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New guidelines for EU development policy

More sustainability and more partnership - those are the not-so-new guidelines for EU development policy as determined by the Foreign Affairs Council. And now? Bernd Riegert reports from Brussels.

Somalia Dürre verendente Ziegen (Getty Images/AFP/M. Abdiwahab)

The EU wants to fight drought in Somalia

Africa, above all, will benefit from new development policy guidelines agreed upon Friday by the European Union: that is the assessment of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a think tank with offices in several African nations.

An ISS analysis of the EU's development policy guidelines states that the EU is increasingly focussed on helping the world's poorest countries, most of which are in Africa. Further, the EU is less concerned with providing acute help than it is with establishing sustainable aid programs designed to lead to longterm employment opportunities and provide supply reliability.

European Union member states, which combined represent the majority of worldwide development aid, seek to better coordinate their efforts amongst one another as well as create partnerships with target countries. EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, Federica Mogherini, described that goal as the EU's motivation when she announced the revised guidelines, saying: "For the European Union, investing in development, investing in sustainable development, investing in the fight against climate change, in human rights, is an essential part of our security and foreign policy. We see this as an investment in our own security and prosperity - and this is what we share, I believe, with the entire UN system."

Belgien EU-Außenbeauftragte Federica Mogherini in Brüssel (picture-alliance/AP/G. V. Wijngaert)

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

Aligned with UN aims / goals

The EU has adjusted its existing goals, which were established in 2005, to conform to United Nations standards. The UN's longterm development goals, laid out in the so-called Agenda 2030, place great emphasis on sustainability. "That is the working foundation for the next several years," said Germany's parliamentary secretary to the Federal Development Ministry, Thomas Silberhorn, speaking in Brussels. "Of course that must now be followed up by concrete action. For us, fair trade, fair taxation and global order play just as important a role as partnerships with reform-minded countries. We will continue to push those aspects to the fore and solicit further support."

The African think tank Institute for Security Studies emphasizes that the EU does not wholly reject immigration from African countries, but rather, sees it as a development policy opportunity. The ISS website states, "That stands in stark contrast to the perceptible policies of a number of EU member states." Beyond the noble aims of the guidelines, EU development ministers want to continue to work on their so-called "Compacts with Africa." These contracts are designed to curb migration north and across the Mediterranean by helping provide African youths with economic opportunity at home and in transit countries.

Fighting climate change

Amina Mohammed, who as deputy secretary-general of the United Nations is also responsible for development policy and the Agenda 2030, also participated in the meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels. She welcomed the fact that the EU and the UN were on the same page.

However, she indirectly criticized the United States, which has long been a leader on development policy issues. Mohammed said that stepping away from climate treaties, an existential issue for developing countries, was not an option. "That means we cannot leave anyone behind. That is what the Paris climate agreement is about. It includes the quest for innovation and the financial means required to implement the climate agreement."

Nigeria Umweltministerin Amina Mohammed (picture alliance/Photoshop)

The UN's development policy leader Amina Mohamed

African countries need to take responsibility

For German representatives in Brussels, development policy partnership means African countries have to take on more responsibility than has been the case to date. Parliamentary secretary Thomas Silberhorn pointed to the example of famine in Yemen and other African countries (Somalia, South Sudan, Nigeria), where some 20 million people are faced with the threat of malnutrition and starvation. "Governments in countries experiencing famine bear fundamental responsibility for the problem. Look at Nigeria or South Sudan: They are wealthy countries. We must insist that affected countries invest more in prevention."

He went on to say that there are still well-known structural problems in a number of countries in the region. Adding that the agricultural sector must be refocussed on more productive crops in order to prevent famine. "When societies rely on subsistence farming for 70 to 80 percent of their food, it is obvious that the whole of society will quickly slide into starvation and poverty if two harvests fail."

Thomas Silberhorn (DW/H.Kiesel)

Thomas Silberhorn

EU ministers refused to commit any concrete aid to nations suffering famine on Friday. The United Nations voiced criticism that the 4 billion euros ($4.49 billion) in financial aid required to fund efforts until the end of this year had yet to be ensured. Thomas Silberhorn from the Federal Development Ministry admitted that in the long run the United Nations needed a better financing model for catastrophe aid.

Thus far, food programs have been run without a fixed budget, but have instead been dependent upon donor states on a case by case basis. Silberhorn also sees that as the responsibility of affected countries, which are at times involved in military conflicts or civil wars. "It is unacceptable that even aid shipments are instrumentalized in armed conflicts, and that humanitarian access is not guaranteed - that starvation is used as a weapon. The shamelessness with which a number of states operate is a heavy burden for the international community."

Somalia Hunger und Cholera fordern mindestens 110 Todesopfer (picture alliance/AP Photo/F. Abdi Warsameh)

Somalia suffers from hunger, drought, and disease: Can stronger development policy help?

Last week, at a donor conference in London, Martin Kessler, director of the Protestant disaster relief organization Diakonie, accused EU member states of neglecting Africa. Kessler told the news agency Evangelical Pressedienst (epd): "The gaze was strictly focussed on keeping refugees from coming to Europe." He went on to say that warning signs for the famines in Yemen and Somalia had been ignored for years, summing up by saying: "We are very late."  

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