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Poul Nielson

Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid

Enlarged Europe – Reinforced Responsibility

Keynote address at the conference on “Enlarged Europe”
Prague, 24 September 2004

As we have discussed during the opening session, all Member States, “old” as well as “new”, have an important role to play in translating the EU’s objectives on poverty reduction and development into action. I mentioned in my opening remarks that I believe that the criteria for judging our success must be the extent to which we manage to contribute meaningfully and effectively to the poverty reduction world wide, as a first priority, and the other Millennium Development Goals.

Allow me now to elaborate a bit more in detail the way I see the role and specific challenges for the new Member States in relation to the different factors and types of action I believe is necessary in order to work towards that goal.

First, the policy framework. All successful endeavours require a direction and a road map that guide the action. We need comprehensive development policies, centred on poverty reduction in its many facets. As you are aware, the EU Member States and the Commission are firmly committed to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and working towards these has to be the starting point both at Community level and in the bilateral programmes.

Several important steps have been taken at European level. Since 2000, the core objective of Community development policy and its associated external assistance is poverty reduction, in all the regions where we have developing partners. This was an important political signal and has resulted in concrete results: Over 43 % of our resources were allocated to low income and least developed countries in 2003, up from 34 % in 1999. We also used the policy statement to identify the areas and sectors where the Commission can bring the most added value in the development partnership, and therefore have a much-needed roadmap now for where we should focus our efforts; thus strengthening the complementarity with bilateral efforts of EU Member States and other donors.

I am certain that we can only maximise the effect of what we do if we explicitly share this overarching objective. I can therefore only urge all of you to adopt and develop strategies for your bilateral aid explicitly centred on poverty reduction, and to defend and further develop the poverty focus of European aid policies in Brussels. A common understanding is also of crucial importance for having a strong, united European voice in the international debate at the UN and the World Bank, in defence of development objectives.

It therefore worries me to see that CONCORD claims in a recent paper that only three of the ten new Member states list poverty reduction as an objective for Official Development Assistance. I hope we will devote time in the discussions today to looking more closely at the reasons for this.

Second, on policy coherence. It is the total effect of all policies at play in relation to a partner in the South that counts, so we need to be vigilant and more dynamic with regard to policy coherence and the effects on developing countries of for example trade, agricultural and migration policies.

The Commission itself has a lot more to do in this area, I am the first to admit that. However, policy coherence really starts at home, in the capitals. Member States are often quick to criticise the Commission, but often fail to be consistent themselves in the different Council configurations. If you want to shoulder your responsibility vis-à-vis the South, there is a lot you can do here, by respecting development objectives in your positions on internal EU policies as well as trade, fisheries, agriculture etc.

Now let me turn to certain basic principles I believe must apply in the implementation of aid, and that I hope that you are working into the bilateral aid machineries that you are in the process of putting in place. Donors need to safeguard the principles of ownership and partnership and make sure that partner countries can set their own priorities and take responsibility for their own development strategies.

We can do so by supporting the Poverty Reduction Strategies that the partner countries themselves have put in place, focus on results and provide budget and programme support rather than opting for small projects where we can wave our individual flags.

Donors must also make space for involving a wide range of stakeholders in the development process. Parliamentarians, non-governmental organisations and the private sector all make valuable contributions to development. The fact that we are here today is a clear reflection of the fact that you are serious about this.

Workshops and seminars of training on development have already been organized and I hope you also took chance to exchange on your hopes and concerns with officials of the European Commission during the “Road Show” meetings organized in your capitals. We are also co-financing the liaison Committee of the European Development NGOs and they in turn implemented the TRIALOG initiative which many of you may now.

The next challenge will be to continue this close consultation also in the implementation phase. Non-state actors also have a crucial responsibility in themselves, in particular when it comes to advocacy work at home and building support among the general public for development aid. I will be very interested to discuss further today how you would like to tackle this particular issue from here on.

Good policies and development practices are, however, not enough to get results. We need to make adequate resources available to finance the development programmes, be it from the European budget or from bilateral aid efforts. The EU played an active and very important role in mobilizing political support which paved the way for the results at the Financing for Development conference in Monterrey in 2002; by bringing to the table the so-called “Barcelona targets” for increase in European ODA. As a reminder, those amounted to reaching 0.39% of collective EU GNI by 2006.

Earlier this year, the Commission published a follow-up report, analysing the way we are progressing towards Monterrey commitments. It shows that the EU Member States remain firmly on target to significantly increase their volume of ODA, as a share of GNI, by 2006. It looks like the 15 ‘old’ EU Member States will surpass the Barcelona target and reach 0.43 % ODA/GNI by 2006. It seems that with the EU as a driving force, the international donor community is finally living up to its responsibility and reversing the trend of falling aid volumes. The EU alone will be making an additional 19 Bn € available in ODA from 2003-06. Several Member States have also gone further and set a target year for when they commit to reach the UN target of 0.7% ODA/GNI.

But importantly, also the EU as a whole (25) will surpass this target and attain 0.42 by 2006. The 2004 enlargement will thus not jeopardise the Barcelona commitment. The contribution of the new Member States to the fulfilment of the Barcelona Commitments was also covered in the monitoring exercise.

The data available indicate that they provided 0.03% of their collective GNI in ODA in 2002 and could reach the level of 0.11% by 2006. This is impressive, and deserves positive recognition.

Next year, at the major UN conference that will review progress towards the MDGs, it is my view that the European Union can and should come forward with a renewed pledge for increased resources for development. It remains to be discussed, but perhaps a new target for the EU as a whole could be set for the medium term.

This will also mean pressure on all new Member States to deliver on their promises made this year, and increase in those pledges for the years after 2006. I believe is a particular challenge in the new Member States, which cannot draw on the same development cooperation tradition as the ‘old’ 15 in this context, to build public support for this. You will have to work hard at explaining to the public and to the tax payers why we need resources for development. NGOs and parliamentarians will undoubtedly play a crucial advocacy role to make this happen.

In addition to more money and good policies, we also need to improve our aid effectiveness. We can do a lot more there if we as donors work more closely together and avoid loading a heavy burden on partner countries, that is the effect of duplication and multiple administrative procedures. Having been recipients of aid up until not so long ago, I imagine you know perfectly well what I mean. As new Member States, you have a unique opportunity in this respect: you are not yet entrenched in procedures that have accumulated over decades of bilateral cooperation. You will do yourselves and the partner countries a big favour if you opt for policies that are in line with the best practice agreed at the Development Assistance Committee of the OECD.

But I sincerely hope that over the coming years, Europe will make an effort to go beyond this soft consensus at the DAC, and create a European platform for aid implementation systems. We represent 55 % of worldwide ODA, and can and should do a lot more for aid effectiveness than we do today. Why cannot we for example share analysis, consolidate our policy frameworks and harmonise our procedures? I hope that the systems you are setting up today will be flexible enough to allow you to build such a common platform together with other EU countries and the Commission, and that you will support this vision of synergy in European aid.

To sum up, I much welcome you as new partners in the development community in general, and the European development community in particular. Your experience in specific regions, such the Mediterranean zone, the Western Balkans and the NIS countries; and your recent experience of political and economic transition will enrich the EU’s collective understanding of some of the problems experienced by developing and transition countries elsewhere.

To help you integrate effectively in the development sector is an objective of the Commission in its own right, and we are prepared to increase our effort to help you build the required capacity in terms of defining development policies and aid delivery methods that are required. And I hope to leave this conference with some new fresh ideas about how we can make this happen.

Thank you.

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