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.

How these changes and Principles will shape the new programme

To deliver on the four cross-cutting changes, respond to our partner-countries' priorities, and to start to embed our Principles in how we work, we are going to restructure areas of our International Development Programme.  We will maintain our existing funding streams for development assistance and capacity building. However, the names and composition of those funding streams will evolve to align more closely with the overarching ethos of building back fairer and stronger, and to better respond to the request for support with economic recovery and institutional resilience from partner-countries. 

One funding stream will therefore be titled "Sustainable Recovery" and will deliver on the thematic areas prioritised, having an ongoing mix of competitive funding and non-competitive funding opportunities. The other funding stream for our country programmes titled "Institutional Resilience" will also focus on thematic priority areas but will be focused on strengthening public institutions, with funding continuing to be awarded on a non-competitive basis, and seeking to leverage match-funded contributions through collaborating with partners and others. We will also introduce a new funding stream which will focus on a challenging but priority area for us, Reducing Inequalities which will be a mixture of competitive, non-competitive and match-funded.  

Thematic Country Programmes 

Discussions were undertaken with representatives of partner-country governments and also their civil society to understand prioritisation in light of COVID-19. These discussions are now detailed for each partner-country:   


For Malawi, the stated preference from both the Malawian Government and civil society was to hold to the existing six thematic strands under the 2018 Global Goals Partnership Agreement (GGPA) (health; education; civic governance; sustainable economic development; renewable energy; and water and climate).  An ongoing holistic approach was preferred for what are often complex issues.  

When discussed in more detail, health and education (in particular for girls) were clearly areas of major concern; this was especially the case in the civil society discussions but also raised by the Malawian Government. There was particular concern that Covid-19 had shown that Malawi's education and health systems and infrastructure to be very vulnerable and in need of support; in particular, community-based schools and health clinics. 

Other areas mentioned in civil society discussions were systems to protect vulnerable groups as well as supporting youth, advocating sports and working on improved governance. Others called for renewables and climate justice especially in relation to the role of renewable energy and innovation in supports job and wealth creation.

In conclusion we are supportive of maintaining the existing six strands under the GGPA for cooperation between Scotland and Malawi, so they will remain unchanged at this time. However we must also recognise that there are consequences to spreading our budget too thinly, and how this adversely affects impacts on the ground.  We also recognise that the support offered via this programme is just one avenue for delivering on these prioritised themes so we will also continue to work with other across the Scottish Government to make sure Malawi's priorities are recognised and supported in other programmes so far as possible. 


For our programme in Rwanda, a range of priorities were discussed at the civil society roundtable event which included livelihood strengthening and economic development for businesses, especially small-medium enterprises; and job creation and opportunities for young people. Other areas of key concern were gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease as well as food insecurity and its links to sustainable agriculture and climate change. Rwandan civil society were keen to explore economic links with the private sector in Scotland especially retail and to explore more sustainable ways of funding in-country CSOs.   In relation to the impacts from COVID-19, education, especially the impacts to teaching and access to WASH were significant concerns. Psychological support for children and families; livelihood support and funding for CSOs were also raised. 

From the Rwandan Government three key priorities were outlined where they felt Scotland was well placed to support; Health, especially support with palliative care; Education with a focus on teacher training not just to support young Rwandans but also to embed adult education in Rwanda, and Sustainable Economic Recovery via investment and trade opportunities to support livelihoods.  Tourism was given as an example of an area having been severely damaged by Covid-19. The Rwandan Government also highlighted their own strong response to COVID-19 and their existing expertise in disease control and management.

Our Rwandan programme will therefore focus for the next few years on Education; Health with a focus on palliative care and opportunities to collaborate across the network on disease outbreak and management; and Sustainable Economic Recovery with a focus on local jobs, investment, trade and livelihoods. 


For our programme in Zambia, inequality, of income and gender; and access to opportunities in education and agriculture were discussed at the civil society round table event. It was noted that whilst lower-middle income status has been awarded to Zambia, these gains are confined to 6% of Zambians.

Concern was also voiced around support for WASH, its deficiencies highlighted by the pandemic, along with the adverse economic impact on low-income groups. Agriculture was discussed as it has a lot of potential for supporting low-income communities to earn extra income. Health was also tabled and the significant human resource gaps, in doctors, nurses and supporting clinical staff, with no national standards for a community health programme. Currently it is largely NGO-led, and as a consequence often works in silos.  

Civil society stakeholders were glad that collaboration was on the agenda, WASH, education and agriculture have all had a key role in the response to COVID-19. It was stressed that, independently, those things will only have so much impact. Long term collaborations were considered key to any sort of sustained response. The civil society round table were also keen to stress that social economic rights have been effected by COVID-19. There was a need to strengthen grassroots organisations, linked in to national organisations and to ensure effective and prudent use of resources on the ground, when dealing with governance issues of CSOs on the ground. 

The Zambian government discussed a range of areas, but focused on the health response to COVID-19 and renewable energy. Concern was expressed on the reduced energy coming from the Kariba Dam due to the effects of climate change and a reduction in rains leading to unpredictable power generation. Similar to civil society, they were also keen to work on water and sanitation which is especially a problem in areas with unplanned settlements.

Therefore our Zambian Programme will be reshaped in the short and medium term to focus on supporting COVID-19 capacity and hospital equipment; this will shift into ongoing longer term support in Health; sustainable Water management for sanitation, particularly in unplanned settlements and for food security; and Renewable Energy particularly to support public services and digitalisation. 

Partnerships across our partner-country network

Across our partner-country network, Health remains the one common thematic area prioritised in each of our African partner countries. In our 2016 Strategy, we established Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda as the sub-Saharan African project base, to enable joint learning to be shared across borders. As also noted above, 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 will therefore continue to invest in our global health work in partnership with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and with NHS Scotland, not least through the ongoing delivery of the NHS Scotland Global Citizenship Programme which already has such a strong foundation and commitment in both the Scottish Government and NHS Chief Executives and staff.  This means that we will also continue to support, jointly with the SG Health directive, the Scottish Global Health Coordination Unit within the Scottish Government, which provides a facilitation and co-ordination role for health partnership work in NHS Scotland. Again, this is a key area of success to date in implementing policy coherence, where we continue to work across Ministerial portfolios such as Health, to support international aims and identify other policies which can contribute positively to development outcomes.

We want to further respond to the need to build institutional capacity and resilience, and the expressed wishes for long-term collaborations across public sectors. Therefore, we will establish, under the Institutional Resilience funding stream, one or two key, long-term partners in each partner-country to work with other key partners.. The key aim of offering sustained funding over a longer term to particular institutions would be to focused on peer-to-peer learning and the co-creation of solutions to complex problems. These will be partner-country led, lending more flexibility to respond to threats locally including in relation to technology needs and supporting any drive on their part to expand partnerships by building regional networks. 

As an example of a long-term institutional partnership, the College of Medicine in Malawi has been a key feature of our Programme since 2005. Mentioned in both the original 2005 Cooperation Agreement and its 2018 successor the Global Goals Partnership Agreement, the College of Medicine has consistently chosen partners in Scotland with which to partner in a range of initiatives.  We will also look to identify, through discussion and agreement, suitable institutions in Zambia and Rwanda keen to build similar long-term peer-to-peer partnerships. This too will support our aim to future-proof our programme in response to both COVID-19 and climate change though greater investment in infrastructure and greater use of technology for longer-term partners. 

Inequalities Programme

A key outcome and learning from the Review is the continued need to address inequalities. COVID-19 has already exacerbated deep-rooted inequalities, particularly worsening, for example, the situation for many women and girls.  UN Women summarised that COVID-19 is:

deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems which are in turn amplifying the impacts of the pandemic. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.

Discussions at a range of our review events highlighted the lived experience for many women, children other vulnerable people. As people have been more confined to their houses, access to resources and help has been reduced – in parallel to increases in domestic violence. This problem is worldwide. 

People in general are much more stressed, they are not able to go out as much and tensions in the home are exacerbated. The conditions associated with lockdown have made many women and girls' home-life situation intolerable.  In such times, women and children, are very vulnerable. 

Therefore, we are designing a new Equalities Funding Stream into our programme, in particular to promote equality for women and girls, which will include: 

1. the existing Police Scotland partnerships with the Malawian and Zambian Police Services will now sit within our new cross-countries Equalities Programme; 

2. our higher education scholarships programme for girls from low-income houses in Pakistan, our only programme in our fourth partner-country.  We should make clear that in relation to Pakistan we also have our wider Pakistan Engagement Strategy, as part of our International Framework, which details other connections engagement and relations between Scotland and Pakistan;

3. building on our existing successful collaboration with Comic Relief, we will further fund programmes centred around promoting equality for women and girls. 

4. The investment funding stream introduced 2016 will move to equalities as we  explore the feasibility of refocusing our investment funding to support women. 



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