Six months into 2015: the seminal year for development

29 July 2015

By Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs

We are six months into 2015, this seminal year for development. While we either wait to go on much needed holidays or return refreshed; here are a few personal highlights of 2015 so far.

The European Year for Development got off to a high profile start in Riga in January (I blogged about that here). Since then, we have all been seeking to broaden the interest and outreach to people beyond the EU institutions and our own organisations. The CONCORD-lead Civil Society Alliance for the European Year project has gathered an incredible number of Development NGOs and European based civil society organisations representing different sectors to highlight a new narrative on development to new audiences.

Organisations promoting women’rights, youth , environmental issue, migrants, diaspora movements, consumers, fair trade and many more are active members of the Alliance, working in synergy on the EYD2015 official channels at European, national and local level.

Our EU funded project has granted 16 innovative small and medium projects across Europe discussing and profiling sustainable development issues. You can find out more here. We couldn’t fund more of the nearly 100 important and inspiring applications, but the good news was a real geographical diversity of projects including small countries and even candidate countries (Serbia) as well as non-CONCORD members making it a genuinely broad civil society effort. Thanks to the EYD Steering Group and Team and the dedicated group of Civil Society Alliance Members under the chair of the European Women’s Lobby who made the selections.

In January the “EU Delegations Report” was launched. The culmination of a major piece of work assessing how EU Delegations around the world are managing to increase and improve their dialogue with civil society in partner countries saw the launch of the EU Delegations report in January. The report was very well received and provided the occasion for a business-like and productive discussion with the EU External Action Service and DG Devco of following up on some of the recommendations.

In February, CONCORD and the EC Development Department (DG DEVCO) organized a groundbreaking working seminar on coherent and sustainable policy in the area of food security. It brought together development NGOs, think tanks and European civil society organisations like sustainable farmers’ groups together with different departments of the Commission (Trade, Health, Agriculture) and member states. Their aim: how to make EU policies more coherent to ensure food security and the right to food. You can read the report here.

In March, civil society organisations and movements from around the world assembled in Tunis for the World Social Forum. A week after the attack on the Bardo museum, it was an important moment to show solidarity with the people of Tunisia and the region. The DEEEP project organized the third global conference “Towards a World Citizens Movement” event gathering a great array of civil society activists from different fields and different countries to discuss how to foster a global citizen’s movement to transform the economic and social model to tackle challenges of inequality, social justice and climate change. See the video and the report on the learnings from three global conferences and “The road beyond Tunis” here.

In the first half of this year huge effort went into CONCORD’s AidWatch and Financing for Development work advocating for financing of an ambitious Post 2015 Sustainable Development framework. Gains made on some fronts did not mask the disappointment of the historic failure of EU countries to meet their commitment to 0.7% of GNI for Official Development Assistance by 2015. Negotiations within the EU were long and hard on this issue and will continue. CONCORD’s contribution was acknowledged in a very positive independent evaluation of our advocacy work by experts CLEARCASE funded through our B&M Gates Foundation project. These efforts were particularly focused on preparations for the recent Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa produced the Addis Agenda for Action in July. CONCORD and its members were at the centre of the action lobbying to the last for an agreement that put people and planet first. There was disappointment at the failure to agree a beefed up UN body to deal with tax issues. On other issues the record was mixed – you can read some here.

In April, we published the two first policy papers of the 2015 series of “Spotlight on Policy Coherence for Development”. The paper on Global Tax Justice identifies key reforms of the international tax system that the EU must push for to ensure a coherent approach to domestic resource mobilisation. The second paper is entitled “The Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and West Africa: Who benefits?”. In solidarity with CSOs in West Africa, CONCORD asks the European Parliament not to ratify the EPA; a message that CONCORD was invited to deliver directly to MEPs during a meeting of the EP Development Committee in June. Read here.

EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini addressed the EU-CELAC civil society forum CONCORD jointly organized with La Mesa de Articulacion of NGOs from Latin America and the Caribbean, acknowledging our work and highlighting the need for us to keep promoting coherence in the EU’s Foreign Policy. Preparations for the event strengthened our partnership with Latin American partners and following this Forum, CONCORD Vice- President Laura Sullivan represented LA and EU civil society in an address to Heads of State at the official EU-CELAC summit in June.

The TRIALOG partnership fair in Vienna in May was followed by an important discussion by CONCORD President Johannes Trimmel, Board Member Olivia Baciu and me to explore with EU13 members concrete steps to ensure their continued inclusion in the work of CONCORD after the end of
the TRIALOG project this autumn. This process will continue as the process of putting CONCORD’s new Strategy into operation continues in the second half of the year.

The discussions on the strategy enabled a good number of discussions between CONCORD and its members (the strategy roadshow – reached 23 members) and webinars to discuss how best support the new strategy in terms of finance, ways of working and membership and alliances. You can see the results here.

After a vibrant debate at our General Assembly in June, the Strategy was endorsed and a member lead group set up to develop a more concrete Operational Plan for the first three years. This will be discussed by members on 21st October.

CONCORD continued to represent the role of CSOs in relation to EU funding and provide feedback to the Commission on its funding modalities through the work of the every active FDR group. It was particularly gratifying to seeing EU 13 and DEAR Forum communities working closely with the FDR group to ensure CONCORD presents a unified and inclusive front on issues like the Development Education (DEAR) call for proposals.

There are many more success and milestones I could mention (the EYD project workshop on sustainable consumption in June, sessions on Migration & Development, Taxation and multi stakeholder partnerships during the European Development Days, ongoing contacts with the Development Commissioner and his services to ensure civil society has a voice (including funding!) on EU policies that affect marginalized people globally, ) …

Meantime – bonne vacances et bonne rentrée for a challenging second half of the year…