Dear Minister, We are writing to you ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) on October 26th, when EU development ministers will discuss issues that are critical to driving forward the EU international sustainable development agenda, namely the Implementation of the SDGs Agenda, Policy Coherence for Development, Migration and Gender. We ask you to take advantage of this opportunity to ensure that Europe makes further progress on the following priorities:

EU implementation strategy for the SDGs

We congratulate EU Development and Environment Ministers for their role in the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda reflects an integrated, interlinked and comprehensive approach to ensure well-being for all within planetary boundaries. We now expect you to match the ambition of this Agenda with an equally comprehensive EU implementation strategy which demonstrates the added value of the EU; complements national strategies of Member States; and exemplifies the universality of the Agenda. Effective implementation of the Agenda can only occur if the different Council formations covering internal and external policies are all involved. We urge you to work with your colleagues in delivering this holistic approach and in ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development. We expect the EU to reflect the consultative and participatory spirit of the international UN process in its implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This means putting in place robust, participatory and transparent
monitoring and accountability mechanisms to review implementation of the new EU strategy, to analyse progress
and redirect efforts as necessary.

EU wide PCD work programme

In August, the 2015 biannual Policy Coherence for Development report was published by the European Commission, which evaluates progress being made towards becoming more ‘development friendly’. Yet PCD, or PCSD within the new SDG framework should not only be about doing no harm. PCD is about very urgent situations like the refugee crises where the inter-linkages between the policy areas of migration – security and development need to be very clear. Unfortunately these synergies often become clear when it is too late, or there is not enough political will to deal with the inter-linkages in an adequate manner at the right time. By coming up with an EU-wide PCD work programme that involves the Member States and the EU delegations alike, and sets clear policy objectives, such a mechanism could strengthen these policy inter-linkages, also to prevent more crisis situations in the future.

Protect refugees and develop a balanced approach to Migration and Development 

CONCORD calls on the EU to adopt a balanced approach to migration and mobility that reinforces the acknowledged benefits for both countries of origin and destination, while respecting its international obligations to protect refugees. It urges the EU to step-up search and rescue operations in order to avoid the tragic loss of lives by many of those seeking protection in the EU, witnessed in recent years. CONCORD is the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, with members in 28 European member states, 18 international networks and 2 associate members that together represent over 1,800 NGOs. CONCORD requests the EU to uphold its commitments to increase resources meant for development assistance and avoid diverting any part of it to cover the costs of managing the influx of refugees. Similarly, development aid and trade agreements with developing countries should not be subjected to the acceptance, on their part, of restrictive border controls, readmission agreements or other migration control measures. CONCORD considers that the EU needs to strengthen efforts to contribute to the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts that cause many to move across national and international borders and implement existing policies on better management of humanitarian and environmental crisis.

Gender Equality and EU’s new Gender Action Plan (GAP)

CONCORD welcomes an overall comprehensive Joint Staff Working Document (JSWD) on gender equality and women’s empowerment. We do however have some remaining concerns. We would like to see an explicit commitment to increased financing, including commitment to a fixed percentage for targeted action and ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in all programmes. We would also like more clarity on how capacity on gender will be enhanced, both at headquarters and in EU Delegations, to allow for a proper implementation of the three-pronged approach. We are concerned that the JSWD does not ensure the full implementation of the action plan, as EU actors only have to report on one goal per thematic area. The implementation of the JSWD must be followed-up by annual reporting, to be discussed with the Commission and the EEAS in the Foreign Affairs Council. We look forward to meaningful consultation of civil society as indicators are finalized in line with Agenda 2030, as EU delegations choose country specific objectives and activities, and at the mid-term review of the MFF and the JSWD. Finally, it is essential that the JSWD has a human rights based approach, and recommits in full to the Council Conclusions on Gender and Development, May 2015.