Last week, the European Commission hosted the 10th edition of the European Development Days. Known as the ‘Davos of Development’, this event gathered a dazzling lineup of VIPs, including Ban Ki-moon, Jim Yong Kim, several European Commissioners, and seven Heads of State.
Following the Agenda 2030 impetus, the EDD served to discuss the EU’s plans to implement the agenda and the future of its development policy. In this regard, here’s a summary of the most relevant takeaways from the event:
International Development within the overarching EU Global Strategy
The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, confirmed that in the next few weeks she will present the much anticipated Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, which will include International Development as one element within a wider EU external relations agenda. During the opening ceremony, she emphasised the relationship between development and security, adding that the world should work towards democracy, social inclusion, good governance and human rights to achieve global stability and prosperity.
While increased policy coherence should be applauded, many fear that development aid may be subordinated to other priority areas for the EU, specially migration and security. In fact, the European Commission has already unveiled plans to use aid as an incentive for countries in Africa and the Middle East to cooperate with the EU in migration issues, supporting such claims. Furthermore, some critics have highlighted that aid funds are in danger of being diverted into security, defense and domestic migration policies.
Towards an External Investment Plan
Mogherini also highlighted that the European Commission is working on a new External Investment Plan to be announced in autumn 2016. Based on the experience of the European Commission’s Investment Plan (aka the Juncker Plan), it will aim at unlocking financial resources from governments, global financial institutions and particularly the private sector to invest in the ‘developing world’. She affirmed that the plan could trigger extra funds for up to €31 billion euros until 2020, or even twice as much if Member States match the Commission’s contribution.
In fact, ‘blending’ was ranked as the EDD trendiest buzzword, referring to the use of private investment to leverage additional resources and increasing the impact of EU aid. For example, in poll carried out during a session, nearly 54% of respondents said that private sector investment was the factor that plays the biggest part in generating sustainable development and growth. Echoing these voices, the Heads of State of Ethiopia, Timor Leste and Burkina Faso also called for increased private investment in their countries.
0.7%: An old commitment yet to be met
The 0.7% ODA/GNI target was first agreed in 1970, and has even since been repeatedly re-endorsed at all high-level development events. In 2005, the 15 countries that were members of the EU agreed to reach the target by 2015. However, according to OECD data only Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and the UK have achieved and maintained it, while the Netherlands and Finland have only reached it for a limited period.
At the EDD, UNSG Ban Ki-moon urged all EU Member States to make “every effort” to reach the target. However, this remains an ambitious goal considering that in 2015 EU collective ODA represented only 0.47% of its GNI.
A new agreement with ACP countries
Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, also announced that this year the European Commission will release its broad-based position on the 2020 renewal of the Cotonou Agreement. However, Christian Leffler, Deputy Secretary General of the EEAS, made it clear that the partnership will need to be decreasingly based on aid, and should include broader cooperation fields such as trade, investment, migration, climate change and energy.
Mainstreaming gender equality
During the closing session, Mimica reaffirmed that gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls will be mainstreamed in all of EU’s external actions. The EC and UN Women also signed a statement to recommit to their strategic partnership and vowed to ensure that that gender dimensions are understood and recognised in refugee and migration policies, in fighting human trafficking, in preventing and countering violent extremism and in addressing climate change.