Cécile Kyenge Kashetu, minister for Integration. Photo by: personal website

Cécile Kyenge Kashetu envisions a crucial role for her “cross-cutting” Ministry of Integration and a strong collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which manages Italy’s official development assistance grants and loans.

“We cannot talk of foreign policy and cooperation without the ministry for integration,” says Congolese-born Kyenge, the first minister of an Italian government hailing from Africa.

Kyenge believes in synergies, an emerging trend among top donor countries including the United States, where USAID shares efforts with the agriculture and commerce departments, and Canada, which recently unified CIDA, foreign affairs and trade into one portfolio.

Unlike her predecessor, Kyenge will not have a direct mandate on international cooperation, which will remain under the remit of foreign affairs and other departments in charge of ODA. She will work closely with other departments, however, to ensure that issues such as immigration and foreign policy go hand in hand, the new minister told Devex after her first meeting with the press last week.

The goal, she said, is not only to push for cultural change, but to build on the development potential of migration, seeing migrants as vectors of development in both their countries of origin and destination.

Migrants are thus not just a source of remittances but also of skills acquired abroad that can be used in development, Kyenge explained.

Calls for development vice minister, aid law

As for how foreign affairs should approach development policy in the new government, the aid community has asked for the department to appoint a new vice minister for a specific mandate on this in the department headed by Emma Bonino.

Guido Barbera, president of CIPSI, a network of 40 organisations, sent a letter to Bonino, Kyenge and Prime Minister Enrico Letta urgently requesting a new aid and integration law. Development cooperation, he said, should have a “political direction,” and a body — a ministry — with its own operational structure able to coordinate Italian development efforts.

“The appointment of an African woman to the Ministry of Integration is an important and effective sign, but it’s not enough! Integration is part of a new cooperation,” he wrote.

Local non-governmental organizations voiced similar concerns.

“What we expect now is [for] Bonino to appoint a vice minister who will be in charge of international cooperation [and] work on the harmonization of development efforts in Italy,” Gianfranco Cattai, president of the Association of Italian NGOs, told Devex.

Eva Donelli contributed reporting.

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About the author

  • Elena L. Pasquini

    Elena Pasquini covers the development work of the European Union as well as various U.N. food and agricultural agencies for Devex News. Based in Rome, she also reports on Italy's aid reforms and attends the European Development Days and other events across Europe. She has interviewed top international development officials, including European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs. Elena has contributed to Italian and international magazines, newspapers and news portals since 1995.