|The Courier N° 128 July - August 1991 - Dossier : Human Rights- Democracy-Development Country Reports: Benin, Western Samoa (EC Courier, 1991, 96 p.)|
by Laure de Cenival
The 17th General Assembly of Europes development NGOs (non-governmental organizations - DNGOs) was held in Brussels on 9-11 April when representatives from the 700 organisations in the Liaison Committee of Development NGOs of the European Community and their partners in the Commission took stock of their cooperation and discussed prospects for NGO action in the coming years.
Since 1976, cooperation between the NGOs and the EEC has been practical proof that the Community shares the solidarity of the people of Europe with the poorest populations of the Third World. The focus has been on cofinancing development schemes (microprojects) in the developing countries, on campaigns to put public opinion in Europe in the picture, on food aid and emergency aid and on helping the NGOs coordinate to make them more effective. The NGOs and their local partners are highly motivated and committed and their independence relatively small size and autonomy and attendant flexible management all contribute to their success. These positive factors tend to combine to bring greater efficiency, speed and flexibility to the design and implementation of projects in the developing world, making NGO action a vital complement to intergovernmental and Community cooperation programmes.
Manuel Marin, Commission VicePresident, Nicole Pery, Vice-President of the European Parliament and member of its Development Committee as well as of the ACP-EEC Joint Assembly, and Devaki fain, the Head of the New Delhi Institute of Social Studies, spoke at the opening session of the meeting to a large number of representatives of Community institutions, ACP nations and NGOs.
Manuel Marins subject was human rights and development, an area in which he has taken the initiative of suggesting a new, innovatory Community policy tying development cooperation to the promotion of human rights and democracy. The Commission indeed intends going in for positive encouragement measures in the shape of large amounts of aid for countries - such as Haiti and Benin which are making a special effort. Although negative measures (sanctions) have not been ruled out, there is no question of imposing conditionality or, even less, a model for democracy. Proper development means respect for human rights and authentic democratic participation, and the development NGOs therefore see these areas as vitally important.
The opening session also saw the official prize-giving of the DNGO 2001, the annual award set up by Europes development NGOs in 1988 and given to a group or individual involved in an outstanding initiative to do with NorthSouth relations. This year it went to the International Collective in Support of Fish Workers (ICSFW), the North-South network of basic groups, NGOs, trade unions and fishermen from all over the world, which was founded in 1986 to improve the situation of people who depend on fishing and on the processing and distribution of fish and fish products for their livelihood. The original idea was to help artisanal fishermen in the Third World, but the organization now takes care of fisheries workers everywhere and is a fine example of an NGO in which North and South- are in partnership and adapting to the NGOs new role in a changing world the central theme of the 1991 meeting.
The world in which the NGOs work has changed over the past few years. There have been major upheavals on the international scene, bringing progress for democracy and an end to confrontation between East and West and taking Europes attention away from the problems of the developing world. The new international economic order currently emerging puts less emphasis on the poor and-focuses development on mankind. But the advance of democracy in many Third World countries is leading the populations of the South to want greater involvement and greater control over their own lives - which is why one of the essential aims of the General Assembly was to see how development agencies in the North and NGOs and grass roots groups in the South can cooperate more efficiently and achieve a democratic development model based on what the people need. Four workshops therefore looked at specific aspects of the main topic - NGOs from the South and their external relations, European development NGOs and their external relations, the influence of DNGOs and the challenges of a changing world and the techniques of lobbying and coordination.
So the DNGOs devoted most of the three days to themselves and the world they work in. The meeting was an opportunity to look at the various contexts in which development NGOs from North and South operate and to discuss the initiatives they hope to promote and t~w-.to--implement them. It also gave the Ebropean organizations a chance to redefine their relations with their partners in the South and, most important, when it comes to achieving greater solidarity in the world, their strategies vis-a-vis the authorities in North and South.
by Jenny BEMBELLO
Landerf~erichte, the statistical monographs in the German Statistical Offices foreign series, cover something like 150 countries at the rate of 30 per year, clearly setting out recent figures from all available national and international sources and providing concise comments, graphs and subject maps in addition.
Lay-out and content are designed to show the State structure, government, geography and population of the country in question and, most important, to give a close analysis of the different sectors of the economy. So there are details of agriculture, industry (mining and energy included) and external trade, plus more specific economic information on such things as employment, price and wage trends and finance as well. Figures on the national economy and the balance of payments highlight general economic trends and social aspects are covered in special chapters on health and education.
Since relations between the ACP and EEC countries are intensifying and improving all the time - the Lomonventions have something to do with this - but that the general public in the EEC is ill-informed about it, the European Community Statistical Office in Luxembourg (Eurostat) and the Federal German Statistical Office in Wiesbaden (StBA) signed a statistical agreement, in October 1988, whereby Eurostat undertook to bring out French and English versions (with one or two amendments) of the original German reports on the ACP countries. Four of the 22 chapters containing details of bilateral and international aspects are in fact changed to suit the international readership, with the analyses (of external trade, official development assistance, external investments and debt) seen from a Community rather than a bilateral angle.
Zimbabwe was the test country selected to start the Community series, a choice dictated by the importance the EEC attaches to this country and its potential role in the Southern African development process and by Zimbabwes own drive to improve its socio-economic performance with a structural adjustment programme. The Zimbabwe report was published in June 1990 and presented to the press in Harare in July.
With the signing of LomV (due to be ratified in 1991), Eurostat and the StBA naturally went for Togo for the first regular report in the Community series which is to involve two 120-page issues every year.
Togo found development difficult in the 1970s and early 1980s, when unfavourable international economic conditions and breakneck industrialisation triggered a profound structural crisis in the nations economy. Things began to pick up gradually in the mid-1980s, although this country, like many others in Africa, is the victim of recurrent variations in the price of its main export products (phosphates, coffee, cocoa and cotton) on the international market. But its importance as a European Community trading partner and a goods transit point for the neighbouring countries is increasing.
A functional banking organisation, a highly developed transport infrastructure and a liberal trading system presage further economic improvements, particularly in agriculture, where about 70% of the population earn their living.
The structural adjustment programme in operation since 1983 has brought vast reforms in its wake and been of particular importance in recent economic developments, while the privatisation of unprofitable public and semi-public firms, a general farm price reform, a new investment law and the setting up of a free trade zone have created the conditions for lasting economic growth. All this could make Togo more attractive as both an investment proposition and a trading partner for the Community countries.
As well as setting out general economic and socio-economic trends, the report gives details of the volume and destination of trade flows and of economic cooperation between the European Community and Togo.
The main sectors covered - external trade, the external debt, foreign investments and official development assistance - will be dealt with in chapters focusing on relations with the European Community. The German Development Institute (DIE, Berlin) was asked to produce these four chapters and the general economic table and the chapters on sectoral economic trends, employment, trends in prices and wages and the social situation are the work of the foreign statistics department at the Federal Statistical Office in Berlin.
The Togo 1991 report is not just a reliable source of information for investors in the European Community and elsewhere. It is a work of reference for students looking for sound resource material and tourists interested in having a better idea of the importance and specific nature of the country they are visiting.
The next reports will be on Namibia and Cameroon.