Presentation of the priorities of the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the area of development cooperation and humanitarian aid before the Development Committee of the European Parliament

Date: 
01/22/19

Presentation of the priorities of

the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU

in the area of development cooperation and humanitarian aid

before the Development Committee of the European Parliament

 

Teodor Meleșcanu,

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Brussels, 22 January 2019

 

Motto: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, `What are you doing for others?”. Through its action in humanitarian and development fields, the European Union is a living embodiment of this call.

 

Madam Chairperson,

Distinguished members of the European Parliament,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

I am gratified and deeply honored to address you today. This Committee, by its relentless work, is a constant reminder of the underlining concerns of our times, essential to the well-being of the humankind.

The world today is witnessing tremendous challenges. Respected reports estimate that this year 132 million people from 42 countries will require international humanitarian assistance. Most of such terrifying situations would occur mainly due to armed conflicts and food insecurity. As we speak, Yemen embodies the complexity and intensity that today’s crises can take the shape of. Torn between an armed conflict, the destruction of public infrastructure, the 20 million persons in severe food insecurity and the dramatic estimation of UNICEF, according to which, every 10 minutes, a child dies in Yemen, this state is a striking example of the massive proportions a humanitarian crisis could acquire.

          The broad range of issues to be addressed are further reflected by the protracted armed conflict in Syria, entering its eight year, with no clear perspectives for dignified returns. Near us, in the Eastern part of Europe, the conflict in Ukraine has affected more than 4 million people and led to the displacement of more than 1 million. Of those affected, about 3.4 million are currently in need of humanitarian assistance.

Natural disasters, as it was the recent case in Indonesia, have caused vast destructions. I do apologize for this abrupt introduction. But, this is the reality. We have no choice but to face it. EU is therefore needed and highly expected to remain in the lead of the efforts in the fields of humanitarian aid and development cooperation.

The Romanian Presidency supports the very essence of this approach. As you are undoubtedly aware, Romania has placed COHESION at the forefront of our Presidency Programme. Cohesion, internally, but cohesion externally, as well. This leads me to our second Presidency Programme’s priority, i.e., EU as a global actor. With all the challenges that we are facing nowadays, the EU has no choice but to assume its responsibilities. Humanitarian aid and development cooperation policies and actions are instrumental in strengthening and further unfolding EU’s role as a major global player. “Leaving no one behind” is a concept that is in high demand.

Honorable Members of the Committee,

Allow me now to move to the translation of the overall priorities from our Presidency Programme to the suggested specific actions. It is obvious that in many instances the path leading to solutions starts with prevention. Bearing this in mind, Romania will emphasize, as a first priority, the role of Disaster Risk Reduction (disaster management, prevention, mitigation and preparedness). Having the Sendai Framework as beacon, our Presidency will focus on the implementation process.

Furthermore, we will strive to promote the capacity building of medical emergency response, an essential component of effective life-saving activities and crisis management. We will also encourage a strong link between humanitarian aid and civil protection actors.

 

Moreover, in line with the Comprehensive School Safety Framework and the Council’s conclusions on education in emergencies and protracted crises, focus will be placed on the role of education in promoting risk reduction and resilience. Education, in refugee camps and protracted crises, is key to our future, as it is targeting children and young people. They represent one of the most vulnerable groups when a crisis hits, as they grow up in a context that often affects negatively the educational and formative processes. We should avoid the risk of losing one generation.

Early warning and preparedness are essential for minimizing the disruption of education caused by conflict and natural hazards. Therefore, we need to have strong systems and partnerships in place for a rapid, efficient, effective and innovative educational response, taking into account the specific needs of girls and boys, and children with disabilities.

A major aspect generating vivid discussions is the financial one. The difficulty regarding financing for DRR lies in the implicit negotiation, at the level of each donor, between longer-term prevention versus urgent response to meet immediate needs. During our mandate, we will strive to find ways through which public and private sector funds can be directed towards DRR initiatives. The EU has a duty to be predictable in this particular domain.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

          We have recently celebrated the beginning of 2019, a year which is part of an era where everything is in a permanent change. It is obvious that this brings countless opportunities, but at the same time, numerous challenges.

          New technologies fundamentally alter the way the world works. The humanitarian sector is no exception. Whether we speak about drones, artificial intelligence, virtual reality applications, Big Data or Blockchain technologies-they all have the potential to improve or to damage the delivery of assistance. During our Presidency, we would like to discuss with the various stakeholders about ways in which we, as donors, can contribute to driving innovation in the humanitarian sector, whether we speak about a conflict scenario or a natural disaster caused crisis. The purpose will be twofold: how to use such technologies to better deliver the assistance by the donors and how to help the beneficiaries to better absorb such assistance.

We will help to create synergies on humanitarian innovation and private sector engagement by promoting the EU network of Humanitarian Innovation and Private Sector Focal Points, from Member State administrations, as initiated by the Commission and agreed to by Member-States’ Directors-General for Humanitarian Aid.

Nevertheless, we shall be aware that innovation is no panacea and must be used with caution. We have to look into the risks associated with new and disruptive technologies, such as those relating to the protection of personal data, the spreading of false information on social media, and the consequences for civilians and humanitarians when new technologies, like remote controlled tools (drones), are used in warfare or search and rescue missions.

Additionally, Romania will assume a core mandate of the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid, more specifically that of monitoring humanitarian crises. Hence, we are going to closely survey ongoing, emerging, forgotten and protracted humanitarian crises, with the purpose of generating a tailored and united EU response.  Only together we can use the available resources in the most efficient way. The Presidency will advocate for more coordination between Member States, the Commission and the EEAS and will closely engage with the European Parliament. We will also invite third parties and partners, such as representatives from international civil society organizations, to share their views and expertise from the field.

Given the amplitude of current crises, as well as the tendency to a mixed nature of the causes (a military conflict can overlap with a drought season, leading to a food crisis, therefore a crisis within a crisis), as well as the increasing disregard of the International Humanitarian Law, our Presidency will facilitate debate, in case common humanitarian advocacy messages are estimated valuable.   

One last thought on this topic: humanitarian crises and the underlying conflicts are increasingly protracted. This is why, now more than ever, we need a more coherent approach to humanitarian, development and peace. Irreversible progress cannot be achieved without a more integrated EU approach, where we all join forces and multiply the impact of our efforts. The Romanian Presidency is committed to push forward on how this important nexus can be implemented, in line with the 2017 political agreement between the European Parliament and the Council as laid down in the European Consensus on Development. 

We hope that, during our Presidency, we will witness a successful negotiation of the post-Cotonou partnership.

Romania has constantly flagged the need to strengthen the EU cooperation with the large group of ACP countries. As a contribution during our Presidency, we are going to host the 37th Session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Romania, at the end of March. We hope that the meeting will generate meaningful debates on the enhancement of the current and future partnership.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I believe that our meeting is an essential one as there is no better way to start a Presidency than having a dialogue with the directly elected representatives of the European people. During our Presidency, we will strive to ensure efficient inter-institutional cooperation between the Council and the European Parliament. I am thus ready to work closely with the DEVE Committee, with each and every one of you.

I thank you once more for the opportunity that has been offered to me to speak in front of such distinguished audience and I am looking forward to our dialogue.