New CONCORD president: Show development's 'positive impact'

A man stands in front of the European Union flag. CONCORD — the European confederation of relief and development NGOs — has a new president. Photo by: Pietro Naj-Oleari / European Parliament / CC BY-NC-ND

At its two-day annual general assembly held in Brussels, CONCORD — the European confederation of relief and development nongovernmental organizations — announced on Wednesday the appointment of Johannes Trimmel as its new president.

Previously the confederation’s vice-president and secretary of the board since 2010, Trimmel is current director of international program support and policies at Light of the World Europe, a member of CONCORD’s Austrian platform dedicated to ensuring the inclusion and rights of persons with disabilities living in poverty in developing countries.

He replaces previous incumbent Joanna Maycock, who led the confederation from 2012 before leaving to take up the post of secretary general at the European Women’s Lobby in February.

READ: CONCORD president position vacant after Maycock departure

Trimmel’s appointment comes at a critical juncture, following last week’s European parliamentary elections and shortly before the nomination of a new European Commission president and the commissioners who will by vying for a raft of executive portfolios, including development and humanitarian aid.

Speaking to Devex on the sidelines of the confederation’s general assembly just a few minutes after his appointment was confirmed, Trimmel lamented what he considered to be a “low turnout” — estimated at 43.1 percent across the bloc’s 28 member states — for this term’s European elections: “To me that links very much to one priority that we’ll focus on in the coming years, which is to improve and strengthen the engagement of citizens and the participation of people and civil society in developing societies.”

Politicians, Trimmel stressed, “cannot allow” citizens in Europe or in the developing world to become “disempowered and disengaged” from the important issues simply because they feel they are unable to effect change.

“We need every single person here in Europe, in our partner countries and in developing countries to stand up to change the system in order to effectively fight poverty and inequality,” he said.

Trimmel said that he was “unhappy” with the outcome of the European parliamentary elections in some member states and noted some potential obstacles on the horizon: “A more euroskeptic parliament makes it more difficult to push for a common European response to poverty, inequality and injustice taking place around the globe.”

Asked whether the formation of the new European Parliament would have a negative impact on global development programming or financing, Trimmel suggested that while he predicts a “challenging environment” in the months ahead, the results in fact represent an opportunity to “re-engage with political parties and the major blocs in the parliament, and to work with them towards a progressive agenda.”

READ: What the EU elections mean for global development

When asked what he expects to emerge from the behind-closed-doors G-7 discussions held in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday, Trimmel was hopeful that the world’s most powerful leaders — who are meeting without Russian President Vladimir Putin following a spat over the Kremlin’s perceived interference in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine — would be able to emerge from lengthy discussions with a concrete outcome on issues concerning global development.

However, he added that it was “high time” to take concrete action and to “go beyond nice wording and statements.”

In a statement released on Thursday, Trimmel challenged CONCORD’s member associations and networks to demonstrate the “positive impact” of development policies and urged them to “champion the role of civil society now more than ever.”

Do the results of the recent European elections present an opportunity to re-engage with the political mainstream to re-define a progressive agenda for global development? Have your say below. 

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About the author

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    Eva Donelli

    As a correspondent based in Brussels, Eva Donelli covers EU development policy issues and actors, from the EU institutions to the international NGO community. Eva was previously at the United Nations Regional Information Center for Western Europe and in the European Parliament's press office. As a freelance reporter, she has contributed to Italian and international magazines covering a wide range of issues, including EU affairs, development policy, social protection and nuclear energy. She speaks fluent English, French and Spanish in addition to her native Italian.