European Development Days: Feeding the 5000 (delegates)
"The [EU] institutions need to change", says Owen Barder, of the Centre for Global Development, in an interview with ECDPM at the European Development Days this week.
There is a feeling that Europe has so much to offer due to being in the "remarkable position", as Barder puts it, of States that have come together voluntarily, to share experiences and shape policy in developing countries. This is the so-called added-value of the EU. He says that despite this strong position, Europe must be respectful of other nations’ different starting points. Europe should change its own institutions to make sure that they are equipped to bring this experience and expertise to the wider world.
For more than 5,000 people, the European Development Days were an opportunity for the development community to come together in Brussels over a couple of days, queue for some classic conference lunch time catering, and talk about big global issues.
ECDPM was there to participate in the panels, attend many of the sessions and speak to those involved.
Bruce Byiers was on the panel for the launch of the corporate responsibility (CSR) awards, which aimed to help focus the fuzzy concept of CSR. It recommended that developing CSR policies require –unsurprisingly - dialogue between all those involved: the government, the private sector and civil society. This dialogue is ‘needed to ensure that the principles are acceptable all and adapted to local conditions’. What is really important, according to Byiers, is that for donors engaging with their own private sector, there is a ‘risk of working with firms that don’t appear to be development-oriented’. This goes beyond CSR which has shown in studies to have had very little impact.
Perhaps it reflects the very nature of squeezed aid budgets that big business was on the agenda for a number of discussions. Present in relation to food security, sustainable growth and plays a role in the transformative agenda, despite the risks involved.
The private sector and development: What role does private sector have in transformative agenda?, moderated by Byiers, was a session for participants to focus on experiences and lessons learned from public-private development initiatives, drawing from the practical knowledge of Central and Eastern European countries, the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’s (GIZ) experience in implementing public-private development initiatives, and a case study focusing on Sierra Leone.
Byiers (he was in demand) also moderated the session on how to Improve livelihoods by sustainable trade. It was standing room only as people packed this session presented by IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative. When asked to vote on whether donors should work with multinationals, the audience voted unanimously in approval – but were less sure about whether companies should profit, or if donors should engage in countries with fragile institutions.
The private sector continues to be one of the subjects that also had a particular focus for ECDPM, particularly the notion of blending. Florian Krätke participated in a discussion on how EU grants and investment funds (loans or equity) from public and private financiers can be blended together in order to make certain types of projects more viable and "bankable". Bruno Wenn, Chairman of the European Development Finance Institute, told Florian in an interview with ECDPM that blending was an opportunity to get more private finance into developing countries, simply by helping governments create an enabling environment.
Post-2015: A Consensus Forming?
Of course, one of the other major themes over the two days was the post-2015 debate. The European Commission’s Capacity4Dev asks in this video: “What do you think the priorities are for the post-2015 development agenda”. ECDPM’s Jean Bossuyt replied saying that “inequality is the major global risk of the 21st century. If we don’t tackle the inequality issue we will lose social cohesion, we will have conflicts. And we already saw it in the Arab spring. It was all about dignity, about social inclusion. So inequality, inequality, inequality”. James Mackie, ECDPM’s Senior Adviser on EU Development Policy, said that his “main preoccupation with the post 2015 framework is that we need to get agreement between the EU, the Chinese, the Indians and the Brazilians on how we are going to sort this framework out, and without that we won’t be going anywhere.”
Watch the closing ceremony. Do you think that the main messages add anything new to debate? Are the arguments on what needs to be done well worn, and does there now need to be more focus on the how? Add comments to the bottom of the blog.
Other ECDPM colleagues attended various sessions such as those on the post-2015 development agenda, food security, conflict, climate change, human rights-based approaches to development and Europe beyond aid. ECDPM conducted a number of video interviews during the European Development Days which you can watch below.