Dignity should drive EU development policy

There is a need to answer recurring questions and engage in 'strategic reflection', argues Charles Goerens.

By Charles Goerens

30 Jan 2015

The European year for development (EYD) is the culmination of a process which began in 2012. Representatives of the European economic and social committee, commission and the European confederation of relief and development non-governmental organisations (Concord) came together for my report on the "agenda for change: the future of EU development policy" which proposed to dedicate the year 2015 to development. I introduced an amendment to the report, as well as a verbal question to the commission, to give the approach advocated in the report more visibility and the rest is history. We won the argument and this year sees, for the first time, a dimension of EU external policy designated as a European year.

The motto of EYD2015 - "our world, our dignity, our future" - takes into account our firm resolve to shape, together with our partners, the future of our planet, fully respecting the principle of the irreducible nature of the human being. I think it is worth remembering parliament’s role, with regard to the slogan and its success in getting the council to accept the idea of placing dignity at the centre of the EYD2015.

"Whether the glass is half full or half empty, the fact remains that the [MDG] goals have not been met"

The eradication of poverty, primary education for all, promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of infant mortality, improvement of maternal health, combating of HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases, preservation of the environment and the setting up of a worldwide partnership for development were the millennium development goals (MDGs) proclaimed by the UN in 2000. Progress has been made but the work is far from complete. Whether the glass is half full or half empty, the fact remains that the goals have not been met. This presents us with some questions. Was the strategy adopted in the year 2000 the correct one? Was public development aid (PDA) insufficient? Are developing countries not primarily responsible for their sad fate? These questions are relevant and recurring. Answering these questions requires the means for engaging in strategic reflection. When will an independent institute for development on the European scale be created? One should remember that agencies and other European institutes have already been created in the past for less.

What we can say is that globalisation, the source of wealth, has not been able to drive down poverty as global gross domestic product has increased. In fact, we can observe that the wealth created is constantly advancing. It is interesting to note that while the economic gap between states has reduced, inequalities are accentuating within countries. It is obvious in regard to the fight against poverty that rethinking our development policies is necessary.

"Whether the glass is half full or half empty, the fact remains that the [MDG] goals have not been met"

Emphasis on responsibility and accountability will be crucial following a reflection on our external relations and on development cooperation in particular. Recent changes introduced to EU development policy already indicate the path to be followed. The European parliament adopted and the council accepted the principle of differentiation, which aims to remove most of the 'emerging' countries from the list of beneficiaries of PDA from the EU. From a common sense point of view, 'differentiation' calls for China, in particular, to allocate at least part of its 'made in China' wealth to the eradication of poverty. What formerly came under international solidarity must in the future become a subject for Chinese, Brazilian or Salvadorian domestic policy.

This would enable the European Union to dedicate itself more to fighting poverty within the framework of its partnerships with developing countries and prioritise the least advanced countries. We enter this major awareness-raising campaign with this spirit of responsibility, while remembering dignity must remain when everything else has been forgotten.


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