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Brussels, 26 April 2000

Commission sets out political guidelines for the future of EC development policy

The European Commission has approved a policy document that sets out the parameters for a new European Community Development Policy. "It is politically and morally unacceptable that more than a billion people on this planet still have to survive on less than one Euro per day. The European Union (EU) has the responsibility to intensify its efforts in support of the poor populations of developing countries and it must do so on a clear strategy that focuses its attention on a limited number of areas ", said Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid.

The new policy document firmly places poverty eradication as the central focus of the Community's development policy efforts. "Fighting poverty is our core business. To successfully engage in that battle we must refocus our policies and restructure our means and methods", the Commissioner said. He indicated that issues such as trade liberalisation, integration of developing countries in the global economy, and private sector cooperation remain important features of the European Development Policy, but only in as far as they directly contribute to the overarching objective of raising the standard of living of the poor.

The Commission's communication on Development Policy is presented at a moment where pointed questions are being raised about the effectiveness and efficiency of aid programmes in general, not only at the level of the EU, but also in relation to the national development cooperation programmes implemented by the individual EU Member States. The Commission actively addresses this criticism by radically refocusing its policy on poverty eradication, built on three pillars; development cooperation and financial aid targeted on assistance that directly benefits the poor, intensified political dialogue, and trade and economic cooperation designed to facilitate the smooth and gradual integration of developing countries in the global economy.

The Commission aims to concentrate on a number of core tasks, and therefore proposes to reduce the Community's development activities to those areas where the Community can offer comparative advantages, added value and contribute to the over-arching objective of poverty eradication. The paper identifies six such areas: trade for development, regional integration and cooperation, macroeconomic policies linked with poverty reduction strategies, in particular the strengthening of social sectors like health and education, reliable and sustainable transport which plays a key role in access to basic social services, food security and sustainable rural development strategies and, last but not least, institutional capacity building, good governance and the rule of law. These areas have also been chosen as they are inter-related and mutually reinforcing so as to maintain internal coherence of development policy and increase its impact. At the same time, the range of areas must stay sufficiently broad to suit the development needs of each country. Cross-cutting issues, such as gender aspects, environmental sustainability and human rights will be fully integrated in to all activities.

As for the implementation of development policies, the Commission draws a series of important lessons from the past and translates them into guidelines for the future:

  • The Commission will be more serious about the "ownership" of the development process (which demands maximum participation of the poor, their representatives in civil society, and the partner countries)

  • We will strive for more coordination and a better division of labour between the Community development programme and the programmes of other donors, notably those of EU Member States.

  • The Commission will avoid incoherences between the Community development policy and other Community policies with an impact on developing countries, such as trade, agriculture and fisheries.

  • There will be more concentration on institutional resources and streamline and simplify administrative procedures in order to increase the speed and quality of work output.

With this new framework plan, the Commission has laid the foundation for a new phase in the conception and implementation of EU development policy. The Communication is due to be discussed by Ministers at the Development Council on 18 May where Member States will be asked to agree on its objectives.

The EU is the main partner of developing countries. Together, the Community and the Member States provide 55% of all international official development assistance. The EU is also by far the biggest trading partner and foreign investor in the developing world. The Commission document on the new Community development policy underlines that these facts are a source of both pride and immense responsibility.

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