After the re-election of Martin Schulz for another two and a half year term as president of the European Parliament last week in Strasbourg, parliamentary committees convened in Brussels on Monday to pick their chairpersons and deputies for the next two and a half years.
Linda McAvan, a United Kingdom member of the European Parliament representing the Labour Party, part of the Socialists & Democrats parliamentary group, was chosen to chair the influential Committee on Development — commonly known as DEVE — responsible for preparing laws and other legislative documents relevant to European Union development cooperation policy, the committee announced on Tuesday.
The appointment of McAvan and four other members as committee bureau vice-chairs was welcomed by several top international NGOs engaged in EU-funded development programs and advocacy work.
“We want to see a development committee that has a strong political voice that counts with other EU institutions,” said Sabine Terlecki, head of policy and advocacy at European NGO confederation CONCORD, who called on DEVE members to take a firm stand on against inequality and discrimination, and for the committee to maintain a special rapporteur for gender mainstreaming, with a human rights-based approach.
Terlecki highlighted McAvan’s interest in environmental issues, which are “key for a transformational post-2015 [development] agenda.”
Angela Corbalan, deputy head of Oxfam’s EU office, told Devex that the new DEVE chair has “a good track record of defending the interests of small-scale food producers in developing countries and helping to take action to combat climate change.” She said she hoped McAvan would champion development issues in the same way she championed public health when standing up to the powerful tobacco lobby during negotiations on the EU’s new Tobacco Products Directive.
Given the EU’s plan to boost the role of the private sector in its development programs, Corbalan added that DEVE should do its best to ensure business engages in poverty eradication efforts “responsibly” and hoped that it would “play by the rules” to avoid further income or gender inequality and environmental degradation.
Eloise Todd, international advocacy director at the ONE Campaign, told Devex that she hoped McAvan would steer the committee to support their ONE Vote 2014 pledge to end extreme poverty by 2030 and push development priorities within the European Parliament’s new political landscape.
Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum on Population and Development told Devex that he was “upbeat” about the makeup of the committee and “confident” that it would support the EU’s longstanding tradition of prioritizing sexual and reproductive health rights in development policy. While noting that there are some anti-choice voices on the committee, Datta was confident they would “not be influential” in the committee’s decisions and was “glad” to see the return of MEPs — like Norbert Neuser and Maurice Ponga — who he described as “champions for women’s rights and who understand the importance of family planning in the fight against maternal mortality.” He said he was “equally glad” to see new advocates of SRHR joining the committee, mentioning Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala.
Datta said that McAvan was an “excellent choice” as the committee’s chairperson given her “strong track record” on development issues and that having a chair from the U.K. was “encouraging, given the leading role that country plays on global development.” On the committee’s immediate priorities, Datta said that the coming months are “crucial” in the U.N. process to decide on the post-2015 development agenda and stressed that it was important that the committee “hits the ground running and fights for the inclusion of women and girls at the center of the new development framework.”
In recent months, the committee’s previous incumbents have prepared and negotiated the EU’s 2014-2020 Development Cooperation Instrument, after long and sometimes difficult negotiations with the Council and the Commission, as well as establishing the EU Aid Volunteers initiative and declaring 2015 as the European Year for Development.
However, it remains to be seen how four new members of the committee — MEPs Nathan Gill and Ignazio Corrao from the euroskeptic and anti-establishment Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, the non-attached MEPs Hans Jansen, a vocal critic of Islam from Geert Wilders’s PVV list, and Louis Aliot, vice president of the French anti-immigration Front National — will influence the committee’s agenda in the months ahead.
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