The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges of our times. We have seen the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland over the last year, on our international development projects, and on people both in our partner countries, and the rest of the world.
Since we announced this review of our approach to international development, in September 2020, the disease has spread quickly to all corners of the world with new virulent strains mutating. Our decision to pause, reflect and take stock, in order to future-proof against the threat of COVID-19, felt timely when set against this new global backdrop.
Our decision to include within the focus of the review the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement has allowed us to open up conversations on what those mean within international development; in particular how we play our part in tackling systematic racism and inequality and shifting power to partner countries. A commitment to internationalism means continuing to evolve in our work, as we respond to international challenge and movements.
Internationalism, and international solidarity, has arguably been never more important than it is now, whether that is in relation to the immediate needs and equitable access to vaccines, or in the medium to longer term as we build back fairer and stronger from COVID-19. Scotland has a role to play in contributing internationally, both in financial terms and through supporting the sharing of technical expertise and in learning from others in return.
Looking ahead to 2021, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for international solidarity in relation to COVID-19 responses, stating that "Now is the time for unity and for the international community to work together in solidarity to stop COVID-19 and its shattering consequences". On behalf of the Scottish Government, I endorse that call by the UN Secretary General.
I look forward to this new evolving phase of our approach to international development, and to deepening the ongoing commitment that we have to our partner countries of Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.
Finally, I would like to thank everyone for their time and commitment to engaging so constructively with this Review process. We have been particularly pleased to have had such wide ranging virtual engagement from our partner countries. This virtual engagement has become "the new norm", made possible by the technology uptake due to the pandemic and the resulting restrictions of movement that have had to be put in place around the world.
As Minister I look forward to the day when we can meet to exchange our thoughts and ideas in person. Until that day comes, this truncated review offers us a path to better working across our International Development Programme.
Minster for Europe and International Development