International development, social justice and radical democracy

A few weeks ago, I was going to be representing the Scottish Greens at a debate about international development, hosted by NIDOS (Network of International Development Organisations in Scotland), the Scotland Malawi Partnership (SMP), and the Scottish Fair Trade Forum. Unfortunately, the event could not go ahead, due to an important debate and vote in the Scottish Parliament. However, this is some of what I would have said:


International development and foreign policy are both very close to my heart. As someone who grew up in the global south, I want the Scottish Parliament to do whatever it can to lead on these issues. Despite the limited powers Holyrood has in this area, I think three things are crucial for us to work on.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Scotland can be a force for good in the world. We may not be an independent country, but that does not mean that we cannot encourage responsible global citizenship, and lead by example.

Everyday, if we look for them, we can find tales of utter devastation due to foreign policies that are driven by and for private profit, imperialist power trips and a Eurocentric view of the world. We know that our  military engagement in the Middle East, our determination to impose Western democracy on other countries, has left hundreds of thousands of civilians worse off. We know that our greed for cheaper resources has destroyed the local economies of farmers in the global south. We know that our addiction to oil is polluting the soil, air and waters around the world. We can change this.

Scotland can be leading the world in challenging unjust and oppressive systems. We have to say no to TTIP and other trade deals that will destroy democratic oversight of the institutions we all hold so dear. We must be at the forefront of welcoming refugees and others to our country, and make sure that those who are suffering the brunt of the humanitarian crisis in the middle east and elsewhere are supported, welcomed, and treated with dignity and respect. We must stand up for climate justice, whether it with those suffering drought in zones arid zones of sub-saharan Africa, or  with those facing inundation as sea levels rise and flood their island or low lying homes.

Scotland can be a force for good in the world.

Secondly, we need to be building the institutions we want to see in the future now. We must be creating the building blocks of the

We can see, if we look hard enough (the media won’t help us here), the destruction that the military industrial complex causes people’s lives. We see the powerlessness in the eyes of those left destitute by governments selling the land on which they depend from underneath them, unable to engage in any democratic challenge to these actions. We see the devastation caused by the proliferation of nuclear technology, driven by ever more ridiculous claims to power and influence.

We want our institutions to be driven by the desire to promote peace, facilitate the understanding of and spreading of real, people-focussed democracy, and diplomacy that puts people first. We want our government bodies here in Scotland to throw their weight behind international organisations such as United Cities and Local Governments or the Council of European Municipalities and Regions to make progress on global issues where national efforts have stalled. We want the Scottish Government to have observer status (at least), on international bodies such as the UN, WHO, and Nordic Council.

Scotland can be a beacon of hope, peace and democracy in the world.

My third point is the culmination of the first two. We need all of our interactions in the world to be governed by an ‘ethical foreign policy’. This should inform and guide all of our international dealings, ensuring that we act in accordance with our principles of peace, equality and climate justice. So, we should not do deals with despotic dictatorships, whether those are deals for the nuclear arms industry or for the oil and gas industry. We should not be engaging in trade deals that we know will result in the marginalisation of people’s voices in decision-making and institutional control. We must not let our commitment to Human Rights, Universal Human Rights, be eroded by the neoliberal agenda that seeks to isolate us from our brothers and sisters around the world.

As a Green, I believe that Scotland can play an active, powerful and compassionate role in the world, promoting sustainable solutions, human rights, peace and democracy. A world of changing climate will face enormous challenges to past and long-held certainties and Scotland could play a pivotal role in meeting these challenges head-on.

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