In the third of our blogs ahead of the 2015 Challenges Paper, Linda McAvan MEP Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, shares her perspectives on the challenges for sustainable development in 2015 – and beyond.
In 2015 major decisions will be made at the global level where the EU can and should play a major role. A new European parliamentary term and Commission team come at a crucial time for international cooperation for development.
The post-2015 framework and formation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is most notable element of course. In parallel, and with many key links, are the global climate talks culminating in Paris in December. I would like to see the European Parliament’s Development Committee influence this agenda and intervene on key issues with clear positions at the right time.
On December 16th EU Ministers adopted Council Conclusions on the post-2015 framework. The European Parliament’s Development Committee drafted a timely report prior to these Conclusions, which the Parliament adopted with a large majority on 25th November. It was a timely report on post 2015, calling on the Council to work towards a strong, cohesive and unified position in the upcoming inter-governmental negotiations. Human rights, good governance, reduced inequality, gender equality and women’s empowerment is all important to development. We therefore welcome the UN Open Working Group (OWG) proposals on these issues and Synthesis Report of the UN Secretary General. We again call on national governments to stick to their promises and commitments, and allocate at least 0.7% of their GDP to official development assistance (ODA), including at least 0.2% to least developed countries.
In the run up to the SDGs, the global community will also be meeting in Addis Ababa in July to discuss future financing for development. The Parliament will be producing its own reports on financing for development, looking at the reform of Official Development Assistance (ODA) and the role of the private sector. Looking for new financial tools is important, but we need to retain a clear focus on development outcomes, so that the benefits are spread equitably and fairly across all of society in partner countries. Although the sources and methods of financing development may become more diverse, the focus on the overall objectives of poverty alleviation should be resolute as we enter the post-2015 negotiations.
On the issue of development financing, we should take a closer look at how developing countries can mobilise their own domestic resources, improve tax collection and ensure that everyone benefits from economic growth – not just the few at the top. Recent scandals in our own continent – whether the Luxembourg tax scandal or tax avoidance schemes by multinational companies across the EU – show us that there are many areas where the EU has to up its own game in terms of ensuring a tax system that is fair to all. We need to work at the global level, through the OECD, G20 and other forums to close tax loopholes and make sure we develop a transparent international tax system. We cannot build decent societies unless everyone makes a fair contribution to the system. The Development Committee will be drawing up a separate report on tax avoidance and evasion as a key governance challenge for social protection and more sustainable development.
There is a whole series of global humanitarian disasters that need our urgent attention. Never before has the world faced so many serious crises, and the number of refugees and internally displaced people around the world is at levels not seen since World War II. We need the new Commission team, under the coordination of the High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini, to be able to drive quick results and get national capitals on board to mobilise the resources needed to respond. The Ebola crisis shows importance of effective coordination between national governments and of the added value the EU can bring. Back in September, we were hearing from agencies on the ground that this lack of coordination was seriously hindering the urgent efforts to contain the virus and stop its spread. Now that Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Stylianides has been appointed the EU’s Ebola Coordinator, results have already been seen in the three keys areas of personnel, medical equipment and safe passage in and out of the affected regions. Yet, the challenge is still huge. Coordination should run through all the EU’s external action, bringing added value – not least in its development policy.
The practical separation between development work and humanitarian aid in EU Directorates (headed by separate Commissioners) should not become a barrier to joined-up and comprehensive approaches as we move forward. Ebola was able to take hold in the affected West African countries because health systems and state infrastructure was extremely weak after the ravages of civil war. We need to make sure that humanitarian investment is only the start of EU intervention and is quickly followed up by a longer-term development plans. This is why the Development Committee will produce a report on the lessons learned from the current Ebola outbreak and make longer-term recommendations on the strengthening of the health care systems in the region.
Women’s equality and the role of women and girls in development is a key priority for me personally. The EU’s Gender Action Plan is up for renewal next year, and we need to evaluate what has been done so far and what can be done to achieve tangible outcomes for gender equality. Both humanitarian and development work must have strategies in place to combat gender-based violence, especially in emergency situations. The European Parliament recently awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Dr Denis Mukwege in recognition of his huge contribution to caring for victims of sexual violence. But with more stories of atrocities against women coming out of Syria, Nigeria and many other countries, a concrete plan of action is more urgent than ever.
With regards to climate change, against the backdrop of the COP 20 conference in Lima now underway and COP 21 in Paris, the European Commission must show its commitment to linking the post-2015 framework and the climate talks in a way that produces strong, global commitments to both environmental protection and key development goals. This means that within the Parliament, the Development Committee must work closely with colleagues on the Environment and Industry/Energy Committees to ensure a cohesive EU approach.
Finally, my main concern is that the SDGs must be more than just words on paper, but practical and achievable targets and ambitions. The targets must lead to real progress and improvements in people’s livelihoods; encourage policies that will credibly tackle climate change and inspire better stewardship of the world’s natural resources. If the EU can achieve this in 2015, backing up words with actions and getting things done, it will do much to enhance its role in the global community. My colleagues and I on the Development Committee are ready to help meet this challenge.
Linda McAvan is MEP for Yorkshire and The Humber and Chair of the European Parliament’s Development Committee (DEVE)
Photo courtesy of the European Parliament
The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of ECDPM
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Read ‘Leaving No One Behind’ by Tony German
Linda McAvan MEP