Brussels, 25 January 2006
The Commission approved today 7 new thematic programmes in the framework of the reform of its External Actions. With the EU’s country and regional programmes, the new thematic programmes will form the backbone of the Commission’s external cooperation activities from 2007 onwards. The 7 new thematic programmes regroup the 15 current thematic programmes. The aim is to simplify the delivery of foreign assistance and achieve more and better results with the resources available. Thematic programmes are set up to achieve policy objectives that are not geographically limited and where the goal cannot be fully achieved through country and regional programmes. The decision is part of a larger reform of the Community’s external cooperation for the new financial period until 2013 under which the Commission will deliver foreign assistance more effectively and more efficiently, under a reduced number of budget lines. The financial allocations for the new thematic programmes await final agreement.
The programmes approved today include: the programme on Human Rights and Democracy, on “Investing in People”, on Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, including Energy, on Food Security, on Non-state actors in Development, on Migration and Asylum and on Cooperation with Industrialised Countries.
The new thematic programme on food security reaffirms the Commission’s commitment to the central element of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - to reduce poverty and hunger. Food security is also one of the focal areas of the new development policy statement agreed by all the Member-States and the Commission. The new thematic programme on food security is a key instrument to translate this policy into action and will therefore contribute to maintaining the EC’s international leadership in food security and food aid.
According to 2005 Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) data, over 800 million people are ‘chronically’ food-insecure in the developing world, with a further 5-10% of the population at risk from ‘acute’ food insecurity driven by natural and man-made crises. The situation is particular critical in Sub-Saharan Africa, where persistent food insecurity is compounded by recurrent political instability and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The thematic programme on food security is designed to intervene in particular in post-crisis situations and in fragile and failed states. In addition, it provides support to global and continental programmes to improve food security, such as agricultural research and civil society initiatives to promote e.g. south-south dialogue on food security. The programme is designed to ultimately improve livelihoods of the rural and urban poor and food security for the most disadvantaged groups. For this purpose, the programme will work with a range of different groups and non governmental partners.
“Investing in people”
This thematic programme, proposes six areas of intervention: good health for all, knowledge and skills, employment and social cohesion, gender equality, children and youth and culture. These areas cover continuing priorities established by Council and Parliament such as the fight against poverty diseases (HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria) and activities in the areas of gender equality and reproductive and sexual health. But the programme also takes up new priorities defined in the European Consensus on Development (ECD) such as support to health systems, vocational and tertiary education to promote knowledge and skills which act as enabling factors for socio-economic growth (for further information on ECD see IP 05/1459 23 November 2005).Culture, children and youth will also be an explicit focus for the first time. The thematic programme will help the EC to deliver on its international commitments and provide leadership on the international agenda. It will promote the social dimension of globalisation.
Environment and Sustainable Management of Natural Resources, including energy
The proposal for a thematic programme for environment and sustainable management of natural resources, including energy is part of the EU’s response to the increasing global environmental pressures and the need for more sustainable energy services. In the last 50 years, the world’s population has almost tripled and humans have transformed eco-systems extensively to meet the growing demand for food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel. There were substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development but, as a downside, two thirds of the planet’s key ecosystems are being degraded or used unsustainably and present an obstacle to achieving the MDGs.
The purpose of the programme is to address, through a single coherent programme, the environmental dimension of development and other external policies as well as to help promote the European Union’s environmental and energy policies abroad. The programme will complement environmental and energy actions undertaken through country and regional programmes.
Non-state actors and Local Authorities in Development
This thematic programme will support initiatives from civil society organisations, active in development and local authorities in order to promote participatory approaches to development. The programme will intervene in particular when geographical programmes are not the appropriate instrument and complement the support that other thematic programmes can provide to the same actors.
The main part of EC support will go to field projects, however two supplementary areas of intervention are proposed: awareness-raising and education for development and activities which facilitate coordination between stakeholders’ networks.
Human Rights and Democracy
This new thematic programme will build on the experience of the existing European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), but introduce a more strategic approach. The key objectives of the programme will be 1) to enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms where they are most at risk and provide support and solidarity to victims of repression or abuse and 2) to strengthen the role of civil society in promoting human rights and democratic reform, in supporting conflict prevention and in developing political participation and representation.
Like EIDHR, the programme will cover work in the field of election observation, to build confidence in democratic electoral processes. The programme will not require the consent of the governments of the countries concerned, and should provide assistance for operations that cannot be carried out through other EC programmes.
Migration and Asylum
This thematic programme, will contribute to enable the EU to assist third countries in the areas of migration and asylum through an integrated, coherent and balanced approach. The programme will build on the experience carried out through the AENEAS programme and will cover the following five strands:
Unlike its predecessor, the new programme will not cover countries with an EU membership perspective. The programme will support in some cases and in certain conditions, the implementation of readmission agreements signed between third countries. The new programme will enjoy greater flexibility so that it will be able to react with due speed and efficiency to any unforeseen or urgent needs or circumstances.
Cooperation with Industrialised Countries
This thematic programme lays down a framework for widening and deepening co operation with developed countries and newly industrialised countries. The programme will operate under the planned Development Co operation and Economic Co operation Instrument (DCECI) focussing on those partner countries which share similar political, economic, and institutional structures and values to the EU and which are important political and trading partners for the EU: 1) OECD countries including the US, Japan, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and Australia, 2) industrialised Asian countries including Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, and Brunei, 3) Gulf countries including Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The objective is to foster economic partnerships, business collaboration and science and technology co operation, as well as people to people exchanges including development of education co operation, and the development of policy dialogues. The aim is to promote better understanding of the EU and encourage greater engagement with the EU, and thus to stimulate bilateral trade, investment flows and customs co operation between the EU and the partner countries.