New GPG Director Emily Death reflects on current and upcoming programmes and priorities for GPG on the occasion of our 15th anniversary.
Happy 15th Birthday GPG. As my colleague recently joked… In the GPG family, we now have a teenager! Just like any teenager, there are a huge range of new and exciting challenges for GPG to take on in the coming months, and hopefully… the coming 15 years.
Unfortunately, I am writing this blog on the day the news was announced that the UK government has dropped its commitment to 0.7% of gross national income, cutting it to 0.5%. That is a reduction of more than £4bn annually. This is disappointing if course, at a time of global hardship and uncertainty exacerbated by this year’s Covid pandemic, Britain should be stepping up to show global leadership in helping those most in need internationally.
This is obviously part of a package of changes to the way international aid works in the UK. Another key change to point to is the recent merger of the FCO and DFID – for further analysis of which I would point you to GPG Founder and Chair’s recent blog Development and Democracy vs Diplomacy and Trade? The future of ‘working politically’ in the new FCDO. As Greg highlights, some of these changes may actually prove catalytic for a reimagining of how politics matters in the context of international development.
At GPG, politics has always mattered. An understanding of political allegiances, behaviours, and incentives, has always underpinned our approach towards supporting change across a wide range of complex environments.
In recent years, we have been very excited to begin a range of new projects, with a variety of funders both in the UK and beyond, including the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), the UNDP, the US International Republican Institute (IRI) and private philantrophic organisation Porticus. This has enabled us to truly show the best of adaptive programming techniques.
We are currently working on projects in Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, Uzbekistan, as well as an international project on male allies for women’s political leadership. And we have recently been informed of a successful new project in Armenia, as well as extensions of our previous projects in Kuwait and Bahrain. Our projects cover a wide variety of policy areas, but in particular focus on GPG’s key areas of expertise, those of equality of political participation and representation; human rights and tackling modern slavery; anti-corruption; and democratic transition. We are working, as we always have, with a wealth of crucial political actors including Parliaments, Governments, Ministries, Political Parties, and Civil Society Organisations.
These will be the core thematic areas on which GPG will continue to build its expertise and engage with new projects and programming – look out for more news coming soon on these with the launch of the new GPG website in December!
Whilst GPG is now a teenager, you may not yet be aware that we have a new addition to the GPG family – this year, we established the Global Partners Governance Foundation (GPGF), a not-for-profit company inspired by the same ethos and expertise as GPG, but looking to a different range of potential programmes in the not-for-profit space. As the two organisations gradually take on their own unique fields and specialisations, we look forward to sharing news with you about both.
Personally, I’m honoured to step in and manage GPG and GPGF at this exciting time. I arrived at GPG just over a year ago in September 2019, and what a year it has been! We often talk about the challenges of assessing risks for GPG projects – they have to cover anything from possibility of a GPG staff member going on maternity leave, to conflict breaking out in an area where we have personnel on a work visit. One risk we, in common with other organisations and indeed governments had not anticipated, was that of a global pandemic, which over the course of the last nine months has significantly affected the work GPG does and the way in which we do it. But I believe GPG was well placed not just to weather the storm, but in fact to step up and face head-on the challenges that arose. In just a few short weeks, the GPG team launched a brand new online learning platform which has enabled us to continue programming activities at distance; to offer a substantial collection of GPG resources in an internationally-accessible online format; to host webinars and meetings with a diverse range of groups and individuals; and to deploy the expertise of our pool of Associates in a way that would not have been possible where in-country visits and substantial travel commitments were needed. All of our programming has continued, and in fact gone from strength to strength over the course of this exceptional year. You can find out more about the GPG online learning platform here.
Coming from a political background myself, the parliamentary environment is familiar to me. But in a few short months at GPG, I have visited the Kuwaiti National Assembly; accompanied a group of Bahraini Parliamentarians on a snowy visit to the Scottish Parliament; joined meetings with Ministers of the Sudanese Transitional Government; met with key figures in Bahrain’s leading role in the right against modern slavery; worked with local activists in Lebanon on their responses to the Beirut port explosion; and had the pleasure and privilege to work alongside a diverse and talented team of Associates and staff at GPG.
Whilst the coming months remain, in some respects, uncertain – will our usual project cycle of travel to countries be able to resume? What projects may be prioritised by funders post-2020? One thing is certain, the need for GPG and the kind of work we do, that of recognising the importance of individuals over institutions, has never been clearer.