Speech by Minister of State, Peter Power, T.D., on the occasion of the ‘Africa – Moving Forward’ Conference at Trinity College Dublin on Monday 25 May 2009
Development Cooperation between the EU and Africa today
I am delighted to speak at this seminar which is one of over thirty events across the country which Irish Aid is supporting to mark Africa Day.
Africa Day is an initiative of the African Union, but it has captured the imagination of the Irish people. The success of the celebrations in Limerick and in Dublin over the past two weekends demonstrated the energy and enthusiasm which can be released when the African and the Irish imaginations meet.
The Government, through Irish Aid, supports Africa Day in order to help build greater understanding in Ireland of the potential and diversity of the African continent. We also aim to build public awareness of the work of Irish Aid, of the countries in which we work, and of the broader, vital issues of development.
Our theme this evening is therefore particularly appropriate and timely.
Trinity College and third level institutions throughout Ireland are playing an increasingly important role in influencing development policy, in promoting research on global development issues and in increasing public interest in and support for the overseas development programme.
I would like to also thank the Institute of International Integration Studies and Professor Alan Matthews and Sarah Glavey in particular for hosting this evening’s event.
Dr Matthews and his team are working very closely with Irish Aid on the increasingly important subject of policy coherence for development – ensuring that Government policies, across Departments, are complementary and supportive of the broad development agenda.
The Trinity International Development Initiative, headed by Sarah Glavey is already making progress in promoting quality research and teaching on global development issues. This initiative is one of a number funded under Irish Aid’s Programme of Strategic Cooperation with Third Level Institutes.
The links between Irish Aid and Trinity College and the IIIS are
I am committed to ensuring that these relationships develop and strengthen further in future.
Relations between the European Union and Africa are more wide-ranging and complex than ever.
Indeed, cooperation with Africa’s developing countries dates right back to the beginnings of the European project and to the Treaty of Rome.
The EU has a proud record in development co-operation. The EU is by a long way the largest donor of development assistance in the world, providing more than 55% of the world’s Overseas Development Assistance. Last year, the overall EU contribution to the developing world amounted to about €50 billion.
The European Development Fund – or EDF - is the main EU instrument for development cooperation with African, Caribbean and Pacific States. It is funded by Member States and managed by the European Commission. The 10th EDF which runs from 2008 to 2013 amounts to a total of €22.6 billion – of which Ireland will contribute €206 million.
It is important to recognise that this contribution to the overall EU effort represents a significant element of Ireland’s overall aid and development programme. And that Ireland remains the fifth most generous aid donor in the European Union, in per capita terms.
However, development assistance and response to humanitarian emergencies in Africa is only part of the picture. The EU-Africa Summit in Lisbon in December 2007 took the historic step of agreeing to the first ever joint strategy for Europe and Africa.
The Joint Africa-EU Strategy and its Partnerships provide clear evidence of a wider and deeper relationship than the earlier colonial relationship or the donor-recipient relationship. Europe and Africa are working now in a genuine partnership. Ireland’s approach to international relations and to development assistance has been a key element in the development of this partnership.
The Strategy is intended as a political vision and roadmap for cooperation between our two continents. It is based on agreed principles of the unity of Africa, inter-dependence between Africa and Europe, African ownership and joint responsibility, and respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.
The Strategy has eight areas of cooperation and Ireland is
closely involved in three of these. They are: peace and
security, governance and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Joint Africa EU Strategy has four objectives:
- to reinforce EU-Africa political partnership
- to promote peace, security, development, human rights and regional / continental integration in Africa;
- to address jointly global challenges such as climate change, trade, energy and, crucially,
- to involve civil society in the partnership.
I will concede that implementation has been slower than we would have hoped, but the gradual build-up is not due to lack of interest. It is rather an indication of the complexity of forging new paths together in true partnership. It would of course be quicker if one side dominated the other but that is not how we wish to do business.
There are many success stories in EU Africa relations to date:
The African Union has made considerable progress in its short
existence, particularly in establishing a peace and security
architecture on the continent and in promoting closer political and
economic integration in Africa. Although far short of the
successes achieved by the European project, the AU, I think it is
fair to say is, modelled on the EU and has ambitious plans for a
parliament, a central bank, a single currency and a court of
justice. The AU Commission has played a leading role in driving the
organisation forward, particularly in the area of peace and
security, democratic governance, human rights and the Millennium
The two Commissions of the AU and the EU are playing central roles as the driving forces behind the EU Africa Partnership. Along with the EU Council Secretariat they have regular dialogue and interaction to move the agenda forward.
Partnership in support of African peacekeeping has been one of the successes of the EU-Africa relationship over the past decade. The EU’s African Peace Facility provided major funding for the African Union’s AMIS mission in Darfur from 2004 to 2007, and the EU is also providing significant funding, albeit on a smaller scale, for the African Union’s mission in Somalia.
We in Ireland are proud of the role we have played in the EU Force in Chad and the Central African Republic, ably led by Lieutenant General Pat Nash. Although the EU force has handed over to the UN, the other strands of the engagement by the EU in Chad and the Central African Republic will continue.
Last week I attended the General Affairs and External Relations Council of Ministers in Brussels. The central topic for consideration was how the EU could help our partners in the developing world deal with the impact of the global economic and financial crisis. Developing countries are being severely hit by this crisis – a crisis which is not of their making.
It is a crisis which originated in the financial markets of the developed world. There is a strong recognition across the EU that we have an obligation to ensure that the poorest people in the world do not become its chief victims.
Maintaining basic services to the poor and implementation of social protection measures should be a priority. Measures to be taken should protect the lives and livelihoods of the poorest and most vulnerable, a priority for Ireland. We examined innovative means of financing such as export credits, investment guarantees and technology transfers.
At the macro European level I can tell you that the Commission has already started its review of its strategies and programmes to allow it to refocus its action under the European Development Fund to meet new needs. It has declared a situation of crisis in 30 vulnerable countries to allow for more flexible implementation procedures
Another important aspect of the EU’s support will be to revitalise agriculture. While the food price crisis has abated somewhat in recent months, Ireland has been to the fore internationally in highlighting the growing impact of the global hunger crisis. There remains a serious lack of infrastructure and investment. In line with the priorities identified by the Government’s Hunger Task Force, we advocate particular attention for food security, focusing on small-scale farmers and the crucial role of women in agriculture, in particular in Africa. This is reflected in the Conclusions of the Council of Ministers agreed in Brussels last Tuesday.
The financial crisis means that we must refocus our efforts. Our programmes must be driven by the priorities of the developing countries in which we work and not the other way around.
Keeping the Union’s focus on the reduction of poverty was
emphasised in another aspect of the European meeting when we
discussed Economic Partnership Agreements.
Now more than ever it is vital that the lifeblood of international trade is maintained and that developing countries are assisted in taking advantage of the potential this offers.
The EU has consistently helped the world's poorest countries build their capacity to benefit from the global trading system. The liberalisation of trade, when coupled with effective capacity building, can help lift developing countries out of poverty.
The Economic Partnership Agreements will help achieve this aim but I know they are also causing concerns among some of my African colleagues. At the EU Council last week I raised these concerns with Trade Commissioner Ashton and drew her attention to the potential negative impacts of Economic Partnership Agreements.
Each country is different and we must respect their different requirements. Ireland has consistently argued – successfully, I believe – that the process of negotiation for Economic Partnerships must take full account of the different levels of development of the partner countries, and must lead to Agreements which strongly support their own development and poverty-reduction programmes.
Do Europe and Africa agree on everything? No of course we don’t. Europe and Africa see some things differently. And so they should. We are different, with different cultural, political and economic backgrounds. Similarly Ireland within the Union often sees things differently from other member states and we negotiate hard to have our influence felt. Within the Union we play a significant role in ensuring that the reduction of global poverty and hunger remain the primary focus of EU development policy.
With this in mind, I want to say something about the Lisbon Treaty and how Ireland’s capacity to wield influence can best be maximised. What would the impact of the Treaty of Lisbon be on our commitment to sustainable development.
One very important aspect of the Treaty is that it puts poverty eradication at the heart of the EU’s development goals. The Treaty provides that the Union shall take account of development cooperation in all its policies.
It commits the Union to “foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty.” It also recognises a more complex set of development issues, including climate change, energy, free and fair trade, humanitarian action and civil dialogue.
Failure to implement the Lisbon Treaty will have negative consequences not just for Africa, but for the entire developing world.
I can assure you that Ireland is playing a very significant, proactive role in shaping EU policy on development. This originates in our own long history in assisting those living in poverty and hunger – not only through our aid programme, but through the action of civil society organisations, missionaries, academic institutions and many more. This history influences our policy and both national and international level.
It is precisely through our membership of the European Union that we shape policies that can really influence the impact on the lives of the citizens of the great continent of Africa.