Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the European Year for Development on Jan. 9 in Riga, Latvia. This is the first “European year” in 30 years to focus on external affairs. Photo by: European Union

In 2000, the world agreed on the Millennium Development Goals with the aim of ending poverty by 2015. This year, we have the challenging task ahead of us to agree on the follow-up to these goals.

Since 2000, the world is a different place. We can no longer just have goals which are about eradicating poverty. In parallel to poverty eradication, we need to promote sustainable development — economic, social and environmental development. New goals must also address governance, human rights and peaceful societies.

It is essential to mention that the goals and targets will apply to all countries and not only the poor ones as so far.

Development cooperation at the European Union level has never been given so much attention. Four weeks ago, we launched the European Year for Development in Riga. This is the first “European year” in 30 years to focus on external affairs.

Development cooperation is an effective contribution to peace and stability, in both developing and transition economies. In fact, the EU and its 28 member states are the world’s biggest aid donor: In 2013, they provided some 56.5 billion euros ($63.5 billion) in official development assistance — more than half of global aid.

Thanks to EU support from 2004 to 2012, 18.3 million children under 1 year of age were immunized against measles, 13.7 million more boys and girls were given the chance to benefit from primary education, 24.5 million people were connected to sanitation facilities, and 46.5 million people were assisted through social transfers for food security.

The EU is also the world's largest and most open single market to developing countries in the world and every European can have an enormous influence on the lives of people who trade with our region. This ties in very strongly with the spirit of the European year, which is about letting EU citizens know how they themselves can make a difference, for example, by buying products that come from developing countries.

We cannot forget that international development is also in the best interests of EU citizens. A number of issues such as illegal migration, climate change and terrorism can be best tackled at the root with international aid and support on the ground.

Development and environmental future is in our hands. Let’s use 2015, the European Year for Development, to put development in the spotlight to create momentum and all do our bit to make a difference and help people living in some of the world’s poorest countries. After all, our countries have recently made a journey to growth and development themselves. What we have achieved today is viable proof that international support and solidarity can make the world of difference to any nation.

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About the authors

  • Neven Mimica

    Neven Mimica, a Croatian politician and diplomat, is the EU commissioner for international cooperation and development. From 2008 to 2011 he was deputy speaker and chairman of the European Integration Committee in the Croatian Parliament. He was then appointed deputy prime minister responsible for internal, foreign and European policy and became Croatia’s first commissioner, in charge of consumer policy, in 2013. Mimica is married with two children.
  • Edgars Rinkēvičs

    Edgars Rinkēvičs has been the Latvian minister of foreign affairs since October 2011. He has held different public posts such as undersecretary of state responsible for defense policy, deputy head of the Latvian delegation for accession negotiations with NATO, and head of chancery of the Latvian president.