Friday, 23 November 2007

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Meeting the Scottish Executive

On Wednesday, I met Gerry Hendricks of Malawi Scotland Development at the Scottish Government offices. Gerry indicated that the Scottish government will continue to provide significant aid to Malawi (GBP 3 million), and that some increase could be seen in the coming year. While appreciating this gesture by the Scottish government, I pointed out that the government should also be supporting civil society groups working from the grass roots on governance issues if any aid for education and health is to come to fruition. I suggested two ways forward.

First, that a decent amount of money should be earmarked for civil society partnerships. (Gerry had indicated that the Executive had recieved almost no applications for this in previous funding rounds, but clearly there is the possibility of being more pro-active, and earmarking money could ensure this.) Secondly, I suggested that another way to drive this forward might be to create a substantial funding pool for a Malawian CSO network like HRCC or CONGOMA (Council for NGOs in Malawi) to distribute to our civil society organisations. This could be supported by a single Scottish civil society NGO.

I will write to Gerry, and to the Scottish Parliament's Inquiry, to develop these points further.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The Dundee and Perth Experience

The 12th and 13th November will go down in the record books for the most hectic schedules, but much of this was playtime - exploring the beautiful scenery of the Highlands - a good balance to the work we are doing.

At lunchtime on Monday, I met with WDM's WorldWise group of new campaigners in Dundee, and then in the evening with the town's main WDM group. I spoke about Malawi for justice, not charity, and answered critical questions about how Scotland can partner with Malawian civil society groups working on governance. An example was given of promoting integrity in Malawi's public sector management, something which needs to be pushed from both North and South particularly with regard to water management. Focussed Scotland-Malawi partnerships can really help here.

On Tuesday, the same message was taken to Perth, and we discussed how women can provide leadership in Malawian society. We also touched on how water privatisation in Malawi can only be averted with support from people in the UK. They MUST press DFID to really show their support for the public alternatives, and stop hiding behind the World Bank.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

WDM conference in Glasgow

On Saturday, I co-facilitated a discussion on North-South linkages with Ben Young, Coordinator of Jubilee Scotland. The discussion focussed on developing level fields for interaction between Northern and Southern counterparts.

We looked at a number of levels including government to government and civil society to civil society. I continued to emphasise the need for Scottish partners to look at Malawian partners as equals and not merely objects of charity. We have to get the relationship right. Again, key to this is the need for Scotland to empower Malawians to oversee their own aid and development, particularly by supporting civil society groups to monitor governance.

Later, I also took part in a panel debate called "The Personal vs. the Political", where I made clear that consumerist solutions to global injustices cannot work for Malawi, as we are not consumers, but political beings.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Influencing Parliament's Inquiry

On Friday, I had an important meeting with Emma Berry of the Scottish Parliament's European and External Relations Committee. The Committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Scottish Executive's development policy.

Malawi continues to feature prominently in their concerns, and there is talk of at least £3 million being committed to Malawi each year. During the meeting, I outlined the need for a policy that considers the role of progressive civil society groups like HRCC, as critical players in promoting development on the ground in Malawi. I emphasised that the Executive's current focus on education and health will only really come to fruition if governance is strengthened from the grass roots. In addition, I touched on the need to think beyond money, in particular highlighting the role that Scotland can play in influencing Westminster and Europe on issues like trade justice and climate change.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Debating Scotland's relationship with Malawi

On Thursday, Mavuto debated the nature of Scotland's relationship with Malawi at Augustine church, Edinburgh. A great turnout led to a lively debate. Mavuto introduced the debate with a short talk about Malawi, development and Scottish relations.
Hear the talk by clicking on the following link: mavuto_talk_1-2.mp3

The picture above shows Mavuto speaking with one of the directors of the Scotland/Malawi Partnership.

Of stones and canons

A visit to Edinburgh Castle on the evening of 6th November revealed to me the levels of conquest, political superiority, courage and determination of the Scots. The Castle also illustrates the point that technology has always been key to progress. From the stacking of big blocks and boulders, to the canons and other machinary of security.

However, as Scotland partners with Malawi, one point needs to be made clear. No building of castles in the air. Sccotland must build castles of socio-economic empowerment in the minds of Malawians, and not to show off items its charity. This can be avoided through action for good governance, supporting Malawi's political systems, and most importantly, talking to the people of Malawi at the village level.

Most importantly, Scotland can support Malawians to build castles themselves.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Meeting the Kendal WDM Group

The World Development Movement has such an incredible structure, with local groups of ordinary people working to support Malawian campaigns across the UK.

On 7th November, I made my way to Kendal in the North of England to meet the WDM group there. Before our meeting, I enjoyed a walk around lake Windermere. Beautiful valleys, rolling hills and birds in perfect cohabitation. But the real delight started as the day was coming to an end. A wonderful WDM group in Kendal!

The group was so keen to discuss the issues I was raising around the state of development in Malawi. The state of politics, the state of privatisation, with an emphasis on water, as well as our joy, but also our anxieties, in the early of days of debt relief in Malawi. Some of the group talked about how easy it is to be discouraged by the state of affairs in Malawi. But I was able to encourage them, explaining how WDM is playing a vital role in bringing about real change, supporting organisations like ours to campaign on these issues.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Climate Change Gets To Malawi

It's really happening. The air is devoid of natural scent. The water blacker than water. The weather swings from one extreme to the other. It's certain that climate change has conquered Scotland, and is spilling across the Mediterranean into Africa.
The message is that Malawi needs to be on the alert. Due to climate change which is being pushed by greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries, the majority of poor Malawians are shouldering the effects, without knowing it. But soon, it will become an open secret, just like it is in Scotland. The Scotland Malawi Partnership should move fast to save the 6.8 million poor Malawians from facing yet another human catastrophe. Malawi should start talking about climate change, let us campaign for a reduction of carbon emmissions, and let us prevent the recurrence of floods, and of droughts.

[Pictured: flooding in Malawi hampers food production, 2006]

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Arrival in Edinburgh

It's campaign time. It's time to influence change. It is time to network, take Malawi to Scotland, and Scotland to Malawi.

November is a busy month in as much as Malawi in Scotland is concerned. Malawian enterpreneurs were in Glasgow for a trade fair and possible exchange of business deals. Some notable Malawian politicians were in Edinburgh talking to fellow Scottish politicians. I am representing Malawi civil society and will be meeting campaigners in Scotland to discuss economic justice issues.

Malawi is going through a policy crossroads with policy input coming from various international players. One such issue is privatisation of essential public services. I will also be sharing with Scottish campaigners progress that Malawi is making in ensuring food security through implementation of subsidies in the agriculture sector.

Aside of the campaigns and formal engagements, I hope to set aside time so that I can sample the rich cultural heritage of Edinburgh, and sight-see some of the interesting places of Scotland. Most importantly, I look forward to contributing to a Malawi-Scottish relationship that promotes the interests of all Malawians.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

WDM Scotland welcomes Mavuto Bamusi

From 3 to 16 November, WDM Scotland hosts Malawian human rights activist, Mavuto Bamusi. Mavuto is the National Co-ordinator of the Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) in Malawi. Previously, Mavuto worked for the Malawi Economic Justice Network and also attended the Scotland-Malawi Partnership conference at the Scottish Parliament.

For the next two weeks, Mavuto will be writing about his experiences in Scotland on this site . In particular, he will be discussing issues such as economic and water justice, the impact of climate change on countries like Malawi, and the politics of the relationship between Malawi and the Scottish government. To join the conversations, just click comment.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Scotland in Malawi: justice not pity

Thursday 8 November, 6.30-8.30pm
Augustine Church, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

With Malawian human rights activist, Mavuto Bamusi
Sponsored by World Development Movement Scotland and Jubilee Scotland

Free, unticketed

WDM local group events

Mavuto is meeting with the following local WDM groups. Feel free to join them:

Dundee Monday 12 November, 7pm, Braes Pub (downstairs), Perth Road
Ayrshire Thursday 15 November, 7.30pm (venue tbc)
Perth Tuesday 13 November, 7pm, Perth Library

For more information about WDM's local groups network, click here.