EU development aid 'is something to be proud of'

EYD offers a unique opportunity to create awareness and momentum for development issues, writes Neven Mimica.

By Neven Mimica

30 Jan 2015

In 2000 the world came together to agree on eight simple yet crucial aims, which became known as the millennium development goals (MDGs), with the overarching ambitious target of ending poverty by 2015, a deadline that has now arrived.

It is fitting that this year will see the 'post 2015 process' take place - the international negotiations, led by the UN, to put in place sustainable development goals, once the current millennium development goals expire. 2015 is also the year when a new international climate agreement will be decided, requiring stronger links to ensure climate-resilient and resource-efficient sustainable development.

"The main objective of [EYD] is to inform and raise awareness among EU citizens, especially younger people, of the results of EU development cooperation"

That is why it is so timely that 2015 has been designated as the European year for development (EYD). I believe that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise awareness with EU taxpayers on how our work is making a difference in some of the world’s poorest countries. It is the first ever European year to focus on external relations.

The main objective of the year is to inform and raise awareness among EU citizens, especially younger people, of the results of EU development cooperation. It also aims to get people actively engaged in development. We want to spark a debate around the motto of the year 'our world, our dignity, our future' - a motto suggested by the European parliament and later adopted by both the parliament and the council.

The EYD will bring together young people, policymakers, civil society, the private sector, academic institutions and individual stakeholders to focus on their common development aims and how they will run their own activities throughout the year.

There will be many occasions for people across the EU to become involved. A range of activities and events will take place which people of all ages and interests can participate in, and, we hope, will stimulate interest and engagement across Europe.

But why is the EYD 2015 needed and why now? The 15 years since the millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: there are now half a billion fewer people living below the international poverty line. But there remains much to do: 805 million people, or one in nine, still go hungry every day and 58 million children worldwide are still not participating in primary school.

"The 15 years since the millennium have seen the fastest reduction in poverty in human history: there are now half a billion fewer people living below the international poverty line"

As the world’s largest aid donor, the EU and its 28 member states have played and continue to play a key role in contributing to the alleviation of poverty. You only need to think of the 70 million people who have gained access to drinking water since 2004, almost 14 million children enrolled in primary education and the seven million births attended to by medical staff. EU aid is something to be proud of.

According to a recent Eurobarometer survey, 85 per cent of EU citizens agree that helping people in developing countries is important. Furthermore, 67 per cent think development aid should be increased - a rise of six percentage points since the 2013 survey.

It is important to remember that we can all have an enormous influence on global development. This ties in very strongly with the spirit of the European year, which is about letting citizens know how they themselves can make a difference, even in small ways; for example by buying products which come from developing countries during their weekly shop. Eurobarometer also found almost half of all EU citizens would be prepared to pay more for groceries or products from developing countries, and nearly two thirds say that tackling poverty in developing countries should be a main priority for the EU.

As the European year for development gets underway, it is motivating and inspiring that the future of development is in all our hands. Let us use the unique opportunity which 2015 provides to put development in the spotlight and together we can make this year count. I hope that the European year for development will create a unique momentum and raise awareness bringing development closer to citizens across the EU.

 

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