PRESS STATEMENT | SOLIDAR wants a development policy that brings real progress
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22 Nov 2016, Brussels

Today, the European Commission released its proposal for a new EU Consensus on Development that “shows some improvement in the European development narrative for the transition towards more sustainable development by 2030, however it is at risk of being overshadowed by the focus on short term approaches that do not contribute to reducing inequalities, poverty eradication and social justice” says SOLIDAR Secretary General Conny Reuter.

“We have mixed feelings when reading the parts on the role of the civil society, the protection of social and labour standards, building resilient societies, funding modalities, and its approach to peace. As the proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and Council, we will work with our partners to further strengthen the Consensus so it can bring real progress.”

Press contact
Ischi Graus, SOLIDAR Communications coordinator
T: +32 (0)2 500 10 20


Today, the European Commission released its Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) on the New European Consensus on Development. Although the new consensus shows some improvement in the European development policy as regards the transition towards more sustainable development by 2030, SOLIDAR would like to express its mixed feeling in matters related to the role of the civil society, the protection of social and labour standards, building resilient societies, funding modalities and peace and conflict mitigation. More particularly, we do not want development policy to be determined by the political agenda of today’s time. Instead, keeping a long term perspective is central for SOLIDAR to remain proud of the development cooperation policy of the European Union.
  1. Empowering civil society as actors for change. Civil society all round the world are faced with a shrinking space, ranging from outright violence against those that dare to challenge governments, to more subtle mechanisms of unnecessary administrative obstacles. The proposal for a new EU Consensus on Development recognises the space for civil society, seeks to expand partnerships with civil society and empowers Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to play their full role as advocates and implementers. However, the European Parliament and Council will need to ensure that the final EU Consensus on Development enhances its support for building capacity of civil society in order to strengthen their voice in the development process and to advance political, social and economic dialogue, as well as recognise civil society’s vital role as promoters of democracy, social justice and human rights. Moreover, for the EU and member states to act in the spirit of its own values and principles, the final text has to provide an answer on how the EU can promote the space for civil society world-wide more concretely through its development policy; using its tools available.
  2. Social policies just for the poor are poor policies. When it comes to the promotion of human development and dignity (the social dimension of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development), the communication indicates that the EU will pursue an end to hunger; universal health coverage; universal access to quality education and training; adequate and sustainable social protection and decent work for all, within a healthy environment. SOLIDAR welcomes the language on universal health care, and universal and quality education, and calls on the European Parliament and Council to reinforce the focus on universality, availability, accessibility, affordability and high quality of essential services and social protection systems as a whole instead of narrowly looking at achieving efficiency. Indeed, even in Europe, the most significant reductions in poverty and inequality have occurred in countries with comprehensive social policies that aim at universally accessible, affordable and available social services and transfers.
  3. Reinforcing the application of International Labour Standards (ILS). SOLIDAR welcomes the reference in the communication to the need to ensure and ‘promote labour standards that ensure decent employment conditions for workers, in particular those defined by the International Labour Organisation’. In addition, SOLIDAR positively welcomes the reference to promotion of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and we call on the European Parliament and the Council to push the EU for supporting the adoption of an international binding instrument that regulates the conduct of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs). This will be essential to ensure adequate redress mechanisms, mandatory due diligence and transparency obligations in global value chains. In this context, SOLIDAR welcomes the reference in the communication to the need to promote the ‘Addis Ababa Action Agenda to integrate sustainable development at all levels of trade policy and to achieve progress in a broad range of SDGs’. As part of this, SOLIDAR calls upon the European Parliament and the Council for the systematic inclusion in all EU Trade Agreements of sustainable development (TSD) provisions that contain a reciprocal legally-binding commitment to respect ILS and core ILO conventions.
  4. Strengthening the rights base of resilience. Since 2008 people all around the world have been struck down by a multitude of crises; financial, economic, social, environmental and democratic. As a result more and more people are living and working in vulnerable and precarious conditions, while the resulting increase in inequalities have become a drag on socio-economic recovery. The proposal for a new EU Consensus integrates this partially when it recognises that building resilience is indispensable for lasting solutions to complex global challenges; highlights that the EU will support adequate, sustainable and equitable social protection systems to guarantee basic income, prevent relapses into extreme poverty and build resilience. However, the European Parliament and Council can strengthen the approach to resilience further by including the promotion and ratification of international human rights instruments – including the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCRs) and its Optional Protocol, ILO core labour standards and ILO Recommendation 202 on Social Protection – to ensure a rights base for the EU's approach to resilience.
  5. Mobilising domestic resources for sustainable development. SOLIDAR welcomes that the ‘EU will put and enhanced focus on generating additional resources for development’, by tackling illicit financial flows, promoting progressive taxation and further supporting the Addis Ababa Action Agenda in the leading action of raising domestic public revenue, to improve fairness. However, we are concerned that the ‘innovative funding modalities’ promoted by the EU – in which blending mechanisms, trust funds and additional financial guarantees will be used to leverage additional private sector investments – might not contribute to sustainable development objectives, at the expenses of public accountability, transparency and ownership for the communities affected by these programs. In this context, as part of the new EU Consensus on Development, SOLIDAR calls the European Parliament and the Council to support the establishment of compulsory country-by-country reporting on multinational companies, together with the compulsory publication of comprehensive and comparable data on companies’ activities, as an important step forward towards fairness, transparency and accountability.
  6. No migration management with development cooperation funds. The communication engages the EU to step up efforts to seize the opportunities for development offered by migration, while addressing its challenges. For this reason, migration cuts across many policy areas, including development, good governance, human rights, employment, health, education, social protection and environment, including climate change. Hence the EU and its member states will contribute to this objective through a more coordinated, systematic and structured approach maximising the synergies and the leverages of the internal and external aspects of Union policies, combining immediate humanitarian support to refugees and internally displaced persons and more structural support in relation to migration through development policy, which will be an important part of this effort. In this respect, SOLIDAR demands that eradicating poverty and fighting inequality should be kept as the main focus of EU development cooperation policy. Therefore, development funding should not be used for migration management, to counterpart readmission agreements, for border control, for security purposes and/or to subsidise the private sector. When it comes to migration, development cooperation should focus on tackling forced displacement and their root causes and not on voluntary migration trying to regulate it.
  7. Promoting peace, not reinforcing military. For 20 years after the end of the Cold War, deadly conflict was in decline. Fewer wars were killing fewer people all over the world. Five years ago, however, that positive trend went into reverse, and each year since has seen more conflict, more victims, and more people displaced. The proposal for a new EU Consensus reiterates the EU’s commitment to preserving peace and preventing conflict and will therefore increase development cooperation for fragile and conflict-affected states. However, the current proposal also opens the door to financing military and security sector actions in developing countries using development aid. This is simply not acceptable for SOLIDAR. 'Peace through strength' easily enough becomes 'peace through war' and has to be avoided with all means. The European Parliament and Council have to see to a detachment of military spending from development aid in the final EU Consensus for development.
Copyright © 2016 SOLIDAR, All rights reserved.

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