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Scottish Government International Development Review – your views inform our response

On 3 March, the Scottish Government published the summary report of its international development review, announcing a number of changes to its approach to international development. The Alliance welcomes the overarching themes and principles set out and aims to respond proactively to the review findings. We are also seeking views, reflections and concerns from our members and their partners.

In its news release, the Government said that there will be a new focus on tackling gender inequality and said projects that prioritise the rights of women and girls in some of the world’s poorest nations are to be supported. It goes on to say that the updated policy includes a commitment to offering at least £500,000 for projects that promote equality of women and girls in the partner countries of Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda, and continued support to the Scotland Pakistan Scholarships for Young Women and Girls.

The review was prompted by the global impact of coronavirus (COVID-19), anti-racism movements such as Black Lives Matter, and the climate emergency.

What changes will result from the review?

In the summary report, and the coinciding GIPQ response at Holyrood, the Scottish Government identified four main areas for change. These are:

  • Build Back Fairer and Stronger – the review announces plans to restructure current funding streams to focus on sustainable economic recovery and institutional resilience within the key priority areas highlighted by partner countries, together with a new Equalities Programme.
  • Global South Programme Panel – a panel of ‘experts by experience’ who principally work and reside in the ‘global south’ will be established. Panel members from Scottish Government partner countries and representatives of diaspora who reside here in Scotland will be prioiritised. This panel will provide advice to the Scottish Government and ensure that global south voices continue to be heard beyond this Review, at the highest level.
  • Updating Funding Criteria – adjustments will be made to 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 only ever be accessed via a Scotland-based organisation.
  • Refining the offer in Rwanda and Zambia – taking into account the constitutional and financial arrangement within which it currently operates, the Scottish Government plans to address the ongoing concern that it is trying to do too much given the available resources, and refocus its offer in Rwanda and Zambia. It will also look to identify institutions in Zambia and Rwanda interested in building similar long-term, peer-peer partnerships.

Other significant announcements include:

  • The existing Small Grants Programme will be discontinued and funding reallocated into the new Equalities Programme that has a focus on promoting equality of women and girls and supporting their rights.
  • There is a renewed commitment to Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development (PCSD) with the new programme principles agreed with other relevant Cabinet Secretaries, including Climate and Health. PCSD was also explicitly part of the development of the Scottish Government’s new Trade Vision published in January.
  • The existing funding stream 1 to be titled “Sustainable Recovery”, will be a mix of competitive and non-competitive funding.

What is the Alliance response?

The Alliance welcomes the overarching themes and principles that this review has set out. We particularly welcome the focus on gender and also value that this review is “the start of a process (…) 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.” (p7)

With this in mind, we look forward to working with the (next) Scottish Government to support this process and understand that some of the practicalities of the planned changes have yet to be fully worked through. 

Particular concerns and questions have been raised by our members and their partners around the mechanics of some of the proposed changes, including:

  • How non-competitive and competive awards will be split in future, and whether changes will seek to counter the trend towards shrinking civil society space around the world;
  • What support partner country civil society organisations (CSOs) will be given to ensure a level playing field when applying for future grants under the new funding critieria;
  • How a future small grants programme of capacity building can still take place around the world, particularly for non-Scottish CSOs.

At the Alliance, we are excited to tackle some of the big issues that the events of the last year have brought into question, including this review. We will do so by reflecting on the broad context in which we operate, the services we offer, the technology we use and the partnerships we build. Above all, we remain resolutely committed to building  a fairer world. 

What are your views?

We continue to seek views, reflections and concerns from our members and their partners. We are particularly interested in how this review might affect the work you do and how this might impact our work as a network.

Please either fill in this short anonymous form or email Lewis by  if you wish to discuss more informally.

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