Brussels, 29 February 2012 A
Speech by High Representative Catherine Ashton i to the DEVE Committee of the European Parliament,
Brussels, 29 February 2012
Dear members of the DEVE committee,
it has been a long time since I have seen you and, Madame President, one of the things I hope we can discuss today is how to make sure you get the political input that is so important for this committee. I am very open to ideas that may come from you about how to achieve that. I am in discussion with the Danish Presidency and with the Cypriot Presidency about what more we can do to ensure that the committee is able to get a regular flow of political input.
It is a great pleasure to be here. Madame President, the year we have just finished has been an extremely challenging one. The Arab Spring has dominated the strategy towards our neighbourhood and of course the European economic crisis has been something that has in a sense redrafted our landscape.
There is no question in my mind that in these difficult economic times and in the changes that we see across the world, poverty eradication and sustainable development become even more important. These policies need to lie at the heart of the work of the European Union across the world. We have made some progress without question. With the support of the EU in the field of education more than 9 million people have been enrolled in primary education, and in the field of health 5 million children have been vaccinated against measles and 750,000 people with HIV have received appropriate treatment. The EU Food Facility has helped 50 million people and we can add to the list also our support in the field of infrastructure, of civil society etc.
Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, we see countries that are reaching a decisive point in their transition. Our goal is to make sure that, as they more forward, a number of things is supported in a comprehensive and coherent way: the building of the institutions, the building of the way in which these countries support their population, the political programmes that they need to ensure democracy, freedom, human rights, equality; the assumption that everyone gains from the transition process; the link to the kind of economic growth and sustainable development that they need to ensure every member of society benefits; their education policies, their poverty eradication policies. The situation is extremely challenging and not just in the countries of our neighbourhood but beyond as we think about the impact of the changing neighbourhood on Sub-Saharan Africa and as we think about the issues that the countries right across Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific are faced with.
We face a combination of different things. Political dynamics, making sure that the impact of the change of the Arab Spring is felt in a positive way. So we move swiftly to condemn when we can those who would use that change to become more repressive. Recognising the challenges of sustainable development that are faced by many as a consequence of climate change. Making sure that the poverty eradication programmes are in place to support countries in a coherent way and to finally get to the point where in the 21st century we don't have to talk about a famine in any part of the world. One of the real tragedies for me is that we still in 2012 talk about famine.
So what I can say to you is that if you look from the perspective of the Post-Lisbon joined-up coherent strategy, it is very obvious: development, security, foreign policy have to link together in a coherent way because security for people is not just about political issues and ensuring there is no conflict, but also about ensuring that they have food security, that they are free from the effects of climate change, that they live in a society with a safety net; the capacity of governments to be able to help people.
And that is why when we have been developing the strategies, for example, on the Sahel we have tried to include all that, talking with the Foreign Ministers of all the countries concerned. Talking with different groups in their societies to build a strategy that is comprehensive in thinking about how to ensure security. And security means free from famine, free from the effects of those who will take young men and convert them into terrorists, support for the villages, the small communities who need to feel that there is an outreach from their governments to show that they are engaging with them. For example mobile health clinics which is something many countries in the Sahel would like to support, enabling their police forces to operate to keep people safe, enabling food aid to reach people, jobs programmes, support for economic growth and development and support for civil society to grow in order to support all of those communities in terms of human rights, in terms of their ability to focus on the kind of government and governance that they would want.
Madame President, I do this with the great support and in conjunction with my colleagues - not justAndris Piebalgs who is a good friend to this committee and a great friend to development - but also with Commissioner Georgieva where we work on areas of the world which are hit by crisis. Think of Pakistan, think of Japan with the tsunami, but think also of those countries which go through external turbulence: Yemen, where we have worked closely together to ensure that there was food available for people and that we had a good strategy in place for the short term, as well as for the longer term. Countries where we need to engage like South Sudan. Developing that cooperative culture across the institutions with our respected teams is something we have all invested in. I won't pretend that we don't have to find new ways of doing that, because creating a new service in the EEAS means that you need to find new ways of interfacing with each other.
We all know the spiral down: children out of education, people unable to sustain themselves, unable to develop the economy in any real way. Nothing destroys wealth faster than war. That means
developing again the comprehensive approach that will enable us to ensure we have humanitarian support, development and support for peace and security. One of the most obvious examples and one that we've been engaged in for many years, but where we have now developed a more comprehensive strategy, is of course in the Horn of Africa.
An approach that looks at a number of things simultaneously: dealing with the threat of piracy off the coast of Somalia, pirates who now operate rather 11.000 nautical miles from the coast and not just 1,100 nautical miles like in the past; the fear of those who are trying to trade across that coast, the fear of hijack, the fear of being attacked by people who for a whole variety of reasons are engaged in those activities; the concern of those countries with that coastline about the impact this has on their economy: trade, tourism, all of this playing into the inability of countries to develop economically; and ensuring the World Food Program can deliver food to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.
We currently have 5 ships off the coast, we often have 12 or 13 ships from 22 member states and helicopter support to deal with piracy. But when you visit our military mission ATALANTA, the first thing they say is that we need to solve the problem on the land, because the solution lies there. So we need a strong development programme to make real alternatives for those who can be persuaded to take up piracy: often young men, even boys, who are encouraged with thousands of dollars as opposed to the very small income that they can get on the land.
It's about making sure that our policy and strategy join up and doing so with the support of the leadership from the region, support from those African nations, Somaliland, Puntland, the people of the region, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Seychelles, Mauritius, all those countries willing to work together to find a solution. We can engage with them on a political solution, a strong development and humanitarian programme, and support to try and prevent the hijacking of ships and prevent those who would stop food arriving for people in those countries.
If we are going to talk about building prosperity, we need to talk about the role that we can play in the ACP countries as a group; I know that the work you do with the African Caribbean Pacific countries is of great importance for this Committee. We need to make sure that we operate in a strategic approach. You know the EEAS is initiating with DEVCO and our delegations the programming exercise for the next EDF, which is the 11th such programming, and I really do welcome the input from this Committee, from the European Parliament, from Louis Michel i in his capacity of co-Chair of the ACP joint Parliamentary Assembly and from all of you.
It is very important in this respect that we build on the experience and expertise here in terms of how we work through our programming requirements and how we develop the comprehensive approach putting development at the heart of what we do, but ensuring that sustainable development linked to strong institutions that can deliver democracy and human rights, is absolutely at the core and the heart of that. I know too that you have discussed the Agenda for Change with Commissioner Piebalgs, who has been a really strong driver and keen deliverer of our aid programmes, to make sure that they reach people in the most appropriate way, to build on the Busan principles for aid effectiveness. All of that needs to be in the framework that recognises that the poorest people often are not in the poorest countries, the poorest people can often live in countries that are what we might describe as middle income.
And that provides in a sense an opportunity as well. As we develop our relationship with those countries, it's about enabling them to have the kind of effective programmes that mean they also take care of the poorest people in their societies. There are many reasons why it doesn't happen, sometimes there are political reasons why those who have money wish to keep it and don't wish to
see it actually bring benefits; in many cases it's about the inability of the institutions to be able to offer and deliver on the ground.
Again we need a comprehensive approach in order for communities that are rural and poor to develop. They need to be supported with the safety net of infrastructure, they need to be supported in developing the local economy, they need to be supported in developing local education for young people in their neighbourhoods, they need to have the infrastructure to enable them to get their produce to market more efficiently. I saw this so well in Haiti, where you could see what needed to be done in different parts of the island, to bring a new infrastructure development that could actually enable on the agricultural side the potential to develop beyond simply growing and exporting, to taking on the processing of produce.
And also the opportunity to provide educational opportunities for people beyond simply picking produce to being those who create from that produce new goods, to be able to be engaged in the whole process of food production. There are many examples, but there is something really fundamental in our relationships with those countries that often are doing well, but are not enabling their communities to catch up with them. It's not about trickle-down. Trickle-down is a philosophy that is nice in theory but is hard to find in practice. It's about bottom-up meets top-down, it's about engaging with the kind of effective programmes from the top that can deliver down and it's about encouraging people on the ground to be able to develop their communities and their society themselves.
And I want a lot of the work that we do with those countries, some of them strategic partners, some of them countries we are reaching out to now, some of them countries beginning to move into that bracket, to be able to help them deliver for their own people and for their own people to really have a stake on how we do that.
A few words if I might on climate change. I mentioned earlier that that is a particular issue that we have to build into our development work - sustainable development. It's particularly true for those small countries, small island states in the Pacific and Caribbean which are directly affected. Members of this committee may have seen for themselves the impact of what is happening. We have to have a strong solid approach, again working with the Commissioners who take direct responsibility for these things -first of all mitigating the effect of climate change as they are and as they will be.
There is a real need to think carefully about how to support countries which as a consequence of climate change need to do things differently. If you have a village which is destroyed year after year by floods, how do you support that community to either rebuild itself somewhere where it isn't going to be destroyed by floods? How do you ensure that you keep what was so valuable about that community? Or how do you find ways to offer them support that allows them to live with the changing landscape and use it to good effect? How do we build within that the linkage between our strategic work which is to have good strong clear values and targets about climate change which in the long run are going to be part of the solution around the world? So that combination of work is so important and that all links back to the same place, which is that development is at the core of everything that we do.
A few words on Sudan and South Sudan, where I have been engaged with the leadership of both countries. I said to the President of South Sudan how proud I had been to stand at the inauguration on a very very hot day and watch the flag unfurl for this new country. But this new country is fragile and it needs all the help and support we can give, both in terms of the growth and development and support to build the infrastructure and also the bringing together of our Member States to work together. In Juba, you see many of the ambassadors and our head of delegation together in the
same area and we must make sure the programming is in place and the work is in place to give and deliver what is necessary. That means issues like running the airport. That means helping them solve the political issues between them and the North, supporting what President Mbeki is doing but being clear and firm that they need to find a solution to the pipeline because this is 90 percent of the income of South Sudan. And they need to be able to find ways to diversify their economy so they are able to benefit from some of the agricultural aspects of their country
A word too on Burma/Myanmar, because what we see has the potential to be quite remarkable. I will go there as you know in April. This has been agreed between myself and Aung San Suu Kyi as the best moment when she would like me to be there. Andris Piebalgs i has already been on all our behalfs to establish the work that can be done. We have to be clear that we have strong expectations for this. It's not over yet. We have to be clear that we want to see the elections work well. We want to see the remaining political detainees out of prison. We need humanitarian access to the regions where conflicts still prevail and we need an end to those conflicts. I wish all those who are working for reform and for freedom in Burma/My anmar every possible success and we will stand with them. If all goes well I will go with the intention of opening our Delegation there and with the purpose of ensuring we have a coherent EU approach to that which is so important.
I could talk about many other parts of the world. We could talk about Afghanistan in detail. We could talk about some of the incredible work which is being done all across Africa by our delegations working in conjunction with all parts of the Commission and with the Member States and you will know that I am keen to achieve two things: a greater coherence between the institutions and the Member States to show that our development money can deliver even more than it does now, to make those economies of scale in the best sense of that. I mean by that trying to have a comprehensive approach between us about what we can actually achieve and I'm also keen to make sure that we do that in partnership with those countries, in partnership with international organisations where collaboration especially with the UN is so important but also in partnership with you. And that will be true with what happens on Rio+20; it will be true with everything we do.
I want to end with an example of where I think this is so important. This is about trying to get the work that we do specifically linked with investment from the private sector and companies. To persuade the international financial institutions - the World Bank, the IMF, the European Investment Bank, the EBRD - to give loans and grants to support the development especially of small and medium sized businesses in countries that are going through change, in countries where they, like in our countries, will form the backbone of the economy of the future. Working with civil society and NGOs, many of them in countries where perhaps it is for the first time they have been allowed to engage properly.
And I want to pay tribute to members of the European Parliament from the Elections Observations Missions which have been superb and so highly respected when I travel across the world. It is so important in terms of delivery and there is more to do in terms of follow up from that. But also members of the European Parliament who have journeyed with me to some of these countries and who have been willing to demonstrate how important democracy is and work with people aspiring to become political parties or politicians. Women's groups in Libya; the big women's conference that I went to; the groups of people in Tunisia, people in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, all of these countries going through change as well as in the broader context the work that is done through the ACP Assembly and through the work with individual parliaments. Never underestimate just how valuable it is. And I wanted to say an enormous thank you for that.