This spring, the European Union and its Member States will decide how the EU will respond to the global development challenges and renew its development policy. As the European Union with its Member States is the world’s largest provider of development and humanitarian aid, a trade partner for developing countries and an important destination for migration, its policies have a pivotal role both for the developing countries and for the EU itself. A particularly important role they play in relation to the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the goals set in it, which the Union and the Member States have pledged to implement.
The growing tensions in the global economy and security environment and the internal challenges of the EU itself do not make the renewal work easy. There are various competing short-term economic and security policy interests that try to gain priority over the main objectives of development policy and cooperation, i.e. the reduction of poverty and inequality and the principles of sustainable development. Such short-term interests include the unsustainable use of the developing countries’ natural resources and unsound solutions to the refugee problem instead of addressing the root causes of it. The risk is that development policy and cooperation and their goals are overshadowed by these short-term interests and become mere tools to further other ends. That is not a sustainable solution. Therefore, it is important that Finland will ensure that management of migration flows is not coupled with development aid and that aid is not targeted at military actors.
Fortunately, the EU does not need to start formulating its common policy from scratch. The European Consensus on Development, a policy statement jointly made by the Member States, the European Commission and the European Parliament in 2005, is still in force and serves as the basis for the renewed statement. The Consensus defines how the EU and its Member States should act together in respect of international development issues and in relation to developing countries. The strengths of the policy statement are the common objectives that are binding on all the actors, such as the broad-based approach to poverty eradication and the common value basis. The key values of the Consensus are human rights, democracy, the rule of law, gender equality, and commitment to a certain amount of development aid and to improvement of aid effectiveness. These values must remain the basic pillars of the EU development policy also in future. Furthermore, the Consensus strove to clarify the coordination and division of responsibilities between the European Commission and the Member States. This work needs to be continued both at EU level and in the partner countries.
The most important statement included in the Consensus is the one stating that the development policy objectives cannot be achieved without being supported by other policy measures. The same idea of policy coherence has been included in the EU Treaties. The Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda 2030 make policy coherence topical in a completely new manner. A higher degree of commitment is now expected.
The previous Consensus strove to define the relationship of development policy to the EU’s external economic relations and the security and migration policies. The Maltese EU Presidency aims to extend the principle of policy coherence to cover all the areas of sustainable development, such as the economy, environment, climate, food security, migration and security. Furthermore, Malta’s proposal outlines that EU investments and tax policy should be brought to the centre of attention for the purpose of preventing illicit financial flows and tax evasion. This opening is very important and welcome, but it requires a clear strategy behind it – one that defines the concrete development policy objectives that are part of the wider set of objectives set out in Agenda 2030. It is understandable that the Presidency aims to keep its proposal very general, but at the same time we must ensure that the final document will clearly outline how the principle of policy coherence will oblige the different policy sectors, which objectives development policy aims to promote, and which practical measures shall be taken to guarantee the realisation of policy coherence and the related accountability.
The new Consensus shall reinforce the value base of the EU development policy and establish a framework that has the potential to guide the implementation of the EU development policy until 2030. Therefore, it is important that the Consensus will be based on the key principles of Agenda 2030, not on the existing short-term development cooperation instruments. The objectives set out in Agenda 2030 require education, impartial research, and knowledge-based decision-making behind them. Enhancement of the developing countries’ own resource bases is an objective that must consistently be supported by all EU measures, especially in the areas of trade, investments and private sector financial instruments. It is essential that the EU and its Member States encourage an economic transition that complies with the principles of sustainable development, i.e. one where decent workplaces, sufficient income to enable public services and sustainable value chains are being generated.
The Consensus needs to be boldly updated also when it comes to the contents of development cooperation itself. In the light of the current humanitarian crises, the Consensus is missing a clear vision of how the EU will further develop the continuum of humanitarian aid and development cooperation. Similarly, the role of the least developed countries and fragile countries in the EU development policy needs to be clarified. For example, the EU’s promises to provide additional support to the least developed countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa have mainly remained unrealised. The reason for this is that EU Member States, Finland among them, have not been able to meet the jointly agreed target level of development aid. As the needs for development aid keep on increasing, it is important that the EU Member States act in compliance with their international commitments. Finland has, as part of the EU, committed to allocate 0.7% of its GNI to development cooperation. In addition, Finland must ensure that 0.2% of its GNI is allocated to the least developed countries.
Special attention in the new Consensus should be paid to the rights of women and girls. Sexual and reproductive health and rights should also be brought up in a more pronounced manner than before. The Consensus must promote gender equality in a cross-cutting manner so that girls will have the right to their own body, education, and economic and societal participation. Besides the position of individual women, this will also have impact on the overall development of the poorest countries and on the global demographic trends.
Inquiries: MP Aila Paloniemi, Chairperson of the Development Policy Committee, tel. +358 50 511 3067, firstname.lastname@example.org, and Marikki Stocchetti, Secretary-General of the Development Policy Committee, tel. 050 525 864, email@example.com.
The Development Policy Committee is the only body monitoring and evaluating Finnish development cooperation and policy on a systematic and broad basis. The Government appoints the Development Policy Committee for each government term. Its members include representatives of parliamentary parties, advocacy organisations, NGOs and universities in the UniPID network.