A very interesting day indeed at the 'Scotland and the Post-2015 Agenda' event organised by NIDOS, Cifal Scotland and the Centre for Sustainable International Development at the University of Aberdeen. Bookended by political statements, this morning we had the views of Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government Minister for External Affairs and International Development and in the afternoon the views of Justine Greening, UK Secretary of State for International Development. I would also link to Humza's speech, but it's not available online. I suspect that the UK government are making points about Better Together given the extent of the coverage they are giving this event, which is really only fair as much of Humza's question time was taken up with issues around the referendum (he only made a small mention in his speech, but it was taken up by questioners). I should say that both politicians spoke well, and it was great to have Justine Greening with us the day after it was confirmed that the UK is the first G8 nation to have met the commitment to put 0.7% of income into international development. It's been 9 years since that target was set at the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, and we are the first to get there. As a NIDOS Board member, it was encouraging to have both politicians making reference to our push for policy coherence across government departments - see the report entitled 'Scotland's Place in Building a Just World'. As a member of staff with The Leprosy Mission Scotland, I was encouraged to hear references to inclusion and disability, but less encouraged by Justine Greening's very careful response to a question about Neglected Tropical Diseases (an umbrella term for 17 diseases prioritised by the WHO, one of which is leprosy. A few of the diseases are fatal, but many can lead to disability and/or cause serious long term health problems.)
But what is this all about? For many people Post 2015 means nothing. Back in 2000, targets called the Millenium Development Goals (the MDGs) were set for developing nations to achieve by 2015 in 8 key areas - poverty and hunger, primary education, gender equality and female empowerment, child mortality, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and global partnerships for development. In some areas and some places significant progress has been made, but sadly much remains to be done. So the international community is now looking at what should happen after 2015. There has been a long consultation process, and decisions will soon be made about precisely what will emerge, which is a very complicated political process. In my own opinion, a number of key things are being discussed, one of which is inclusive development, making sure, for example, that people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups are included in the development agenda, another is working in a rights based approach, which says that development isn't about charity, but about making sure that all people can exercise their basic human rights. One thing I particularly love about the new recommendations is removing the idea of development targets being only for developing countries. The idea of there being a 'them and us' in this is simply wrong, and the principles should apply to all - we can't ask just some countries to ensure that women and men are treated the same, every country needs to look at that issue and work towards full equality - the UK, for example, is still a way off where we should be in this area. I will stop there, as it's getting late and I am still pretty tired from my long trip, but I really believe that much can be done to improve the lives of people all around the world, and by lobbying our governments about these issues, we can make a real difference.
It was also lovely to be able to pass on to Humza, as the face of the Scottish Government's International Development policy, thanks from some of the parents and children I met recently in Bangladesh. He and his team of civil servants were delighted to hear about the impact on entire communities from the small financial support to enable the children to attend school. I was so honoured to be awarding prizes for excellence to kids who were top of their class, but without support from Scotland and the Netherlands, would not be in school at all.