11 January 2017

S5M-03303 Global Citizenship: Scotland’s International Development Strategy

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Christine Grahame): The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-03303, in the name of Alasdair Allan, on welcoming “Global Citizenship: Scotland’s International Development Strategy”.

I call Alasdair Allan, Minister for International Development and Europe, to speak to and move the motion.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

This debate is founded on principle. Page 17 of the document to which we are speaking today captures some of that principle when it says:

“Our approach to international development is one of working in ‘partnerships of equals’ with others, both within Scotland and with our partner countries.”

That relates to a very important point. This is not about what we do to people: it is about what we do along with them, because if the people with whom we work are not with us, we will achieve nothing that is of long-term benefit.

Ross Thomson referred to the United Nations. With regard to the underpinnings of the issue that we are discussing, Ban Ki-moon said:

“Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth—these are one and the same fight.”

Of course, at the moment, our eyes will be on what might happen in the United States, which is currently one of the biggest contributors in international development—although we might doubt its future commitment in that regard. In his inaugural address in 1961, John F Kennedy said:

“To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves”.

I wonder whether we will hear that message in the next few days from the United States. Perhaps Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech in Washington in 1906, got to the heart of where the United States is currently, when he said:

“The liar is no whit better than the thief ... An epidemic of indiscriminate assault upon character does not good, but very great harm.”

Let us hope that the events of the election in the United States can be put behind us and that the Republicans can return to the spirit of their founder, Abraham Lincoln, who, at Gettysburg, said that

“all men are created equal.”

Of course, he meant women, as well. Times have changed.

The faiths that underpin the moral codes of communities across the world also speak to the subject. Isaiah 58:6 says:

“to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke”.

That message is pervasive in the thinking of the human race.

As others have done, I will quote Jack McConnell. I have great regard for Jack McConnell on account of two things that he did during his time in office. First, his work on smoking, and, secondly, his statement that

“If we are not part of the solution in Africa ... We exacerbate the problem.”—[Official Report, 1 June 2005; c 17383.]

He was absolutely correct, in that regard.

It is worth saying that the past year has been a tough one for international relations. We have seen intolerance almost normalised in many parts of the world, and perhaps the hope that we might look to a better future for all the peoples of the world has all but vanished. In “The Once and Future King”, T H White ends his story of hope at the point of Arthur’s death. Before the king passes, he imparts a vision to a young boy; the final words are “the beginning”. Let us hope that after what has happened in the past year in particular, we are, in the face of defeat, actually looking at a new beginning.

In doing that, we can work with our partners and share a vision. In a world that is riven by intolerance and disregard, it is more important than ever that we build bridges with those with whom we can work, to improve their conditions and give our young people—it is often young people—the opportunity to learn from those who are less well off than they are that there are different ways of addressing the world’s problems. I quoted Ban Ki-moon; what he said is an excellent place to start, and we must tackle each part of his vision with our partners.

Tackling climate change is part of that vision. I have talked before about climate change and climate justice. Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, now runs a foundation that addresses the issue. It works largely with women, including many women in Africa. We have heard about children who go out to collect muddy water for their families before going to school, and we know that as climate change aridifies areas where people live, women have to travel further and further to get wood for their fires. We, who benefit here from our industrial past, are part of the reason why such burdens are being placed on people in less-developed countries. That is why it is important that we stick to the knitting in terms of climate change, while working with the individuals who are most affected by it and whose problems in that respect we have largely created.

Work to end global poverty reinforces our commitment to defeating poverty in our own country and shows that our actions are not limited and selective. No human being, anywhere, should suffer the pain of poverty.

The diversity of peoples and approaches strengthens the outcomes that we are likely to get. Diversity is of intrinsic value. In the past I have quoted the first law of epigenetics, which is that the more highly optimised an organism is for one environment, the more adversely affected it is by a change in that environment. That gives us the scientific underpinning for why diversity means more resilient societies and ecosystems.

International development is an opportunity to create a certain unity of purpose across national boundaries. The greatest problems of our time will be defeated not by the actions of a single nation, but by the collaboration of all nations. Partnerships give us collective power. The Scottish Government’s strategy document is an encouraging part of the development of a global response. We are but a small part of that, but let us hope that we are an exemplar that encourages others to greater efforts in the future.


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