2015 is the European Year for Development (EYD) and a high-level meeting kicked off the year in Riga on 9 January where EU institutions, Member States, and civil society representatives met to formulate expectations for a year which is going to be an important crossroads for development cooperation globally.
The Chair of the Committee on Development, Linda McAvan, along with the President of the European Commission, the Latvian Prime Minister and the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, were among the first to address the auditorium in Latvia's National Library during the EYD launch.
Riga, Addis, New York: Global development agenda at a crossroads
The idea to make 2015 the European Year for Development, the first ever European Year to be devoted to external action, was based not least on the fact that it is the target year for the Millennium Development Goals agreed on by world leaders in 2000 and that it will be the year when new comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), merging the Rio+20 environmental agenda with the development objectives, are to be agreed. The idea for the European Year was originally championed from within civil society, including the Latvian development NGO platform, and quickly taken up by DEVE Members and the President of Parliament, as well as the Development Commissioner and the Economic and Social Committee.
On 23 October 2012, Parliament's plenary overwhelming endorsed the idea. The ensuing Commission proposal was subsequently subject to the co-decision procedure, during which Parliament coined the motto of the Year: "Our world, our dignity, our future". It underlines that development cooperation centres on human dignity and that development is a universal endeavour in which the notion of "us" and "them" should be overcome to shape a common future. The Decision on the Year was adopted in April 2014.
"Development policy works for real people with real names and real faces"
In her opening speech, DEVE Committee Chair McAvan outlined what should be achieved during the course of the Year. She mentioned broader appreciation of the successes of development aid, broad public ownership of the future post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), concrete targets and strategies for the EU on how to implement the SDGs and concrete and tangible projects to be launched during the Year which show that the EU works to address people's concerns.
The DEVE Chair underlined the need to address violence against women and, pointing to the December climate summit in Paris, stressed that "poverty will never be history unless we tackle climate change".
She emphasised that it was important to drive home the message that development policy works: "If we look at results of the Millennium Development Goals, we see two billion people now with access to clean water, over three million children's lives saved from malaria, millions of people lifted out of poverty - real people with real names and real faces".
#EYD2015 will be an interinstitutional communications priority
Parliament has made EYD 2015 one of its communication priorities, in particular for web communications and activities of the European Parliament Information Offices in Member States and also in terms of communicating about Parliament's contributions to the post-2015 agenda. Parliament's annual Open Doors Day in May will focus on development cooperation as well.
The DEVE Committee, which has set up an EYD coordination group, will organise, among other things, special high-level hearings. It plans to participate in the world exhibition EXPO Milan 2015 (under the theme of "Feeding the planet, energy for life") and contribute to preparing the summit on development finance in Addis Abba in July and the UN special summit on SDGs in New York in September. It will also contribute to the European Development Days in Brussels in June. Towards the end of 2015, DEVE intends to hold an interparliamentary committee meeting to look at the implementation of the new SDGs.
In addition, DEVE Members will be going the extra mile to involve national MPs and raise awareness of colleagues in other EP committees.