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Speech - "Global development - turning necessity into reality"

European Commission - SPEECH/13/975   26/11/2013

Other available languages: none

European Commission

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

"Global development - turning necessity into reality"

Keynote speech at the European Development Days/Brussels

26 November 2013

Thank you very much Commissioner Andris Piebalgs,

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia,

Président Mahamadou Issoufou du Niger,

Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of Jamaica,

Primeiro-ministro José Maria Neves de Cabo Verde,

Madame Chair Zuma of the African Union Commission

Deputy Prime Minister Adam of Somalia,

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva,

Ministers from the European Union, from the African countries,

Distinguished Members of Parliaments, the European Parliament,

Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

First of all, welcome back to the Development Days. This is the 8th edition of the very successful event.

It was already seven years ago that we were here for the first time. And standing here today reminds me of how far we have come since then; in establishing this event as an annual get-together for those who know and care about development, but also of how much we have learnt in terms of improving the efficiency and strengthening the legitimacy of our development cooperation.

At the time, you had influential people like former World Bank economist William Easterly making a tough distinction between what he called ‘planners’ and ‘searchers’ in development assistance.

‘While the traditional foreign aid planners announce good intentions but don’t motivate anyone to carry them out,’ Easterly wrote in his strong polemic book, ‘Searchers find things that work and get some reward.’ While the former argued from the top down, the latter worked from the bottom up.

I don't agree with everything Easterly says, but let's stay with this metaphor for a second: Because through events such as the European Development Days we have learnt to bridge that alleged gap, to include the searchers' knowledge into the planners' strategies, and to help promising projects in the field plan ahead. We have changed the way development aid works, and we have made it work better!

Looking around this room today I once again see both planners and searchers, world leaders and eminent figures from politics and academia, from the private sector and from civil society. You are the people that we need to build a consensus with. You represent the ideas and ideals we need to build a consensus around, in order to strengthen global development even more.

The fact that so many of you are here today shows that the European Development Days remain high on the world’s development calendar, and reflects our shared determination to keep development issues at the very top of the global political agenda.

Mesdames, Messieurs, chers amis,

Depuis que nous avons organisé les premières journées du développement, nous poursuivons deux objectifs fondamentaux: Rendre notre aide au développement plus efficace et plus axée sur la réalisation des objectifs du millénaire pour le développement, et mieux sensibiliser le public aux questions de coopération au développement.

Nous avons également depuis toujours l'ambition plus vaste de construire un partenariat mondial renforcé, fondé sur la solidarité avec les populations les plus pauvres, ce qui suppose comme point de départ d'accepter que le monde du 21e siècle est indéniablement interdépendant et voué à l'intégration.

Je suis fier d'avoir vu ce partenariat prendre progressivement forme tout au long de la dernière décennie. Au niveau européen comme au niveau mondial, nous avons vu des gouvernements, la société civile, le secteur privé et de nombreux autres acteurs appuyer de tout leur poids la lutte contre la pauvreté et la promotion du développement durable. À la Commission européenne, nous avons su conforter cette dynamique en usant des pouvoirs et aussi des fonds dont nous disposons.

Rétrospectivement, nous constatons que cet élan a contribué aux progrès décisifs accomplis vers la réalisation des objectifs du millénaire pour le développement.

Ces objectifs ont joué un rôle exceptionnel en plaçant la pauvreté au centre de l’attention mondiale. Ils ont donné aux efforts de développement une nouvelle envergure. Nous ne devons pas hésiter à affirmer que le monde doit énormément aux objectifs du millénaire pour le développement. Pour preuve, la proportion de la population vivant avec moins de 1,25 dollar par jour est tombée de 43 % en 1990 à 22 % en 2010. L’objectif de réduction de moitié du nombre de personnes vivant dans des conditions d’extrême pauvreté a donc été réalisé. Même si nous voulons toujours faire davantage parce que bien sûr pour ceux qui sont encore dans des conditions d'extrême pauvreté ces statistiques ne peuvent pas apporter du confort.

Sur la même période, nous avons rempli l'objectif de réduire de moitié le nombre de personnes n'ayant pas accès à l’eau potable, puisque deux milliards de personnes supplémentaires en bénéficient désormais.

Le taux d’inscription dans l’enseignement primaire dans les pays en développement a augmenté en moyenne de 90 %, les jeunes filles ayant à présent presque autant de chances d'être scolarisées que les garçons. Les enfants risquent beaucoup moins d'être frappés de maladies mortelles ou de malnutrition. Au niveau mondial, les infections liées au virus du SIDA continuent de reculer, tandis que l’accès aux médicaments antirétroviraux s’est considérablement étendu.

Il ne s'agit pas là de simples statistiques. Ce sont de vies humaines et d'espoirs dont nous parlons. Réaliser les objectifs du millénaire, cela veut dire moins de personnes qui se couchent le ventre vide, moins d’enfants qui meurent de maladies évitables, et de plus en plus de personnes qui ont accès à l’eau potable et aux médicaments dont elles ont besoin. Il s'agit là d'accomplissements très importants sur le plan humain..

L'Union européenne s’est engagée dès le départ sur la voie de la réalisation des objectifs du millénaire pour le développement. Au cours des dix dernières années, en collaboration avec nos pays partenaires, nous avons aidé 70 millions de ménages supplémentaires à accéder à l’eau potable. Des professionnels de la santé qualifiés ont assisté 7,5 millions d'accouchements. Enfin, grâce à notre soutien, près de 14 millions de garçons et de filles supplémentaires vont à l'école primaire.

De l’Éthiopie au Bénin, du Mozambique à la Côte d’Ivoire, j’ai pu constater in loco combien nos projets de développement ont changé en mieux le quotidien des plus pauvres. À chaque retour de l'une de ces visites, je suis encore plus fier de ce que l'aide européenne est en mesure d'apporter sur le terrain.

C'est pourquoi je me suis toujours demandé: Qui a dit que l’aide au développement ne pouvait avoir aucun résultat tangible? Qui a dit que l'aide au développement ne devrait pas être plus vue comme prioritaire? Qui a dit qu'on n'aurait pas besoin de cette aide au développement et que parfois elle serait même négative? Je crois que c'est vraiment faux, nous avons la preuve aujourd'hui que l'aide au développement, si elle est bien gérée, par les donateurs et par les pays récepteurs, elle apporte une grande contribution au développement humain et je crois qu'on doit toujours le réaffirmer.

Ladies and gentlemen,

That is not, of course, to say that all our goals have been met in full, that our aspirations have been reached. Millions remain trapped in poverty. Too many women and babies struggle to survive childbirth. Stable access to nutritious food remains a luxury for millions. For them, development aid remains as vital as ever. And for us, their situation must be a stain on global conscience, and a renewed call for action.

Recent events like the tragedy off the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean make it painfully clear that the world's misery and lack of hope unavoidably affect Europe as well. I visited Lampedusa myself shortly after the tragic event and the shocking scenes I saw will stay with me forever. I see them as another appeal that global problems demand European engagement. A forward-looking development agenda and true international cooperation, in the sense of managing globalisation, are a human imperative and a matter of strategic intelligence. They are a matter of both values and vision. We simply have to take the lead in managing global issues together.

This is the reason, ladies and gentlemen, why we took the lead in the Millennium Development agenda in the first place - and we are keeping up the pressure until the very last moment.

The 'special MDG billion' which I spearheaded three years ago to help those countries and priorities most off track is already bearing fruit, providing valuable support to those most in need around the world. We will continue to do everything we can to help the world meet the MDGs between now and the 2015 target date.

I can say this with confidence, because surveys continue to show clearly that, even in the current economic crisis, European citizens are eager to maintain the ties of solidarity with developing countries. There is still overwhelming popular support for our development engagement and a strong commitment amongst citizens to focus on those who need our help the most.

The European Commission has presented and I have fought hard - and, in the end, successfully - for the development funds that are part of the European budget for the 7 years to come. The European Union and its Member States will remain the world's largest donor, with 82 billion euro until 2020, just as we remain the biggest and most open trading partner for the poorest nations, especially in Africa.

The core principles on which the European project is based, the same principles that underpin also our international agenda, remain strongly rooted in our citizens' outlook: solidarity, partnership, integration and a shared sense of responsibility for the problems that touch us all.

Ladies and gentlemen,

At this point in time, we also have to look beyond the 2015 horizon and ask ourselves how we can shape and adapt our development agenda to the needs of our fast-changing world; because those principles will be ever more important in the future, where new development and sustainability challenges will present themselves.

This debate, which will dominate the next three days, is already based on solid foundations. Internationally, there has been an extensive consultation process, designed to make the voices of the poorest heard. The report by the UN High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, to which Commissioner Andris Piebalgs made such a great contribution, along with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report on A life of dignity for all, this report agrees that eradication of poverty and global sustainability should be at the core of the post-2015 framework.

At European level, we have been eager to build our thinking on the views of a broad range of actors. We have engaged in a range of discussions with our Member States, civil society, local authorities and the private sector. And we have asked European researchers to provide us with their insights in this year’s European Report on Development.

On the basis of this outreach, the European Union has formulated an initial vision on the future of the development agenda. We have always been at the forefront of efforts to eradicate poverty, and will remain so.

The Lisbon Treaty that guides all of our actions highlights reducing and eradicating poverty as the primary objective of our development aid. And indeed, for the first time ever, we have what it takes to eliminate poverty in our lifetimes and to ensure sustainable prosperity within the boundaries of what our planet can provide.

By delivering on that promise, we can really work towards a vision of a world where every man, every woman, every child lives in dignity and prosperity. A world where giving birth should no longer be a risk. A world where access to water, sanitation, energy, education and health services is a self-evident right for all!

In fact, I believe that some years from now people will not understand how was it possible, how was it possible that in the beginning of the 21st century, when the world accumulates so important amounts of wealth, with impressive technological developments, we can still live with hunger and absolute poverty? How was it possible? The same way in the past, we have eliminated so big challenges and problems, from colonialism to slavery, I believe we can now make poverty something of the past and there is that possibility if we put together enough political will at international level and that level of the global community.

I agree with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that achieving such a world will require not just resources but political courage. The successes of recent years teach us that, with sufficient political leadership, a lot can be achieved.

In order to deliver we will need one overarching and universal post-2015 framework that proposes a single set of goals applicable to all countries, while naturally, taking national specificities into account.

As I have stressed before, we need to integrate the fight against poverty and the fight for sustainability in such a framework more than ever. These are two sides of the same coin. One cannot be achieved without the other. In our policy paper on A Decent Life for All, published earlier this year, we lay out a European vision on how to bring the two together, built on five key elements, namely: basic living standards to empower people; inclusive and sustainable growth; sustainable resource management to preserve the environment; justice and equity to ensure human rights; and peace and stability to lay the basic foundations that every society needs in order to prosper.

A global framework, built around these elements, must be applicable to every country and every citizen. It should be underpinned by a renewed global partnership, with mutual accountability at its core, and I insist on mutual accountability. Those who promise solidarity should show they are providing that solidarity. Those who promise responsibility should show that they are indeed responsible in the way they manage that development aid.

Our ideas have already fed into the outcome document agreed at the UN Special Event in September, in which, as Andris Piebalgs said, I also had the honour to participate. And, along with that document, they will serve as a solid basis for further reflection as we take our global post-2015 discussions forward.

At the same time, the European Union will also take the lead in a related debate: the one on global climate action, which is also entering a new and crucial phase.

Climate change is probably the most pressing global issue, a defining challenge of our times. By definition, it does not respect borders. Therefore, we have a fundamental, shared interest to tackle it together. Not just because climate change is a danger in itself, but also because it is a 'threat-multiplier' with serious economic, social and security effects especially on the poorest and most vulnerable. Just think about what droughts do to food security and thus to political stability of whole regions. Just think about the humanitarian tragedies that we have been seeing recently in an increased number of cases.

The European Union remains in the lead of the global climate action. Our ambitious 2020 targets are on track. We also remain a leading donor of global climate funding. In fact, our new seven-year budget will dedicate 20% of our external aid to climate action. We will shortly propose a new energy and climate framework for 2030, mapping out the further greening of the European economy. Finally, we will lead efforts to hammer out a global, binding climate agreement that should cover all emitters by 2015.

The Warsaw Conference of the Parties which concluded last weekend was another important stepping stone on the path to 2015. As you know, the European Union has argued hard for what has now been agreed as the way forward: that all countries, I repeat all, must contribute to the future emission reduction efforts – simply because that reflects global realities; and that already now all countries must start their work so that they can table their contributions well in advance of the Paris conference in 2015.

This stepwise approach is obviously critical to build an ambitious agreement in Paris, which is so vital for developing nations. In that vein, I am also satisfied that the Warsaw conference also agreed to establish a mechanism promoting solutions to loss and damage caused by climate change in vulnerable developing countries’.

So in short: both for development aid and for climate action, 2015 will be a crucial year. We must deliver on both agendas. And the eventual outcome will depend on boosting the momentum on both now.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the past seven years the European Development Days have grown and matured beyond our expectations. They have blossomed into Europe’s premier development forum, where real debate leads to ideas, and ideas lead to real, effective action.

We will need these more than ever ahead of the pivotal year 2015. That’s why the European Commission has proposed making the 2015 the European Year of Development. I hope to get support from Member States and the European Parliament in this.

As we move forward with our own policy agenda and use our authority to weigh in on the global debate, we are ready to listen to your views as well as sharing our own. After all, conversations and cooperation are worth little unless all concerned are prepared to embark on them with an open mind.

We have a unique chance to truly change the world and make it work for each and every one of its citizens.

Let’s not miss this opportunity!

Together, I believe we have what it takes to use this crucial opportunity and succeed in our fight against poverty, for sustainability, in fact for human dignity. Because development is also a matter of human rights.

And because together, we can make happen what is necessary!

I thank you for your attention and I wish you a very successful European Development Days conference.


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