The chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, Linda McAvan, has warned nongovernmental organizations that they have “a lot of work to do over the summer” to ensure solid outcomes at the third International Conference on Financing for Development next month in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“We know it’s going to be a battle to get agreement at Addis,” McAvan said at an event thatBond — a network of U.K.-based NGOs — held in London. “NGOs need to be lobbying their governments for a good outcome — both the ministers that went to the meeting of EU development and cooperation ministers recently in Brussels, and those going to Addis.”
At last month’s meeting in Brussels, development ministers set out the bloc’s position for July’s Addis conference. The ministers renewed their collective commitment to an official development assistance target of 0.7 percent of gross national income, but failed to support the European Parliament’s recommendation to achieve this by 2020.
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Instead, the target deadline for the target was pushed back to 2030 — within the time frame of the post-2015 agenda.
“Britain lobbied hard for 2020, but NGOs and grass-roots organizations need to put pressure on ministers from other countries — particularly the French and German ministers — to help create the climate in which governments can take the necessary decisions,” McAvan said.
The DEVE chair also urged the development community to lobby the U.K. government to collaborate on resolving migration issues facing southern European states, which she said were otherwise unlikely to support Britain’s push to prioritize development aid over “firefighting” their economic crises and influx of asylum seekers by boat.
“The Italians, I can imagine, won’t be lectured by the U.K. about supporting the 0.7 percent target when they see the failure to solve problems around migration,” she told Devex. While Europe is trying to agree on a response to these migration issues, refugee camps have started developing in Italy and neighboring France.
The development community therefore needs to “make some noise” and convey to the ministers that they will be made accountable for whatever they say and agree on in Addis — and that includes the migration issue.
“They have to be pushed,” McAvan stressed.
The Bond event at EU House brought together academics and implementers to explore better ways of communicating development within the sector, and to policymakers — something Bond CEO Ben Jackson said was sorely needed. Given the economic crisis in Europe, he said there is “very real temptation” to turn inward and push for the “charity begins at home” mantra.
“It’s important as a community of NGOs that this refocuses our minds not just on the campaigning agenda and the policy change agenda, but also on the long-term, perhaps less glamorous work of just going out there and winning the case,” Jackson said.
Without strong EU leadership, a meaningful international consensus at the third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, could now be in doubt.
McAvan agreed on the pressing need for development organizations to share research and impact findings with policymakers, especially ahead of the U.N. meetings in New York and Paris later this year.
“I often meet academics who are doing great work around issues like climate change, but when I ask what their plans are to share their findings with policymakers, they often say that’s not their job — their job is to do the research,” she said. “If this information stays within the academic world, it doesn’t get utilized.”
The DEVE chair said it was equally important for NGOs to push leaders toward signing up to stronger commitments on good governance.
“Not much work has been done on this because it’s a difficult issue diplomatically to talk about,” McAvan said, “but we have to have honest debates on why country X does better than country Y, how one government has improved development outcomes, and what was done to trigger those outcomes.”
Corinne Podger is a media development practitioner with more than 20 years' experience reporting for high-profile news outlets including the BBC World Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the Economist. She works part time for BBC Media Action, the international charity of the BBC. Separately, as an independent consultant, she runs media skills training for a range of clients in her areas of expertise — social and multimedia, international news, science, health, climate change and religion.
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