CONCORD and the EYD2015 Civil Society Alliance took part in the closing ceremony of the European Year for Development 2015 organised by the Luxembourg Presidency on 9 December 2015 in Luxembourg.

The European Year for Development started on the 1st of January 2015 and will come to its end on the 31st of December 2015. 2015 is a special year for development. It is the first ever European Year dealing with the European Union’s external action and Europe’s role in the world. For development organisations all over Europe it is an unparalleled opportunity to showcase Europe’s commitment to eradicating poverty worldwide and to inspire more Europeans to get engaged and involved in development. The EYD initiative aims to raise awareness amongst the public and to place the EU as an international development player in the spotlight. The EYD activities also seek improvement in the level of information on development in every Member State.

CONCORD has been leading the Civil Society Alliance during the European Year for Development 2015. Marius Wanders, the Ambassador of EYD2015 Civil Society Alliance and CONCORD Board member, represented Civil Society as speaker at the closing ceremony.

Marius Wanders’ speech in Luxembourg for the EYD2015 closing ceremony:

The European Year for Development has been a year of telling stories. So today I want to tell a short story too. It is a story about three children growing up around the world in 2015. It is called “Tablets, T-shirts and Teenagers” and it incorporates the elements of the motto of this European Year.

Our world is full of tablets and smart phones. Our world would not be able to function without them. We are in constant touch with each other and the world around us through our gadgets, exchanging vital information, communicating, exchanging messages, music and images. They are great tools, also for educational purposes. But one image missing on our tablets is the face of the 12 year old boy in the Congo who cannot get an education because instead of going to school he is forced to work in the mine producing the minerals required to make our gadgets function. How long will we continue to accept this reality of “our world”?

Our dignity as human beings requires us to be properly dressed. Our closets are full of clothes. Among them there are many T-shirts. They are cheap. We can buy them at any discount store for around 2 Euro. We wear them to identify the group we belong to or associate with. We even give them away at parties, printed with text or colorful images. But one image missing from our festive party T-shirts is the face of the 14-year old girl in Bangladesh who instead of getting an education is working 70 hours a week or more in a sweatshop to make our T-shirts. Her slave-like labor pays part of the true value of our T-shirts. She cannot afford the T-shirts she is making for us. How long will we still tolerate this reality of “our dignity”?

Our future lies with the young people of today. The teenager in my story today is Ellen O’Driscoll, she lives in Ireland and she is 16 years old. A lovely, bright eyed girl with a razor sharp mind. She was one of 10 Millennium Kids, Youth Ambassadors that my organization World Vision International brought to the European Development Days in Brussels in June this year where they engaged in direct dialogue with high level political leaders including Linda McAvan to talk about their wishes and concerns for the future. But also to talk about their commitment to actively contribute to shaping that future.
Two weeks ago, I saw Ellen again, this time on YouTube. She stood up and spoke at a big rally held in Ireland at the end of November, where thousands of young people were marching together to call for a comprehensive climate deal next week in Paris. She spoke with remarkable clarity of voice and eloquence. Ellen said that she refused to be part of yet another generation that failed our planet. Instead she was determined to be part of the generation that saved our planet.
I remember when the Millennium Kids were in Brussels in June, and we were preparing these young people for their political encounters, we explained to them a lot about the EU and its key political strategies, including of course the pursuit of growth and jobs. Ellen then asked a question which we found extremely difficult to answer. Her question was “What is the point of pursuing growth and jobs on a planet that in the process continues slowly dying, bit by bit?”.
I believe that Ellen and thousands of committed young people like her are the brightly shining lights of hope for “our future”.

The initiative for this European Year 2015 for Development was born within CONCORD, the European Confederation of relief and development NGOs. The European Commission invited and supported CONCORD to convene a broad multi-sectoral alliance of civil society to help achieve the objectives of the Year.
The public discourse and development education of citizens that was a goal for this European Year should continue beyond 2015. But it should no longer be so much about “what we give” but much more about “how we live”, in particular how we must learn to fairly share the limited resources of this planet with close to 7 billion global citizens by the year 2030.
Against this challenging backdrop, the world now gears up to start implementing an ambitious common agenda for the next 15 years, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The civil society alliance we created for this European Year intends to continue working together well beyond 2015 as we embrace the challenges of these sustainable development goals. In my capacity as Ambassador of Civil Society for the European Year, I wish to confirm today the offer of this broad civil society alliance to also continue partnering with the EU and with governments of the member states in the pursuit of the vision anchored in the motto of this European Year: “Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future”.
I have sometimes been referred to as the Godfather of this European Year for Development, because I was one of the persons who took the initiative and drove forward the advocacy towards the institutions of the EU to make this year a political reality. So let me end today in true Godfather style: The offer of the civil society alliance that I am representing here today to continue to partner with and contribute to the work of the EU institutions and member states governments, is a solid offer. We believe we are making you an offer you cannot refuse.

Video: The EYD2015 closing ceremony

Watch the following highlights from CONCORD perspective:

  • CONCORD Director Seamus Jeffreson’s involvement in the award ceremony for the winners of the Shining Stars of Europe video competition for young people
  • Development Committee Chair Linda McAvan’s speech in which she strongly supports civil society and particularly mentions Marius Wanders and pays a big compliment to the CONCORD member LAPAS
  • Marius Wanders’ speech in Luxembourg for the EYD2015 closing ceremony
  • Dutch Minister for Development Lilianne Ploumen quoting the EYD2015 CSA key message “It is not about what we give but about how we live” just prior to signing the joint declaration