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Scottish official calls for independence

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Former First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell, has advised both local and international non-government organisations working in the area of uplifting the poor out of poverty to use strategies that empower and not entrench life-time dependency.

He was speaking in Lilongwe as he officially announced Concern Universal’s (CU) name change to United Purpose (UP) at a function attended by stakeholders including beneficiaries.

While praising the good work Concern Universal has done in its 29 years of working with vulnerable communities in Malawi, McConnell stressed that it was worrying that there “are millions of poor people who still need organisations like UP”.

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“I was listening very carefully to what was said earlier and I think it is fabulous that concern Universal has grown over these past years here in Malawi and it is fabulous what they gave to all the millions [of people]. But it is also very sad that they need Concern Universal and now United Purpose,” he said.

He said this situation “should make us reflect and help Malawians have their own united purpose.

“They are their own united purpose and they don’t need an organisation trying to give them a helping hand,” McConnell said.

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“And that’s how they should be up and away from the situation and go towards having an independent living to grow on their own,” McConnell said.

The call was echoed by UP Country Director, Heather Campbell, who said: “We want to achieve our country goal of seeing empowered and resilient women, men and children across Malawi determining their own futures.”

This is also espoused in UP’s new 2017 to 2020 strategic plan, which has been crafted to help the organisation reach out to about two million vulnerable people, up from 1.2 million as at 2016.

According to Campbell, the change in name will not affect the way they have implemented their programmes in the past 29 years.

“This is more than just a change in name and brand. This is a change in our impact model, approach to partnerships, our financial resilience and our global public profile,” she said.

According to her, UP’s new strategy is “ambitious, as it needs to be, but it’s also realistic.”

The UP programming in the next three years will focus on four pillars which include livelihoods and food security, Wash and Healthier lives, Sustainable Energy and Gender Equality.

These areas, according to Bob Chilemba, who represented Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development at the name launch, are strategic as they speak directly to government’s agenda and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

He reiterated that “key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is development being a locally owned process”.

“Local leadership, accountability and solutions are imperative. That is why building the capacity of the community and providing hand-ups, not handouts, is essential to achieving sustainable development,” Chilemba said.

UP operates in 15 districts in Malawi, but also responds to natural disasters anywhere beyond its target communities.

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