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January 2018
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EDITO
Thursday, 18 January 2018
The European Parliament is set to back new proposals on development aid and Africa, but warns that progress on both issues must be results orientated.
Talking to journalists ahead of a Thursday joint debate, MEPs Maria Martens and Anders Wijkman welcomed the opportunity to refocus EU aid efforts.
“Europe must do more to help Africa said,” Martens, adding “I am happy that the commission’s new strategy for Africa shows a sense of urgency.”
Martens said she backed the commission’s focus on implementing the stalled Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on poverty reduction.
But she warned that the problem of deep-rooted poverty across many African countries meant that in some countries the MDGs might currently be unachievable.
Structural instability still plagues the continent, according to Martens. Weak and corrupt governments are failing to supply people with basic necessities.
And the Dutch MEP criticised the commission for focusing too heavily on Africa’s more stable nations. Without good governance, stability cannot be achieved she warned. “The EU must deal with fragile and failed states.” A one-size-fits-all strategy on Africa has failed in the past, Martens argued. Anders Wijkman criticised the EU’s lack of coherence in managing development policy. “Often we offer with one hand and then introduce trade policies with the other that have the opposite effect,” said Wijkman. He commended the Commission’s initiative to take a radical look at EU development policy, saying that all too often member states efforts lacked consistency, leading to duplication, high costs and complications for partner countries. Wijkman said that the primary goal of the new policy should be the emergence of a ‘European Consensus’ on development issues. The Swedish MEP took time out from the parliament’s debate on his own climate change report to talk about development. And echoing Martens, Wijkman said that “We should not underestimate the need for good governance in Africa.”
“There are too many examples of corruption in the past. The two key issues are results and good governance.”
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Wednesday, 16 November 2005
EU pleads for freedom of speech as instrument to bridge the digital divide at this week’s World Summit in Tunis
The question of how the worldwide web is run, and how it can best safeguard basic freedoms and drive economic growth around the globe, will dominate the second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that starts tomorrow in Tunis and will end on 18 November. The discussions of more than 50 Heads of State or Government, or their representatives, and of many non-governmental organisations and representatives of civil society, will also focus on financial mechanisms to bridge the digital divide.
“I hope that Tunis will mark an important step forward in the internet’s long evolution away from government control and towards truly international governance”, said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, who is leading the Commission delegation in Tunis. “We are almost there. We already have consensus on more than two thirds of the package and I call on all participants to make sure that this agreement is not called into question. A policy agreement in Tunis is within our grasp and it would be an important signal that democratic nations are genuinely committed to bridging the worrying divide between the world’s digital ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, and to building a genuinely open and inclusive global information society.”

Background:

The World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) that officially starts tomorrow is a formal UN Summit at the level of Heads of State and Government. The EU is represented at the WSIS by the EU Presidency and the European Commission, with Members of the European Parliament included in the EU delegation. The process is divided into two phases (Geneva, 10-12 Dec. 2003; Tunis, 16-18 Nov. 2005). The talks in Tunis this week will focus on internet governance and financial mechanisms to bridge the digital divide. For the EU, discussions with civil society and private industry will parallel the official summit.

How can information and communication technologies help developing countries?
Information and communication technologies (ICTs) – which include everything from old-fangled telephones and broadcasting equipment to the latest smart, do-everything devices – are vital to any country’s long-run economic competitiveness, social cohesion, good governance and quality medical care. National research and education networks play a strategic role in enabling schoolchildren, students, businesses and citizens to use these technologies productively, in ways that overcome the inadequacies of existing markets and public services.
ICTs need infrastructure, but hardware alone does not make an effective information system. To make the hardware useful, international co-operation schemes also support energy supply, training, policy and planning, and ICT applications development. These schemes are helping many developing countries to skip older generation ICTs and access newer, cheaper and more useful ones directly.
As developing countries’ economies liberalise, so a growing share of telecommunications infrastructure investment must come from the private sector. To attract this investment, governments, with donor support, may provide low-interest loans or risk guarantees. At the very least, they need to ensure that regulation fosters enterprise and competition.
Where the market cannot meet development needs, e.g. because providing connections to poor and rural areas would be unprofitable, governments may help through innovative public-private partnerships, incentives, or public provision. Donor support is often important in launching and expanding such initiatives.
To harness the development potential of ICTs, the EU works with international aid programmes coordinated by inter-governmental or non-governmental agencies. The European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD, and the European Development Fund (EDP) – an initiative for African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries – are all important partners in investing in ICT for development.
For example, around €110 million from the 9th European Development Fund for ACP countries goes to ICT-related aid. Most developing countries view ICTs as an integral part of their development plans, and ICTs form a significant part of many EU-funded projects.
If globalisation has certainly had positive effects on the economy, then there should in turn be advantages for everybody. Its negative effects, notably in the social sector, need to be offset by policies that make globalisation work for mankind. These sentiments were reflected in the report by Slovenian MEP Mihael Brejc (EPP-ED, SI) on "globalisation and its social dimension".
The report went on to say that EU actions in this field could, if successful, serve as an inspiration to other parts of the world. To contribute significantly to the ongoing debate of how to counteract the negative effects of globalisation worldwide, the European Union needs to act in a coherent way through its internal and external policies. This the key message of the report on the social dimension of globalisation.
Certain actions of good practice could even serve as an example to other parts of the world; other EU policies have to be reformed to be compatible with the development policy. MEPs highlight various actions they believe to be taken at EU level and expect the Commission to come forward with concrete proposals and the necessary resources.
For the Parliament, globalisation must be a process with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, respect for human rights and individual dignity which is fair, inclusive and democratically governed, provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people and is linked to the Millennium Development Goals.
Social rights, social dialogue and human rights should be given greater importance in the EU's various external programmes. The EU's partnerships should include a social pillar covering among other things labour standards. Through bilateral agreements the Commission should ensure that, at the least, ILO (International Labour Organisation) standards are respected in order to ensure humane working conditions.
The EU should use its bilateral relations to ensure that jobs which are moved off -shore or relocated outside the EU do not end up being performed in sweat shops in the third world but instead, jobs of high quality are created.
MEPs support the Commissions efforts to raise awareness among multinational companies of their social responsibility, which have as yet had limited effect. They consider that the social and environmental responsibilities of multinationals should be clearly established, and that EU action in this area should be stepped up.
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Tuesday, 15 November 2005
Who gets Community funding? What influence do the lobbies have? What rules of conduct do those in charge of the European institutions have to follow? These are some of the questions often asked by Europe’s citizens about ‘Brussels’. Therefore the College of Commissioners has today decided to launch a European Transparency Initiative. A Green Paper is to be published by the beginning of 2006 to launch a debate with all the stakeholders on how to improve transparency on the Community Funds, consultation with civil society and the role of the lobbies and NGOs in the European institutions’ decision-making process. Discussions will also be started at interinstitutional level to promote the EU’s framework on professional ethic[s]. Lastly, the European Commission will continue its progress on transparency by taking concrete action to improve its own transparency vis-à-vis Europe’s citizens. This initiative is a logical complement to Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate.
As one of this Commission’s main strategic objectives, this initiative is designed to increase the transparency with which the EU handles the responsibilities and funds entrusted to it by the European citizen. This is an essential condition for the legitimacy of any modern administration and a key element in European citizens’ trust in their public institutions.
Over the last few years the European Commission has made major advances in the field of openness and transparency, in particular: publication of the 2001 White Paper on European governance, the drafting of precise rules on ethical standards in the new Staff Regulations for its officials and the introduction of codes of conduct, clear rules on access to documents, and making detailed information on Committees and expert groups available.
The development policy of the EU should also be more known to the EU citizens as well as to the citizens of the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
A new monitoring system to deal with natural disasters: Commission launches pilot phase of GMES
Natural and manmade catastrophes in Europe, America, Asia and Africa, coupled with increased security needs, have further reinforced the case for improved monitoring systems. The European Commission is pressing ahead with plans to introduce the first three earth observation services concerning emergency management, land and marine monitoring. After GALILEO, the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) has become the second EU flagship in space policy. It will gather relevant data, for example concerning environmental pollution, floods, forest fires or earthquakes in support of public policy makers’ needs. GMES will ensure that crisis situations can be better anticipated and managed. It can provide the foundation for evidence-based environmental policy making, as well as the information required to ameliorate its effects on citizens.

Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen responsible for enterprise and industry policy said: “GMES will improve our capacity to respond to natural catastrophes. At the same time it will promote the competitiveness of the European space industry.” Extreme weather events and natural or manmade crises constantly occupy a major place in the news. It is clear that it becomes a priority for the EU to look for solutions that can provide a basis for a response in these situations and, in the longer-term, seek to prevent their recurrence.
From 11 areas identified earlier as potential initial GMES services, the Commission has selected emergency management, land monitoring, and marine services. These will now enter into their pilot operational phase.
In the short term and as a first step, the Commission will set up a GMES organisational structure, operating within the Commission, to strengthen the management of GMES, including the development of three pilot services to be ready in 2008:
- The Emergency Management service aims to reinforce the European capacity to predict and respond to crises and emergencies associated with natural and man-made disasters.
- The Land Monitoring service will deliver timely, important information on land use and land cover changes for a number of identified areas at European, national and local scale.
- The Marine Services will provide data, information products and indicators on the condition of the seas.
See also effort by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States to establish a Natural Disasters Facility to prevent and respond adequately to the effects of natural disasters on their economies.