CONCORD Director Seamus Jeffreson’s remarks in Riga, Latvia for the opening of the European Year for Development

Opening remarks alongside prime minister of Latvia and EU institutional leaders, 10:00

It is not by chance that 2015 is the European Year for Development. It is to focus our efforts on:

  • Ensuring ambitious and transformational Sustainable Development Goals to tackle poverty, inequality and to promote basic rights everywhere – including in Europe.
  • Getting a deal to stop global temperatures rising beyond 2° C threatening lives and livelihoods. Why is this part of the EYD? Not least because those who have had least responsibility for increased carbon emissions are those that will suffer the effects most.

So in the EYD, European civil society, from across the continent has high ambitions for itself and its politicians in showing leadership and example on these two critical issues of our time.

Who do we represent?

My Confederation CONCORD represents the major development NGOs from across the 28 states of the EU. Our organisations represent millions of citizens committed through voluntary work, contributions, their choices as consumers and their work in the four corners of the globe to show solidarity with – and fight for the basic rights of – the poorest and most marginalised people globally.

What Civil Society wants to do with the EYD

1. A new narrative for development
We want to use this year to highlight a new way of thinking about global poverty, global injustice and global inequality and to reach new audiences across the whole EU. To talk about what Europe gives, but also about how Europe lives and how our lifestyles, consumption and policies (from trade, to agriculture to migration) affect other people in the world.

2. Taking the discussion to new audiences in Europe
We need to take the conversation beyond this room. Policy changes require public backing. So beyond institutions and policy makers we see the EYD as a moment to discuss this new narrative on development with people outside our sector and organisations. With young people, environmental NGOs and movements, those promoting the fight against inequality, poverty and social exclusion here in Europe, human rights organisations, consumers and business people, trades unions and in newer EU members like Latvia where the public has a quite different relationship with development than the former colonial powers of western Europe. We need to have this conversation with a wider audience to ensure Europe’s tradition of global solidarity continues and grows.

Discussing external policies in times of economic crisis

Discussing the external policies of the EU in times of ongoing economic and social hardship will not be easy. To do so credibly, I think we need to listen as well as explain and seek to demonstrate the universality of the opportunities and challenges we face in the world. Poverty, even hunger, discrimination and inequality and injustice exist and need to be fought everywhere – including in Europe. For us, a successful EYD will be one in which we build lasting relationships and alliances with our colleagues across civil society by demonstrating the universality of our message and common cause.

It is a particular pleasure to be in Riga to launch the EYD – given that one of the original promoters of this idea was Lapas and Andris Gobins, the EESC, Marius Wanders from WV supported by the EP and Commission – I want to pay tribute to them be ensuring we are here today. I look forward to an exciting and challenging year in which so much is at stake.



Remarks for panel 1 event 

Panel 1: The EYD2015 and its role in fostering dialogue on the results, benefits and challenges of sustainable development cooperation

Due to timing reasons Seamus could not speak at this panel.

“I understand the difficulties of time pressure at such an event and appreciate the organisation of the Latvian Presidency efforts to ensure NGOs have been included in the launch. Nevertheless, civil society voices, not only official institutional and government voices need to be at the heart not only of discussions on the SDGs but crucially in the EYD 2015 – in which our ambition is to reach out to the public. Civil society should not only be present but meaningfully so.

The EYD 2015 is an important opportunity to focus on Europe’s leading role in development cooperation and promoting global justice.  During this year we need also to think how we have this conversation with the public.  It’s should be about fostering dialogue not just talking at people.

There has been lots of work on public attitudes towards development and ‘aid’ (see the ‘Narrative Project‘).  It’s important to use new language for our sector and our issues that gets away from traditional notions of passivity, victimhood and charity.  This involves paying attention to how we communicate as well as what we communicate.

How do we make this conversation relevant?  Often when we speak about development and global justice people say ‘what has that got to do with me?  What can I do about it?’.   There are some great examples of how to communicate in tackling these challenges.  To take an example from the campaign on combating climate change, the climate coalition were faced with the challenge of getting people active and mobilised on the issue of climate change.  They produced a film showing how climate change threaten the things people are passionate about.  You can watch it here. Let’s build on innovative communication in the EYD 2015.

It’s been great to see such a high level political representation from the EU institutions at this conference.  Commission President Juncker and other EU leaders have said today that the sustainable development goals also apply to Europe.  The goals are universal. As well as talking about the importance and contribution of development cooperation, let’s also make some progress in 2015.

We want to see these commitments translated into facts in the EYD 2015.  Not only policies that show our credibility in development like an ambitious contribution at the Addis Ababa conference on how to finance the SDGs (including a renewed commitment of .7% of GNI for development cooperation AND a believable plan and timetable for EU and member states to reach this goal).  We also expect EU ‘domestic’ policies to demonstrate Europe’s commitment to sustainable development goals.  In this respect Environment Commissioner Vella can expect civil society’s full support in getting an improved regulation on the circular economy and clean air back on the table in 2015 and ensure that legislation to promote women’s equality (women in Europe earn 17.5% less than men) does not fall victim to the rightful objectives on promoting decent employment and sustainable development here in Europe.  Let’s be coherent in our actions and commitments globally and our actions at home.  Why is this important?  If we want citizens engaged in global justice issues, we have to show we are interested about people’s rights everywhere.”