Written by Clare Ferguson
Undoubtedly, 2015 will be remembered more for world events the Ebola crisis, the migrant crisis, the challenges of climate change, war in the Middle East and terror at home than for its designation as European Year of Development. However, the Sustainable Development Goals agreed in September include many measures that both recognise and attempt to mitigate the causes of the current crises. EYD2015 focused on a different development theme each month, a structure allowing for emphasis to be placed on some of the more pressing specific policy areas. Renewing the current models of European development and humanitarian aid against the background of emerging crises may have concentrated minds on the urgency of the actions to take.
Throughout 2015, the Directorate-General for External Policies and the European Parliamentary Research Service have prepared short briefings on the EYD2015 theme for the month, which outline the challenges to sustainable development, with graphical illustration and accompanying data. The themes were:
December – Human Rights
As we look forward to the presentation in Plenary of the Annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2014 and the EU policy on the matter, and to the official award of the Sakharov Prize, EYD2015 turns its attention to human rights and governance issues in relation to sustainable development. Development that does not benefit all members of society can hardly be deemed to be sustainable. Human rights are therefore key to good political governance, stability and growth, and most donors include human rights clauses in their cooperation. The Sustainable Development Goals include a new target on peaceful and inclusive societies, but agreement on the concept of human rights itself is hotly contested. The EU integrates human rights in all of its external policy and development cooperation is no exception. Our briefing illustrates the main treaties and indicators on human rights in the world.
November – Sustainable development and climate action
When it comes to climate related disasters and environmental damage, the weakest and poorest in society suffer the most, and future generations may suffer more. Sustainable development thus goes hand in hand with climate change and environmental policy in EU efforts to tackle poverty, focusing on economic, social and environmental aspects.
October – Food security
To be free from hunger and malnutrition is a basic human right. Despite improvements in the situation, some 795 million people remain undernourished. The UN Sustainable Development Goals agreed in September 2015 therefore include an ambitious target of zero hunger, and the EU has made food and nutrition security a focus of development cooperation. The European Parliament has expressed particular concern over the impact of EU policies on farming in developing nations, and the worrying rise of land grabs. Our map illustrates the geographical concentrations of hunger in the world.
September – Demography and migration
Taking a wider view of the current migration crisis, human mobility has been a burning issue throughout the year. EU policy dialogue and cooperation projects in developing countries aim to provide some alleviation in an already critical situation. But can world resources really cope with a global population projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050? Statistics on immigration, emigration, population figures and the numbers of refugees demonstrate the gravity of the situation.
August – Humanitarian aid
The EU is the world’s leading humanitarian aid donor, with a principled approach centred on responding to needs, not political objectives. The European Parliament is a staunch supporter of adequate funding for aid, including disaster prevention and resilience building. The funding involved and its distribution illustrate the breadth of EU funding activities.
July – Children and youth
One in four children under five globally – that’s 162 million – are at risk of learning or physical disability. The European Parliament is particularly concerned that EU development aid should focus on helping children in developing countries, protecting them from violence, abuse and exclusion. Major indicators of whether children thrive in a population include nutrition rates, child mortality, and primary education levels.
June – Sustainable growth
At the COP21 Climate Change conference an important aspect of the talks has been on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR) that developed countries and developing nations have different historical responsibility for global climate change, as well as varying capacity to act to mitigate the environmental damage. Achieving a balance between protecting the environment for future generations, and the development needs of current populations is proving a hard call in many countries. The European Parliament is keen to ensure that growth benefits the more vulnerable sections of society, and we provide an interesting insight into the issue with data on human development and the gross national income across the developing world.
May – Peace and stability
With conflict no longer on Europe’s doorstep, but wreaking damage in its very heartlands, the EU commitment to leveraging its external policy with a ‘comprehensive approach’ signifies a determination to end the vicious cycle of poverty, political instability and human rights abuse. Our briefing gives an overview of the global situation and information on the EU missions to the current flashpoints.
April – Health
With the lessons of the West Africa Ebola outbreak fresh in European minds, April saw the focus turn to the need for close international cooperation on health and communicable disease in particular. Parliament’s position is that health is a basic right, and that sufficient development aid should be devoted to the promotion and support for equal access to health care in developing countries. Our briefing provides indicators for the general state of health of citizens of developing countries.
March – Women and girls
Women and girls face particular challenges in the world and in developing countries in particular. Achieving gender equality a fundamental principle of European integration is still a distant goal. The international community integrates gender equality into all development cooperation policies to highlight the need to promote the human rights of women and girls, who are often the victims of a cycle of poverty and exclusion, evidence for which is covered in our statistical briefing.
February – Education
Education, and in particular guaranteeing access to education for women and girls, is a major factor in the development of societies. To encourage all members of society to contribute equally to development opportunities, it is vital that to raise current levels of school attendance. As illustrated in our briefing, some 58 million children do not currently attend school, and literacy rates in developing regions vary considerably.
January – Europe in the world
EU policy on development aid is to focus on the poorest countries. Our first briefing for EYD2015 in January illustrates the disbursement of official EU development aid. However, the situation on the ground is far from ideal, with the EU not yet reaching the 0.7% of GNI level of contributions to which it originally agreed.