// Europe's response to inequality in developing countries
While the "agenda for change" proposes tackling poverty with targeted spending and a focus on inclusive and sustainable growth, it is evident that inclusive growth has to be based on equality in as many aspects of life as possible. All types of inequality hamper poverty alleviation, economic growth as well as political stability. The panel discussed how the EC should tailor its development policy to aim at addressing the various inequalities. To kick off the discussion panellists were asked which kind of inequalities mattered most to them - at first inequalities within countries and secondly on international level.
// Inequalities within countries__ Focus on education
Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi, identified inequalities in her country to be most severe at grassroots and family levels where especially girls faced problems that came along with the current development policy. According to Banda donors focused entirely on girls' free access to primary education. When it came to secondary schooling, they turned their backs. Parents who could not afford school fees had to find husbands for their daughters -- causing for a large number of young girls dying while giving birth. The Malawian president stressed that for her in an equal partnership the donors should listen to the voices from the countries. It was them who knew exactly what should be done about a problem like this.
Thomas Yayi Boni, President of Benin, pointed out that a lack of access to basic services was at the centre of inequality in developing countries. This issue concerned everyone and prevailed over all other issues, even over the persistent income gaps. For Boni inequalities persist as they were based on legal or customary exclusions of certain groups from certain services. Legislation had to be passed to rectify this inequality and institutional barriers broken down. The closing of income gaps might then follow.
We must take destiny in our own hands. We need strategic relationships in the world, and a strategic approach towards global governance. We want to move away from the situation where we are beggars. - Thomas Yayi Boni
Stark inequality is not only an issue in societies of the developing world. Charles Goerens, Member of the Development Committee of the European Parliament drew attention to growing inequalities within Europe. There were growing discrepancies between the north and the south of Europe as well as between the generations, with increasing youth unemployment and insufficient pensions for many old people.
The EU needed an exchange of best practices with the developing world, as they shared some basic problems, Paul Engel, the director of the European Centre for Development Policy Management said.
// Inequalities between countries__ Call for equality in international partnerships
President Yayi stressed the overdue review of international organisations which, in his eyes, effectively excluded some countries. Other representatives from developing countries also demanded inclusion or stronger recognition in international organisations such as the World Bank or IMF. Reforming these bodies should be done with the developing world in mind and on board. "We want to move away from the situation where we are beggars", Yayi stated. Panelists found consensus in calling for a more equal footing in the strategic partnerships of the EU with developing countries. Inclusive governance could be the key to achieving this.
'Which changes to the international governance structure are necessary?' - Posing this question to the audience as well as to the panel, the moderator got some concrete demands as feedback:
- Focus organisations on the rule of law
- Tailor the MDG to particular country needs, don't make them even for the entire global level
- Establish a quota for women in international bodies
- For the EU: Commit the AU to peace and security
From the high level panel, President Yayi pleaded with the developing partners to not force free trade on countries such as his: 'If some developing countries do not want to open their borders, let them be.' Developed countries needed to listen to developing countries because they knew what is best for them.
Paul Engel noted that this very idea featured very prominently in the declarations from Accra, Paris or Busan. Yet, it washard to realize these ideas on the ground. A customized approach to development aid was necessary, focusing specifically on those forces within a country that truly did work towards fundamental change.
There were also recommendations on what the EU should do to engage more with developing countries:
- Evaluate its own agricultural policy and bilateral WTO agreements
- Focus resources for use in rural areas and extension services
- Listen to middle-income countries on how they achieved some economic and development success
- Crack down on tax havens
- Evaluate and regulate corporate practices of multinational companies
// Debating aid conditionality__ Towards a Piebalgs Doctrine?
Moderator Simon Maxell spoke of a Piebalgs doctrine, which he coined after the current EC Commissioner for Development who sat on the panel. According to this 'doctrine', the EC would extend its direct budget support to democratic, well-governed countries, allowing for more financial leeway. In the case of those countries where there were questions about good governance and inclusiveness, a more projects-based support would be maintained. A lively debate on aid effectiveness and aid conditionality ensued.
Paul Engel indicated that noninclusive governments were unlikely to be responsive when confronted with issues of inclusiveness. Therefore the question came up whether conditionality could be of help in these countries. In response, Andris Piebalgs outright rejected the use of aid conditionality since the specific policy choices of sovereign governments needed to be respected. For his policy human rights and basic democratic principles were not to be confounded with aid conditionality, which he saw as being constantly the case. Nevertheless, he offered that sectoral budgetary support might be more useful in the future than general budgetary support. In any case though, donors should support governance change projects.
Dividing the audience into citizens from developing countries and EU citizens, the moderator asked if the EU should insist on their own values and human rights issues from its developing partners. The result of this non-representative survey: All EU citizens voted for pushing on European values while all representatives from the developing world were against it. On another question the entire audience agreed that all other measures besides aid - i.e. trade or political cooperation - are much more important than actual aid efforts. The audience also consented on the need to offer differentiated types of aid.
// Strong interventions versus soft power
The moderator closed the panel by saying that heavy-handed interventions "like those of the CIA" are certainly not on the agenda of anyone anymore. Agreement was found on the need for equal partnerships and tailor-made development aid approaches. While it seemed that Europe would like to see its own values at play in the developing world, these countries made it clear that they would like to decide on their own what policies to follow. Commissioner Piebalgs addressed this, too, when stating that development aid should not be left to diplomats but be focused on the implementation on the ground.
// Replay of the panel webcast
- Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi
- Thomas Boni Yani, President of Benin
- Paul Engel, Director, European Centre for Development Policy Management
- Charles Goerens, Member of Development Committee, European Parliament
- Mark Furness, German Development Institute (replacing Dirk Messner, Director, German Development Institute)
- Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States
- Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development
The session was moderated by Simon Maxwell, Senior Research Associate at Overseas Development Institute. Follow him on Twitter.
// Social media
Relive the twitter debates using the hashtag #EDD12 or via the official account.
European Development Days 2012
Agenda for Change.