European leaders met in Brussels for their biannual meeting to discuss, among other things, the EU’s position on the upcoming Millennium Development Goals conference in New York this September.
The European Council, made up of the leaders of the EU’s 27 Member States, convened in Brussels on 17 June 2010. One of the points on its agenda was the finalising of preparations for the UN high level plenary meeting in September to review progress on implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In its conclusions, the European Council agreed that it had found a “strong position for the [UN] meeting”. It said that in order for the meeting to be a success, delegates had to “agree on concrete actions aimed at increasing ownership by developing countries; focusing efforts; improving the impact of policies; mobilising more and predictable financing for development; and making more effective use of development resources”.
The Council conclusions drew heavily on the European Commission’s Communication on achieving the MDGs which was presented in April 2010, as well as the conclusions of the Foreign Affairs Council held three days earlier. Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to achieving the MDGs by 2015, as set out in the Millennium Declaration. However, it was accepted this would only be achieved through common political will. In a joint statement, the European Council affirmed that “global challenges call for collective responsibility by all stakeholders”.
Although there has been progress on the MDGs, it has been slow and patchy, with considerable work still needing to be done on those areas and countries that remain most off-track. The Council agreed that any progress depended on the quality and coherence of policies from development actors. One actor that could make a difference, however, is the private sector, and this was highlighted by European leaders. They saw the sector as being able to generate wealth and employment in less developed countries. A healthy private sector can only work for a country if it is open to both foreign and domestic investment. Thus, the EU is promoting inclusive finance through the relevant EU Investment Facilities and Trust Funds.
Taking ownership of development is seen as a central tenet of the MDGs, and leaders agreed that “developing countries have primary responsibility towards achieving the MDGs”. The European Council further went on to call on them “to reinforce their ownership and leadership, notably by incorporating the MDGs into national development strategies”.
By providing the impetus for developing nations to step up their efforts in achieving the MDGs, the EU reiterated the importance of democratic governance. For transparency and accountability in development to be widespread it had to become a cornerstone of development policy, leaders said.
The EU also called on development partners to create multilateral partnerships to ensure wide support for the MDGs, including civil society organisations, social partners and the private sector.
In order to have a more focused approach, the Council agreed to draw up a list of priority countries with a needs-based approach. These countries will then receive ‘special attention’ in order to get back on track.
In an effort to garner more support for development financing, the EU will support capacity-building in countries needing development assistance, while also pushing for a more development-friendly international development framework.
Innovative financing was also brought up at the meeting, with public-private partnerships singled out as an example on how to enhance aid effectiveness.
Increasing development assistance
The EU agreed in 2005 to increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of GDP in all Member States by 2015. An intermediate target of 0.56% by 2010 has sadly not been achieved, and this fact was acknowledged. ODA is an indispensable element of global development policy, and with the EU providing over half of global development assistance, it is in a good position to rally support to push other countries to provide more themselves.
Despite the global economic crisis, EU Member States managed on average to maintain or increase ODA spending. “We will not be derailed by our own financial problems – they become relative, in a global perspective – from the objective of helping the world's poorest countries,” said European Council President, Herman van Rompuy.
However, a stark warning was given to those who were clearly behind schedule to meet the 0.7% target by 2015. In this regard, the European Council called on Member States to keep it informed of the planned steps they were taking, year by year, to meet the objective.