6 QUESTIONS TO – Steffie Neyens, Light for the World and IDDC, on the European Consensus on Development | June 7, 2017
In May, the Council adopted a new European consensus on development, which set a new framework for the development cooperation of the European Union (EU). Steffie Neyens, coordinator of the EU Task Group of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), explains the main stakes for disability-inclusive development. Steffie Neyens has been working as the […]
In May, the Council adopted a new European consensus on development, which set a new framework for the development cooperation of the European Union (EU). Steffie Neyens, coordinator of the EU Task Group of the International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC), explains the main stakes for disability-inclusive development.
Steffie Neyens has been working as the EU Advocacy Coordinator of Light for the World International for nearly 5 years. Apart from her EU work with Light for the World, she also coordinates the EU Task Group of the IDDC and is highly involved in CONCORD’s work on the future of the relations between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.
Why is it important to have a revised Consensus on development to guide EU policy?
The EU Consensus on Development is the first guideline for the EU to implement the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This means that the EU and its Member States (MS) agreed on the main principles by which international cooperation policies and programmes will be guided. During the next 13 years, all EU external actions should reflect this agreement, from the EU budget to regional and bilateral relationships. The EU is one of the most influential stakeholders at international fora. There is a need for a clear EU position in order to leave no one behind and respect our natural resources.
Does the new Consensus address the specific question of people with disabilities? What difference can it make for the lives of people with disabilities?
We are glad to note that the new Consensus does address the question of disability. First, when emphasizing a rights-based approach to development, then when stressing the commitment to “leave no one behind”. We find a specific paragraph on disability, mentioning the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which the EU is a party. This paragraph acknowledges the links between disability and poverty and urges the EU and its Member States to take into account the specific needs of persons with disabilities in their development cooperation efforts. Now we have to keep up the pressure so that these guidelines are respected in future programming.
What does the new consensus say about the policy trends relating to international development cooperation, in the EU today?
Unfortunately, while questions relating to persons with disabilities are more present in the revised Consensus, we have to note the more worrying tendencies. We are witnessing the ‘instrumentalisation’ of development cooperation, thereby putting the interests of the EU before the development of partner countries. This is especially evident when it comes to the question of migration. Furthermore, as you say, the role of the private sector, while essential, is also biased towards EU interests over that of partner countries. So, while there may be progress on the disability front, it could well be undermined by an overall weakening of solidarity-based development cooperation.
How have civil society’s organisations, in particular IDDC, and other stakeholders been involved in the preparation of the consensus?
From the very beginning of the discussions about this revised Consensus, the IDDC EU Task Group, along with other civil society actors, including CONCORD, were involved in the process. We worked at different levels, addressing different actors. In summer 2016, we responded to the online public consultation launched by the European Commission. We further developed an IDDC position to advocate towards the European Commission, which released its Communication on the New European Consensus in November. In parallel, we followed the drafting of a report by the European Parliament. In a final phase, the proposal was discussed by EU member states, which means we had to focus our advocacy work on the Permanent Representations of Member States and towards relevant ministries in capitals.
What have been the major points of negotiation between the different stakeholders throughout the discussion?
There were discussions about many topics, but civil society organisations focused their attention on some points in particular. First of all, to ensure that the main goal of the new Consensus remains poverty eradication. Beyond that, two main points of contention were: to ensure that development would not be used as a tool to manage migration, but to address root causes of migration; and to try to ensure that the security approach would not be too prominent. IDDC successfully advocated for a reference to the CRPD. We also specifically advocated for the inclusion of disability disaggregated data, in line with the SDGs, but unfortunately to no avail.
What are the next steps now? What role will play IDDC in the follow-up and monitoring of the new Consensus?
Now the renewed Consensus will be officially signed and adopted during the European Development Days, thereby replacing its 2006 predecessor. CSOs must ensure that all future programming actually follows the guidelines set in the new Consensus, including when it comes to inclusion of persons with disabilities. IDDC will follow the implementation and monitoring process of the SDGs at EU level. In essence, the real hard work is only just starting!