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European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
Food security and resilience to crises – EU's vision for helping Niger
Niger National Economic and Social Development Plan (PDES) Round Table Conference / Paris
13 November 2012
Mr. Minister of State,
Representatives of partner governments, international organisations and aid agencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a real pleasure for me to be here today, representing the EU. Let me thank you, Mr President, for the initiative of calling this meeting with Niger's main development partners. And let me thank France for hosting it.
I have now been able on two occasions to visit Niger, in 2010 and earlier this year, because of droughts causing massive food and nutrition crises. Crises which were overcome thanks to the joint efforts of your government and the international donor community. I saw much in Niger's response that left me deeply impressed.
I was particularly impressed by the honesty and determination of you, Mr. President, and of each and every member of your government, when discussing tough and complex challenges - such as the strive for food security in the context of climate change, population growth, and regional instability. And I am pleased to see the same honesty and determination in the Economic and Social Development Plan for 2012-2015.
You rightly stress the role of governance, of democratic and credible institutions, of respect for human rights, and of course the need for security, as the basis for your development strategy. You emphasize the need for transparency, not least in the mining sector, as a precondition for sustainable growth and development. And above all, you place "les trois N - les Nigériens nourissent les Nigériens" - crucially important for achieving food security in a world of more frequent and devastating natural disasters – at the heart of your strategy. It is an excellent example of how to address both the short term challenges of recurrent crises, and the structural causes of vulnerability. And it is great to see that High Commissioner Allahoury Diallo will be giving a presentation on 3N later today.
One thing I would stress in this context is that food security and resilience to crises is not just about increasing production. We also need to pay special attention to the most vulnerable people; we need to work on social safety nets; and we need to strengthen sectors like health or access to drinking water. Your strategy recognizes this.
So how can we as the EU support the PDES? Let me recap very briefly what we have done so far. More than € 530 m for Niger in the framework of the 10th European Development Fund (covering 2008-2013). Plus additional funds, mobilized rapidly, when Niger was confronted with unforeseen problems such as the impact of the Libyan and Mali conflicts, or the 2012 food crisis and the recent flooding. We have also developed close cooperation in the framework of the EU's "Sahel Strategy" for security and development in the Sahel – in recognition of the fact that in your part of the world more than anywhere, there can be no development without security, and vice versa. And on the humanitarian side, we more than tripled our ECHO funding for the Sahel in 2012, to € 172 m – of which over € 58 m were for Niger.
We will of course build on this. In the European Commission's "Agenda for Change", we indicated that for the 11th EDF National Indicative Programmes, we will
• Limit the number of sectors the EU is active in;
• Concentrate our support in areas where a real impact can be made; and
• Differentiate between partner countries with regard to their actual needs.
What does that mean for Niger? While it is too early to make firm commitments on the 11th EDF, I can safely say that Niger is and will remain one of our most important partner countries in West Africa. Because there is real scope for making progress in economic development and towards the MDGs. But also because our views and objectives are converging on fundamental values of democracy, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.
Some of the key sectors that you set out in the PDES will certainly continue to receive our support. I mentioned earlier our support for your efforts on food security through the 3N. Your work in this area will continue to be a priority. As will the effort to build resilience for the most vulnerable households. In 2012 alone, we have disbursed more than € 40 m to activities under the 3N, with substantial additional funds remaining for 2013-2015 from the 10th EDF.
We also will strive to build stronger links between humanitarian relief and long-term development efforts. We have already shifted food assistance from in-kind delivery of food to supporting cash and vouchers - so we don't end up feeding the hungry but killing the local farmers. Our experience, including in the regions of Sahel, has been instrumental to bring about the new Food Assistance Convention, which should become effective in the end of this month. And I think it is quite symbolic that Niamey has the first factory in West Africa to produce Plumpy'Nut therapeutic food.
Of course, there is also a regional dimension to your development efforts. I am delighted that Niger is an active partner in the "AGIR-Sahel" initiative for resilience. The EU has taken a clear long-term commitment to address food insecurity and malnutrition in the Sahel. Our active participation in the AGIR initiative is an expression of this. I hope to see an AGIR Road Map formally adopted in the very near future. And I hope everyone will join us in taking AGIR forward as a framework to support national resilience strategies.
Mr. President, one last word before I conclude. I was hugely relieved to hear of the safe release ten days ago of the 5 humanitarian aid workers who had been abducted in the Maradi region. Unfortunately during the initial kidnapping we lost their colleague Aimé Soulembaye. It brought home to us the dangers faced by humanitarian workers in many parts of the region in the current context. I know we can count on the government of Niger to do its very best to maintain the conditions that allow aid organisations to safely conduct their work where it is needed most.
Mr President, let me thank you again for giving the EU the opportunity to express its support for your development plan. I wish you every success.