How Ireland could shape the European debate on development

Dochas, the Irish development NGO platform, outlines its take on the new Irish Presidency of the EU.
From 1 January until 30 June 2013, Ireland will hold the EU Presidency. This means that Irish Government Ministers and civil servants will chair most of the discussions at the EU level for those six months. As a result, Ireland will have a very strong input into the agenda and priorities of the EU.
Irish Development NGOs will hold a number of events and meetings throughout the Presidency, and we are uniting NGOs in the ‘World We Want’ campaign:

The World We Want from Dochas on Vimeo.

Development cooperation as a priority
Ireland will have a chance to put its own stamp on the EU agenda. Both the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and the Minister for Europe have indicated that development cooperation could be the main issue we will prioritise for the Presidency. Already, we know that the Irish Presidency will organise a meeting of EU Development Ministers in early 2013 and there are also plans to host a high-level conference looking at issues relating to Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Change in April 2013.
As the Irish national platform within CONCORD, we are delighted to see the Irish Government prioritise development cooperation during the six months in the EU Presidency chair. After all, proactive support for international development is an essential part of Ireland’s culture, history and heritage, and development cooperation is a central plank of Ireland’s foreign policy. Even in the current difficult recessionary times Ireland is ranked second in the Global Giving Index, and various opinion polls have confirmed that the vast majority of people in Ireland continue to support the Government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on development cooperation.
Therefore, it is fitting that Ireland leads the EU’s discussions on this issue. Taken together, the EU Member States and the European Commission make up the largest block of aid donors in the world, contributing some €53 billion in official development assistance in 2011. That represented nearly half of the world’s donations last year.
Positions on post-2015

The EU will need to agree its common position regarding the post-2015 framework before the September UN General Assembly meeting so that all EU countries can speak with a single, powerful and unified voice. Given the political calendar of the EU, it is the Irish Presidency that must conclude the discussions on this common position as this work needs to be concluded for the meeting of the EU Foreign Affairs Ministers in May 2013.

So, with Ireland at the helm of a powerful bloc of countries that will help decide the post-2015 framework, it is now about shaping what Ireland will say. With Ireland in the driving seat, we have a unique opportunity to not only lead the discussions about what we want post-2015 at an EU level, but given the strong voice that the EU has at the UN table – come September, Ireland’s work in the coming months could be the basis for a global decision on what the next Development Goals could look like.
Therefore, due to a confluence of major events – our Presidency of the EU, our international reputation on development and a September agenda waiting to be filled, we in Ireland have a unique opportunity to help set new priorities for a fairer better world.