Seamus Jeffreson

Seamus Jeffreson

CONCORD Director

Article written by Seamus Jeffreson, CONCORD Director.


I was asked by the CONCORD member working on improving the quality of life of people with disabilities, CBM International, for my reflections on the upcoming European Consensus on Development and its impact on people with disabilities.

CBM: What is the EU Consensus for Development and why it is important?

Seamus: The European Consensus for Development is a statement by the EU institutions and all the Member States on priorities and strategies for the development sector, a vision that guides policies in the EU development work. It is important because it is not only the ‘consensus’ of the EU institutions but also of all 28 Member States so everybody is bound by it.  It is the vision and statement of intent therefore across the 28 plus the EU Institutions (European Commission, the Council and the Parliament).

Image from CBM website – Nancy, a deaf student attends 2nd grade at the Kambui School for the Deaf in Kenya

CBM: What are the main challenges for CSOs in the review of the Consensus?

Seamus: The first challenge is to have a Consensus, that EU Institutions and Member States can agree on something and can have a consensus on questions about Sustainable Development. Just because we had one in the past it does not mean that we can still have a consensus in future.  So the fact that we can still have one is the first objective. The second is to secure the positive aspects of the current consensus. The third is to see how the current challenges are seen by the EU and its Member States and how they deal with in a way that they maintain the spirit of the development effectiveness principles and what do I mean by that is over the last 20 years the sector has developed a human rights based approach and participation of all actors, of Civil Society, the partners countries that should be coordinated. These basic principles are the ones that in all our work as NGOs and Civil Society Organisations involved in global solidarity and we need to ensure that these principles remain whilst the EU struggles with the challenges as they see it towards migration or security and all the very current issues that the EU is dealing with.

It is absolutely right for a new consensus to tackle the question of the movement of people we are seeing and its relationship with Sustainable Development. But we want it to be addressed in the direction that managing migration flows is not just at short-term political ‘problem’ that can be solved, for example by outsourcing the management of our borders to third countries or changing the language of ‘partnership’ with neighbouring countries to a language of conditionality. We need a Consensus that sees the issue of movements of people in all its complexity, that we draw on our track record of development cooperation to look at the root causes, that we include the people affected in decisions and policies that affect them.

People are understandably focused on security, but the Consensus needs to focus on human security (of the individual and society at large)  – not states security (territorial integrity, border control) – this is the role of development cooperation policy, instruments and money.

CBM: CONCORD replied to the EU Commission public consultation* on the review of the EU Consensus for Development, what is CONCORD doing as a follow-up of this public consultation?

* CONCORD position paper on the revision of the Consensus

Seamus: We are trying to ensure a proper dialogue with the Commission and the other EU Institutions that are involved in the Consensus in addition to Member States (MS), to go beyond the submission of our views. It is great that we submitted a position, SDG Watch did as well, all kind of different organisations submitted their views but we need more than that, we need a dialogue and a proper discussion, we need a more meaningful consultation. A consultation is not about giving you some questions, receiving your answers and then I write the document. That is what we are seeking and I think one of the advantages of CONCORD that we need to try to use is that we have a very strong presence with our secretariat and with our members based here in Brussels as well as in the EU MS, through our members and the members of our members. We need to use all those channels to make sure that there is a broad understanding of what is our position and that we use all those channels to make our voices heard.

CBM: What would be the impact of this EU Consensus for Development for persons with disabilities?

Seamus: One element of the Consensus is the translation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into EU Sustainable Development policy. The goals are not perfect in terms of persons with disabilities but I think that there are steps forward and I think it is a framework that hopefully can be beneficial if it is properly supported. I think a successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both in terms of using the goals and targets to make a major progress, in terms of using the spirit of the SDGs which is quiet good on participation, governance and partnership, it should be an advance. The universal nature of the SDGs can be a benefit to persons with disabilities globally. The common feeling that there are inalienable rights, wherever you are, and the support of the UN framework need to be respect, that is a positive thing for persons with disabilities. The mantra of the SDGs is “leaving no one behind”, that mantra remains and I think it is not a bad one. If that mantra can be turned to something practical and go beyond budget allocation or consultation or how we measure, people can benefit including communities which have been traditionally left behind such as persons with disabilities.


This interview has been originally asked by our member CBM, it will be soon published on their website too.