Scotland and the sustainable development goals: a national review to drive action

This review provides a statement of our pre-COVID-19 ambition on driving progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in Scotland. It brings together evidence, actions and stories of how we are making progress to meet the Goals.

17 Partnerships for the Goals

  • Human Rights
  • International

Speaking at the Closing the Inequality Gap: in Scotland and around the globe conference in November 2015, the First Minister made a dual commitment to tackling poverty and inequality at home and to helping developing countries to grow in a fair and sustainable manner. She said, “Our view is that Scotland cannot act with credibility overseas if we are blind to inequality here at home, and our ambitions for a fairer Scotland are undermined without global action to tackle poverty, promote prosperity and to tackle climate change.” International development is therefore, a key part of Scotland’s domestic agenda and our global contribution, encompassing our core values, historical and contemporary, of fairness and equality. International development is about Scotland acting as a good global citizen.

In December 2016, the Scottish Government published Global Citizenship: Scotland’s International Development Strategy. This set out our international development contribution to the international community and is aligned with other policies that include Scotland’s International Framework, the Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights, Education Scotland’s International Strategy, the Trade and Investment Strategy, and the Internationalising Social Enterprise Strategy. Our International Development Strategy was specifically aligned to the UN SDGs.

As stated in Ben MacPherson MSP’s introduction to our subsequent Contribution to international development report: 2018-2019,

“Scotland is committed to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals, both within our own communities and in the wider world.

We believe we have a lot to contribute to the international community. By sharing our knowledge, skills and technical expertise for global good, we continue to make distinctive contributions towards addressing global challenges and injustices; and to do so through a partnership approach.”

Scotland aims to equal the best small countries in the world with our contribution to international development. To achieve this we have adopted a pan-Scottish Government approach which considers our overall contribution to international development – not only our international development funding but the policies and work of wider Ministerial portfolios which contribute to international development outcomes. Civil society organisations and the Scottish Government have also worked together on policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) to promote positive outcomes and to ‘do no harm’.

Goal 17 outlines the different means countries can mobilise to support implementation of Agenda 2030. While it focuses on considerations around finance, technology, capacity building, trade and systematic issues, the Goal also highlights the action expected around partnerships. Many of the associated targets are directed to overseas action, but a few are actionable domestically. In its assessment of the SDGs in Scotland, our baseline report notes that Scotland performs well in relation to the presence of particular frameworks and policies to support this work.

National Performance Framework (targets 17.13, 17.14 and 17.15)

Scotland was one of the first countries to show political leadership in committing not just to the SDGs, but also to our intended method of domestic implementation through the NPF.[43] The 2017-18 review of the NPF involved extensive consultation with the public, organisations and experts in policy delivery and practice across Scotland. The resulting framework provides a long term vision for Scotland, outlining our values as a nation and, for the first time, linking the National Outcomes to the SDGs (targets 17.3, 17.14, 17.17 and 17.19). Included in this is a National Outcome to be ‘open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally’, a commitment which potentially applies to all of the Goal 17 targets. The NPF provides us with a whole of Scotland framework for making Scotland a more sustainable country across the full range of UN Goals.

Scotland’s international Outcome is an important addition to the NPF because it demonstrates our willingness as a nation to judge ourselves not only by how we treat each other here in Scotland, but also by considering the effects our decisions have on other parts of the world as well. The way we are perceived in other countries, the way we choose to trade internationally, the global partnerships we develop, and the development approach we take, are all interconnected and contribute to our ability to create a truly successful country. So while the addition of an internationally focused National Outcome is welcome, we also need to recognise that many of the other NPF Outcomes have the potential to impact on our international contribution.

Policy coherence for sustainable development (targets 17.9 and 17.14)

In our International Development Strategy we have made a clear commitment to an international ‘do no harm’ approach and to the Beyond Aid agenda, and have identified areas of the Scottish Government in line with this. We have adopted an approach to eliminating policy incoherence and are identifying where overall policies can contribute to the achievement of international development outcomes.

Policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) ensures that no policy area, whether agriculture, tax, migration or trade, should detract from our international development goals and actions. This is not simply an international development issue but one that is universal – trans and intra boundary as well as transgenerational. While the international development aspect remains crucial, leadership on PCSD, like the SDGs more widely, must be made central to domestic work across the piece. The NPF is a natural home for this collective work, and any mention of PCSD should explicitly recognise this. Achieving this would help to make Scotland a genuine leader in the field on this issue.

Our overall contribution to development should be re-enforced by interlinked policy action rather than being limited to our aid budget. A key example of this is in the area of climate change, where Scotland’s climate targets support a ‘do no harm’ approach, whilst the Climate Justice Fund provides both additional international development funding and support for water governance between the governments of Scotland and Malawi. Civil society representatives have been involved in identifying initial areas of cross portfolio policies, which we can work collaboratively on as part of our longer term partnership for positive development outcomes – Contribution to International Development Report; 2018-2019 (targets 17.13, 17.14, 17.16, and 17.16).

Open government (targets 17.9, 17.16, 17.17, and 17.18)

We are working with Open Government Scotland and the Open Government Partnership internationally and nationally to support delivery of the SDGs through Open Government principles and practices. This will be achieved through our Second Open Government National Action Plan 2018-2020. The Open Government network in Scotland includes major civil society, domestic sector and voluntary organisations, academics and community activists as well as interested individuals. The work maintains strong links with the Scottish SDG Network, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and a number of international NGOs working on transparency, accountability and participation – including the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency and Transparency International. In such a manner, work on transparency of information, data and spending decisions within Scotland can help to enhance practice models internationally (target 17.16).

Civil society (targets 17.16 and 17.17)

Civil society in Scotland plays a valuable role as an agent of change and on holding others to account on meeting the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Importantly, civil society groups in Scotland advocate on behalf of global issues and encourage decision makers to foreground these considerations in their work. Many such organisations are driven by a commitment to equality, social justice and empowerment, and as such align their interests with those contained in the NPF and the SDGs. The role of civil society is essential to the realisation of both of these policy frameworks. Cooperation between civil society, public and private sectors and the Scottish Government continues to progress actions around promoting and protecting human rights, enhancing sustainable development and maximising resources to fund this work (target 17.17). Key contributors which are funded under the IDF include the following networking membership organisations – the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, Scotland’s International Development Alliance, the Scotland Malawi Partnership and its sister organisation in Malawi, the Malawi Scotland Partnership (target 17.16).

Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships (targets 17.16 and 17.17)

Scotland’s approach to international development is founded on working in ‘partnerships of equals’ both within Scotland and with our partner countries. We believe that this people-led, bottom up, partnership of equals approach to international development is a particular Scottish strength. We recognise that successfully facing the challenges we share depends on collective action and collaborative working, what we call the One Scotland Approach (Reflecting on the Emergence of the UN SDGs: A Call for Action in Scotland, P53.).

Scottish local government activity, for example, supports the overall intent of Goal 17 through existing international partnerships and memberships. COSLA is party to international networks working on sustainable development, supporting the UN targets 17.16 and 17.17 to enhance the global partnership for sustainable development and encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships. The convention frequently exchanges with local governments across Europe and beyond on the SDG localisation agenda, supporting target 17.19 that concerns data, monitoring and accountability. In working with the Scottish Government to realise the SDGs in Scotland through the NPF and National Indicators, COSLA is also supporting the implementation of UN indicator 17.16.1 in support of reporting progress in multi-stakeholder development of effectiveness monitoring frameworks.

Scotland therefore has a distinctive development contribution to make, which is founded on our expertise and our capacity to innovate and employ our unique partnership approach for global good (targets 17.14, 17.15 and 17.17). Our ambition is to be a global leader in international development, not necessarily though the size of our investment in monetary terms, but in the impact we make. Being an ethical leader internationally is key to achieving this, both in our policies and messaging. Scotland provides an ethical voice through its policies on issues like climate change, equality and human rights. And, through all our partnership work we convey a message of ethical leadership which holds that all people, organisations, businesses and government share a duty to consider the impact of choices for sustainable development in Scotland and in developing countries. This includes choices on environmental and climate issues as well as fair trade (target 17.15).

The SDGs in Scotland report highlights the ever present language of partnership in the national strategy and how the cooperative spirit of partnership is evident within agreements with the Malawi Government, other donors and civil society organisations, for example (target 17.6). While the report noted the existence of general partnership agreements between Scotland and the governments of developing country partners, it also suggested that it is difficult to account for how far particular funded projects mesh with the national plans of these partner countries. Perhaps the ‘respecting policy space’ target 17.5 is easier to understand at the level of intention and practice approach than as a systematic policy effect. The point is worth noting as an analytical challenge.

The Scottish Government funds a range of Scottish based organisations with a strong emphasis on partnerships, such as registered charities (iNGOs), universities, local authorities, NHS Boards, private sector companies and social enterprises. Promoting sustainable development in partner countries and raising awareness of international development work within Scotland is also facilitated through networking membership organisations, which are core funded by the Scottish Government - such as The Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the Scottish Malawi Partnership, Malawi Scotland Partnership and Comic Relief. Scotland’s International Development Alliance, funded by the Scottish Government, is the umbrella group for Scottish NGOs which work in international development.

Development assistance – finance (targets 17.1, 17.2 and 17.3)

Scotland’s official development assistance (ODA) spend is included by the UK Government within its overall ODA return to the OECD, and is counted by the UK towards its commitment to spend 0.7% of gross income (GNI) on ODA (target 17.2). In Scotland, we also make an additional contribution to international development within the devolved constitutional context, in part through the three Scottish Government international development/humanitarian funds detailed below, but also through wider policy activity that supports development outcomes and participating organisations across Scotland. Scottish Government international development assistance is primarily focused on Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan. However, Scotland has wide engagement across the globe through our partner organisations.

This focus on four particular countries within our ‘global partnership’ is regarded in the SDGs in Scotland report as compatible with countries which also base their assistance on existing and historic partnerships. It is suggested that while this is a positive approach, in some instances it could result in poor overall distribution of development assistance. This is not found to be the case in Scotland, however. In terms of the levels, sources, components and targets of development assistance, the focus of the Scottish Government’s international development activity is regarded as being clearly aligned with the SDGs in the report. It may also be noted that the refocusing of the Scottish Government’s International Development programme to four partner countries under its 2016 Strategy followed on from a wide public consultation; that consultation found strong support for the proposed geographical focus of the Scottish Government’s International Development Fund and other related work to where it could make a real difference, and the biggest impact in relation to its budget.

Additionally, COSLA which has been working on decentralised cooperation (international development led by sub-national actors) for a number of years, has noted that the capacity of local authorities in Scotland to be involved in international development could be strengthened. If, for example, Scottish Councils were positioned to support governance capacity building in Scotland’s international development programme, it could enhance Scotland’s ability to deliver on these aspects.

Development funding (targets 17.1-17.5)

Scotland’s contribution to international development is framed around the following funds and actions:

1. International Development Fund (IDF)

2. Humanitarian Emergency Fund (HEF)

3. Climate Justice Fund (CJF)

4. Policies and work of wider civil society, public and private sector, and Scottish Government Ministerial portfolios

In 2017, the annual £10 million (up from £9 million) IDF consists of three funding streams, Development Assistance, Capacity and Strengthening, and Investment (targets 17.2, 17.3 and 17.4). Priority areas are country specific, agreed with and prioritised with each partner country according to its own prioritisation of SDGs, and include education, health, sustainable economic development, civic governance and society, food security, renewable energy, climate change and water, all of which are compatible with the SDG Goals and targets identified for special assistance. All initiatives under these streams must align with our vision and priorities as set out in the strategy. For example, by embedding the SDGs, so contributing to sustainable development and the fight against poverty, injustice and inequality internationally.

A million pounds was pledged to HEF from April 2017 to provide immediate and effective assistance to reduce the threat to life and wellbeing caused by disasters, disease or conflict (target 17.3). The CJF recognises that the poor and vulnerable are the first to be affected and suffer the worse from climate change. In 2017, £2 million of the CJF was distributed via the Climate Challenge Programme Malawi and the Climate Justice Innovation Fund. The remaining £1 million was spent on the Water Futures Programme in Malawi (target 17.3).

The Scottish Government continues to provide funding through a range of Scottish based organisations who work with their local partners on the ground. These include registered charities, universities, local authorities, NHS Boards, private sector companies (acting on a not-for-profit basis) and social enterprises, with an emphasis on respectful partnership with organisations in our partner countries. In Scotland we are also forming strategic partnerships, such as through our collaborations with other donor organisations like Comic Relief in partner countries, and have secured match funding of £1 million of private investment monies in Scotland to double our Malawi Investment Fund (target 17.3). Additionally, the Scottish Government International Development Strategy makes clear that we believe trade and investment is important, as is the role of the private sector, in supporting our partner countries as they move beyond aid in developing sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

Leave no one behind (targets 17.9 and 17.17)

Scotland has introduced the first National Outcome for human rights within our NPF. Through this and our values of kindness, dignity and compassion, we place the interests of all people at the heart of the nation. This, along with a longstanding emphasis on community empowerment in Scotland and embedding a human rights approach in all that we do, underpins our approach to international development and leaving no one behind.

Scotland’s International Development Strategy makes clear that “Our development work will have at its core, and as a primary focus, the interests of our partner countries and their people. We will also embed human rights in all our development work. We believe that this dual approach is vital in achieving the spirit of global citizenship and solidarity with developing countries”. This commitment to human rights deliberately encompasses all protected characteristics and seeks to ensure that nobody is ‘left behind’ in our work. In January 2017, the Scottish Government Minister for International Development, introducing the (then new) International Development Strategy to the Scottish Parliament stated that “the new strategy embeds human rights in all our development work, and I am happy to confirm our commitment to eliminate all discrimination and to work actively for the inclusion of women and girls, the disabled, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and other marginalised groups”.[44]

For example, through our International Development funded Sense Scotland project on equal access to education, we helped to promote equal access to education for disabled people in Northern Malawi. We currently have a specific disability focused project in each of our partner countries. In relation to gender equality, our international development funding includes support for girls and women’s education in Pakistan; women’s health in Malawi; gender based violence training between Police Scotland and the Malawi and Zambia Police Forces; and developing girls’ leadership through sport in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda. A focus on disability, gender awareness and the most marginalised, therefore, informs our development funding and programming. More can always be done, however, to ensure that the principle of no one is left behind is systematically embedded within our international development efforts at all levels.

Capacity building (targets 17.6, 17.9 and 17.16)

As stated in our International Development Strategy, we believe that development partnerships can also be realised through peer-to-peer knowledge sharing on key areas of mutual interest. Through this, institutions can strengthen their knowledge, harness expertise, skills and capacity and empower their people. Where a need for institutional assistance has been identified with a partner country, we seek to match and enable support in relation to this. Initiatives have involved link-ups between similar institutions in partner countries, promoting and enabling targeted skills sharing from relevant sectors and providing scholarships.

For example, by aligning one stream of our International Development Fund on capacity building we have been able to respond more fully to the capacity building objective within the SDGs. As part of this effort, the Scottish Government provided £300,000 in 2017-18 for its Pakistan Scholarship Scheme for Women in Higher Education and its Pakistan Scholarship Scheme for School Children, delivered through the British Council Pakistan. Additionally, the Scottish Government further collaborated with the British Council Pakistan on a £100,000 capacity strengthening for young Pakistani scientists study visit to Scotland.

Closer Look - The Police Scotland Programme

In their 2016/17 Food Insecurity Plan, the Malawi Government highlighted a risk of violence within areas affected by extreme flooding from the previous two years. Of particular concern was the risk of abuse, such as transactional sex in exchange for food, water and shelter for displaced women and children.

During 2016-19, the Scottish Government are providing a total of just over £1 million to enable Police Scotland to deliver capacity building training in our sub Saharan African partner countries (targets 17.8, 17.9, 17.15). This takes the form of specialist training, which Police Scotland officers deliver with their peers in each country. It focuses on tackling gender-based violence and improving child protection.

The Police Scotland Programme in Malawi aims to reduce violence, abuse and exploitation among disaster affected communities by deploying police officers specialised in child protection and gender based violence to Malawi. These officers provide specialist training to the Malawian police. Through this partnership and the sharing of high quality technical training, the Malawian Police Service has undertaken a transformation of its ICT work stream to better record and manage crimes of this nature and provide an enhanced service to vulnerable children and women.

While Zambia did not experience the same disastrous flooding as Malawi, it became clear that there was an appetite amongst the Zambia Police Service to work with Police Scotland to develop capacity amongst officers who specialise in gender based violence (GBV) and child protection in order to reduce violence, abuse and exploitation of children and reduce the prevalence of GBV. The geographical proximity of the 2 countries also lends itself to peer to peer learning, and for Police Scotland to learn from both Forces too.

Technology, science and innovation (targets 17.6, 17.7, 17.8, 17.14, 17.16, 17.17 and 17.18)

Scottish Universities offer provision overseas and collaborations to bring quality education to developing countries. This enriches the learning experience, through an internationalisation agenda but also allows us to work towards the Goals in other countries, utilising our strength in higher education. Scholarship programmes in individual Scottish universities enrich the student experience for both the home students as well as learners from abroad. Such initiatives are an important part of our overall attempt to create an inclusive, welcoming and diverse educational environment, which actively promotes the transfer of knowledge and experience between nations.

Additionally, a key tenet of our International Development Strategy is to harness existing Scottish and in-country expertise in specialist areas which are of benefit to global development. Through our international development programme we have harnessed and shared many of the things that Scotland does best. Areas of expertise exchange include higher education capacity strengthening, mental health and non-communicable disease, education inspection and quality improvement, sustainable economic development, renewable energy, climate change and climate justice, governance and water management. Our development work looks at how best to align our national expertise to the agreed priorities and tangible needs of our partner countries. It is also important not to undermine the cross-cutting nature of the SDGs when devising this work.

Scotland has a strong history of innovation in medical science and practice, and this experience has been shared through a number of medical projects in partner countries. Currently, partnership working is being supported by the Scottish Government between the University of Glasgow and the Blantyre College of Medicine Dental School, the Blantyre Clinical Research Facility, and the College of Medicine Governance Project, Malawi; and with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow for Livingstone Fellowships for surgeons in Malawi and Zambia to come to Scotland for specialist training to meet their clinical needs (targets 17.6, 17.8 and 17.9). Elements of the Global Challenges Research Fund support Scottish Universities to address tech nology transfer and the Climate Justice Innovation Fund supports projects to develop innovative solutions for strengthening African communities against the effects of climate change (target 17.7). It may however be possible to further investigate the extent to which we undertake and encourage technology research and transfer in the developing world.

Closer Look - Global Challenges Research Funding

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) distributes formula funding to Scottish Universities for research to address the SDGs in developing countries. In 2017, SFC distributed £2.392 million of GCRF, which supported 120 projects involving 51 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) country partners. The main research themes addressed by these projects were health, agriculture, security, energy, pollution and cultural heritage.

In 2018, SFC distributed £4.012 million of GCRF, which supported 330 projects involving 75 DAC country partners. The main research themes were health, agriculture, displacement, economic development, cultural heritage and environment. In 2019, SFC is distributing £10.279 million of GCRF. Funding is expected to continue at a similar level in 2020 and 2021.

The main SDGs addressed by the research to date are Goals 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 14 and 15. Additionally, the SFC has invited all Scottish universities to develop GCRF strategies. These are available on the SFC website. SFC seeks to promote collaboration between Scottish universities on GCRF, by analysing and sharing information on research and institutional strategies, and presenting at events.

The GCRF aims to deliver tangible impacts with its (initial) 5 year term (2016 - 2021). Some of the Scottish projects are piloting prototype technologies (for example instruments, tests), but most are at the stage of gathering data and establishing research partnerships and networks. Perhaps the key observation to date is that there has been a significant investment in capacity (involving funding for developing researchers in DACs and in Scotland), establishing relationships, and in institutional learning about research with impact in DACs. Some institutions have established global development ‘hubs’ to build and sustain this capacity over the longer term.

With nearly 1.5 billion people around the world without access to modern energy services and twice that number reliant on wood, coal, charcoal and animal waste for heating and cooking, lack of access to modern fuel compounds poverty and disadvantage. In 2012, Scotland was invited by the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to support the global Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in recognition of our leadership on renewable energy and climate change. Our response has focused on capacity building and policy support. We have supported numerous projects in Malawi to progress the SE4ALL agenda, including University of Strathclyde Sustainable Off-Grid Electrification of Rural Villages and the Community Energy Malawi Sustainability Extension; The Wood Group Powering Development in Mulanje; and the International Resource and Recycling Institute Enhancing Stability for Rural Off-Grid Energy Kiosks. Work on the Rural off-Grid Energy Kiosks helped to advance the adoption of environmentally sound technologies in developing countries (target 17.7). In Zambia, most recently the Scottish Government has co-funded with local private companies and donors the provision of solar panels for rural Chitambo Hospital in Central Province. A local Zambian company also partnered this, undertaking to contribute training for long term maintenance of the panels at the hospital under their own CSR policy.

Closer Look - Rwanda Coffee Market Building for People and Prosperity Project

The project aimed to promote sustainable development by building the capacity of coffee cooperatives and community members in Rwanda to use renewable energy and improved technology to improve business performance. This work was complemented by a climate justice initiative, which helped the cooperatives to reduce operating costs and carbon emissions by promoting uptake of renewable energy for coffee washing. This inter-linked project approach exemplifies Scotland’s policy coherence approach to development, which seeks coherence and integration between funding streams and breaking the normal ‘silo’ approach to programming (Challenges Worldwide).

Global governance and regulation (targets 17.10 and 17.13)

As the UK is the signatory state to UN agreements, holding member of the WTO and a key actor in the World Bank, Scotland’s contribution to global governance and regulation can only be informal. There may, however, be some scope for further assessment of informal Scottish initiatives and strategies to encourage SDG fulfilment of global financial regulation or reform of global institutions (see the SDGs in Scotland report).

Trade (targets 17.3, 17.10, 17.11 and 17.12)

Trade and investment rules have immense potential to support the achievement of the SDGs, particularly in the Global South. However, as currently configured they often contribute to worsening outcomes in areas related to inequality, environmental protection and climate change, access to public services, decent work and industrial development. Since trade and investment rules are negotiated behind closed doors, they can be developed without reference to the SDGs, human rights and other international commitments. They can also limit countries’ policy space by acting as a disincentive to regional integration or prevent countries from choosing the most appropriate policy mix to achieve their development goals. This effect is most apparent where an Investor to State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism is included in a deal, because it can deter countries from taking policy decisions for fear of being taken to arbitration, and impact revenues where large awards are made against countries.

Although the powers to create fairer trade and investment rules (targets 17.10 and 17.12) lie outwith the powers of the Scottish Government, there may nonetheless be opportunities to actively promote fairer rules to other national governments as part of Scotland’s own trade and investment strategy. While this strategy and the accompanying 8 point investment plan focus on increasing trade, attracting inward investment and promoting Scotland as an attractive place to do business and invest, learn, live and work, it also addresses responsible business and the impact of trade on sustainable development, especially in developing countries. Specific actions referenced in chapter 6 of Global Scotland: trade and investment strategy 2016-2021 provide a basis upon which to further consolidate work in this area. The section ‘Supporting Development through Trade’ highlights work already being undertaken in relation to:

  • Support for the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Ruggie Principles, being taken forward through Scotland’s National Action Plan for Human Rights ( SNAP)
  • Our £9 million International Development Fund
  • Work with the Scottish Fair Trade Forum which has enabled us to reach more people than ever before with the message that choosing to buy Fairtrade products really does make a difference to people’s lives
  • Further development and promotion of social enterprise and responsible business

The above actions in part relate to target 17.11 on increasing the exports of developing world countries, which the Scottish Government is able to take action on. Our trade and investment strategy seeks to build on and extend this work by:

  • Helping business play its part in promoting and respecting human rights
  • Working with priority partner countries to support development through trade and
  • Internationalising Scotland’s world leading approach to social enterprise

The recent consultation on refreshing our international development policy sought views on how we might retain the most effective elements of current international development work and how to target the IDF and other work to achieve maximum impact. In particular, it asked how we might encourage better trade and investment links with our priority partner countries to support sustainable growth. This consultation will inform specific action in this area which could, for example, include:

  • Working through the enterprise agencies and business organisations in Scotland to help businesses from priority partner countries make connections with potential customers
  • Using trade as a way of facilitating knowledge and technology transfer between Scotland and priority partner countries
  • Learning from countries such as Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, establishing a ‘Good Growth Fund’ to help Scottish businesses support and deliver responsible investment and development in priority partner countries

Internationalising social enterprise (targets 17.3, 17.11 and 17.17)

The social enterprise sector, the mission of which is to blend economic growth with social purpose, is thriving in Scotland. More than 5,000 social enterprises which are active across the country have a combined annual income of £3.6 billion, support over 112,000 jobs, and contribute nearly £1.7 billion of Gross Value Added to the Scottish economy (Social Enterprise in Scotland: Census 2015). Social enterprises in Scotland own and manage land, harness renewable energy for communities, create employment, provide support to the most vulnerable, and deliver an increasingly diverse range of products and services. As well as being part of the fabric of communities, this places the sector as one of Scotland’s key industries and at the leading edge of the international social enterprise movement. This success has been achieved through long term collaborative working between the sector and the Scottish Government, underpinned by supportive policy, legislation and investment in the sector’s development.

Building on Scotland’s leadership and support for the Social Enterprise World Forum, a broader international role for the sector is taking shape through, for example, the ‘social licensing’ of Scotland’s Social Enterprise Academy building a network of ecosystem partners in 14 countries from South Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda to Malaysia, Pakistan, India, China and Australia led by its Global Learning Lab in Scotland, and an International Social Enterprise Programme, which supports five international social enterprises to base their global headquarters in Scotland. Furthermore, a small but growing number of Scottish social enterprises are already operating internationally. Indeed, 7% of Scottish social enterprises are already collaborating with international partners, contributing to the development of international projects, or selling overseas and that around 5% have exported or licensed goods or services to overseas markets in the last financial year.

Our global strategy signals a commitment to stepping up this process of internationalisation and associated support as a key element of Scotland’s approach to trade and investment. This will often entail Scottish Development International (SDI) supporting social enterprise businesses in the same way as it supports ‘traditional’ businesses. However, there is also a need to consider the distinct nature of the social enterprise sector and the opportunities for overseas growth and investment. Given this, the social enterprise sector in Scotland is also working closely with the Scottish Government to produce a 10 year social enterprise strategy (Building a new economy: Scotland’s Vision for social enterprise 2025) to reflect Scotland’s position as a global leader in responsible business. This focus will contribute to sustainable economic growth domestically, build the profile and impact of social enterprise across the world, and in doing so enhance Scotland’s reputation and attractiveness to others.

This focus on human rights, trade for development and internationalising social enterprise signals the start of a wider and deeper approach to trade, international development and responsible business. Looking ahead, the Scottish Government will engage with business and other stakeholders to consider what more might be done to ensure our approach to trade and investment supports the SDGs and Scotland’s role as a good global citizen.

Investment (targets 17.3 and 17.5)

At present funding for supporting trade and investment to promote economic investment lies with the Malawi Investment Initiative (£1 million over 3 years, match-funded by £1 million by the private sector in Scotland) and has not yet expanded to our partner countries. The first investments were made in Malawi in 2018. The Scottish Government will also, however, support such action in Zambia and Rwanda in line with their wider government policies. Scottish social enterprises are also seeking to expand internationally and there are opportunities for them to share the benefits of the social enterprise model with partner countries. The Scottish Government has provided international development funding to Social Enterprise in Scotland to support the establishment of SEAs in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda, all of which are now up and running joining an international franchise linked to the SEA Scotland.

Data monitoring and accountability (targets 17.18 and 17.19)

While the UN 2030 Agenda is applicable for all countries, there is a need for more support for sustainable development in the global south. Goal 17 is therefore largely focused on official development assistance, global macroeconomic stability, foreign direct investment, exports, tax and trade. The UN level indicators concern finance; technology; capacity building; trade; systemic issues; policy and institutional coherence; multi-stakeholder partnerships and data, monitoring and accountability. Eurostat also measures EU progress on this Goal through indicators concerning official development assistance and EU financing to developing countries, based on OECD sources.

Given that the competence for these areas rests largely at Westminster, to realise them in Scotland and ensure we are fully contributing to their external delivery, we will have to work creatively and across sectors to further develop meaningful indicators to monitor progress. In order, for example, to clarify which National indicators already existing in Scotland relate to this Goal. We believe that multi-level governance approaches, stretching across national, local government and beyond, should be at the core of SDG 17 indicator discussions, as should enhancing policy coherence for sustainable development (UN indicator 17.14).

The NPF and UN Goals share the same spirit of ambition and vision for a better world and a sense of national wellbeing which reaches beyond gross domestic product (GDP). In 2018, the Scottish Government and Gaia Education presented this model of national and local SDG implementation and measurement in an exhibition at the UN High Level Political Forum (HLPF) (targets 17.4, 17.6, 17.7, 17.8 and 17.19).

As noted in the SDGs in Scotland discussion paper commissioned to support Scotland’s Voluntary National Review, Scotland has an effective national statistical service and a regular census. The paper also echoes the earlier point that the SDG Goal targets may have more meaning in Scotland than some of the specific indicators, which the UN provides to track at the global level. Such questions over the applicability of the indicator measures in a Scottish context will be addressed in more detail in the near future. Examining the effectiveness of policy synergies and partnership arrangements, which are essential to Goal 17, will be a challenge within any reporting mechanism.

Although the indicators used in Scotland to monitor SDG progress will be different to those used in other countries and indeed by the UN itself, we are keen that we remain in step with the international developments and also the original intent of the 2030 Agenda – to support sustainable development at home and abroad. Crucially, all levels of government, civil society, third, voluntary and business sectors in Scotland should be involved in considerations about how this Goal is realised domestically, and which indicators will be used to measure progress. This Goal underscores the intent to work internationally on sustainable development, and as such, it is important Scotland supports this agenda as an internationally minded country. The collection and use of inclusive, disaggregated data is critical to supplying evidence to ensure no one is left behind in achieving target 17.18 - international support for statistical systems.

Challenges and next steps

Strategic alignment between NPF Outcomes and UN Goals

Public, political and policy commitment to the SDGs is in part given voice through the many related strategic documents which frame and support action. If we are to be as effective as possible, however, we need to ensure that all elements of our strategic environment are aligned together to coherently reflect the SDG challenge. Achieving strategic alignment, rather than simply a broad commitment in principle, is more difficult to arrive at in a meaningful and coordinated way. For example, the International Outcome in the NPF should be interlinked with a number of other NPF Outcomes as well as other UN Goals. Given this, it would be advantageous for us to make the links between the NPF Outcomes and Goal 17 more explicit and, as part of a wider conversation about how the NPF explicitly links the 11 Outcomes alongside all 17 Goals. The alignment of the SDGs through the 5 Ps (people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership) principle could be drawn on as an exemplar to assist this thinking.

A comprehensive measurement account

SDG implementation should involve both coherent policy action and coherent measurement of this effort. Our measurement set, therefore, should also be

integrated to properly assess achievement across both the UN Goals and our National Outcomes. Given this, any indicators used to assess the NPF Outcomes must knit these conclusions alongside reckoning on achievement of the SDGs. The aim is to have a comprehensive account of performance, which fully reflects the complexity of our policy actions in both areas. In Goal 17, for example, this would mean showing how environmental, educational and business indicators also positively contribute to our international aspirations in addition to the NPF and UN indicators which lie under the international Goal/Outcome. Our measurement set should also account for the interconnected nature of our Outcomes domestically and internationally. If we do not make an explicit connection between the impact of Outcomes domestically and internationally, then we are not approaching our new NPF through a coherent lens. Although the relaunched NPF has gone a long way towards setting these principles in place, more work needs to be done to expand and increase the effectiveness of our performance story to fully reflect what we are doing and what needs to be done to achieve both the Outcomes and SDGs in the round.

Policy coherence for sustainable development

In addition to achieving strategic alignment and an integrated measure of this, we also need to attend to the coherence of our development methodology/practice. Policy coherence for sustainable development (PCSD) challenges us to ensure all policy action complements and promotes our development goals and practices. By doing so, we lift international development out of its position as a discrete concern into a universal policy agenda, one which is shared by and adopted across the whole of government and beyond. One benefit of this approach is that our overall contribution to development would be re-enforced by interlinked policy action rather than being simply limited to our aid budget. To achieve this, consideration should be given to how the Scottish Government and partners can facilitate a broadening of the PCSD agenda across directorates, agencies and sectors in Scotland. The NPF is a natural home for this collective work, and achieving this on a national scale would help to make Scotland a genuine leader in the field on this issue.

The SDGs in Scotland report suggests that providing a more detailed analysis of where policy incoherence might arise and how key synergies might be leveraged could be of benefit. Outwith parliamentary scrutiny, better PCSD could be achieved by developing policy ‘screening’ tools and mechanisms to be used by all Scottish Government directorates to assess policy coherence and consider trade-offs and synergies between the policies in question and other sustainable development outcomes. In particular, these should look at transboundary and transgenerational effects. Developing a systematic information exchange mechanism that improves both vertical and horizontal policy coordination across and within different levels of government could also be considered.

Leaving no one behind

The UN SDG framework is underpinned by commitment to leave no one behind (LNOB). However, the International Rescue Committee report, SDG progress: Fragility, crisis and leaving no one behind notes that internationally the LNOB agenda is failing many people around the world. In Scotland, it is apparent that not all minority groups are accounted for in our current International Development Strategy and related Scottish Government funded projects. LGBTI prioritisation is conspicuously absent, for example. Under the competitive funding rounds for international development projects in our partner countries, the Scottish Government does seek projects which align with partner country’s priorities. As an example, in the most recent Malawi Funding Round in 2017/18, the Scottish Government specifically sought projects which would deliver to one or more elements of the list provided by the Government of Malawi: this included, under the Civil Society and Governance Strand, support for organisations advocating for human rights. However, the Scottish Government did not receive applications in response to this strand for funding.

The Scottish Government is therefore proactively looking at how it can support governance and human rights initiatives (including LGBTI) better in the future through the separate capacity building funding stream. This includes widening of the current Police Scotland funded training with their peers in the Malawian and Zambian Police Forces, beyond the GBV and child protection work to date to a wider concept of Protection of Vulnerable Groups. It will also continue to encourage suitable applications under the competitive funding rounds, including the annual Small Grants Programme; and continues to welcome discussions with any organisations on how it can better encourage minority groups to apply for international development funding. It has also previously discussed this issue with the Equality Network and Stonewall in Scotland.

The human rights angle to LNOB requires that it is inclusive of all marginalised groups. Given this, and notwithstanding the above actions, more could be done in Scotland to systematically address the needs and interests of the full range of these communities. One possibility could be to ensure the LNOB principle is made into a specific, resourced component of the Scottish Supplementary Review and any subsequent SDG action planning in Scotland. We could, for example, reinforce our commitment to LNOB through an explicit statement of intent. The Scottish Government could also engage more explicitly with and collaborate and fund civil society and other organisations representing left behind groups. Those furthest left behind should be a priority in this. Finally, consideration could also be given to setting out a commitment to LNOB in Scotland along the lines espoused by the UK Government.

Technology, science, innovation and knowledge

Scotland has a strong record of achievement in relation to technology, science, innovation and knowledge exchange. The benefits of this can be substantial and therefore it is incumbent on us to continue to seek out new opportunities to deliver. Drawing in new collaborator organisations, funders and practitioners would help to further progress and expand this provision.

Trade, investment and responsible business

Although actions in this area are limited by our constitutional arrangements, we can, and should, look to where there may be opportunities for us to actively promote fairer trade and investment practices. We should, for example, aspire to being an exemplar nation for trade and investment which promotes human rights and positively enhances achievement of the SDG outcomes with developing world countries. Creating an environment and the right regulatory, trade and investment conditions, which enable progressive decision making and subsequently support the right policy actions, is essential. Revisiting our commitment to actions contained in chapter 6 of Global Scotland: trade and investment strategy 2016-21 and Scotland’s Vision for Social Enterprise 2025 is a necessary step in this direction.

Commitments in the Scottish Government’s 2019-20 Programme for Government that relate to this Goal

  • The Scottish Government will continue to invest in its overseas networks to foster long term connections and Scotland will continue to implement its International Development Strategy in its Sub-Saharan Africa partner countries
  • This year, the Scottish Government will support a newly-expanded programme to protect vulnerable groups in Malawi and Zambia
  • A progress report on Scotland’s New Scots refugee integration strategy will be published in spring 2020 and in the next year the Scottish Government will publish an Anti-Destitution Strategy focused on people who have no recourse to public funds
  • The Scottish Government is working with local government partners to develop our approach to the future of refugee resettlement when current programmes, including the Syrian Resettlement Programme, end early next year



Back to top