By CONCORD Director Seamus Jeffreson
2014 will be a year more of politics than policy.
Europe’s lead role in international development and its support to countless people in developing countries will be affected by this year’s European Parliament elections and the changes due at the EU Commission.

VIDEO : CONCORD’s 4 annual priorities in 2014
The impact of aid programmes on the ground may face cuts or changes as the EU’s new aid budget for 2014-2020 comes into effect. Many other EU policies, such as tax, agriculture and trade, will also affect the lives of poor people across the globe.
Yet despite our international outlook as a sector, political debate in Europe since the economic crisis has been increasingly inward looking, leaving global issues often overlooked and forgotten.
This is why CONCORD and other civil society organizations must make 2014 a year to campaign for a fairer Europe at home and abroad.
There’s an opportunity for every single European NGO, whether large or small, to play their role in connecting with their citizen base to engage its supporters ahead of the elections.
It’s also a year to grow our outreach with global partners and make a strong contribution to future development agendas at international level such as post-2015. We can’t lose sight of finishing the job of the millennium development goals and setting an ambitious new framework to end extreme poverty in our lifetimes and tackle inequality.
Achievements in 2013
However as the New Year starts I want to highlight how our work together as European NGOs made a difference in 2013.
Despite the financial crisis and austerity policies hitting NGOs hard, we managed to put key issues on the agenda:
Championing Europe’s aid promises to the world’s poor
Despite calls and pressure on some European governments to slash aid budgets, leaders re-affirmed at least three times in 2013 to respect their commitment to give 0.7% of their national (gross national income) GNI to official development assistance by 2015. This however is a mixed picture as CONCORD’s AidWatch initiative shows, EU aid to developing countries has fallen for two consecutive years and remains off target for the 2015 deadline.
• Pushing for EU policies to be more coherent with development objectives
EU Member States have never been more committed to stop EU policies in area such as trade, agriculture and finance from having a negative impact on developing countries and poor peoples’ lives. In 2013 EU Member States finally listened and approved the strongest EU commitment we have ever witnessed.
Creating the idea for a ‘European Year for Development’ in 2015
CONCORD was behind the idea to make the official European Year in 2015 dedicated to development issues. Thanks to strong advocacy work towards all European Institutions, the EU positively supported our calls to have the first European year on global issues. This will be a key opportunity for NGOs to interact with citizens about new challenges, have a dialogue about the future of development and global justice.
Strengthening organisational development & getting people to ‘join the conversation’
Last year we looked at new ways of participation and exchanges within the Confederation to see how we can work better as a member’s network and increase outreach with other sectors. We increased our online presence on social media and other platforms. A highlight was an interactive webinar and crowdsourcing tool that engaged over 1,200 people for a debate on the future of the development sector.
Celebrating 10 years of CONCORD
Last year was a milestone for CONCORD as the confederation celebrated its 10th anniversary. It’s a great testament to all those who have worked so hard to build CONCORD to see a healthy, growing and member led organization maintain a strong voice for global justice in 2013. This achievements is due to the active engagement of our members, which together make CONCORD a strong representative voice of the development NGO sector in the European Union.
As always, these achievements were member lead, in particular through the dedication and hard work of colleagues in CONCORD’s working structures supported by the secretariat. On behalf of CONCORD I’d like to congratulate all involved for this strong effort.
4 priorities in 2014
Looking ahead in 2014, members have identified four areas which will be our priorities this year:
1. “The Europe we want” – The European Parliament Elections & New set of commissioners
The EU needs to remain a world leader in fighting global poverty, and to do this the new EU parliament needs to retain its strong commitment to development. Candidates need to realize the widespread support of EU citizens for tackling global poverty, whilst ensuring the next parliamentary mandate promotes a fairer
European model to tackle inequality, social justice and development, both within the EU and abroad.
2. Post 2015 & Financing for Development
With the expiration of the MDG’s in 2015, we need to push to create the Post-2015 framework that the developing world needs. EU countries need to keep their aid promises and listen to civil society voices in the post-2015 negotiations. CONCORD will also be looking to push to EU to create fair financial systems, and follow the PCD agenda on tax. A large part of this is ensuring that our own house is in order, to fix financial issues in Europe as well as developing countries.
3. Strengthen Strategic Alliances and Partnerships and respond to the increasing demand of CSOs for an enabling environment
We need to maintain our space in Europe’s civil society sector, whilst looking for possible alliances and coalitions with other sectors. Greater outreach with our global partners is important, allowing their voices to be heard on a wider range of issues, and giving them greater authority on policy matters that affect them. We need to continue to champion the civil society space, particularly in the face of the financial crisis and austerity policies.
4. Political Narrative and new CONCORD Strategy
As European NGOs we need to tell a clearer story of who we are and build a new amibiton for the sector. Our political narrative process will feed into our future strategy and engage members in an interactive debate about the future of the confederation. It’s important for CONCORD to plan well ahead, especially in light of new EU changes and changes within the development sector. Our next strategy will run from 2016-2022.
As you can see 2014 will be yet another busy year with lots of impor
tant work ahead. I look forward to a good collaboration with our members and other interested in championing issues of global justice in 2014.