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Tale i anledning af Danida's 50 års jubilæum

Udviklingsministerens tale i anledning af Danida's 50 års fødselsdag, 16. marts 2012

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International High Level Conference/DANIDA 50 year anniversary
‘Development policy in a changing world’

Your Royal Highness, Ministers, Distinguished Commissioners, Executive Directors, Ladies and Gentlemen – dear colleagues.

First of all – a warm welcome to all of you. Today I hope we will be inspired by the discussions on the role of development policy in a changing world. I particularly want to thank our key note speakers, distinguished panellists and our moderator for participating.

In 1962, when Danida was born, optimism was sweeping. The early development theories talked about the need for a “big push” and a quick “take-off”. We know now that it is not so simple. Many countries did not “take-off”. Development is difficult, takes time. We have spent the last 50 years trying to improve our development policies, sometimes with success and sometimes with failure. At times, in these days in Syria and, I fear, in parts of Sudan it looks like the Greek legend of Sisifos pushing a large stone up the mountain only to see it roll-down again on the other side.

But yet, if you look out the global window, the world definitely looks vastly different and much better now than it did in 1962. Growth in Asia, and over the past ten years in Africa and Latin America, has been explosive. Millions of people have worked themselves out of poverty and many countries are reaching middle-income status, most recently Ghana. Finally, we see “take off”. And new research from UNU-WIDER shows that development assistance does indeed contribute to growth. 25 dollars per capita a year in assistance yields half a percentage point more in economic growth. This is a good investment.

On the global level we are well on the way to achieve a number of the Millennium Development Goals. Also, although there are set-backs, the respect for human rights and democracy is improving. And we see new forms of finance that dwarf official aid flows.

Looking forward towards the next 50 years the question is therefore – is development policy and assistance becoming obsolete? My answer is no. There will always be a need for international redistribution. Both practice and economic theory tells us that we will never see a world where all countries are equally rich and where all people enjoy equal opportunities.

Although there is increasing global economic convergence, there will be uneven development, and fragile places will be left behind. Even in Denmark we still have quite substantial transfers between the parts of Denmark with high growth and areas with low growth and less opportunities. The same in Europe, where we transfer income through the structural funds, and right now engage in an attempt to rescue the economy of Greece.

Moreover, there will always be international crises, which affect countries in different and sometimes unpredictable ways. The global food crisis is hitting the poorest hardest and has created hardship and unrest from Haiti to Egypt. Climate change is as yet an unimaginable challenge that will affect the world in unpredictable ways – and calls for global cooperation.

And just as important, the new solutions that we find will also be found in unpredictable ways and in different places. The centres of innovation and inspiration will change, and we need to share new ideas, technologies and smart policies and support those areas, where new ideas may not come easy.

This will be even more necessary in the future. Years of unsustainable consumption and increasing population growth is putting pressure on our natural resources. By 2030 we will need 50 per cent more food, 45 per cent more energy, and 30 per cent more water. But as the Danish economist Ester Boserup wrote, “necessity is the mother of invention”. We must speed up our ability to innovate and to share and distribute new solutions. And while the building of an inclusive green economy is a question of transformation for old economies it is an opportunity for the new economies of the world. To tackle these challenges we must again work together, share together.

Finally, building global governance will become an ever more important challenge. We must ensure the supply of adequate and appropriate global public goods to tackle global challenges, concerns and to combat global evils. This calls louds and clear for cooperation, this calls for co-financing models. We have only seen a glimpse of the world governance architecture that we will need in the future.

So 50 years from now there will still be a need for development partnerships, for international redistribution schemes, there will still be a need for the Danidas of the World. But the future Danidas of the World will look very different, just as they have changed in the past 50 years.

In the sixties, our idea of good development was to send Danish engineers to build a bridge. Today, our emphasis is much more on building institutions, democratic governance and on policy dialogue. Back then we lived in a polarised world of nation states, north and south, east and west. Today we live in an increasingly globalised world with multiple new partnerships between north and south, east and west. Back then we lived in a fragile world with dozens of conflicting ideologies and a fragile international framework. Today we have a strong set of global values to build on with the international human rights, which have been developed and strengthened in the past 50 years.

These core 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.

To me development is all about promoting the rights of the world's poorest people. And we must see the civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights as individual, indivisible and interdependent as agreed upon in Vienna in 1993. This is also how poor people see it. The Arab spring was about freedom of expression but it was also about bread and jobs. Less than a week ago I was in Bolivia talking to a group of indigenous farmers in the middle of a quinoa field in the highlands. When I asked whether it was the men or the women who did most of the work a woman, Modesta, spoke out angrily and said it was “the women because they also took care of the kids and made the food”. I tried to comfort here and said that we came to fight for the rights of women. The reply came promptly: “Thank you, then I would like a modern kitchen sink so it is easier to wash the dishes”. For poor people human rights can be something very concrete.

A rights-based development strategy is about placing people at the centre of our development partnership. Not as passive recipients, but as central actors in charge of their own development. I am quite modest about what we can achieve from outside, but increasingly optimistic about what people can achieve themselves from inside. We can facilitate, inspire, assist, cooperate. And we can promote peoples’ rights to have a say in their own lives, choose their governments in free and fair elections, participate in decision making, access information and hold their governments – and us – accountable.

A rights based approach leads us to focus not only on basic rights but also on the very structures and societies that keep people in poverty. And without doing so our development work will indeed become a Sisyfos attempt to move the stone up the hill, to move people out of poverty, only to see them fall back again.

A human rights approach also moves us from development being an issue of charity, speaking of “donors” and “recipients”, to a global and mutual partnership based on the core human rights that almost all countries have signed on to.

This strong common platform should also be reflected in the way we build our future global financing schemes. I expect that we will see an increasing tendency towards global financing facilities with a more balanced representation from rich and poor countries and more direct distribution mechanisms. It is happening already. The budget support MDG contracts of the EU or the Millennium Challenge Account of the US have elements that take us along that way. These schemes are closer to a financing contract with mutual obligations than to old-fashioned aid and conditionality. New global funds and mechanisms share similar features.

I expect that in the future we will see strengthened international mechanisms with more formal contributions and allocation based on transparent principles and procedures. These schemes will not be without demand for results. Key prerequisites must be that partner countries show commitment to good governance, to the protection of international human rights, and that they develop accountable and transparent implementation and information systems.

Simultaneously, I expect that in the next 50 years we will se a vast proliferation of new, innovative and more automatic funding sources. And we will see official flows being used in multiple more ways to leverage additional private flows. Multiple new financing models and partnerships.

We will also see multiple private-public partnerships between new actors – civil society, private companies and research institutions. I am deeply encouraged by the strength and ability of civil society to mobilise support and engage in current challenges. I am impressed by the global and social responsibility taken by numerous global companies moving corporate social and environmental responsibility from the Public Relations office in Headquarters into the core of their production and distribution model.

I hope all these trends together can create a significantly increased and much more predictable international financing framework for sustainable development in the coming decades.

There will be new partners, new models, new approaches. This also means that we must move beyond the endless discussion on historic responsibility. Justice is crucial. Fighting for equity essential. We should be responsible. But sometimes I fear that the global blame-game builds barriers to the finding of strong common solutions. The world comes as a package with all its problems and progress. I hope Rio+20 will become a new start, where we work together in a truly globalised world, seeking truly common solutions, in multiple new types of partnerships.

This is not to run away from our responsibility in the rich world. Our global responsibility should not be taken lightly. As we say in Denmark the broadest shoulders should carry the heaviest weight. We must do more in the future. But let work together in a global partnership to fulfil the basic human rights of all citizens of the world.

Along this line I also believe that in the long run it will be difficult to maintain a sharp division between climate finance and development finance. Already now, we know it would be a fundamental mistake to see development, adaptation, and mitigation efforts as separate silos in national implementation. Rather they should be seen in synergy, and contribute to a joint strategy towards building inclusive green economies. This is yet another reason to move up the ladder from project support to budget support and allow for strong local ownership and coordination. It is a key reason to call for greater integration of flows within national and accountable systems.

I believe we must increasingly focus on universal access and nation-wide solutions, building universal welfare societies with strong enabling environments for green growth and stronger social safety nets that can keep people out of extreme poverty, even in a time of crisis.

I am impressed and encouraged by countries that develop large national programmes in support of renewable energy, sustainable forests or farming, and those countries that ensure free schooling, health insurances or create strong social safety nets – from Bolsa Familia in Brazil and Juancito Pinto in Bolivia to Child Support Grant in South Africa and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in India. These types of initiatives will help create lasting solutions in the fight against extreme poverty.

We will soon revise the Millennium Development Goals – hopefully building a new set of Global Sustainability Goals. If you look at the recent progress, if you look at innovative funding mechanisms, climate financing, trade, investments, globalisation, I believe that we can, when we set new goals for the next 15 years set one important, historic, but realistic goal – namely to eradicate the most extreme poverty before 2030. This would be an achievement of historic and human significance. Indeed Sisofys will then finally be able to place the stone on the top of the mountain.

So 50 years have passed for Danida. I am sure we will still have a Danida 50 years from now, although, and this is a promise, I will not still be minister. But I know it will be a very different Danida, dealing, hopefully, with a much richer, more sustainable, more equal world.

I hope that the conference today will provide us all with inspiration and new ideas for the Danidas of the World, for the decades ahead and for the fight against poverty.

Thank you.

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