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SIDA Spring Conference 2024

By Elena Kerr

Scotland’s International Development Alliance held an insightful, engaging, and inspiring spring conference on the 16th of April 2024, where the main focus surrounded how to ‘shift power’ with collaboration and inclusion. The conference started off with a panel discussion with Kate Nevens & Iffat Shahnaz, who discussed their report ‘from talk to transformation: how governments can really ‘shift power’ towards global justice’. The key take-aways from this discussion was the importance of recognising rights of individuals as well as understanding and acknowledging that the power for change lies within the communities affected by the issues. Policy recommendations for the UK government towards global sustainable development is provided by the report such as acknowledging and taking responsibility for historical harms, for instance by changing and reforming the curriculum in schools. Other policy recommendations discussed were debt cancellation and debt relief as it allows for shifting the funding target within communities in lower-income countries towards areas such as gender equality and education.


The second panel discussion included speakers from Comic Relief and their anchor partners, Ripple Effect and Friends of Chitambo (UK and Global South representatives), where the topic of discussion was decentralising power towards locally led approaches. The key take-aways from this discussion were the importance of ‘how’, in the sense that we are aware of the issues, and we have the information that we need around issues, but the important focus should be how we go forward and solve these issues. As we have a responsibility both on the individual level as well as working as collectives to shift the power. The importance of inclusion and recognising responsibilities was raised in terms of shifting the power in order to solve issues. Friends of Chitambo presented their organisation and their work as a charitable organisation supporting health projects such as nurse training and ambulance service in Chitambo, Zambia which expressed the effect of collaboration and importance of grassroot level work in terms of shifting the power. Additionally, the Ripple Effect had an insightful presentation on how they have shifted the power to the farmers in eastern Africa by providing training in sustainable agriculture through collaborative work and partnership with farming families. These are examples of collaborative work with an INGOs which amplifies and demonstrates the positive effect of shifting the power in terms of decision-making being led by local communities combined with collaborative partnerships internationally.


The panel discussions were followed by interactive workshops where one would choose between language in shifting power, diaspora voices, or election in terms of political support. The workshop I attended was ‘Words matter’ on language in shifting power facilitated by Lena Bheeroo from Bond. The workshop consisted of group discussions on challenging words in terms of inclusion and barriers in language policy. Raising awareness of developing a more intersectional, inclusive, feminist, and antiracist language policy. Moving away from words that are undermining global solidarity with patronising and loaded words shaping narratives of power dynamics, and rather move towards a conscious language embracing and inspiring a narrative of sustainable and equal society. Words such as ‘aid’ present people from the global North as saviours of the global South being presented as reliant on help from the global North, which additionally distracts attention from important issues such as unjust trade deals. The workshop further facilitated discussions on how language translates in the sense that on an international level the language used may translate to different meanings in different countries, amplifying how words matter. Furthermore, the group discussions consisted of why these specific words are challenging, reflecting upon how words are translated and can expire, as well as how one may find or develop alternative words to express your language in a more inclusive and conscious way. 


Before concluding the conference there was a networking activity highlighting the importance of collaboration which gave the space to meet people from different organisations where one could learn and inspire each other by sharing our work as well as building bridges for potential future partnerships and collaboration. In conclusion, the conference was overall inspiring, informative, and important for connecting towards collective action working for global sustainable development.

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