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European Development Days 2015: A paradigm shift or bursting the Brussels ‘bubble’?

19-06-2015

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Two weeks ago, over 5,000 delegates descended upon Tour & Taxis in Brussels for the 2015 European Development Days. Under the theme ‘Our world, Our dignity, Our future’ the event marks the high point in the calendar of EU institutions as they support the ‘European Year for Development’.

2015 is an important milestone in international development cooperation. Yes, a cliched phrase that may be, but we will witness the culmination of four long-running global policy processes with decisive meetings still to come in the second half of this year. These are:

  • United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on Financing for Development [Addis Ababa 13-16 July]
  • 70th session of the UN General Assembly, where global leaders are expected to endorse the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [New York 15-28 September]
  • Paris 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) under the UN Framework for Combating Climate Change (UNFCCC) [Paris November 30 – 11 December]
  • The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Tenth Ministerial Conference [Nairobi 15-18 December]

What’s at stake?


The importance of these four meetings cannot be underplayed. All these deals are needed to achieve a transformative post-2015 agenda. If they are all concluded in the right way, it will be a huge step forward at the global level and for Africa.

2015 is a pivotal moment for the EU to prove that it is still a global player. The European Development Days then, if anything, can facilitate a concentrated and focused dialogue among European (and other) development actors, testing the waters and exchanging ideas ahead of these key meetings.

Europe needs to ask itself (and answer) some pretty fundamental questions about sustainable development, which will be a universal agenda affecting both developed as well as developing countries.

With a number of urgent crises in the European neighbourhood, will Federica Mogherini and Jean Claude Juncker’s team in the European Commission pay heed to those actors calling for a fundamental rethink of European security policy that addresses both development and security in a mutually reinforcing way? Many challenges lay ahead for the EU as it tries to reconcile its values and interests in its external action.

And there is also domestic politics in EU member states that needs to be wrestled with. Only a few weeks ago did Finland slash its aid budget by 43%, and the response by EU leaders to the migration crisis in the Mediterranean has been a border security operation and not a step change in addressing the ‘push factors’ for migrants coming from Africa and the Middle East.


The burning question


All this begs the question of whether the European Development Days (EDDs) are a ‘Brussels-centric talking shop’, detached from wider realities in European member states and beyond.

While many of the keynote speakers brought feelgood upbeat news story in the health and education sectors, the sense I got from talking to peers whose job it is to ‘put policy into practice’ is that this is a rose tinted view, disconnected from the real politics in Africa and elsewhere.

It would be more interesting, some say, if the EDD’s could mobilise representatives from Europe, Africa and elsewhere who deal, on a day-by-day basis, with some of the urgent crises of our times. Where are the Defense Ministers? The Italian Coast Guard confronted with the influx of migrants in the Mediterranean? The independent journalists and lawyers protesting against the violation of the constitution in Burundi?

Is the EU development community really ready to dig deep into the politics of development and move on beyond the a-political MDGs and challenge vested interests? Are the EDD’s preaching to the converted and still giving too much of the floor to ‘the business of charity’ without putting the real political issues on the table?

The optimists may see it differently. The EDDs could be seen as a key platform for a wide variety of development actors to drive forward an innovative agenda for global development. Essentially, it is what you make of it.

The determination of the EDD team to include the voices of Future Leaders and an eclectic mix of speakers from all around the world would support the idea that there is still some traction left in the EDDs.

Luckily, you can watch and listen back to many of the lab and auditorium debates to judge for yourself.


ECDPM at the European Development Days


European-Development-Days-2015-ECDPM

Many of us from ECDPM participated in auditorium debates, lab debates and village stands at the 2015 European Development Days. We also joined our colleagues from the European Think Tanks Group for many of these sessions.

European-Development-Days-2015-ETTG-Collective-Interest

A climate change agreement: Towards Paris and beyond with the European Think Tanks Group
This session addressed the political and policy questions around Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Senior political figures from developed and developing countries addressed questions pertaining to what has worked and what has not, the potential and limits of INDCs as a vehicle for making commitments, the politics of how INDCs contribute to the Paris COP21 process, and what is likely to emerge when all INDCs are added up.

European Report on Development with James Mackie
“Combining Finance and Policies to Implement a Transformative Post 2015 Development Agenda” ERD 2015 uses existing and new country-specific research to show that a transformative post-2015 development agenda will require the right combination of finance and policies to succeed.

ECDPM-James-Mackie-European-Development-Days-2015

Our collective interest? Towards a European strategy for a changing world with Volker Hauck
This session tackled the following questions:

  • What is a security and foreign strategy, what should it cover and what should it look like?
  • How do we ensure that such a strategy is not too narrow, and encapsulates the wider external policy areas to effectively reflect global challenges such as poverty, conflict, migration or climate change?
  • What would a successful new security strategy look like at the end of 2015? What needs to happen to achieve success?

ECDPM-Volker-Hauck-European-Development-Days-2015

Shifting wealth, shifting migration flows with Anna Knoll
This session aimed to broaden our perspectives on migration as an engine of development and open a discussion over a range of possible policy actions.

ECDPM-Anna-Knoll-European-Development-Days-2015

Culture in the spotlight: Innovative approaches to sustainable development with Damien Helly
Culture is both an enabler and driver of sustainable development, yet it is often viewed as marginal to the development process, outside of the mainstream of economic, political and social policy debates. In this session, the challenges of integration, evidence and effectiveness were debated.

ECDPM-Damien-Helly-European-Development-Days-2015

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European external affairsEU Development Policy and PracticeEuropean Development Days (EDDs)