Minister O'Donnell calls for need to address long-term needs of Central America
Development Ministers meeting in Brussels today discussed the EU response to Hurricane Mitch and the importance of a coordinated response to the immediate and long term needs of the Central American States. While the international community has so far rightly focused on immediate emergency needs in the Central American countries, Minister O'Donnell said that "there is now an urgent need to assist these countries in efforts to rebuild their shattered economies". At the same time, the international community "needs to learn the environmental lessons from this disaster, including the need for better natural disaster preparation".
Minister O'Donnell called for international agreement to implement a debt moratorium for the countries in the region and to address long-term debt requirements, including through the World Bank-IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries iniative (HIPC). She said that the debt crisis in Central America has given a "strong political dynamic for the international community to now address unsustainable debt levels in developing countries". The Minister welcomed the decision of the Development Council to ask the Commission to prepare an action plan on medium and long term reconstruction efforts in Central America. She also welcomed the Commission proposal to establish a regional reconstruction fund of 150 to 200 million ECU.
The Development Council agreed a new framework on EU approaches to conflict prevention, including through the use of development cooperation policies and programmes. Minister O'Donnell explained the Irish view that conflict prevention needs both political will - as in the case of Sudan - as well as a coherent and coordinated approach to possible conflict areas in advance of violence erupting. The Minister said that "this should involve political approaches, trade dimensions and reconciliation efforts".
The Minister welcomed progress to date in EU-ACP negotiations on a new Lome framework. She called for the EU to move rapidly to strengthen the EC trade regime for least developed countries and to allow full access to EC markets for virtually all goods from the least developed countries.