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The 2022 Annual Conference of Scotland's International Development Alliance

Updated: Oct 5, 2022

The 2022 Annual Conference of Scotland's International Development Alliance, held both online and physically at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, was dedicated to exploring the concept of global citizenship in a challenging world. Focusing on maintaining commitments to a decolonised and anti-racist approach, whilst tackling individual and collective action in the face of a growing climate crisis and several humanitarian crises.

The annual conference organised four discussion panels throughout the day focusing on sustainability, climate justice, international development, and education as well as hearing from the keynote speaker Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, a renowned human rights activist who ended the day with the hard-hitting phrase: “The status quo is neither fair nor sustainable” - something that we should all keep in mind when working in the field.

UNHS attended this exciting event and set up a stall to bring awareness of our work to other organisations attending the event. It was a fantastic opportunity to network and learn. We also attended three out of the four panels, which have been discussed below. If you are interested in hearing the panels first-hand, you can find them on Scotland’s International Development Alliance website. Make sure to check out panel 2 - Climate justice: tackling past and future structural injustice, where one of our own, Catriona Spaven-Donn voiced her opinion on gender and climate justice.

Panel 1: Scotland and global sustainable development: time for a new way forward?

The first panel discussion of the day discussed the methods of global sustainable development. Jimmy Pau, the Director for WEAll Scotland, introduced the concept of a ‘well-being economy’, and proposed the prevention of problems rather than constantly trying to fix issues. Act instead of react. This was followed by Luam Kidane, Director of Global Programs from Thousand Currents, stressing the importance of supporting grassroot movements and creating solidarity. The other panellist took a different approach to the same issue, Trace Morse from the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Strathclyde focused on the importance of creating global citizens. She sees global citizens as those who are able to understand their role in the world, through the power of education. In the end, MSP John Primrose introduced the promising work that Scotland is currently carrying out, creating a partnership approach using the lens of feminism to establish effective foreign aid.

Panel 2: climate justice: tackling past and future structural injustices

The second panel of the day provided us with a meaningful discussion around the existing structural injustices of climate change, as well as the potential solutions to such problems. Kenya environmental and climate activist Elizabeth Wathuiti and the National Coordinator from Civil Society Network on Climate Change Malawi Julius Ng’oma kicked start the discussion by addressing the real-life difficulties faced by the front-line commutes of climate change, demonstrating the extent of the impact. However, as MSP Mairi McAllan stressed, money cannot replace what has been lost, and what is needed in solidarity coming from the global community as well as justice for those that are affected. Following up on this, MSP Maggie Chapman brought to us the Scottish perspective on the importance of policy coherence, as well as the power of democracy to tackle such problems. In addition, Sejal Patel from the International Institute for Environment and Development highlighted the discussion on the debt burdens of developing countries, and the potential to utilise these debts to call for climate action. This is rounded up by the representative from United Nations House Scotland, Catriona Spaven-Donn, with her inspirational lens of feminist theory, drawing attention to the ‘rape culture’ of capitalism towards the climate. This was demonstrated by her attempt to combine the struggle of women in developing countries with the battle against climate change.

Panel 4: In conversation with Baroness Shami Chakrabarti.

To conclude the conference, human rights pioneer Baroness Shami Chakrabarti gave an inspirational talk on the roles of the individual. As she says, in order to bring about social impact, “it is ourselves that we need to educate and organise”. While the abilities of a single person might be limited, the power of mass movements put together by individuals historically has led to dramatic changes within society. What’s important then for activists is to recognize the importance of collective power, as well as being a ‘smart activist’. One that is able to trace where power lies in existing power structures, to serve the needs of social movements.

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