An Agenda for Change

On 13th October, the European Commission presented its communication “Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an agenda for change” which delineates the proposed future strategy to reducing poverty in the context of sustainable development, stating its priorities and including a more targeted allocation of funding. On the same day the Commission also presented presented the reform of the EU budget support.

“Representing more than 50% of global aid, the EU is already the biggest donor in the world. I want to make sure it remains the most effective one, too” said EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs. He added: “We must keep pace with changing realities in the world and adapt the way we fight poverty as a result. That’s why I’m proposing today that we refocus our aid priorities to ensure that countries are on track to achieving sustainable and inclusive growth. I want to make sure that every euro reaches those that need it most. Fighting poverty abroad is EU “insurance policy” for a more stable and prosperous world. ”

The policy priorities on which the communication concentrates fell under two broad sectors:
• human rights, democracy, good governance
• inclusive and sustainable growth.

Within the above priority areas, particular emphasis is put on:
• social protection, health, education and jobs
• the business environment, regional integration and world markets, and
• sustainable agriculture and energy.
Moving on aid effectiveness com, the EC also proposes measures should intended to improve the effectiveness of the aid it delivers:
– differentiated development partnerships;
– coordinated EU action;
– improved coherence among EU policies.

Slow Food highly appreciates the support foreseen to sustainable agriculture including the safeguarding of ecosystem services, to locally-developed practices and small-scale agriculture not To mention the accent posed on the formation of producer groups, the supply and marketing chain. Slow Food’s projects in the developing world are concerned with improving communities’ food security, by supporting the continued use of indigenous crops and breeds, and maintaining local traditions. More than 300 Presidia projects around the world provide direct support to around 10,000 small-scale producers, aiding them to continue cultivation and transformation of local foods that in turn helps ensure the sustainability of the entire community.

We also welcome the proposal of devising new forms of grants and to increase the involvement of civil society organizations building on the results of the EU Structured Dialogue and recognizing the role of civil society organizations as complementary to that of governments and the for-profit private sector.

Moving on from the communication “ EU common position for the 4th high level
forum on aid effectiveness”, the proposal for a more coordinated EU action highlights the fact that the EU governance of its collective contribution to international development has not been really efficient so far. For decades the EU member states have shown a little willingness to joint programming and to avoid fragmentation and overlaps in aid delivery. In the past the EC had repeatedly tried to improve the situation, but now after the Lisbon treaty with the creation of the European External Action Service (the EU diplomatic service), the European Union is legally empowered and has the means to make this change happen.

On the other hand, we see some areas were risks may emerge and where many aspects are still unclear. First of all, in relation to Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), we notice the total absence of references to policy reform processes that are at present on-going and of extreme relevance to developing countries, such as the reform Common Agricultural Policy and Europe’s policies on trade and development. “The CAP is a 50 billion euro contradiction of the EU’s commitment to help put developing world agriculture back on its feet. Farm subsidies of this magnitude will always produce distortions,” warned the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, in response to CAP ( reform proposals from the European Commission presented on 12/10/2011.

Secondly, we fully agree with the position expressed by Concord and and by Oxfam EU office on the intention to cut aids to middle-income countries such as Guatemala or Zambia where a large segment of the population still lives below the poverty line. Here we see a huge risk of producing a severe negative impact of the poorest for the sake of applying only seemingly more efficient and equitable rules.

Also no hints are made to better define the private sector’s participation and involvement in development aid. The mechanisms that will regulate the participation of the private sector are still very unclear and there is no certainty as to the fact that the expected positive outcomes of the public-private partnership will really reach the poor, not to mention the possible dangerous impacts on land grabbing practice.

Finally, no mention is made to the necessity to change the EU financial instruments devoted to development co-operation accordingly and that adequate financial resources must be made available in the Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 which must be approved by the Council and by the Parliament.

The proposals and measures outlined in the Agenda, though constituting a strong commitment towards poverty reduction and inclusive growth will now have to be put into practice at EU and Member State level. Slow Food will closely monitor the process and advocate for a coherent and concrete implementation of the policy initiatives identified in the Agenda for Change in connection with food security, food sovereignty and sustainability.

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