Scotland providing international leadership on reducing inequality
In September, the UN’s General Assembly in New York will provide the backdrop for national governments to agree the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
These new aims are part of a global approach to tackling poverty and inequality between now and 2030 and offer a vision of the world that I believe people in Scotland share. From ending poverty and hunger; securing education and health services; combating inequality and achieving gender equality, the aims form an agenda for tackling some of the world’s greatest problems.
Unlike their forerunner – the Millennium Development Goals – these will not be restricted to developing countries. Instead they will apply to all countries. And that is why I am delighted to confirm that Scotland has become one of the very first nations on Earth to publicly sign up to these goals and provide international leadership on reducing inequality. Fortunately, many of the goals chime with what we are already doing to tackle poverty and inequality, not just at home through our internationally lauded National Performance Framework but globally too.
But tackling poverty does not stop at the border. It is hugely important for Scotland to take its share of responsibility for addressing this problem globally. The Scottish Government’s international development work began in 2005 with a £3 million budget focussed solely on Malawi. Today, our international development budget is £9 million a year.
I am proud that this work is making a difference for some of the world’s poorest people. Our international development policy harnesses the existing links that Scotland has, and our model of civil society-led partnerships is already of international interest. This pioneering reciprocal approach to development lends itself well to meeting the “people” and “partnership” themes that permeate the new SDGs.
That approach is similarly embedded in our world leading Climate Justice Fund, which addresses the fact it is people who have done the least to contribute to climate change who suffer its consequences most harshly. Of course, aid is only one small part of international development. Some of the greatest benefits to the world’s poorest can be achieved through policy changes by developed countries. That is why Scotland has introduced world-leading climate change targets that will impact positively on developing countries.
We are using the lessons of our international collaborative working to improve our partnership with the wider public sector in Scotland, institutions, businesses and particularly communities themselves. For example, this week, we will hold the first of six community consultations as part of our Fairer Scotland conversation, an engagement plan that puts in to action my aspiration that this should be the most open and accessible government in Scotland ever. This collaborative approach will also underpin our approach to implementing the SDGs in Scotland.
We are in the fortunate position that Scotland’s aims and ambitions, enshrined in our National Performance Framework and Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights – such as tackling inequality and ensuring access to high quality education and healthcare – are already a key part of the Sustainable Development Goals.
So, by becoming one of the first countries in the world to sign up to the Goals, Scotland is leading the way on addressing some of the major issues of our time.