Official Journal of the European Union

C 170/98

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the European Year of Development (2015)

2014/C 170/16

Rapporteur working alone: Andris Gobiņš

On 18 September 2013 the European Parliament decided to consult the European Economic and Social Committee, under Article 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, on the

European Year of Development (2015).

The Section for External Relations, which was responsible for preparing the Committee's work on the subject, adopted its opinion on 5 November 2013.

At its 494th plenary session, held on 10 and 11 December 2013 (meeting of 10 December), the European Economic and Social Committee adopted the following opinion by 144 votes to 2 with 1 abstention.

1.   Conclusions and recommendations


The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) welcomes the fact that the European Commission has responded to the joint initiative by civil society and the EESC to nominate 2015 as the European Year of Development.


The Committee strongly supports the amendments to the European Commission draft proposal on the European Year of Development (1) suggested by the Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD) (2) and the draft amendments from the European Parliament (3). The Committee points out that most of these ideas have been discussed in the informal task force for the Year and have been mentioned in part in other EESC opinions and on the EESC debate page on the Year.


The European Year of Development will be the first European Year with a strong global and rights-based dimension. The EESC calls on the EU institutions to do their utmost to reach the goals as stated by CONCORD: this Year is ‘a unique opportunity for a broad public discussion and meaningful civic engagement on the vision of Europe on Global Development, within Europe as well as for other continents, with its dimensions of Human Rights, environmental sustainability and social cohesion (4)


The Committee calls on its partners in other regions of the world to advocate for a world-wide Year for Development 2015 in other regions of the world inasmuch as there is sufficient time left for preparation.


The main emphasis must be placed on the most sustainable and relevant aspects of development cooperation such as global solidarity and justice, policy coherence for development, sustainable development goals, global public goods and challenges and European citizens’ role as consumers and actors in a global economy. Narrow and donor-recipient related issues should not be the priority.


Emphasis should also be placed on the role of the private sector in development (5) as developing countries do not usually have development strategies for small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), which include cooperatives. Such development strategies can contribute to eradicating poverty and facilitating inclusive growth. European experience with policy to support SMEs, in collaboration with the social partners and interested NGOs, should be transferred in a targeted and relevant way to developing countries with the aim of achieving sustainable growth in all its three pillars — economic, social and environmental.


The EESC reiterates that the key for success in previous European Years has been the close cooperation between EU institutions and bodies and civil society, both at national and EU level. Thus the Committee calls for immediate action — setting up multi-stakeholder task forces to secure timely and properly structured cooperation. Therefore the EESC strongly supports the establishment of a civil society organisations' (CSO) Alliance.


The multilevel activities implemented by the CSOs (their activities at national, EU and partner state level) play the key role in shaping political processes — thus the CSOs and their activities should be the absolute priority during the Year and receive a majority of the funding. For better results in the short- and long-term of the European Year of Development, it is crucial to avoid spending money on cost-intensive campaigns run by public relations (PR) agencies, or else such services should be reduced to an absolute minimum (as stated in 3.6 in this opinion).


The Committee calls on the EU institutions to use the Trialogue debates to concentrate the focus on sustainable results and participation instead of campaigns or information delivery activities. In order to achieve this, several parts of some Articles of the European Commission's proposal need to be amended, as indicated in part 3 and 4 of this opinion, and changes are needed in the Recital and the Annexes which, due to limited space, cannot be covered by this opinion.


A decentralised approach, as described in 3.5 in this opinion, could produce the best results, as the traditions and history in development cooperation are very diverse, and no single formula for wording, activities etc. could be found. Several suggestions for a grassroots-based Year are suggested in parts 3 and 4 of this opinion and should be taken on board in preparations for the Year.

2.   General comments


The European Year plays a special role in the communication and active involvement of citizens and allows joint EU, national and regional/local level events, organised by both the institutional players and a growing number of civil society organisations.


2015 is the year by which the Millennium Development Goals are to be met. It should culminate with an evaluation of the results attained and the adoption of a new strategy or paradigm for the decade to come. The EU has played a key role in development issues and in setting up the Millennium Development Goals. Although development cooperation is much more than Development Aid, it should be noted that most of the total Official Development Aid (60%) comes from the EU and its Member States. The EU and its citizens, together with its partners in the developing countries, should play a leading role in the post 2015 debates.


According to Eurobarometer data (6), approximately 20 million people in the EU are personally involved in non-governmental development organisations (including volunteers), approximately 130 million EU citizens donate to an organisation helping developing countries and a total of 72% of EU citizens personally support the idea of helping countries with low development indicators.


A growing number of people do understand that development starts within our own countries and within our own lives, with fair trade, environmental protection, participation in political processes etc.


A fast-growing, wide and inclusive coalition of supporters, with strong support from the EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, and his team, under the leadership of CSOs from national and EU level — the European Movement — Latvia, the Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS) and the Confederation for Relief and Development (CONCORD), and the EESC (7) have brought together key stakeholders including a wide range of CSOs, the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament. From the outset, the partners have worked towards a successful and ambitious Year with concrete results.

3.   Specific comments


The EESC calls on the EU institutions to use the Trialogue discussions for enriching the Year with more substance and measures to ensure better and more sustainable outcomes (e.g. via political processes, commitments, improvement of horizontal and structural dialogue etc.).


The EESC recalls its original suggestion for the content of the Year: ‘The EESC calls for greater attention to be paid to development cooperation, global solidarity and the discussion of the Millennium Development Goals. It suggests dedicating 2015 to the issue of “development and cooperation” (provisional title). Since the EU and its Member States are also determined to reach these goals by 2015, the Committee proposes taking advantage of this European Year to raise awareness at the individual, civil society and national and European levels and promote an attitude of joint responsibility for achieving the goals that have already been set and the new goals to be set post 2015’ (8).


Engaging and involving European citizens and civil society organisations and their partners throughout the world in development and in a political dialogue on global development and global justice is the key to the success of the Year and development as such. CSOs play a key role not only in fund raising and implementing development activities, but also in political processes. This is especially true for the younger generation, who tend to be more connected to the world at large through social and other media and more aware of the pressing issues that they — as our future leaders — will need to resolve. Therefore, the meaningful and direct involvement of children and youth, especially girls, in the debates of the European Year is of crucial importance. There also has to be a meaningful and direct involvement of citizens with various interests, social backgrounds etc. The aforementioned aspects should be duly reflected in the preparation and implementation of the Year, in its content and finances.


The Committee supports a decentralised approach for the European Year. Task forces at national level should establish a national motto, slogan or invitation for the Year which best reflects the situation within the Member State. Task forces at EU and national level should be set up no later than 2 months after the adoption of the proposal and have access to the funding allocated for the Year. The work of the task forces and support for their work should be continued beyond the Year. Organised civil society should play the key role in the task forces.


The EESC applauds the Commission, for its plan to invest a significant amount of funding to ensure that the Year is a success. At the same time, the Committee expresses its concern that at this stage only a very small percentage of that funding is earmarked for civil society engagement and activities, although this would ensure the best sustainability and results for the Year. Using funds for existing or new PR contracts/tenders should be avoided or reduced to an absolute minimum, as in some cases the work might even be counterproductive to the Year's goals.


Based on good practice in the past European Years, the Committee expresses its support for the establishment of a wide and inclusive CSO Alliance, which as in past years should play the leading role in the planning and implementation of the European Year. The EESC suggests paying special attention to a close cooperation with EESC members and bodies and other stakeholders and with members of the Alliance at EU and national levels.


The good practice of appointing ‘Ambassadors for the Year’ should also be continued in the Year 2015. It offers major opportunities for raising public awareness of and support for the Year's objectives.


The Committee is committed to developing cooperation mechanisms at all relevant levels in order to ensure the best possible cooperation and synergies between the EU institutions and bodies. Cooperation with the United Nations during the Year should be initiated.


The Committee strongly supports the suggestions for the Year discussed in the informal task force for the Year and in the EESC webpage online discussions. The ideas expressed by the CSOs and partners have been raised by CONCORD (9). The EU institutions should do their utmost to ensure that the Year is:

Inspiring: it should be a process in which all actors discuss and develop together new thinking and new practices on development and establish a consensus on ‘what does global justice mean for Europe and its citizens?’

Participative: making citizens and their views on global justice the focus and making them the principal actors in the debate. This requires equal opportunity for them to voice their ideas and those of their organisations. It means going from ‘informing citizens to raise their awareness’ to a ‘joint discussion on their views of a just global development’.

Coherent: Development policy should be coherent and during the Year, other European Commissions' policies beyond development (trade, finance, agriculture etc.) should be discussed from this perspective.

Development education and awareness-raising process: The Year should be perceived as a participative development education and awareness-raising process, based on the pedagogical principles and values of the European Development Education Consensus.

Global: Any discussion needs to be on an equal footing with partners from outside Europe.


The Committee also strongly supports the following suggestions presented by the rapporteur of the European Parliament (10):

Changing the name of the year — European Year for of Development;

Special attention to citizens living in Member States without a long-standing tradition in development cooperation  (11), whilst the EESC suggests to find special solutions in these states to avoid widespread co-financing problems;

To increase Union citizens' awareness of their stake in, and contributions to, global development and of possibilities for a more equitable global development and to make development an integral part of national education programmes  (12);

To ensure the involvement of partners from development countries (13);

‘To raise awareness and foster debate about the impact which individual, local, regional, national and European decisions and choices may have on global development and on people living in developing countries, so as to achieve a broader understanding of Policy’ (14);

‘The Commission shall invite to those [coordination] meetings, as observers, representatives of civil society and representatives of the European Parliament’ (15).

4.   Additional recommendations for amendments to the proposal presented by the European Commission  (16)


Article 1 (additional sentence). A national sub-title would make it possible to reflect the differences in traditions, challenges and potential in each Member State more effectively: ‘2015 shall be designated the “European Year for Development” […] A sub-title and motto, slogan or invitation for the year should be established at Member State level.


Article 2 (first part) — A stronger focus on engagement might be useful, all stakeholders shall be mentioned as equal players: — ‘to inform EU citizens about EU development cooperation, and involve them in discussions on highlighting what the European Union can already achieve as a global development partner the biggest aid donor in the world and agree on how it could do even more with greater coherence and better coordination with the combined strength of its Member States, its institutions and other players.


Article 2 (second part) — Following the EESC opinion on Trade, Growth and World Affairs: Trade Policy as a Core Component of the EU's 2020 Strategy: — ‘to stimulate the active and meaningful interest and participation of European citizens in development cooperation and foster a sense of responsibility and opportunity as regards individual decisions and national and international commitments (incl. the post 2015 agenda) and ir participation in policy formulation and implementation; and’


Article 2 (third part) –The text is based too much on aid and donor thinking and creates a focus which is very narrow: — ‘to raise awareness of the role of EU development cooperation, which brings a wide range of benefits for all players involved in the EU and its partner states recipients but also for EU citizens, in a changing and increasingly interdependent world;’


Article 2 (new part) — Sustainable outcomes in political processes at EU and national levels are of key importance and a missing piece in the current proposal: - ‘to achieve sustainable results and improvements, where necessary (e.g. in the internal and external political agenda and in development policies, coherence, efficiency, rights-based approach, empowering women, sustainable development, securitability/human security, participation and exchange, tools and structures for civil society, including business organisations and trade unions etc.).


Article 3 (part 1 first indent) — Communication has to be a two-way process, recent European Year campaigns have received strong criticism from different sides: — ‘communication activities campaigns to discuss and agree on key issues disseminate key messages targeted at the general public and more specific audiences, including through social media;’


Article 3 (part 1 second indent) — Successful task forces at national and EU level have proved to be one of the key elements for the success of a European Year. To be transparent, the discussions have to lead to concrete and measurable results: — ‘the organisation of an open and inclusive political process, steered by a multi-stakeholder task force, including conferences, events and initiatives with all relevant stakeholders, to promote active participation and debate, and to raise awareness at European level and secure results and improvements, where necessary;


Article 3 (part 1 new indent) — A year ‘about’ development without the direct involvement of stakeholders in and from development countries is inconceivable: - ‘activities in and reaching out beyond the EU borders to partner states, its people and organisations;


Article 3 (part 1 new indent) — The EESC and the European Commission in their working document indicate that timely preparation and follow-up activities can ensure better results for the Year, as can links between thematic years: - activities preparing for and follow-up of the Year at national and EU levels;


Article 4 (part 2) — As explained in 4.7.: ‘The national coordinators shall, in close coordination with the Commission, consult and cooperate set up a national task force/steering group composed of a wide range of relevant stakeholders, including civil society […]’.


Annex: Details of the measures referred to in Article 3, Part A. Direct Union Initiatives (first paragraph) –A decentralised approach should be supported to reflect the realities in the different Member States, CSOs should not be excluded from implementing their proposals: ‘Financing will generally take the form of the direct purchase of goods and services under tenders open to CSO, and private sector and others existing framework contracts. […]’


Annex: Details of the measures referred to in Article 3, Part A. Direct Union Initiatives (new point) — Based on the best practice of the previous Years: In 2013 more than 60 EU-wide CSO networks are participating in the coordination and implementation of the Year with activities at EU and national level, appropriate support for the work of the Alliance is crucial: ‘- supporting civil society coordination on the established “European Year Alliance” model;

Brussels, 10 December 2013

The President of the European Economic and Social Committee


(1)  Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Year of Development (2015), COM(2013) 509 final.

(2)  CONCORD Reaction to the European Commission proposal on European Year of Development 2015.

(3)  Draft report on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Year of Development (2015), Rapporteur Charles Goerens, 2013/0238(COD).

(4)  CONCORD Reaction to the European Commission proposal on European Year of Development 2015..’

(5)  EESC opinion on Involvement of the private sector in the post 2015 development framework, , OJ C 67, 6.3.2014, p. 1–5

(6)  Special Eurobarometer Nr 352, June 2010 http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_352_en.pdf.

(7)  The initiative was first presented and discussed at the CONCORD General Assembly 22 June 2011 by Andris Gobiņš (European Movement — Latvia and European Economic and Social Committee) and Māra Sīmane (Latvian Platform for Development Cooperation (LAPAS)). An informal task force was established and an official vote in the EESC Plenary on 7 December 2011 on the EESC opinion Trade, Growth and World Affairs: Trade Policy as a core component of the EU's 2020 strategy included the request for the European Year of Development and Cooperation.

(8)  EESC opinion on Trade, Growth and World Affairs: Trade Policy as a Core Component of the EU's 2020 Strategy, OJ C 43, 15.2.2012, p. 73–78.

(9)  See CONCORD Reaction to the European Commission proposal on European Year of Development 2015, September 2013.

(10)  Draft report on the proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Year of Development (2015), Rapporteur Charles Goerens, 2013/0238(COD).

(11)  Same source: amendments 14 and 31.

(12)  Same source, adaptation of Amendment 17.

(13)  Same source, amendments 18, 19, 21, 28 and 30.

(14)  Same source, amendment 20.

(15)  Same source, amendment 27.

(16)  Proposal for a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Year of Development (2015), COM(2013) 509 final.