International development programme - review: summary report

The 2020 Programme for Government announced the intention to review the approach to international development in light of coronavirus and this report summarises the findings from that review.

What will change because of the Review?

At this initial stage we are going to implement a range of cross-cutting changes to how we work in future to take a more targeted approach in certain partner countries. This is to make sure that we have the best impact possible with the unique international development offer that we have here in Scotland. These changes will be outlined in this section along with the reasoning behind our decisions. 

This Review, necessitated by unprecedented change at a global scale, is the start of the process of aligning our work with our with our new eight Programme Principles, which have been developed as part of this process and will be used to guide our programme.  We will continue the conversations with our partners to embed these changes and make sure we are fully responding to the new Principles. 

 As was made clear by an attendee at one of our civil society stakeholder events: 

"it's very easy to simply change the words we use without changing the discourse, and "partnership" is so easily thrown around. Meaningful two-way exchange that recognises the roles of all actors in this space is vital, and it should be about a coming together to tackle the structures that perpetuate global economic and ideological inequalities"

We believe that this Review is the start of a process to make sure we continue to reflect upon our roles and our partnerships, and that our networks, across our all of the partner-countries, contributes to building an international development programme that implements solid and lasting change. 

Build back fairer and stronger 

The overarching challenge presented during the discussions with our partner-countries (government; civil society; academia), was for us all to be able to build back fairer and stronger in light of COVID-19. That included a need to support sustainable economic recovery, as well as contribute to building institutional resilience across key public services in our partner countries. It was made clear that COVID-19 is equally a social and economic crisis, as well as a health crisis, which has exacerbated existing and long standing inequalities.  We and our partner-countries agree that taking a human-rights approach to tackling inequalities needs to be at the centre of how we build back fairer and stronger. 

In almost all meetings held as part of this Review, the need to build institutional resilience across public sectors in a way that leaves us all better prepared for future challenges was a key request. In particular, the vulnerability of health systems and inadequate infrastructure was identified as a key issue, both in the immediate term in responding to COVID-19 as well as the longer term in building back fairer and stronger for all. Those pre-existing inequalities which continue to affect women and girls and other vulnerable and marginalised groups are particularly difficult social challenges that international bodies such as UN Women have identified. 

In order to respond to the identified needs and asks of our partner countries, our first change will be the restructuring of our current funding streams to focus on sustainable economic recovery and institutional resilience within the key priority areas highlighted by our partner-countries, together with a new Equalities Programme. These priorities are discussed in detail below.

Global South Programme Panel

A second change that we will implement is the establishment of a Global South Programme Panel, to provide advice to Minister on the part of the Scottish Government, to ensure that global south voices continue to be heard beyond this Review, at the highest level. But also, crucially, to ensure this review is not an 'end point', and that the opportunity for dialogue with the sector will continue.

A key challenge repeatedly voiced during the Review was how to 'shift the power' in the funding relationship and how to bring in expertise residing in the global south.  We benefitted from hearing from African international development academics during the Review in discussions focused on the evolution of approaches to international development. We also want to ensure that who we listen to aligns in future with our commitments to inclusion and diversity in our new Principles. 

A first and concrete step towards this is that we will establish this Global South Programme Panel to lend relevant expertise to our Programme. This Panel will allow us to start to respond to this challenge and a range of others discussed during the stakeholder engagement events. The Panel will consist of a range of 'experts by experience' who principally work and reside in the global south. We will prioritise Panel members from our partner countries, but we also want to keep this open, so that other suitable experts from other African nations can contribute and add perspective to the programme.  

We will also invite representatives of our partner countries' diaspora, who reside here in Scotland, to join the Panel. It was discussed in many forums throughout the review that the diaspora are an underutilised resource: "It makes it very difficult to achieve this if there is little representation [of diaspora-led organisations] across the sector, both at the decision making level and Scottish partners." so including them here would bring important insights to this Panel as well as in return giving more voice to the diaspora community here in Scotland.  The Panel as a whole will allow us to access a wider and more diverse range of voices and experience. 

Updating our funding criteria

The third, cross-cutting change, will be adjusting our funding criteria to enable more partner-country based organisations to apply direct for funding, by removing the current requirement that Scottish Government international development funding can only ever be accessed via a Scotland based organisation. 

This is not to say that partner-country and Scottish partnerships are not valued, because there are many exemplars of great partnership working. However, we believe that not being able to find a partner in Scotland should not be a barrier to submitting high quality applications for our networks consideration.  

This was voiced as a lived experience by partner-country based NGOs and CSOs. One Malawian stakeholder said they had been looking for a Scottish partner since June 2012 and despite efforts from our current networking organisations, none had been found.  This issue was particularly voiced by some of the smaller local CSOs attending our review roundtables where, in the case of Malawi, concerns were raised with us that very few had been connected or been able to obtain even small amounts of funding to support projects.  A number of partner-country stakeholders argued that small start-ups need very small funds, yet small grants or seed funding has been unavailable or targeted towards building capacity in larger CSOs. We are confident that removing this requirement will increase the access opportunities for a broader range of organisations in partner-countries. 

Taking this restriction away will, we hope, also help with another issue voiced by partner-country stakeholders in relation to power imbalances as between Scotland and our global south partners.  This change will start to address the conflict between our Principle 4 (Inclusion and Diversity) with regards to 'whose expertise we value'. Many stakeholders felt that this limited our capacity to build partner-country capacity and localise programmes. We believe by diversifying our own approach to funding we will in turn increase diversity in those we fund, and become more inclusive.  This will represent a significant step-change in our programme's evolution, and as we make that move to increase direct funding opportunities, we will require to consider issues both of future project governance and the Scottish Government's own grant-making powers. There will also be some areas of our programme, such as peer to peer working in our Institutional Resilience funding stream, where we will actively encourage ongoing partnerships between institutions in Scotland and those in our partner countries to support exchanges of knowledge and expertise for mutual learning.

We will separately also take forward with the networking organisations that we currently core fund the issues raised by certain stakeholders, as above, of their long-term struggle to find and be connected with Scottish partners. In doing so, we aim to support wider civil society connections outwith the Scottish Government's own funded programmes in our partner countries. This re-focus is ultimately about getting funding to those who need it most in our partner countries; it should not detract from the many organic partnerships which have always existed between Scotland and our partner countries. 

Refining our offer

The final change, to refine our international development offer, will start to address an ongoing concern that our focus is too broad given the current constitutional arrangements. In pausing and reflecting on where we can best contribute to our partner countries as they build back fairer and stronger from COVID-19, we want to ensure a focused approach that best matches their needs and asks. 

The Scottish Government contribution to international development is in addition to the international contribution that Scotland already makes through the UK Government.  As a devolved government, our budget for making this additional contribution from Scotland is limited. We therefore need to stay focused on an offer where we can ensure we achieve the biggest and most sustainable impact, including supporting the unique offer across Scottish society to support the development agenda in peer to peer partnership working. During the academic discussion one key recommendation was that the Scottish Government should not fund where only money was required. This was not a criticism of this approach but considered a role for bigger donors. It was argued instead that the "Scottish offer" should focus on utilising the networks, institutions and subject expertise that we have across our network of partner-countries to progress the programme. Health is one clear area where both the pandemic itself, and the discussions in our review process, have highlighted that international cooperation and solidarity are key components of tackling global challenges, rather than simply monetary contributions. Peer to peer working, with exchanges of knowledge and expertise for mutual learning, is particularly relevant in health, where we want to support people contributing their time and skills for the benefit of our partner countries.

We recognise that refocusing our offer will not be straightforward. A range of concerns were voiced against the prioritisation of one sector or area over another and the need for holistic solutions to often highly complex problems during the stakeholder events.  We recognise these challenges. We are confident that the cross-cutting changes we are making will offer new opportunities to work smarter with more focus, as directed by our partner-countries, which will benefit citizens and those living in vulnerable situations across the partner-country network.



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