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The Speech of The Minister for Development Co-operation at The Conference in The Danish Council for Development Cooperation

Friday, 4 June 2010

[CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY (kun det talte ord gælder)]


Commissioner Piebalgs, Deputy Minister Kwetey, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to welcome you all to this conference. It is a welcome opportunity to engage in discussions of the EU’s development cooperation and how the EU can best work in partnerships with developing countries to deliver development results. I am therefore happy to welcome the European Commissioner for Development Cooperation, Mr. Piebalgs, and Mr. Kwetey, Deputy Minister for Finance of the Republic of Ghana, who will join us in these discussions.

This conference also provides me with a good opportunity to outline the Danish government’s ambitions in relation to the EU in the new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation which I presented to parliament last week:
Firstly, we want to see the role of the EU as a global actor strengthened. Denmark wants to see the EU as an even more effective and relevant partner in development.

Secondly, we will put an increased emphasis on EU in Danish development cooperation. An active engagement in the EU will allow us to punch above our weight – to give Denmark more influence than we could otherwise expect.

[Et styrket EU på den internationale scene]
I will go into more detail with these two ambitions. However, let us first take a step back to ask why the EU is so interesting in a development perspective in the first place? The EU was created to safeguard freedom and democracy. In this sense, the EU is a role model for successful and peaceful development.

It is as simple as that!
The world of today is characterized by rapid globalization. An increasing number of challenges on a global scale – poverty, economic crisis and climate change to name but a few – create an increasingly interdependent world. Global challenges call for global answers and make the EU even more important as a key pillar in Danish foreign and development policy. It is first and foremost through our membership of EU that Denmark can influence the global agenda and work to ensure that challenges are dealt with in a timely and efficient manner.

The EU is the world’s largest actor in development cooperation with a global presence, but at present does not exercise a fully corresponding influence on the global scene. This is a mismatch we must correct.

The EU must be a more efficient and relevant development partner both at the international and country level with a strong focus on poverty eradication and sustainable development. But this requires the EU to lead the way in reaching the internationally agreed goals on more, better and more effective development assistance.

It is difficult times, but we need to follow through on our promises and all member states must live up to their commitments. Member states that have still not reached 0.7% in assistance (ODA) should establish national timetables to get there by 2015. The EU and its member states have the weight and potential to truly move the development agenda forward. We must capitalize from this potential.

As the world’s largest actor in development cooperation, the EU is also in a unique position to promote key values of freedom, democracy and human rights. The new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation is based on the fundamental concept that all human beings are born free and equal with inalienable rights.

Without freedom people are kept in poverty. In my eyes, freedom is a precondition for development. Ensuring the humans rights of all people and enabling people to be masters of their own destiny must be at the forefront of efforts to lift people out of poverty.

[Bistandseffektivitet og sammenhæng mellem politikker (Policy Coherence for Development)]
But the question that needs to be answered is also how to obtain development results. It’s not only a question of doing more, but doing it right. Denmark wants to promote a more efficient management of the EU’s development assistance. The Commission and the Member States must take a results based approach that builds on learning from past experience and continuously strive for the most efficient use of scarce resources. We need to create results and to document them. There continues to be room for improvement and lessons to be learned, including at country level. We know which steps to take – they are spelled out in the Paris declaration and the Accra Agenda for Action - and we must continue to walk that road.

To give you a sense of what there is to gain: The Commission has estimated that if the EU moves collectively on the aid effectiveness agenda, it amounts to 3-6 billion Euro in reduced transactions costs every year. It corresponds to between 1½ and 3 times Danish development assistance every year. This is why the commitments from Paris and Accra must be implemented by both member states and the EU.

There is considerable potential to enhance a more effective division of labor within the EU. But we also need to look more carefully at how we can combine forces in promoting alignment and the use of country systems and translating our joint commitments in this regard to action at the field level. Our experiences in the field are mixed as to how this is effectively translated into action on the ground.

We need to make sure that our development efforts are not undermined by the EU’s policies in other areas. In other words, it is important to strengthen coherence and coordination between EU policies to support development efforts and avoid different competing policies undermining each other and having unintended negative consequences on development. At the same time, there can be synergies between different policy areas, we can take advantage of. The policies of the Commission and member states need to pull in the same direction to the benefit of development. There is already an ambitious agenda within the EU where a number of priority areas for strengthening policy coherence have been identified, including trade policy, food security, climate change, security and migration policies. The Lisbon Treaty also provides stronger coordination mechanisms. There is thus a large potential for improvement that we need to take advantage of.

The Lisbon Treaty brings an increased focus on coordination and coherence. A key element is the new structure with a high representative, Catherine Ashton, and the European External Action Service that will constitute the foreign service of the EU. As for development, the new EU structure entails a closer cooperation between the different actors in the EU. We now need to get the new structures up and running as soon as possible.
On the basis of the Lisbon Treaty, Denmark will encourage a closer cooperation between the commissioner for development and the new external service as well as the other commissioners. If we want a larger impact on the global scene, we must ensure that the EU is well organized and able to act in a timely manner. Internal processes must be kept lean and efficient, enabling the Union to speak with one strong voice.

[Dansk EU formandskab i 2012]
In the spring of 2012 Denmark will take over the Presidency of the Union; this will be a welcome occasion to focus on strengthening development cooperation within the EU, including addressing effective management of EU development assistance and ensuring results.

During the Danish presidency the EU will discuss the new financial perspectives – the budget. It will be vital to ensure the necessary flexibility in the use of external financial instruments. The EU would benefit from better possibilities to reprioritize resources to be on the forefront of developments, both at the global level and in response to the evolving situation in different countries.

[Øget vægt på EU i dansk udviklingsbistand]
As I stated in the beginning, the new Danish strategy also contain an increased emphasis on the EU in Danish development cooperation.

Denmark is ready to reduce the number of partner countries and adjust our work in light of a more coordinated approach within the EU. We will also reduce the number of sectors we are engaged in, in each country. However, it is important that our partner countries guide the process. Any adjustments should be made in close cooperation with our partner countries and with other non-EU donors.

As a first step, we will phase out development cooperation with some countries and strengthen our cooperation with other existing partners, notably in Africa.

At the same time, we will take a closer look at the comparative advantages of EU assistance. There is clear comparative advantage in working through the EU in some areas, for instance in fragile states, in support for regional integration and cooperation, and the list goes on. In these areas, EU benefits from its global presence and its capacity for coordination and ensuring policy coherence.

Denmark will continue our efforts to influence the development agenda of the EU. We will engage early on in the EU’s policy development in cooperation with other member states, the external service and the Commission based on our key priorities as defined in the new strategy for Denmark’s development cooperation.

We need to closely asses, where and when acting through EU adds value and where we continue to have a strong national role in terms of expertise, know-how and well established partnerships. This should allow doing what each of us do best even better and ensure even stronger capacity to deliver on priority areas. This is an analysis we need to carry out. We already know that in areas such as health and education, there are synergies and efficiencies of scale in working multilaterally, while other areas such as women’s rights also benefit from front runners to push the agenda forward, as we have done with the Danish campaign in support of MDG3 to empower women.

The question of how we actually reach a better division of labor is, however, easier posed than answered. It creates a number of dilemmas - including how to ensure that we do not paint ourselves into a corner and remove all room for manoeuvre for political priorities and new initiatives? How to avoid that some countries and sectors lack behind, depending on who is engaged? We already know this problem from the so-called aid orphans that have difficulties attracting development partners and finance. And how to make sure that partner countries continue to be in the driver’s seat? These are all significant questions that we must address together to move forward.

[Afsluttende bemærkninger]
In conclusion, the EU does a lot but can and should do more. Our task is to help make the EU succeed. This entails that everybody – including Denmark – make some hard decisions and at times painful choices. We are ready to do so, when necessary.

We will do so, because we need to make sure that we get as good development results as possible for the available resources.

We owe that much to our partners and to our taxpayers.
Thank you.