We are now at the half-way point of these Global Goals and it would be all too easy to allow this global ambition for a better world to be quietly forgotten. 2015 was an easy time to be ambitious, it now seems: few then would have predicted a global pandemic, a war in Europe, the rise of populism and xenophobia, or far-reaching economic contraction. These are, indeed, more challenging times.
We are seeing our climate change faster than we feared. We are seeing war, starvation and political instability in places unimaginable in 2015. We are seeing a future for our children which is looking more worrying by the day.
But global solidarity and collective effort for a better future is more important now than ever before: not just despite the many crises and challenges we face, but because of them.
Scotland may be a small nation, but we can, and must, show global leadership. We made much of being the first to sign up to the Global Goals and we must ensure we do not waver in our commitment to a better world, whatever the challenges.
I was, therefore, delighted to spend three days recently at the heart of the Scottish Parliament, briefing MSPs on the Global Goals, with a pop-up exhibition giving case studies of real people-to-people and community-to-community partnerships between Scotland and Malawi, in all 17 SDGs. MSPs from all five parties in Holyrood took time to visit the exhibition, learning about the local Malawi links in their own constituency and region, and re-committing themselves and their parties to the Global Goals.
Each MSP that visited the exhibition, which was sponsored by Liam McArthur MSP (representing the especially strong links between Orkney and Malawi), chose one of the 17 Global Goals to personally champion in the Scottish Parliament. They each recorded a short video giving their support not just for their local links with Malawi but also for the SDG of their choice: giving a personal pledge to help ensure Scotland delivers in this area, both at home and abroad.
The final hours of the exhibition coincided with a key moment in Holyrood: the stage 1 Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill debate and, associated to this, a Ministerial resignation. Such resignations are barely noteworthy now south of the border but, in Scotland, they represent a significant challenge.
It is to the First Minister’s immense credit that, facing news of this resignation, and with TV cameras waiting for an interview with her, she made time to first visit our small charity’s exhibition. She took time to listen, and to recommit Scotland to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and its 163-year friendship with Malawi.
Global solidarity and long-term commitments to making a better world can be the first thing to be dropped when faced with economic, social or political crises. Scotland should be proud that the all-party political support which exists for progressive internationalism, the Global Goals, and its dignified two-way partnership with Malawi, remains unwavering through the good times and the bad. Long may this cross-party consensus and Scotland’s global leadership continue.
David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive, Scotland Malawi Partnership