Earlier this week, the Belgian Presidency of the European Union hosted the EU Development Days in Brussels from the 6-7th of December. With the focus on ACP countries (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the two day event was well attended by several Presidents and Health Ministers from across Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
Opening the two-day European Development Days conference in Brussels, His Royal Highness Prince Philippe of Belgium stressed his country’s long tradition in supporting development cooperation – support that has not been scaled down due to the economic crisis.
“But the MDG-Plus-10 summit in New York and the current Cancun meeting [on climate change] have made clear the scale of the challenges that lie before us. We can only tackle these if we are open to the mutual recognition of our differences and our diversities,” he said.
HRH Prince Philippe added that European Development Days is “an extraordinary platform for bringing together all the protagonists involved in development aid to help find solutions“. He stressed that it is not sufficient just to strive for material well-being. “We need to develop every aspect of each human being and allow them to take charge of their own development,” he added.
Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme, representing the Belgian Presidency of the European Union, the co-organisers of EDD, together with the European Commission, emphasised his country’s active engagement in development policy and the long-term priority accorded to it. “Despite the crisis, we are strongly on course to achieve the development aid target of 0.7% of GDP,” he said. Reflecting his country’s philosophy towards development cooperation, he told participants that Europe must preserve in its development cooperation approach the idea that development is more than just an economic consideration. “Human beings must be at the centre of development. They must be able to make their own decisions. This is the context of sustainable development,” the Prime Minister said.
The European Union provides over half of all overseas development assistance worldwide, and as such is an important player in the world of development and health. It is essential that the EU continue to play its role in delivering aid, health and development and keep its pledge to achieve the development aid target of 0.7 per cent of GDP even behind the backdrop of the financial crisis that many European countries are facing.