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Udviklingsministerens tale ved Danida Development Days 2010

Udviklingsministerens tale ved Danida Development Days, onsdag den 9. juni 2010.

Distinguished presenters and guests from abroad,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to bid you all a delayed – but warm – welcome to the Danida Development Days. I have just returned from Washington DC this morning, which is the reason why I could not be here at the opening yesterday.

It is great to see so many people who are genuinely interested in the Danish development cooperation. A special welcome to the presenters and guests from abroad who have taken the time to share their experience, insights and knowledge with us. Also, a special thank you to those who provided inputs and comments during the preparation of the new Danish strategy for development cooperation. I highly appreciate an open debate and your inputs to the strategy, and I look forward to more debates in the future.


The Government’s new strategy for development cooperation: Freedom from poverty – freedom to change” was approved by Parliament just last week. In many ways, the new strategy is a response to a changing and globalizing world. Yet, it also reflects my wish to renew and improve the way Danish development cooperation is conceived and undertaken. The world is a global village, where we are all linked closely together. This has been demonstrated over and over again by dramatic events like the food crisis, the financial crisis, the fight against climate change, the global competition for resources, and the terrorist threats. They are challenges that affect us all.

The globalizing world is also characterized by a gradual shift of political and economic influence from the West towards the East and the South. From the US and Europe, towards emerging powers like China, India and Brazil. That is another challenge we have to deal with.

Denmark has a strong reputation for being one of the best partners in development cooperation in the world. And as you can imagine, being the minister responsible for Denmark’s development cooperation, I am extremely pleased that this is the case. But this is no time to rest on our laurels at all! We must carefully maintain and promote the best elements of Danish development cooperation, while we adapt to a changing world. Otherwise, we risk losing our Yellow Jersey in the donor community and more importantly, we cannot demand change from others, if we are not ready to learn and change ourselves.


The Millennium Development Goals or MDGs in short as well as the whole effectiveness agenda as set out in the Paris Declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action remain important milestones and guiding principles for the OECD/DAC donors. Yet, international development cooperation is undergoing a sea change these years. The increasing presence of new actors like China, India, Brazil, Arab states and South Africa in the developing countries adds a new dimension to development politics and development cooperation globally and in our partner countries. We know from our embassies around the world how the new players and especially China are becoming very visible. At the same time, our embassy in Beijing informs us how China is gradually deepening, expanding and adjusting its Africa strategy based on lessons learnt and its global position and interest.

The new players have a different approach to development cooperation than what we have been used to. They do not want to be seen as “donors”, but stress equal partnership and mutual benefit, south-south cooperation, and emphasize their experience from their own recent development paths. In addition, they stress non-interference in the politics of the developing countries. In short, you can say the “package” they offer to the developing countries is different from ours, and by doing this, they have laid down the gauntlet to our thinking and approach to development.

I strongly welcome the presence of these new players and recognize their important contribution to growth and poverty reduction. I also recognize that our partner countries appreciate their presence and contribution. It certainly provides some food for thought for me and you, when partner countries claim that the new actors focus on potentials, while we tend to focus on problems. However, we also note that concerns are being raised in some of our partner countries about the motivation of the new actors and how equal the relationship is in reality.

Meanwhile, I strongly believe in the core elements of our development cooperation. To me the five priorities in the new Danish development strategy represent the best way to foster sustainable economic growth and reduce poverty. The five priorities are: 1) freedom, democracy and human rights; 2) growth and employment; 3) equal rights; 4) environment and climate; and 5) a focus on stability in fragile states are all equally important to set people free.

We need to look at development cooperation not only from narrow perspective, our self-interest or technical fixes, which might come easy, but we must approach development from a bird’s eye view of how we can support individuals, families, communities and even countries in using their potential and enjoying the freedom to live as they choose. This is the package, we offer, and I would say that it is a rather attractive package.

We have already taken steps to dialogue and cooperate with the new development actors and more initiatives are being planned. We have already established close relations with South Korea in preparation for the next High Level Meeting on Aid Effectiveness in Seoul, and we are working to strengthen our cooperation with China, India and Brazil.

Two-thirds down the road to 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals, we can see that most of the countries furthest away from reaching the MDGs, are countries affected by war, conflict, violence and instability. Fragile states not only pose a very serious poverty challenge. In this day and age, their fragility has a real bearing on regional security, and even our own security.

As presented to you yesterday, we are in the process of formulating a new policy for supporting peace and stability in fragile states as a follow up to the new strategy for development cooperation. Of course, fragile states differ widely, and conflict and fragility are triggered by a wide range of reasons. Consider the differences between Zimbabwe, Burma, Afghanistan, Nepal and Liberia for instance.

However, common features do exist. These features include lack of agreed systems for political negotiation, limited freedoms, unequal distribution of resources and great vulnerability, especially among the most marginalized groups. The state may not be willing to serve and secure all population groups or may lack the capacity or the legitimacy to do so.

The challenges are many and profound, but from our strong engagement in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Northern Uganda, Zimbabwe and Nepal, we are learning valuable lessons. From my recent visits to Zimbabwe and Nepal, it is evident that the political situation in these countries is complex and there are no quick fixes. We want to help the democratic actors in Zimbabwe in their struggle for a more free and fair society, but at the same time we have to accept the reality of a coalition government that includes Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe. In Nepal, we are working hard to help Nepali actors keep a fragile peace process on track and in motion. This is not easy! Not least for Nepalis for whom it means addressing both the injustices of the past while finding the necessary political compromises for the future.

Our starting point must be the local context and our main goal must be to contribute to state-building in a way that is adapted to each situation. In this endeavour, our support should be part of the joint efforts by the international community, and we need to engage partners at all levels of society and encourage interaction and dialogue. Building local ownership and responsibility for security, service delivery and development are key objectives. That is why we must work through local structures even though they are weak. Of course, this does entail risk. Fragile situations tend to be fluid and volatile. Accordingly, we need to be equally flexible and able to adapt as the situation evolves. We have to be risk willing and persistent even if improvements are slow or we experience set-backs.

In cases such as Afghanistan, Liberia, Sudan, and Somalia, a combination of civilian and military actions is necessary in order to create stability. Stability is required for promoting democracy and state building, enabling children to attend school and to build roads and water supplies. It is vital that ordinary people being caught in conflict, insecurity, and marginalisation feel the dividends of peace very quickly. Otherwise, forces of instability and terror such as the Taliban will take advantage and turn discontent and lack of hope for a better future into a powerful weapon against the international peace builders.

In particular, young people have to be convinced that a better future is possible. If they see no future and have no income or employment opportunities, they can easily be co-opted into illegal or criminal action. We see this happening in Somalia, where piracy has become a career path for many youngsters. We see it in relation to the narcotics trade in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and we see it on a routine basis in many developing countries, where young people simply pack up their bags and migrate in search of a better future.

Against this background, the Danish Government will increase its engagement with fragile states in the years to come. We will join up our efforts with key international partners, the civil society, and the private sector, and we will provide support to a selected range of fragile states and situations.

Needless to say, we will prioritise our support and cooperate with regional organisations such as the AU, IGAD and ECOWAS. We will also increase our dialogue with relevant UN actors and contribute to strengthening the UN’s fundamental coordinating role on the ground in fragile states and situations. Finally, we will contribute to a strengthened and more focused EU presence in fragile states and situations. This we need to see happening soon, and with the Lisbon Treaty in place and the EU’s Common External Action soon to become operational, there is a fair chance that the European Union will become a much stronger development partner in the future.


This leads me to the third theme of the Danida Development Days: EU and development. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Piebalgs at the Danida Conference. Today, I would therefore like to highlight a few key issues regarding the role of the EU on the global development scene and why we are putting emphasis on this in our Danish strategy for development cooperation.

I believe the EU should play a bigger and politically more influential role in the development area than it already does as the world’s largest donor of official development assistance. As mentioned earlier, today we have a different donor landscape with new actors on the development scene, and this calls for a more efficient EU, which is better able to promote the key values of freedom and democracy. Denmark will seek to influence the development agenda inside the EU. We will take active part as early as possible, when the EU’s development policy is being drafted together with like-minded Member States, the External Action Service and the Commission based on our own strategic thinking.

[Concluding remarks]

Ladies and Gentlemen, the challenges in our work are many, but if there is no struggle, there is no change, and there will be no progress. It was the great American human rights activist, Martin Luther King, who said this about the link between struggle and progress, and I quote: “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” I fully subscribe to that. History has way too often demonstrated that there are no free lunches, when it comes to furthering the cause of freedom and democracy.

I am confident that the new strategy for development cooperation provides a sound foundation for taking Danish development cooperation forward in a changing and globalizing word. Our aim is to set people free and reduce poverty. And ultimately, to make ourselves redundant. I think we are moving in the right direction.

Thank you.

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