|The Courier N° 152 - July - August 1995 - Dossier: NGO's - Country Reports: Belize, Malawi (EC Courier, 1995, 104 p.)|
|CTA - Bulletin|
Commissioner Pinheiro visits South Africa and Mozambique
Joao de Deus Pinheiro, the European Commissioner with responsibility for relations with the ACP countries and South Africa, made an official visit to the latter country, as well as Mozambique, between 11 and 18 May. The aim of the visit was to define the new framework for relations between the European Union and South Africa, and to reaffirm the EU's support for the democratisation process taking place in Mozambique.
On his arrival in South Africa, the Commissioner was received by State President Nelson Mandela at his private residence in Houghton, in the north of Johannesburg. After the meeting, the two men declared themselves to be optimistic and confident about the future of relations between South Africa and the Union. Professor Pinheiro indicated that, notwithstanding any difficulties encountered in the negotiations, he was convinced that a mutually beneficial solution could be found. At the time of the visit to Europe of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's Vice-President, at the beginning of the year, a number of misunderstandings and disagreements over the future form of relations between the EU and South Africa had emerged. Pretoria was seeking full membership of the Lomonvention while Brussels was proposing a more limited link with Lomombined with a trade and cooperation agreement which could lead to the establishment of a free trade area. The European side took the view that, given the economic weight of South Africa (its exports to the EU are equivalent to 50% of those of the 70 ACP countries), full membership of the ACP Group could have negative effects on the other ACP countries. For its part, the South African Government felt that the EU would be the main beneficiary of a free trade agreement.
The Commissioner's visit provided an opportunity to smooth out some of the differences between the two sides and to relaunch the negotiations on a somewhat different basis. Thus, South Africa would be able to adhere to the Lomonvention but it would be excluded from certain sensitive areas notably in the food production sector. As regards the bilateral agreement, the Commission has proposed an 'asymmetric' timetable which would allow South Africa to have privileged access to the European market, without, in the first instance, having to offer reciprocity for European exports. A definitive decision on the proposals to be made by the European side was expected to be made at the Cannes Summit (scheduled for 26 and 27 June). Having met with President Mandela, Commissioner Pinheiro attended the summit of the World Economic Forum which took place in Johannesburg and 12 May. He had a meeting there with Trevor Manuel, South Africa's Trade and Industry Minister and Jay Naidoo, Minister without portfolio, who is responsible for the country's Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). This gave Professor Pinheiro the opportunity to reaffirm the EU's support for South Africa's process of democratic transition and economic reconstruction. In this context, Mr Naidoo and Professor Pinheiro put their signatures to the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) which allocates the sum of ECU 125m to South Africa for 1995. The parties have agreed that the funds should be used to finance action in the fields of education, health, rural development, promotion of economic cooperation, trade and investment, support for small and medium sized enterprises and, more generally, in helping the democratic process. On the following day, Professor Pinheiro travelled to Pretoria where he met with Vice-President Thabo Mbeki. Mr Mbeki expressed satisfaction at the way relations with the EU were developing. Given the particular characteristics of his country, he recognised that it might be necessary to envisage a route somewhat different from that set out in the Lomonvention during future negotiations between the two sides. The two men also reiterated their wish to associate other countries in the region with the negotiations and Professor Pinheiro stressed that nothing would be done behind the backs of the ACP states. From Pretoria, the Commissioner flew on to Cape Town, the legislative capital. He visited a number of projects supported by the European Union in the townships of Guguletu and Khayelitsha and met with local officials. In the afternoon, he had an exchange of views with Doctor Ginwala, the Speaker of the South African Parliament. The discussions focused on the difficulties in bringing Parliament closer to the people-whether in the EU or in South Africa. Despite having a hectic schedule in South Africa, Professor Pinheiro also took time to visit Mozambique. There he met the President of the Republic, Joachim Chissano, Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, Renamo Leader Afonso Dhlakama and a number of other ministers and business leaders. The visit was taking place at a significant time, with Mozambique in the throes of a democratic transition and facing enormous economic problems. In the course of a press conference, Commissioner Pinheiro stressed the need for Mozambique to respect the commitments it had entered into with the IMF and the World Bank. This, he said, would release a 'snowball effect' in terms of commitments from other donors. He also spoke of the need to find a rapid solution to the problem of reintegrating refugees, displaced people and demobilised soldiers, back into society. He declared that he was impressed by the willingness of the Government to implement political and economic reforms and stressed that the Commission would lend full support to the process. Among other actions, practical expression of this support was to be found in the provision of more than ECU 60m in four financial agreements and an additional allocation within the framework of the 7th EDF. Finally, the Commissioner reiterated the importance to Mozambique of close economic cooperation with the other countries in the region and, in particular, with South Africa. It was essential, he declared, for Mozambique not to remain isolated. Francis Caas
Italian humanitarian and emergency aid reaches ECU 50 million in 1994
The increase in civil strife in countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda has prompted a redirection of Italian aid towards humanitarian assistance in recent times. According to Under-Secretary of State, E. Scammacca del Murgo e dell'Agnone, particular attention has been given to the integration and coordination of Italian aid with the operations conducted by the United Nations and the European Union. In 1994, Italy provided ECU SO million for operations in the emergency and humanitarian field in 30 countries. 80% of this was utilised by the Emergency and Development Office of the Italian Foreign Ministry with a particular focus on ex-Yugoslavia (ECU 14m) and Rwanda (ECU 6m). The remaining funds were granted to countries with difficulties of an exceptional nature such as Mozambique, the West Bank and Gaza territories, Croatia and Albania. The 1994 Annual Report of the Emergency and Development Office gives the following breakdown of emergency aid allocations: 40.3% to Eastern Europe, 35.5% to Africa, 5.6% to the Middle East, 2.2% to Asia and 1.3% to Latin America. Most of the aid (40%) was granted to the health sector while 18% and 17% respectively were committed to food aid and emergency assistance for refugees and displaced people. The aid can also be broken down as between assistance for victims of natural disasters (37%) and for victims of war (63%). The Italian programme has been directed mainly towards the problems of the weakest members of society, notably women and children. Indeed, the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) received ECU 8.5 million, making it the largest single recipient of Italian support in this area. In the food aid sector, Italy is funding numerous agricultural development projects in Bosnia, Africa, Gaza and Montenegro. It is attempting to adopt a longer term approach, going beyond emergency aid and including the supply of seeds and material for animal reproduction in its programmes. Francesco Aloisi de Larderel, who is the Director General of Italian aid, says that Italy has adopted a more transparent and rapid approach with its bilateral aid programme. 83% of Italian aid is managed by international organisations, notably the UN agencies (69%) and the European Community Humanitarian Office (14%). Around 20 Italian NGOs have signed the Framework Partnership Contract with ECHO. A move towards a more decentralised approach through the use of NGOs, accompanied by greater cooperation with international organisations, has increased the credibility of Italy's development policy internationally. At the same time, projects have been dictated by the priorities of the international community rather than by any arbitrary criteria. In this way, it is hoped that humanitarian aid can provide a model for more efficient development aid, which has suffered extensively from budget cuts. Mr Scammacca del Murgo e dell'Agnone maintains that Italian aid in this area has been conceived with a view to connecting humanitarian assistance with rehabilitation and development aid. The objective of establishing a 'continuum' between emergency and development assistance, he says, is an integral part of all Italy's humanitarian initiatives.
Sudanese bishop on whistlestop European tour
Monsignor Paride Taban, the Bishop of Torit in Southern Sudan, visited Brussels and a number of other European cities in early June. His main aim was to highlight the continuing plight of the people in Southern Sudan and to plead for mutual respect and reconciliation as a way of restoring peace in the country as a whole. The problems of Sudan have largely disappeared from the television screens of Western Europe following the ceasefire brokered by former US President, Jimmy Carter. Bishop Taban warned that this event did not necessarily imply progress towards peace in the country. The fighting prior to the ceasefire had been particularly fierce and the government, he said, was using the lull to regroup and rearm. He predicted a new outbreak of fighting shortly. Bishop Taban said that the people of Southern Sudan were crying out for peace. He was critical of factional rivalries within the rebel SPLA movement which had created a 'multi-headed monster', playing into the hands of those who would 'divide and rule'. Continuing with the analogy, he spoke of how the church movement had sought with some success to deal direct with the 'body' (the ordinary people) bringing tribes and local commanders together. He made a plea, however, for outside help to continue work in this area. It was expensive for the church to carry out its monitoring role in the more remote regions and assistance was needed both for relief and for the training of monitors. He urged, above all, the need to develop a culture of peace. S.H.
'Populations in danger': bearing witness through images
Photographs from the celebrated Magnum Agency and texts by renowned authors were recently made available to Medecins sans Frontieres to mount an exhibition entitled (in French) 'Regards'. Working in tandem, the photographers and authors went to areas in crisis which the media has recently tended to neglect or ignore.
The thinking behind this initiative on the part of the humanitarian agency may be expressed in the following way: 'The first humanitarian gesture is to recognise the existence of those for whom one is working by witnessing what is actually happening to them and speaking about them.'
In other words, in order to tell their story you need to look and listen, so as to achieve a better understanding. This is what was proposed, and what the authors and photographers set out to achieve. Thanks to their talents, they succeeding in shedding new light, not just on the humanitarian work, but on the actual people who are threatened, coming to their aid by helping them to escape from the status of 'anonymous victims'.
The places and subjects chosen by the different teams of photographers and writers were Cambodia (Carl de Keyzer and Tim Crabbe), Guatemala (John Vink and Bernard Comment), the homeless in Moscow (Donovan Wylie and Brigitte Raskin), Rwandan refugees in Tanzania (Eli Reed and Manuel Vicent), Liberian refugees in Cot'lvoire (Leonard Freed and Alain Borer), Afghanistan (Chris Steel Perkins and Olivier Rolin) and Southern Sudan (Sebastiao Salgado and Jean Lacouture).
(The Magnum 'Regards' Exhibition runs from 19 June to 29 September at the 'Espace Photo' of Medecines sans Frontieres, 94 Rue Dupre, Brussels. Tel. 474 74 74, Fax. 474 75 75)