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Publication - Consultation Responses

Meeting global challenges and making a difference - aligning international development policy with global goals: analysis of responses

Published: 29 Sep 2016
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Analysis of responses received during consultation on international development policy.

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91 page PDF


Meeting global challenges and making a difference - aligning international development policy with global goals: analysis of responses
5 Geographic focus (Q4 and Q5)

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5 Geographic focus (Q4 and Q5)

5.1 The consultation document stated the Scottish Government's intention to focus its international development investment on a smaller number of countries. It also stated that, from the outset, a decision had been taken to continue Scotland's bi-lateral relationship with Malawi.

5.2 Consultation questions focused on: (i) which of the six other current priority countries should continue to be prioritised (Q4a), (ii) whether any other countries should be prioritised (Q4b), (iii) whether there would be merit in working with countries that are geographically close to each other (Q5a), and (iv) whether a regional focus within given countries should be considered (Q5b).

5.3 Across the four questions, the most common view was that the Scottish Government's efforts should be targeted on countries in sub-Saharan Africa. There was support for establishing a focus on a group of countries around Malawi. However, views were more mixed in relation to the proposal for a regional focus within given countries through the creation of intra-national clusters. Respondents saw the potential for such clusters to alleviate regional disparities in wealth, and promote learning and exchange between communities that are geographically close to each other. However, they also had reservations about focusing development assistance on one specific region to the exclusion of others.

Selection of priority countries (Q4)

Reducing geographical spread

5.4 Question 4a asked about priority countries in addition to Malawi. Respondents were given a list of the current priority countries (excluding Malawi) and asked to select two.

Question 4a: Scottish Government believes that development partnership initiatives work best when focused on key regions. When reducing our geographical spread from the current seven countries, are there any of these countries, in addition to Malawi, that you would support continuing engagement with? [Rwanda / Tanzania / Zambia / Pakistan / Bangladesh / India]

5.5 Altogether 98 respondents (66 organisations and 32 individuals) replied to this question. Most selected two countries from the list. However, 14 respondents selected only one country.

5.6 Most respondents selected one or more of the sub-Saharan countries. Zambia and Tanzania were the two countries selected most often. Rwanda was the third most frequently selected country. (See Table 5.1.)

5.7 Nearly a third of respondents (31 out of 98) selected both Zambia and Tanzania as priority countries. More than half (54 out of 98) selected only sub-Saharan African countries. By contrast, just 17 out of 98 selected only South Asian countries as their two choices. (Not shown in Table 5.1)

Table 5.1: Q4a - When reducing our geographical spread from the current seven countries, are there any of these countries, in addition to Malawi, that you would support continuing engagement with?

Respondent type Organisations Individuals Total
Country n % n % n %
Zambia 39 59% 18 56% 57 58%
Tanzania 30 45% 16 50% 46 47%
Rwanda 19 29% 7 22% 26 27%
Bangladesh 11 17% 11 34% 22 22%
Pakistan 13 20% 3 9% 16 16%
India 9 14% 5 16% 14 14%
Total number of respondents (base) 66 32 98

Respondents were asked to select two from the list of Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Percentages do not total 100% as respondents could select more than one country. One organisational respondent wrote 'Either Tanzania or Pakistan' as a second choice. (This response is not included in the table above.)

5.8 In their comments on this question, respondents generally set out reasons to support the prioritisation of certain countries, although a few gave reasons not to prioritise certain countries. A small number of organisations said they were not in a position to comment on the prioritisation, but offered more general comments on the question of country focus. Comments related to specific countries are presented immediately below, while more general comments are discussed at paragraph 5.22.

Zambia and Tanzania:

5.9 Respondents' arguments in favour of prioritising Zambia and Tanzania were similar. These countries were seen to be like Malawi in many ways ( e.g. in terms of ethnicity, language, demography, culture, economics, etc.), and they faced common challenges (in terms of climate change, health and social problems). As such, there would be practical advantages to focusing on these neighbouring countries ( i.e. ease of cross-border trade, scope for exchange and knowledge transfer, development of specialised regional knowledge by Scottish Government staff).

5.10 Some respondents highlighted specific needs in Zambia and Tanzania in relation to undernutrition, HIV/ AIDS prevalence, and poor healthcare. It was pointed out these two countries have shown the slowest progress in the HDI index between 1990 and 2014. Others commented that Zambia, like Malawi, has historical links with Scotland through David Livingstone.

5.11 Arguments against the inclusion of Zambia and Tanzania as priority countries were that these two countries are already in a favourable position in terms of international development funding and already have substantial and mature links with other countries ( e.g. Scandinavia in Tanzania's case).


5.12 Respondents who supported the prioritisation of Rwanda commented that the country had made great strides since its recent tragic history and had a clear plan for the future. Respondents pointed out that Rwanda has good governance, a growing private sector, an effective health system and a commitment to diversity. It also has good civic, business and academic links with Scotland, and an engaged diaspora.

5.13 The main argument against the inclusion of Rwanda as a priority country was that it already receives development assistance from many other countries and so the Scottish contribution would be 'marginal'.

Bangladesh, India and Pakistan:

5.14 Respondents discussed their reasons for supporting (or not supporting) the South Asian countries as a group - often referring to all three in their comments. Those arguing for continued involvement with these countries highlighted:

  • The strong historical links between Scotland and the countries of this region, and the large diaspora populations living in Scotland
  • The challenges affecting these countries in relation to climate change, land degradation, food insecurity, high levels of poverty (particularly in rural areas), gender inequality, social exclusion and poor health outcomes
  • The withdrawal of a number of other funders from this area which would give Scotland a higher profile in the region.

5.15 Additional arguments made in support of each country individually were as follows:

  • Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable (and comparatively more vulnerable than India and Pakistan) to the impacts of climate change. The country also lacks natural resources and has failed to develop renewable energy resources. The security risks of working in Bangladesh were also perceived to be lower than in (for example) Pakistan.
  • India has a vast population, with great inequalities and extreme poverty. Women and girls, in particular, have great difficulty exercising their human rights. Rural communities are largely neglected by the Indian government, and are among the poorest communities in the world. It was also suggested that India's experience of moving towards self-reliance could be used to help other developing countries (for example, in Africa), and that there was scope for Scotland to learn from India's technological advances.
  • Pakistan is a driver of regional instability that would benefit from a 'relational approach to international development'. There was a suggestion that this should focus on strengthening civil society networks and building climate change resilience. It was also thought that Pakistan could benefit greatly from Scotland's expertise in government, education, human rights and climate change. Respondents highlighted that Pakistan has the world's second highest number of out-of-school youth, and significant gender disparities in access to education at secondary level.

5.16 The main argument against the prioritisation of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan was that the needs of these countries were so great that the relatively low level of funding offered by the Scottish Government would have little visible impact.

5.17 There was one further argument against prioritising India. This was its status as a middle-income country which, despite high levels of poverty, had a culture that created opportunities for its citizens. India was also thought to have less need (than, for example, African countries) for either expertise or funds from Scotland.

Alternative priority countries

5.18 Question 4b asked respondents whether there was any other country (apart from the current seven priority countries) that Scotland would be better investing in. Those who said 'yes' to Question 4b were invited to suggest an alternative country and give their reasons.

Question 4b: Is there any one alternative country that you would consider Scotland would be better investing in, based on the criteria listed in Q2, rather than the current priority countries? [Yes / No]

If you answered yes, please say which alternative country you would consider. Please explain your answer.

5.19 Altogether, 102 respondents (70 organisations and 32 individuals) replied. Two-thirds (65%) of all respondents said 'no', endorsing the Scottish Government's proposal to focus on a smaller number of countries. (See Table 5.2.)

Table 5.2: Q4b - Is there any one alternative country that you would consider Scotland would be better investing in?

Respondent type Organisations Individuals Total
n % n % n %
Yes 27 39% 9 28% 36 35%
No 43 61% 23 72% 66 65%
Total 70 100% 32 100% 102 100%

5.20 Thirty-two respondents suggested specific alternative countries. Most of these were suggested by just one respondent. Suggestions made by more than one respondent were: Zimbabwe (6), the Democratic Republic of Congo (4), Mozambique (3) and Uganda (2) in Africa; and Nepal (4) and Sri Lanka (2) in South Asia. (See Table 5.3.)

Table 5.3: Suggested alternative countries (and number of responses)

African countries

  • Zimbabwe (6)
  • Democratic Republic of Congo (4)
  • Mozambique (3)
  • Uganda (2)
  • Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, South Sudan (1)

South Asian countries

  • Nepal (4)
  • Sri Lanka (2)
  • Bhutan (1)

Other countries

  • Haiti, Palestine, Peru, Turkey (1)

Note that one respondent named two countries and one named three countries.

* Four respondents suggested countries which are already priority countries: Tanzania, Zambia, Bangladesh and India. These are not shown in the table.

5.21 In relation to those countries that were suggested as alternatives by more than one respondent, the reasons given were as follows:

  • Zimbabwe is geographically close to Malawi with similarities in climate, agriculture, tribal traditions, and historic ties with Scotland. Respondents acknowledged the country's poor governance record, but thought that possible development opportunities could be explored, particularly in relation to strengthening civil society as the country emerges from a period of isolation and becomes more stable. Food insecurity and the high concentration of landmines were seen as specific issues for the country. It was thought that investment in Zimbabwe would have a significant impact.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo was described as a country undergoing 'great suffering'. Parts of the country share common issues with Rwanda after years of civil war and political unrest, and it was suggested that a focus on post-conflict justice and peace would be valuable.
  • Nepal was described as having strong links with Scotland (through the Gurkhas), and seen as having severe poverty in many areas. Nepal also has similar topography to Scotland, with the most vulnerable in the hardest-to-reach areas. The country has a high reliance on hydro power, and (in common with Scotland) tourism is a key industry. It was thought that expertise available in Scotland (in medicine, education, agriculture, forestry, renewable energy and tourism) was relevant to the needs of Nepal. It was argued that the high level of donations from Scotland in response to the appeal following the recent Nepal earthquake 'demonstrated that the Scots feel a close affinity with the Nepali people'.
  • Mozambique shares a border with Malawi and was seen to be similar to Malawi (and Zambia) in many ways, and to be facing similar climate change challenges. Mozambique was also noted as being one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with an 'almost non-existent' health system.
  • Uganda was described as having a 'similar operating context to Malawi' and strong historic links with the UK. It was also noted that there was already some Scottish Government involvement in the country in relation to a food- and income-security project in north east Uganda.
  • Sri Lanka was described as a country 'recovering from almost 30 years of civil war', and was said to have an educated population where Scotland could play a role in reconciliation.

General comments about the selection of priority countries

5.22 As noted above, some respondents provided general comments about selecting priority countries rather than arguing for the inclusion (or exclusion) of specific countries. Some organisational respondents - particularly those who worked in multiple countries around the world - stated that they were not in a position to prioritise specific countries. While some understood the rationale for focusing on a smaller number of countries, others believed this would not necessarily lead to greater efficiency or impact. This latter group advocated a focus on the Global Goals, rather than on specific countries. Both groups highlighted the importance of basing any decisions about a narrowing of geographical focus on transparent criteria; having an open and honest dialogue with partners about the decision-making process; and considering a phased withdrawal of funds from those countries that would no longer be prioritised.

5.23 In relation to the question of choosing alternative priority countries, there was a view that there could be potentially high costs involved in establishing work in a new country, and that it may be better to build on work and relationships that have already been established in the existing priority countries.

Regional focus (Q5)

5.24 The consultation paper suggested that an additional factor which could be considered in establishing a more focused international development programme is the possibility of working with countries that are geographically close to each other - rather than working with countries that are geographically spread out. The consultation also proposed the possibility of a regional focus within given countries.

5.25 Respondents were asked their views on which inter-national (between countries) (Q5a) and intra-national (within country) (Q5b) clusters would work best. In both cases, respondents were given a list of the seven current priority countries to choose from, but in Question 5a, the online survey allowed respondents to tick more than one of the countries, while in Question 5b responses were restricted, and respondents could tick only one.

Inter-national clusters

5.26 Question 5a asked for views about possible inter-national clusters.

Question 5a: A further element of refocusing Scottish Government partnerships and efforts is to consider whether regional clusters among or within priority countries would support the delivery of a more effective and focused programme.

Please share your views on this proposition, including which inter-national (among countries) clusters you think would work best and why. [Malawi / Rwanda / Tanzania / Zambia / Pakistan / Bangladesh / India]

5.27 Altogether, 75 respondents (50 organisations and 25 individuals) replied to Question 5a. The tick-box responses suggested that some respondents may not have interpreted the question as intended, as some selected countries that were not geographically close to each other, and some ticked only one country.

5.28 At the same time, among those who selected only African countries, some chose all four, some chose three and some chose two, with multiple permutations. A small number of respondents proposed South Asian clusters involving countries other than the current three priority countries - for example, a cluster between Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka; or a cluster focusing on Nepal.

5.29 Given these issues, the responses to Question 5a have been summarised for the purposes of this report at a very high level only.

5.30 Table 5.4 shows that the vast majority (81%) of those who replied to this question suggested an international cluster involving only sub-Saharan African countries, while just three respondents suggested an international cluster involving only South Asian countries. It was also clear that some respondents envisaged both a sub-Saharan Africa cluster and a South Asian cluster.

Table 5.4: Q5a - Which inter-national (among countries) clusters do you think would work best?

Respondent type Organisations Individuals Total
Countries selected n % n % n %
Two or more African countries only 43 86% 18 72% 61 81%
Two or more South Asian countries only 1 2% 2 8% 3 4%
Both African and South Asian countries 3 6% 2 8% 5 7%
One country only 3 6% 3 12% 6 8%
Total respondents (base) 50 25 75

5.31 The specific inter-national clusters suggested most often were: (i) Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia (29); (ii) Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia (10); and Malawi and Zambia (10).

5.32 Respondents' comments at Question 5a were wide ranging and diverse. Some gave reasons for the inter-national clusters they proposed. Others commented on the principle of inter-national clustering, often stating that they did not feel able to select any countries (or country clusters) to be prioritised over others. These respondents generally did not answer the first part of the question.

5.33 The section below presents general points in relation to these latter comments, before considering respondents' views on the specific clusters proposed.

General points on the principle of inter-national clustering:

5.34 The predominant view among respondents was that a regional focus in terms of an inter-national cluster would be beneficial. However, there were also some concerns voiced.

5.35 Those in favour argued that a focus on a specific geographical region could result in greater efficiency, more sharing of learning, resources and skills among countries with similar environments and needs; greater replication of successful projects; more effective project management and oversight from the Scottish Government; lower costs; and ultimately greater impact. The point was made that 'it doesn't always make sense to look at one country in isolation from its neighbours'.

5.36 Others supported the idea in principle, but felt that clusters should not be 'forced' where they do not occur naturally; nor should they be made 'compulsory' but rather proposed by grant applicants where and when it is helpful to do so, based on the specific identified needs and priorities of individual countries. There was a concern among this group that inter-national clusters could introduce an additional bureaucracy which could have cost implications.

5.37 Those who did not support the idea of regional clustering argued that: it would be preferable to focus Scottish international development efforts on the Global Goals framework, rather than geography; that the proposal would add unnecessary complexity to the programme; and that any efficiencies that might be achieved would be lost in the coordination of inter-country operations. It was suggested that this type of approach might be suitable for a large programme, but not for one of the scale of activity Scotland is able to engage in. There was a view that efforts should focus on local solutions to local problems.

5.38 Some respondents commented that they had no strong views on this matter, but offered some thoughts for consideration:

  • Regional clusters can offer benefits when addressing regional problems and issues - but the composition of the cluster would depend on the issue addressed. Thus, clusters should be defined after issues have been agreed.
  • The success of an inter-national cluster is likely to depend on the capacity of individuals and organisations to work in partnership - this may vary from one country to another.
  • There were already some well-functioning regional networks in Africa - including the Southern Africa Development Community, the East Africa UN platform, etc. - and these could be built upon where appropriate.

Comments on a possible South Asian cluster:

5.39 Respondents offered some additional comments in relation to a possible South Asian cluster. They noted that a cluster formed of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh could be challenging, but would offer a chance to support exchange between these countries that could foster peaceful co-existence. Some respondents put forward arguments for not having a South Asian cluster because of their views that there is less 'natural alignment' between these countries in terms of political approach, religious and cultural differences and security. In addition, strained diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan would limit the impact of cross-border projects.

Possible intra-national clusters (Q5b)

5.40 Question 5b asked for views about the possibility of intra-national ( i.e. within a country) regional clusters.

Question 5b: Which intra-national (within a country) clusters do you think would work best and why? [Malawi / Rwanda / Tanzania / Zambia / Pakistan / Bangladesh / India]

5.41 In response to this question, 53 respondents (35 organisations and 18 individuals) selected one country from the list. More than half (29 out of 53) chose Malawi, followed by Zambia and Rwanda. (See Table 5.5 below.)

Table 5.5: Q5b - Which intra-national (within countries) clusters do you think would work best?

Respondent type Organisations Individuals Total
Country n n n
Malawi 20 9 29
Zambia 5 5 10
Rwanda 5 2 7
India 2 2 4
Tanzania 2 - 2
Pakistan 1 - 1
Bangladesh - - -
Total 35 18 53

5.42 A number of respondents expressed confusion about this question - some believed it to be a repeat of Question 5a, while others were unclear about what the question was asking.

5.43 The remaining comments were wide ranging and highly specific, often including detailed evidence in relation to areas (and topics) where future development assistance was needed in particular countries.

5.44 Some respondents identified advantages of intra-national clusters. For example, they were seen to have the potential to:

  • Alleviate regional disparities in wealth and promote greater equity between regions
  • Establish (and make use of existing) connections to share learning between communities
  • Improve the cost-effectiveness of expensive donated equipment across communities that are geographically close to each other.

5.45 More generally, those who were supportive of the idea of intra-national clusters pointed out that, within any one country, there are differences between regions in terms of need, available resources, expertise and accessibility. Thus, distinct approaches are needed from one region to another, and programmes can only be replicated between regions through local adaption.

5.46 Related to this last point, some respondents therefore suggested that any intra-national clusters should be informed by identified need, and linked to particular themes or topics. For example, within Malawi, projects focused on information technology may wish to work with organisations in the main cities, while those focused on fishing would work with villages around Lake Malawi. Similarly, Southern Malawi is more affected by flooding and drought than other parts of the country, and therefore projects relating to climate change may wish to focus on this region.

5.47 Respondents also identified disadvantages of intra-national clustering. The one mentioned most often was that any perceived favouring of one region over another could lead to or exacerbate existing divisions within a country and ultimately prove to be detrimental. This argument was made frequently in relation to Malawi in particular. Respondents also noted that:

  • Malawi has three main regions: north, central and south, and the north is traditionally underfunded compared to the other two mainly because of poorer transport links.
  • Malawi is a relatively small country, and it would be straightforward to coordinate development assistance throughout the country as a whole.
  • Favouring any one region in the country over another could result in regional rivalries and lead to division within the country.
  • There are links between Scottish organisations / groups and communities throughout Malawi. These groups are unlikely to move their focus if the Scottish Government were to decide to focus on just one region of Malawi. A regional focus could therefore be counterproductive in terms of retaining the involvement of these groups (and their Malawian contacts) in the Scottish Government's development programme.

5.48 Respondents suggested that intra-national clusters should not be forced, but could be fostered where they 'occur naturally' (as in the examples given in 5.46 above).