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10th Apr 2020

Magazine

Development to fuel change

Last year, the European Commission earmarked almost €90bn for a so-called Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (or NDICI for short).

EU jargon and acronyms aside, the NDICI has serious ramifications for a whole set of policies when it comes to development across the globe.

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For Swedish centre-right MEP Tomas Tobé, who chairs the European Parliament's development committee, the issue ranks among a number of top priorities that will need to be tackled over the five years.

"An overarching priority will be to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals. In order to do that, we need a concrete action plan and we need well-targeted investments," he says.

The development committee describes itself as a champion of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the global goals agreed by all UN members in 2015.

Those goals aim to reduce poverty, inequality, environmental degradation while at the same time tackling climate change and ensuring prosperity, peace, and justice.

Divided up into 17 categories, they are designed to act as a blueprint for the future of the developing world.

But the UN's target date is only 10 years away - a tall order for a world whose political leadership has been dragging its feet on a rapidly-changing climate and biodiversity loss.

Other immediate challenges also remain. Next February, the EU's existing pact with Africa, known as the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, comes to an end.

Adopted in 2000, it covers EU relations between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Some 48 states are from sub-Saharan Africa alone. The pact spans development, trade and politics.

Talks officially kicked off in September last year with migration becoming an increasingly big sticking point.

In a sign that shows how development is merging into other policy areas, foreign and defence ministers across the EU met over the summer in Brussels to discuss improving security in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

Two days later, development ministers joined in, demonstrating the cross-cutting nature of policy in a region where conflict has affected millions.

Asked what he hopes will be the single most important achievement for his committee over the next five years, Tobé mentions visibility.

"Policy achievements aside, I want European development policy to be more visible and the results highlighted and communicated in a much better way than in the past," he says.

Specifically, it means recognising development policy as an instrument to fuel change in a variety of fields including economic growth, innovation, environmental protection, multilateralism, democracy.

Getting consensus within the committee on such issues won't be easy and risks becoming the most divisive point they will have to deal with.

"It's essential that we challenge our perspectives by means of political debate, and that we constantly put our policies to the test," he says.

Those policies will likely be tested by the committee's coordinators, which include György Hölvényi (EPP, Hungary), Udo Bullmann (S&D, Germany), Charles Goerens (Renew, Luxembourg), Michèle Rivasi (Greens/EFA, France), Beata Kempa (ECR, Poland), Miguel Urbán Crespo (GUE/NGL, Spain) and Bernhardt Zimniok (ID, Germany).

This article first appeared in EUobserver's latest magazine, Who's Who in European Parliament Committees, which you can now read in full online.
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