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EDITO
Tuesday, 19 June 2018
EU development ministers endorsed a new development aid strategy for Africa on Tuesday, which could include plans to set up a multibillion euro (dollar) common fund to help build roads, phone networks and other key infrastructure projects on the continent.
The fund would gather money from the 25 EU member states as well as other international organisations like the World Bank, EU development aid commissioner Louis Michel said.
Officials said infrastructure plans would be approved on a case by case basis, and carried out by those countries who have the best expertise or link to a certain country or region in Africa.
Michel said such projects were "at the heart of the EU's Africa strategy," which is to be approved by EU leaders at their summit in Brussels next month.
The new EU development aid strategy will focus primarily on alleviating poverty in Africa and on keeping EU governments committed to their promises to double aid to the continent, said Hilary Benn, Britain's international development secretary, who chaired Tuesday's EU talks.
Benn said: "We have shown that we want to deliver better aid as well as more aid."
EU aid to Africa will increase from €17bn ($20bn) to around €25bn ($30bn) by 2010, based on commitments made by EU governments in June.
At least 50% of the increased EU aid will go to sub-Saharan Africa.
The plan foresees faster disbursement of aid to countries most in need, including building infrastructure like roads, rail links and telecommunications. Closer coordination in areas like agricultural trade, fisheries, and migration issues are also mentioned in the plan, as is a new focus on fighting HIV/Aids.
Benn also said the British government, which currently holds the EU presidency, would put forward new aid proposals such as technical assistance for poor countries to help their ability to trade, ahead of key world trade talks in Hong Kong next month.
A report published on 21 November 2005 has attacked what it claims is the overwhelming influence exerted by corporate lobbyists on the trade agenda pursued by the European Commission.
The report, published by NGO group the Seattle to Brussels network, claims that EU trade policy is "being driven by the demands of European businesses for new markets rather than by the needs of developing countries, European citizens or the environment".
The report came on the day EU trade ministers met to set their final agenda for the WTO ministerial conference in Hong Kong on 13-18 December.
The Doha trade round is titled the Doha Development round, but, say the NGO organisations, the facts behind the rhetoric do not back up this claim. Far from promoting development in non-EU countries, the real agenda of the EU, led by the big business lobby, is to force open the markets in these countries for exploitation by European and transnational corporations.
Decentralised cooperation must be recognised as a dimension of European development policy. In her own-initiative opinion on “Decentralised cooperation in the reform of EU development”, adopted by a majority of the Members of the Committee of the Regions during its plenary session of Wednesday, 16 November, Juliette Soulabaille (PES/FR), mayor of Corps Nuds, Vice President of the Community of Agglomeration of Rennes Metropolis and Chair of the Working Group on International Affairs and Decentralised Cooperation of the Association of Mayors of France (AMF) advocates taking more account of the role of local authorities in European development policy. With the support of the Member States, European local authorities have in fact maintained for several years cooperation relations with their counterparts in third countries, in particular in developing countries.
As Mrs Soulabaille emphasises, “they contribute their know-how and experience acquired through exercising various competences, for example in the area of health, education, urban service (water, waste). Their actions are particularly precious in helping local authorities in developing countries to fulfil better their responsibilities resulting from decentralisation”. She regrets, however, that “their contribution to European development policy is to a large extent unrecognised”. In her view “that explains the fluctuating role attributed to them in development policy programmes”. To remedy that situation Mme Soulabaille has put forward various proposals:
- Concerning European local authorities, the wealth of decentralised cooperation should be highlighted and used as the basis for exchanges of experience and drawing up best practices.
- A development-focused political dialogue should be established between the Community institutions and local authorities through the creation of a platform similar to that available to the European development NGOs.
- Moreover, twinning programmes between EU local authorities and those of developing countries should be put in place and locally elected officials in developing countries should be encouraged to set up associations and networks.
- To reinforce these initiatives the basic principles of European development aid should integrate a decentralised approach. That involves, in particular, raising awareness in the European Commission’s delegations of the local dimension so that decentralised cooperation is seen as a way of supplementing cooperation actions at national level.
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European DeveloFpment Ministers meeting today in Brussels agreed for the first time a common vision for development. It focuses on eradicating poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in the poorest countries.
The meeting was chaired by UK Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn, who said: "This year has already seen the European Union show global leadership on providing aid to the developing world, with a pledge to double aid volumes by 2010. "By agreeing a common vision on how European aid money should be spent, we have shown that we want to deliver better aid as well as more aid. Given the EU provides over half of all world aid, this will make a huge difference to the lives of millions of poor people. "I hope that the statement will now be adopted by the European Parliament – which would be the first time a development policy statement has been agreed between the European Council, Commission and Parliament.
"In delivering on our commitments to double EU aid by 2010, Ministers agreed to provide more long-term, predictable aid to poor countries, so better helping them to plan for the future.
"We also discussed the importance of providing aid to help developing countries improve their capacity for trade. We noted the European Commission’s commitment to increase its aid for trade to 1 billion Euros by 2010, and the UK, acting as Presidency, agreed to put forward a set of proposals on aid from Member States to assist poor countries’ ability to trade before the WTO Ministerial in Hong Kong."
Ministers also discussed the new EU-Africa Strategy to be adopted at the December European Council. This sets out how the EU will help support Africa’s development, with governance, infrastructure, HIV/AIDS, peace and security, migration and the importance of African ownership being priorities.
After three years of negotiation, the General Affairs Council also saw Member States formally untie all aid channelled through the European Commission. This will ensure that developing countries receive the most suitable aid possible.
Ministers discussed the EU’s response to the South Asia Tsunami, noting that of the 556 million Euros pledged for humanitarian assistance, 452 million – 80 per cent - has been disbursed. They also discussed ways to improve the EU’s response to disasters like the Pakistan Earthquake. Ministers recognised that there is a continuing need for contributions to the immediate relief effort.
Gareth Thomas, UK Minister for International Development, reported on the Pakistan earthquake donor conference in Islamabad on Saturday 19 November, at which he represented the UK Presidency of the EU. The total amount pledged for both relief and long-term reconstruction is now around US$5.8 billion (around 4.9 billion Euros). This includes US$1.9 billion (1.6 billion Euros, £1 billion) in cash grants and assistance in kind, with the remaining US$3.9 billion (3.3 billion Euros, £2.3 billion) in concessional loans. The European Union has pledged around 600 million Euros.
The European 'Consensus on Development' has been agreed by the European Council and Commission, and is expected to be endorsed by the European Parliament before the end of the year. The Parliament has been involved throughout.
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Wednesday, 23 November 2005
19-24 November sees the 10th Joint parliamentary Assembly of the African Caribbean Pacific - European Union countries take place in Edinburgh. Agriculture is one item on the agenda in Edinburgh. Natural disasters, the situation in West Africa and the role of national parliaments in overseeing development aid are on the agenda next week when Edinburgh plays host to parliamentarians from Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and countries of the Pacific. Better known under its acronym "ACP-EU", they are in the Scottish capital for a meeting of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly that brings together representatives from countries that have signed the Cotonou Trade agreement.

What are they debating? Next week the Assembly will debate a report on ways of increasing the role of national parliaments in overseeing the use of development aid. They will also debate ways of making better use of agricultural and mining resources - particularly in the context of ongoing World Trade Organisation negotiations. The parliamentarians will also hear a report on the "causes and consequences of natural disasters" and debate the political situation in West Africa. They will also adopt resolutions on these subjects. Glenys Kinnock MEP, Co-President of the Assembly said ahead of the meeting that "the conference will be an opportunity for us as parliamentarians...to deliberate on the issues and priorities which we share. This includes...funding for development obligation set by the Millennium Development Goals."

Who are they? The Joint Parliamentary Assembly comprises 77 members of the European Parliament and 77 MPs from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries. They meet twice a year (once in an EU country, once in an ACP country) to discuss issues related to the Cotonou accord. It is the only institution of its kind in the world. The institution is governed by common, democratic rules. The meeting in Edinburgh lasts from 19 to 24 November and is open to the general public.

Benin to Britain: The underlying aim of the Cotonou Agreement (named after the capital of Benin where the accord was singed in 2000) is to fight poverty - principally through increased trade and economic activity. It also covers political, cultural and social cooperation designed to foster "peace and security" between its signatories. Issues related to the agreement will be debated in Edinburgh. This type of relationship between the European Union and ACP states dates back to the 1963 Yaoundé convention and from 1975 to 2000 various Lomé conventions. The number of participants and scope of cooperation has progressively expanded.