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Tale til det diplomatiske korps i København

Udviklingsministerens tale til det diplomatiske korps i København, den 21. november 2011.


Distinguished Ambassadors, representatives of the diplomatic corps, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to have this early occasion to meet with such a distinguished audience - representatives of the many governments from all over the world with which Denmark has strong ties, including in the area of development cooperation.
Some years back I visited a group of farmers in Northern Ethiopia. It was a visit I enjoyed – being a farm boy and agronomist myself. However, what I remember most was when the visit was almost finished and one of the farmers approached me, and showed me a small membership card he had – he had become member of a small farmers association. He then asked whether he could also become a member of the Danish organisation I represented. I got quite confused and gave him a long and incoherent answer. He then looked at me and said he just wanted to explain why he asked – it was because he had discovered that when he visited the local mayor and showed the membership card then the mayor actually listened to what he had to say. A simple thing as a membership card gave him influence. Helped him to convey his message. Helped him to change his society.

I have worked actively with international development and economics for almost 25 years, both at the grassroots level, at the university, in journalism, as a consultant and advisor and in the Danish civil society. The Ethiopian farmer – together with similar stories from Denmark and many other countries has shown me what it takes to change the world. We must look for the membership cards, tools, knowledge, ideas, institutions that allow people to fight for their own rights, change their own societies.

This has clearly shaped my values and principles. My predecessor, Mr Søren Pind, declared himself to be “Minister for Freedom”. I call myself “Minister for Rights”: To me development is about promoting the rights of the world's poorest people. And I see the civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights as both individual rights and indivisible rights. A child will never be able to fully use their freedom to speech without being able to read and write and children will never be able to learn to read if they are hungry.

The basic human rights are some of the most powerful ideas ever created by mankind. They are the very backbone, foundation of human coexistence. They have been instrumental in changing the world several times over, from the French Revolution more than 200 years ago, to the successful fight against apartheid in South Africa and to the Arab Spring going on right now.
I am a strong believer in the importance of clear principles and values in Denmark’s development policy. And I strongly believe that we must use those principles and values to empower people to be actively engaged in changing their own destiny, transforming their own societies. Societies that serve their rights and aspirations to live free from poverty and their ability to hold their governments accountable – to hold my government accountable.

Denmark’s development policy will aim to reduce poverty through a rights based approach to development which places people at the centre of our development cooperation. Not as passive recipients, but as central actors in charge of their own development. It is about supporting their rights to have a say in their own lives, choose their governments in free and fair elections and hold them – and all of us – accountable.

We will support people and their countries to help themselves. Invest in human capital, develop agriculture, production and innovation. Create jobs and promote green growth and access to sustainable energy. Develop societies based on the rule of law with respect for human rights and democratic values. But the demand must come from within – from the people themselves. It is a battle for rights that we cannot fight for them, but we can and must support them in this battle.

Denmark will be a strong and reliable partner in international development cooperation. With reliability comes with our responsibility to uphold our commitments to the poorest people of this world despite budgets constraints. The government will therefore increase Denmark’s development assistance. We will aim to bring back Denmark’s development assistance to 1 per cent of the GNI over the coming years. It will not happen overnight – but as a step in this direction, there will be an increase of Danish Official Development Assistance or ODA with 234 million kroner in 2012 and an additional 366 million in 2013. The extra funds will be used to strengthen the poverty focus of Danish development cooperation.

Over the past decade, development funding has been dispersed into new areas such as stabilisation efforts and climate financing. These are important areas, which we should continue to support. But it has brought the poverty orientation into question. To increase transparency the government will therefore create two budget frameworks for our international assistance: One reserved for poverty reduction interventions, which will make up for the largest share of the development assistance budget. Another reserved for global interventions, support for global public goods, which will include among others support to stabilisation efforts and climate finance. We do this to ensure transparency in how we use our development assistance, and what we use it for.


Denmark’s development cooperation with our partner countries, many of which are represented here today, has strong roots. We have long and well established collaboration in a number of areas such as good governance, water supply, agriculture, environmental protection, and growth and employment, and we support the development plans of several partner countries directly through general budget support. I highly value this cooperation and I aim to engage with you even further when we in the near future embark on the elaboration of a new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation.

While we continue these partnerships, the government will in 2012 give priority to four key areas:
- Rights, good governance and democracy
- Food security, agricultural development and resilience
- Green growth and sustainable energy, and
- Stability and protection

Firstly, the promotion of rights, good governance and democracy will receive special attention in 2012. I already said it, the the aspiration for human rights is a powerful lever for change and reform. It holds opportunities that we must seize. The government will continue the substantial support to good governance and human rights in Denmark’s partner countries, which place people at the centre, including in fragile states such as Zimbabwe, Burma and Somalia. In Latin America, we will maintain a focus on the rights of marginalised groups, including indigenous people.

We will continue our support for change in the Middle East stemming from the Arab Spring and the fall of authoritarian leaders through the government’s new Arab Initiative. Last week in Tunis, I met with representatives of political parties, human rights organisations and business interests. They were all determined for Tunisia to embrace democracy and attract the needed investments for the country to prosper and grow. The common sense of purpose and drive for change that I witnessed confirmed to me that we can and must continue to support their strive for reform, democracy, growth and employment. Hundreds of civil society organisations, businesses and social entrepreneurs want to engage with us in bringing Tunisia forward. During the Ben Ali regime, there was only one doorway in and the door - more often than not – was locked! To day there are hundreds of doors into a country like Tunisia and right now they are all open. This is an opportunity we cannot miss.

Women's rights are under pressure – in particular women's sexual and reproductive health and rights. This is not only deeply worrying. It is not acceptable. Denmark will therefore continue to be an active and vocal advocate for women's rights. I recently met with the Executive Director of the UN Population Fund, UNFPA [Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin], the Director of UN Women, Madam Bachelet: They and I see eye to eye on the need to counter this negative development and will collaborate to mobilise others to rebuild momentum for safeguarding women’s rights.

Civil society plays a key role as an advocate and watch dog for peoples’ rights and in promoting accountability of national governments and international community, and demanding transparency in government. Support to civil society both through Danish and local NGOs will be a central element in a rights based approach to development.
The government will also work to promote the rights based approach to development at the international level. We will use the Danish EU Presidency to place it more firmly on the EU’s agenda and work for its further inclusion in the EU’s new development policy we hope to agree on in the spring.

Secondly, we will in 2012 give special priority to strengthen food security, agricultural development and build resilience against future crises. The current food crisis at the Horn of Africa illustrates only too well why food security and enhanced resilience must be given high priority both by our government and internationally. Thirteen million people are now dependent on humanitarian assistance. 900,000 Somalis have fled their country, and between 1.5 and 2 million people are currently internally displaced inside Somalia.

The cost of inaction will be catastrophic – food security is also about global security. Coordinated international action is needed. The Danish Government will therefore work for long-term solutions that can enhance food security and the people's resilience to future crises and disasters, especially in fragile and conflict-affected areas. We will do so by joining efforts with other development partners, including the EU, the World Bank, the UN, and the African Development Bank, with a view to establish a joint strategic framework for addressing the challenges of food security at the Horn of Africa.

We will invest in concrete initiatives that promote a sustainable and climate-adapted food production. We will support small scale farming in arid and semiarid areas, including in the Horn of Africa, with a special emphasis on protecting vulnerable groups and promoting a strengthened role for women in agriculture. We must invest in both the local and the global food system, in security.

Thirdly, the government will scale up efforts to promote green growth and sustainable energy. A few weeks back, this year’s Human Development Report was launched here in Copenhagen by Helen Clark, the Administrator of UN Development Programme, and the Danish Prime Minister. This year’s report focuses on sustainability and equity and highlights that “the most disadvantaged people carry a double burden of deprivation: they must also cope with threats to their immediate environment posed by indoor air pollution, dirty water and unimproved sanitation.”

In other words; the most disadvantaged people bear the bulk of the burden of environmental degradation, even if they contribute little to the problem. Promoting access to sustainable energy supply will be a key element in this context. Access to sustainable energy supply is a critical prerequisite for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries where approximately 1.4 billion people live without access to electricity and about 2.3 billion people depend on firewood and other biomass for daily cooking.

This is a monumental challenge, which Denmark will address both through multilateral channels and through our bilateral programmes. On our own part, we have ambitious national goals and are planning to be independent of fossil fuels by 2050. We will pursue the same agenda internationally, not least when Denmark as presidency of the EU will work for an ambitious result at the Rio+20 conference.

I hope that we at the Rio+20 conference will be able to agree on an ambitious set of Sustainable Development Goals – building upon and strengthening the Millennium Development Goals and extending with new goals for water, biodiversity and access to energy for all. Let us work together on this vision.

Again we will work both globally and locally. Through partnerships, with many of your countries and between the private and public sector we will work to strengthen international collaboration on the promoting of green growth, sustainable energy and innovative solutions. The Global Green Growth Forum launched in Copenhagen a couple of weeks ago is an example of such an initiative.

Lastly, we will make a special effort in 2012 to promote stability and ensure protection of civilians in fragile and conflict-stricken states. One third of the worlds’ poorest live in fragile states which are those furthest away from achieving the Millennium Development Goals. To make a difference we must make use of all instruments – from development cooperation and humanitarian intervention through stabilisation to peace supporting operations.

As a key element in a focused stabilisation and conflict prevention effort the government will create a new security envelope devoted to among other stabilisation and reconstruction in fragile and conflict affected countries. It will support the on-going work for more coherent interventions, where all instruments - foreign, security and development policy - play together. Within this framework we will support efforts to consolidate peace in South Sudan, promote peace in Somalia and stabilise the situation in Libya. And we will continue our support to the Palestinian Authority in the area of state and peace building and improvement of living conditions.


This list of priorities are key areas that we wish to strengthen. But it is not an exclusive list. Denmark will remain firmly committed to supporting areas as health, water, infrastructure, and not least, education as signalled by our recent role as host of the replenishment conference for the Global Partnership for Education.

Ladies and gentlemen, next week I will - along with ministers from your own countries - travel to South Korea to attend the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan. I look forward to this important meeting which should build on what many countries have already committed themselves to in the Paris Declaration and in the Accra Agenda for Action.

This government is fully committed to the aid effectiveness principles, to transparency, to accountability - and try our best to further strengthen these principles in our development cooperation, including by scaling up the use of general budget support. But while many efforts have gone into making the conference a success, it is important that we do not lose track of the purpose of aid effectiveness. It is a means to an end, not a goal in itself. We need not only to talk-the-talk, but translate it into practice. And there is unfortunately still some way to go for many, and also for us. While I certainly hope that we can engage new development actors in a stronger partnership in development, I also hope that we will come back from Busan with a renewed sense of commitment to transparency, accountability, and delivering more effective aid and to focus on results at the country level. I also hope that by doing this we avoid creating new international bureaucratic structures, but focus on the country level. Aid effectiveness must be about results – not process.

This is indeed challenging times for global development, but also times of great opportunity. Opportunity to do better and to do so together. I certainly do not have all the answers. I therefore look forward to working closely with you and your governments in addressing both challenges and opportunities in the future.
Thank you for your attention

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