Scotland's International Development Alliance annual conference: First Minister's speech

FM Nicola Sturgeon's speech at Scotland's International Development Alliance annual conference, held on 25 September 2018.

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Thank you, Trudi (Sieland).

And thanks to all of you for coming here for this very important conference.

It’s highly appropriate that today’s event is being held during the UN’s Global Goals week. Scotland was one of the first countries anywhere in the world to commit to the new sustainable development goals. In doing so, we made clear our determination – not simply to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous country, but also for Scotland to play our part in creating a fairer and more prosperous world.

For our part, promoting international development is an absolutely essential part of being a good global citizen. It's worth stressing that point, given some of the discussions taking place elsewhere on these islands. The Scottish Government does not believe, we never have believed and will never see, that aid is given primarily for our own national interest.

It's important that as a developed country, we believe that it is our moral duty to play our part and create a better world. That is, and always will be, the main purpose of our international development funding - a point I don't think needs to be made but with such division elsewhere it's important.

The Alliance is Scotland’s main network for improving the effectiveness of our international development work, and for informing and influencing Scottish Government policy. Through the information you make available to us, the connections that you encourage, and the training you provide, you perform a hugely valuable service – one that has enormous benefits for organisations across our country, and for individuals right around the world.

My main message is a very simple one - thank you for all you do. The Scottish Government is hugely grateful for the contribution you make, and we will support that work in any and every way we can.

I’m going to set out some of the ways in which we are doing that. I will talk about some of our recent initiatives – for example in relation to humanitarian relief, climate justice and gender equality. And I will talk about our approach –which is based on policy coherence, and partnership with the sector.

But I want to begin by addressing an issue which isn’t always comfortable to talk about – but which is absolutely crucial. Safeguarding is of paramount importance to all organisations that are involved in providing support and help to the most vulnerable members of our community.

Without it, vulnerable individuals – those who most need help – will be at risk of abuse and exploitation. And if that happens there will be a loss of public faith in the benefits of aid, investment and international co-operation.

That’s why the Scottish Government relatively recently amended our grant conditions to make it clear that all partner organisations must have strong safeguarding policies in place.

It is also why we have provided additional funding for the Alliance over the last few months to lead the development of a safeguarding support package. I am delighted that the initial draft package is being launched today, so that it can be evaluated and improved over the coming weeks and months.

I'm very aware that developing a safeguarding culture in some organisations and institutions may take time. And so the Scottish Government is committed to working with all of you to ensure that it happens.

I'm grateful to everyone who has been involved in the process so far, and I very much welcome the fact that there are breakout sessions on the issue today.

Safeguarding is a subject which all governments and all international development organisations need to prioritise. I would agree we need to prioritise and I am glad to see this conference giving the issue the attention it requires. In many ways, in fact, safeguarding is an essential precondition for the success of all of the other projects that we are working on together.

These other projects have achieved a great deal over the last year, and many of those achievements are captured in the contribution to international development report that we published a few weeks ago.

For example last year we launched the humanitarian emergency fund. It has been developed jointly by aid organisations and the Scottish Government.

Since it was launched, the fund has provided relief to people affected by emergencies around the world – including in East Africa, South Asia, Syria, Yemen and Myanmar. And it has encouraged NGOs to work together even more effectively than before.

And alongside that vital immediate humanitarian relief, we are also working for the long term. Many of our projects help people and communities to help themselves, and to prosper independently.

A good example is our commitment to renewable energy – this has brought clean electricity, a prerequisite for sustainable development, to more than 80,000 people in Malawi.

Another example is one which Trudi will know well – the work of Water Witness International and others to improve water security.  

Our Climate Justice Fund supports a project which encourages and enables people in Malawi to use their water resources more sustainably – it is currently working with a number of groups, including a collective of more than 7000 rice farmers in northern Malawi.

Stewardship of water will, of course, become ever more important as the effects of climate change become more pronounced. It is vital that developed countries – who have been by far the biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – help developing countries to adapt.

And we also consistently recognise that one of the surest ways of helping communities to flourish is to empower women, something close to my heart domestically as well as what we're doing internationally. They must be able to contribute equally in the workplace, in councils and legislative assemblies, and in society as a whole.

That’s why we have funded a scholarship programme in Pakistan which enables thousands of girls and young women to continue their education.

And it is why many of the projects that Ben MacPherson is visiting in Malawi and Zambia have gender equality at their heart.

For example on Friday he will visit Malawi’s police training college to see how Police Scotland are helping them to reduce gender-based violence. He will also discuss with UN Women how Scotland can best contribute, in Malawi, to reducing rates of child marriage, or very young marriage.

Today, I am delighted to announce a further important initiative.

Fistula – where a gap develops in the birth canal, often due to a prolonged or difficult childbirth – is a major source of distress to women in Africa. It often causes incontinence, and leaves women feeling isolated and in despair.

For several years now, the Gloag Foundation, has run a Freedom from Fistula initiative in Malawi. It treats more than 400 women every year. And it also gives them the chance to rebuild their lives – for example by providing training, or meeting school fees for the youngest patients.

The Scottish Government is announcing new funding today for a new initiative. It will enable young women who are recovering from fistula to manufacture reusable sanitary pads.

It improves the ability of women in Malawi to obtain affordable, environmentally friendly sanitary products. And for the young women recovering from fistula, making the pads will provide them with a source of income, and encourage them to develop entrepreneurial skills. It’s an initiative where a relatively small amount of money could make a very big difference to people’s lives. I am delighted to be able to support it.

The final point I want to make this afternoon – and it’s one which is relevant to every single example I have given – is about the importance of policy coherence and collaboration.

As all of you know in your day to day work, international development work does not stand in isolation from everything else that government does. So we need to ensure that our wider policies do not undermine our international development programme.

In fact we go further – we try to ensure, where possible, that policy areas actively support international development.

Climate change is maybe the most obvious example here. Our climate change targets ensure that Scotland is at the forefront of global action in reducing climate change emissions.

And through our Climate Justice Fund, we take a human rights-based approach to helping developing countries as they mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

But there are many other examples. I mentioned the work of Police Scotland earlier. In addition, the Scottish Government, working with NHS Scotland, has established a Global Health Coordination Unit, which will encourage partnerships with other countries – to improve and build capacity within their health services.

It’s part of the Scottish Government’s wider Global Health Programme – an initiative which was praised by Bill Gates when he visited Scotland earlier this year.

Ben MacPherson on Thursday will hear about University of Glasgow’s partnership with the Malawi College of Medicine. They’re working together to establish a dental school in Malawi.

NHS Scotland and Glasgow University are both involved in efforts to make better equipment available for dental care in Malawi. It’s a great example of how organisations right across the public sector – not simply the international development team within Government – have a vital role to play in supporting our wider aims.

And of course in all of this we need to collaborate. The role of the Scottish Government is important. But our policies cannot achieve success without the support of individuals, charities, faith groups, third sector organisations and businesses – here in Scotland and in our partner countries. We gain better outcomes when all of us work together.

That’s why Scotland’s International Development Alliance is so important. It promotes the partnership and collaboration which is so important to effective international development work.

That is why it's so inspiring to be in this room today with the alliance’s members - to get a sense of your energy, expertise and willingness to work together.

And it’s why I am confident that today’s conference will be a success – one that helps us to do even better in the future, as we work together to achieve the global goals. Thank you very much for listening today and let me end by thanking every one of you for what you do every day.


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