Putting human development back on the agenda
For the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, we explored how to reinvigorate human development in the EU’s foreign policies. The resulting paper was widely distributed. It received positive comments and fed into debates between the EU institutions and member states, leading to adoption of the first Council conclusions on human development in a decade – at the Foreign Affairs Council in June 2021.
This work is based on our paper 'Reinvigorating human development in EU external action'Read our paper
To measure human development in a country, it is important to look at the population’s general well-being. That means considering more than financial income alone, and also including people’s access to adequate and nutritious food, healthcare, housing, work, education and ability to vote or take part in communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the urgency of stepping up strategic and smart investments in human development, which regained political attention in the EU during 2020 and 2021. Given the scale of the socio-economic challenges brought by the pandemic, the EU – acting as Team Europe – sought to act more swiftly and globally, with sufficient resources to support partner countries in their recovery efforts and avoid dire setbacks in human development worldwide.
What we did
For the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the EU, we explored how to reinvigorate human development in the EU’s foreign policies. We looked at opportunities for the EU to increase support for human development, and how to link human development to EU strategic priorities, such as innovation and green and digital transition.
What came out of it
The resulting paper was widely distributed and received positive feedback, including from the cabinet of European Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen, as well as from ONE, CONCORD members and UNDP, which each year reports on the state of human development using the human development index developed by Mahbub ul Haq. UNDP used the paper to inform its strategy on EU-UN cooperation on human development.
The findings of the paper were presented to the Council of the EU’s Working Party on Development Cooperation and International Partnerships in March 2021, and fed into debates between the EU institutions and member states that led to the adoption of Council conclusions at the Foreign Affairs Council in June 2021. These were the first Council conclusions related to human development for over a decade. Throughout the process, we worked closely with the Portuguese Presidency.
We will continue looking at how the EU implements its commitments to human development in 2022. For instance, now that the 2021-2027 programming process for Global Europe is complete and we know what specific activities are being financed in partner countries, we will analyse how the EU supports human development at the country level. We will also analyse the extent to which EU support in the area of human development matches partner countries’ priorities.