EU needs serious action to secure sustainable global future

Written by Linda McAvan on 3 June 2015 in Feature
Feature

A strong, cohesive European position is crucial ahead of key global development talks, says Linda McAvan.

This week's European development days (EDD) in Brussels are taking place at a crucial time for development policy. It is the European year for development and 2015 will also see key decisions being taken in a series of global conferences which affect development policy. 

These are the third international conference on financing for development in Addis Ababa in July, the UN summit on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in September and the Paris climate change talks in December.

The European commission will also be preparing a new gender action plan (GAP) and looking at how to put the interests of women and girls at the heart of our development policies.


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Looking at the programme of events for the EDD, we see that preparations for Addis, New York and Paris dominate the agenda. What everyone is asking is whether 2015 will go down as the year global leaders took decisive action to secure a sustainable future for our planet. 

That is the crucial question as the UN steps up negotiations on replacement targets for the millennium development goals (MDGs) at the general assembly in September in New York and gets back to the negotiating table to agree policies to cut CO2 emissions.

MEPs, who will be taking part in a number of debates during development days to address these issues, want the EU to play a leading role in those UN talks and have adopted reports calling on ministers to adopt joint negotiating positions in advance of the talks.

EU development ministers met in Brussels on 26 May to prepare their position for the first of these major conferences, the Addis Ababa conference on financing for development.

Last month in Strasbourg, MEPs voted overwhelmingly for a report by Pedro Silva Pereira whose main message was that EU member states must stick to their commitments on official development aid (ODA) made back at the time of the G8 summit in 2005 in response to the 'make poverty history' campaign. 

At that time, 'old' member states agreed to meet the UN 0.7 per cent GNI for ODA by 2015, while 'new' member states had a target of 0.33 per cent. So far, only four member states have met their target. 

Aid is, of course, only one source of funding for development and we need to examine other ways of raising cash through private sector development and, crucially, increasing tax revenue in developing countries: the OECD calculates that if we could increase tax revenue in developing countries by just one per cent, it would be equivalent to doubling aid. 

Parliament is preparing a separate report to be voted in July on tax and development which, I hope, will put pressure on multinational companies to pay fair taxes and prevent illegal financial flows.

As regards preparations for September's UN summit in New York, top of the agenda is replacing the millennium development goals (MDGs). 

There is no doubt that the eight MDGs did lead to real improvements in people's lives: extreme poverty halved, millions more children in school, over two billion people given access do clean water and sanitation and fewer infant and maternal deaths in childbirth. But more needs to be done if we are to achieve the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. 

This was the key message in the report by Davor Stier adopted last year by parliament, which urges the EU to adopt a strong, cohesive position in the upcoming intergovernmental negotiations underpinned by the concept of a human rights-based approach to development policy.

Coming quickly on the heels of New York are the climate talks in Paris in December. For the world's poorest peoples global warming is not a future problem but a real and present danger. 

We need a renewed sense of urgency and serious emission reduction targets backed up by policies to deliver them if we are to stabilise global temperatures. 

While parliament's environment, public health and food safety committee leads on climate change policy, the development committee will be pressing for development aspects to be kept to the fore.

So there is plenty to talk about and plenty of serious work to do at the European development days. I want to see 2015 remembered not as just another 'European year of…', but as a year where we laid the foundation for genuine improvements in people's livelihoods and better stewardship of the world's natural resources. 

If the EU can achieve this in 2015, backing up words with concrete actions, it will do much to enhance its role in the global community.

 

About the author

Linda McAvan (S&D, UK) is chair of parliament's development committee

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