Director at CONCORD Europe
The year 2019 has been a year of some change for CONCORD – a new Director, losing some colleagues … and regaining others, a reshaping of our ways of working. Well, that might have felt quite enough to be getting on with. But not only were there changes inside CONCORD, there were also considerable changes externally, in our working context. A new set of European Parliamentarians were voted in, a new College of European Commissioners was finally established and a number of other new people in key positions.
The full implications of these changes are yet to be seen and felt. But from our perspective there is some good news. CONCORD has specifically been reviewing its work in order to better take into consideration the geopolitical context and to respond better to a number of the mega-trends impacting international cooperation and international relations. So it’s good to see that Commission President Von der Leyen is also focusing on creating a geopolitical Commission. CONCORD is raising this issue of tackling inequalities up its priority list – be they between countries or between people and be they economic, political, social or environmental inequalities. This could be considered the glue that binds us in CONCORD – addressing key issues so that marginalised people are no longer left further and further behind while the wealthy grow even wealthier. We therefore very much welcome that Ursula Von der Leyen has recognised the challenge that inequalities pose by appointing a Commissioner who will (in principle) create an economy that (at last) works for the people, as well as another Commissioner specifically dedicated to addressing inequality. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has committed in his very first blog to the role to actively respond in tackling inequalities.
During the course of 2019, I’ve had the opportunity to visit almost half of CONCORD’s 28 National Platforms and had the pleasure to meet and exchange with our members in each of those countries. If there was one ‘fil rouge’ which emerged, it was the importance of context. Whether that be the rise of the far right sowing fear and mistrust, often through fake news, or the context of shrinking space (even as close to home as in Italy) or whether it be the distribution of power and wealth in society, context matters. Context determines your fundamental freedoms, your security, your access to resources – or your lack thereof. And just as context matters in Europe, so it matters all over the world. Therefore, if CONCORD is to defend the rights of marginalised people in EU partner countries, it becomes crucial that we invest in truly understanding their lived realities. That is why, from henceforth, we will make a greater effort to understand the context of our colleagues in other regions, by creating alliances with civil society across the world, both with and through our members.
Moreover, speaking of context, we cannot ignore the results of the UK election, which makes it even more likely that Britain will leave the EU. As well as bringing considerable change to the British themselves, this will likely have impacts on the EU’s international cooperation, since the British were staunch defenders of development assistance. Nevertheless, we will continue to work closely with our colleagues in the UK and value them as important members of CONCORD.
Fortunately, context can be changed, and changed for the better, by all of us working together to make our values a reality. But, we will need to stand strong and to work in partnership to make our voices heard. CONCORD looks forward to working with all its partners to make the world a more equal place for all people wherever they may live.