future direction of our programme as I am. And I look forward to exploring how we can work together to make this future programme a success and best deliver meaningful, sustainable and transformative change.

Thank you.

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