The first week back in the Scottish Parliament saw a debate on the Scottish Government’s new international development strategy, and I was pleased to join the debate. Internationalism is a proud facet of socialism, and so my Scottish Labour colleagues and I welcomed the new strategy.
I was keen to pay tribute to Ban Ki-moon, whose term as secretary general of the United Nations recently ended, who recently said “this generation is the first in humanity’s history with the capacity to end endemic poverty, and the last with the chance to halt catastrophic climate change.”
Members across the Chamber spoke of the importance of the UN global goals for sustainable development as a powerful guiding force for the path that we all hope our global community will take. I highlighted that it is absolutely right that the climate challenge fund is featured in the strategy. Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge that we face.
The creation of partnerships in the four targeted countries (Pakistan, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania) means that we can share the valuable expertise that has been garnered at home.
My speech highlighted the work of Tearfund Scotland, which through the climate justice fund has been able to assist with water-resource management in Malawi, in making clean and safe water more available, setting up district and community systems for governing resources, and empowering targeted communities with strategies to adapt to climate change. The benefits of community empowerment initiatives such as those are far reaching: from the reduced risk of waterborne disease, to making bricks and mortar for new infrastructure, to saving valuable time for those who collect water—often women and children.
The charity also asks us to act here in Scotland on a number of issues. In the climate change plan, it is right that we have a robust link between what we do here and what we do globally. Last year, at COP23—the 23rd conference of the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the Marrakesh vision was launched. It is a pledge by 48 nations to cut emissions dramatically. As I highlighted in a parliamentary motion in December, the most inspiring part of the vision is the commitment from some of the poorest nations around the world—the nations that have contributed least to climate damage. Scotland is resplendent with opportunities for renewable energy creation. The Marrakesh vision should remind Parliament that we must not squander that privilege, and that we must strive for greater progress in decarbonisation.
As a member of the cross-party group on Malawi in the previous session, I was able to witness further the strength of the links between Scotland and Malawi, strengthened by The Scotland Malawi Partnership. The Scotland Malawi Partnership works to develop relationships between schools here and in Malawi. In my region, South Scotland, a number of schools including Beeslack community high school, Newtongrange primary school, Penicuik high school, Carstairs primary school and Libberton primary school—the list continues—have been involved.
In my view, this was an important opportunity to raise a plea for the Scottish Government to seize every opportunity to contribute to conflict resolution through the new strategy—not least through involvement in whatever way possible in supporting the development of non-proliferation treaties in order to rid our world once and for all of nuclear weapons.