Accepted paper:

Roundtable Power Dynamics: A Case Study of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership


Ben Wilson (University of Glasgow)

Paper short abstract:

The relationship between Scotland and Malawi is characterised by a 'partnership approach' to development. The extent to which this approach can challenge former relations of power between the two countries is explored in this paper.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2005 Scotland and Malawi have been linked in a 'special relationship', formally beginning with the signing of a Cooperation Agreement that year with the First Minister Jack McConnell and President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika. The beginning of this partnership saw the Scottish Executive exploit a quirk within the Scotland Act allowing them to have a modest budget for international development, a department technically reserved for the UK Government. Around half of this budget has annually since 2005 been spent on projects in Malawi; around about £4.5 million per year. In spite of this small amount of government funding, the relationship between these countries has thrived in the past 10 years. An estimated 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians are actively involved in partnership activities between the two countries, and 46% of Scots surveyed knew someone with a connection to Malawi. The relationship between the two countries is said to build "mutual, two-way, dignified" relationships, and that it's about "partnership not charity". The relations between Malawians and Scots working together is portrayed as equitable and democratic. The extent to which this characterisation of power-free partnerships exists in reality is the main focus of this paper. Building on research undertaken in 2015, I explore how actors navigate the conceptual and ideological power they are given due to the particular material conditions through which their 'partnerships' are born, and consider whether or not development can ever free itself from the inherited power relations of the colonial era.

panel P68
Partnerships and power in the 2030 Agenda