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close this bookThe Courier N 140 - July - Aug 1993 - Dossier: National Minorities - Country Reports: Dominica, Mozambique (EC Courier, 1993, 96 p.)
close this folderACP - EEC
View the documentThe 18th ACP-EEC Council of Ministers
View the documentEC Development Council special initiative for Africa

EC Development Council special initiative for Africa

More coordination of national and Community development work Development cooperation to promote human rights Guidelines for future cooperation with South Africa Humanitarian aid and 'visibility'

The world recession has not spared the developed countries and, particularly in Europe, governments face many competing calls on public funds. As one delegate to the recent meeting of the European Community's Development Ministers put it, aid for the poorer countries must continue, but 'every single ECU must be properly spent'. In terms of payments actually made, the European Community and its Member States account for 47% of all development aid, so the decisions taken by the Ministers in that single conference room will play a vital part in shaping the development policies of the whole world as the 21st century approaches.

Denmark's State Secretary for Development Cooperation, Helle Degn, chaired the Development Council which met in Brussels on 25 May. The morning was devoted to an open debate on alle viating poverry and the coordination of development cooperation activities (policies and implementation) between the EC and its Member States.

A note from the Danish Presidency set the tone by pointing out that despite several decades of development efforts, poverty had not been reduced in developing countries. There was now, it said, growing acknowledgement of the need to integrate the poor into the mainstream of the development process. It was up to the Member States to decide how a coherent EC policy could be hammered out. 'As regards economic policies,' the note went on, How can one ensure that greater weight is given to market forces, while at the same time maintaining an appropriate level of government involvement in order to obtain balanced economic growth and equitable distribution of wealth?'

Among the Ministers and State Secretaries who spoke, Baroness Lynda Chalker of the UK said her country favoured a practical, sector-by-sector approach to development coordination and agreed that assistance should focus on eradicating poverty. Human capital should be developed through expanded health and education programmes, with safety nets for the disabled and the aged. Georges Papastamkos, for Greece, said development aid would not work if it perpetuated anti-development conditions: it must be directed towards freeing private resources and investment, in economies run on social market economy principles. Respect for human rights and democracy must be insisted on as a condition of aid. Portugal's Jose Manuel Briosa e Gala said priority in fighting rising poverty must go to nongovernmental organizations and small projects, as macroeconomic measures had done little to create employment or redistribute wealth. His country intended to devote 2% of its GDP to helping the least developed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, where the needs were greatest.

Speaking for Ireland, Tom Kitt called for debt to be taken into account in any discussion of ways of alleviating poverty, and believed that pressure on governments to reduce military spending must be an integral part of the Community's future strategy. Hans-Peter Repoik of Germany said that participation and self help, close corollaries of democracy and human rights, were the key to fighting poverty. For Spain, Inocencio Arias believed that the Community's aid should complement, not duplicate, that of the Member States. And economic recovery could only take place in the context of democracy.

Carmelo Azzara of Italy said priority should go to fighting poverty and social exclusion by enhancing food security, health care and training provision. Belgium, according to Eric Derycke, wanted priorities to include migration and debt. Ministers, he said, should agree on levels and sectors where the EC had a comparative advantage over the Member States, or vice versa, in terms of expertise or scale. The French Minister, Michel Roussin, favoured encouraging economic growth, though without neglecting schemes to develop human capital.

For the Netherlands, Jan Pronk said the 1990s were not the 1980s, and it was time to review the structural adjustment approach: more attention should be paid to job creation and measures to help the vulnerable in the fields of education, health and food security. He felt the Commission had recently concentrated too much on its own areas of competence, as for example the provision of emergency humanitarian aid, often a cover to mask the political consequences of other forms of aid. There should be a coherent policy for development cooperation; at the moment aid was having to be given to repair the damage caused by trade wars.

The Member of the Commission responsible for Development, Vice-President Manuel Marin, said there was an increasing awareness of the need to foster human solidarity in combating poverty, which was a threat to world stability in terms of environmental damage, drug trafficking, population growth and disease. The World Bank had reported that one third of the world's population were living in absolute poverty. Thus no donor, however rich, could nowadays go it alone-but was there, Mr Marin wondered, the political will to coordinate official development aid? The present lack of coordination placed the EC in a weak position vis-a-vis other donors such as the United States and Japan. And it was up to the Council's Committees to make sure there was also a two-way exchange of information on development activities between the Member States and the Commission.

Ms Degn wound up the public debate from the chair by saying that a greater contribution towards alleviating poverty would have to be made by all the Community's policies, and there should be closer dialogue with governments in the beneficiary countries so that they could be helped to carry out their own anti-poverty programmes.

The Development Council adopted the Commission's suggestion that policy coordination should, initially, be enhanced in the areas of health, food security, and education and training. As for sectors where policies were already coordinated, such as respect for human rights, family planning and support for structural adjustment, the focus now should be primarily on implementation.

The Council then debated a special initiative for Africa tabled by the Danish Presidency. This provided for a ECU 100 million action programme to finance post-emergency rehabilitation in certain sub-Saharan African countries, thereby bridging the gap between emergency aid and longer-term development assistance. The document does not, however, name the countries which are to benefit, and the amount earmarked falls far short of the ECU 273 million in EC funds allocated to rehabilitation in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Eritrea last year, not to mention the sum of ECU 1000 million for which the Commission had argued in its proposal for a rehabilitation programme covering all the developing countries. That proposal was in fact held over for consideration till the next Development Council. The Commission also feared that the ECU 100 million programme would take unduly long to execute, as the main financing source is to be the European Development Fund, the procedures for which do not make for rapid action. The Commission's rehabilitation programmes for other, non-ACP countries are in most cases jointly financed by the Member States. The Presidency's document was eventually adopted, but the arguments raised on both sides are bound to be heard again when the Commission's proposal reappears before the Council in six months' time.

In a declaration on future development cooperation with South Africa, the Council said the EC and its Member States would signal their desire to step up relations with that country as soon as a Transitional Executive Council was set up. The basis for assistance from the EC should be democratisation, the rule of: law, human rights, good governance and popular participation. Aid should go primarily towards supporting peace structures and initiatives and the transition to democratic government, focus on a limited number of sectors and encompass cooperation with and through NGOs.

The Council adopted a declaration on human rights, democracy and development which was to form the basis for EC participation in the United Nations World Conference on Human Rights being held in Vienna in June. The text stresses the important role of development assistance in promoting economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political liberties, and says the EC and its Member States are willing to consider the possibility of increased assistance to developing countries in which substantive positive changes in human rights and democracy have taken place. Areas in which development cooperation could be stepped up include the holding of free elections, the strengthening of the judiciary and the police, the peaceful settlement of conflicts, promoting the role of NGOs and the media, setting up independent human rights organisations and action to protect women, indigenous people and vulnerable groups.

A set of conclusions on humanitarian and emergency aid welcomed the establishment of the European Community Humanitarian Office and stressed the need for openness, dialogue (between the EC and Member States) and visibility (of the Community as a donor) in the field of emergency aid, though the Dutch Government added a statement to the minutes saying that considerations of visibility should play no part in decisions on the channelling of such aid. The Council believed that greater advantage should be taken of the possibilities for cooperation with local NGOs and agencies in recipient countries, and reaffirmed the need for close coordination with the UN system in emergency situations.

A Commission progress report on follow-up to the UN Conference on the Environment and Development, produced for the meeting of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in June, was noted. On women in development, the Council welcomed the efforts made to incorporate activities designed to promote the role of women in the implementation of the Lome IV Convention. It asked population experts from the EC and its Member States to continue their work on family planning in population policies in the developing countries; the aim of European cooperation in this area is to ensure that population figures are consistent with sustainable development.

Emergency situations in Africa were of concern to the Ministers, who decided to send a delegation of EC Development Ministers to the Sudan and press ahead with humanitarian efforts there in 1993. They supported the UN's political role in Somalia and believed that a contribution from that country's own people to establishing peace and security was the precondition for implementing reconstruction aid. On newly independent Eritrea, the Council agreed that there was a huge need for rapid transitional aid and that Eritrea should join the Lome Convention as soon as possible.

Development Councils seem traditionally to end with an inconclusive discussion of the question of untying Member States' development aid at the EC level, and this was no exception. In some quarters there is a feeling that conditions as to how aid is to be spent must be struck out of aid agreements in the interests of getting value for money, while others believe that that would only lead to a drop in the amounts of aid given. The Commission is now to draft a paper on the issue for discussion at the next Development Council, which is to be held in October.
R.R.