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Speech by the Hon. Minister at the Conference “Sixty years and beyond: contributing to development cooperation”

(The authentic text is only the one actually delivered)


Commissioner Mimica (EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and development),

Minister Tanoh (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ivory Coast),

Minister Le Guen (French Minister for Development and Francophonie),

Secretary of State Kalnina-Lukasevica (Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia),

Minister Bonino (former Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Commissioner),

Ambassador Sebastiani (Directorate General for Development Cooperation),

Ambassadors, Directors General, Representatives of the Civil Society, of the private sector and of the world of academia.

Allow me to address a deep-felt thanks to the “Ladri di Carrozzelle” group which, accompanied by the “Coro Altavoce” choir directed by Maestro Federico Capranica, performed the Hymn to Joy and will shortly sing the song Stravedo per la Vita, which was presented at the latest Sanremo Festival. I take this opportunity to recall the continuous commitment of Italy’s and Europe’s Cooperation services in favour of disabilities in their development actions.

I am very happy to welcome you all here at the Farnesina. Today we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Europe’s Development Cooperation. We are celebrating a Europe that expresses its solidarity abroad as the world’s first development aid donor.

It is for us all a reason of pride to recall that the roots of European Cooperation were already deeply set in the Treaties of Rome.

Today’s event is perfectly in line with a “Union proud of its values” that we underscored in the Declaration of Rome of last 25 March, signed at the celebrations for the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Treaties of Rome.

I believe that European Cooperation represents the best combination of European values, solidarity and leadership in the world. For 60 years, we have been holding out a hand beyond our borders knowing that in an ever-more interconnected world, the stability, security and prosperity of the rest of the world is deeply linked to our own stability, security and prosperity. 

Cooperation contains an important part of the history of European civilisation. Because civilisation means knowing how to dialogue with others and Cooperation – more than any other policy – means rediscovering the wealth of interacting with others. Through Cooperation, we open up to others and to mutual respect, while pursuing the common goal of development.

Therefore, Cooperation contains the nobler component of foreign policy:  the one that is more authentically motivated to opening up and understanding others, and to meeting the major global challenges together.

But there is more: Cooperation continues to look at the future with hope. It is thanks to this capacity to believe in the future that Cooperation has given – and continues to give – force and vitality to the construction of Europe.

As you know, the Italian Government has “reversed the trend”:

– Public Development Aid has risen from 0.14% of the Gross National Product in 2012 (2.1 billion euros) to 0.22% in 2015 (3.6 billion euros).

– on the basis of the preliminary figures disclosed by the OECD, in 2016 Public Development Aid is expected to amount to 0.26% (4.3 billion euros).  

– we are the 4th donor among the G7 Countries (on an equal footing with Canada in percentage terms) but we are also aware that this is more a point of departure than a point of arrival: because our goal is to achieve 0.30% by 2020, in line with the pledge of 0.7% envisaged in the 2030 Agenda.

In addition to the numbers, Cooperation is made of many small and big stories of those who harbour the dream of a better world. I’m thinking of the many young Europeans in Africa and in other parts of the world who have written and continue to write the prestigious history of European Cooperation.

Many young aid workers are our Ambassadors in the world because they often work in situations of crisis, fragility and vulnerability, where it could be impossible to be present as institutions.  

And again among young people I find a great awareness that Cooperation is a complex matter, that it never addresses issues one by one but many at the same time in the “interweaving of development”.

Let’s take the example of an issue very dear to Italy such as that of large migration flows. Italy has acted with great determination to put it on Europe’s development agenda, at the same time becoming one of the leading Member Countries in managing the EU Trust Fund for Africa.

We have worked to build a model focused on the multiple and deep-rooted causes of migration crises: through partnerships with the Countries of origin and transit, offering alternatives and opportunities for growth, jobs and integration in the regions of belonging. And we believe it is important to start from the young and the women in putting an end to forced migrations and the horror of human trafficking.   

We are working bilaterally to bolster European Cooperation, for example through the “Fund for Africa”, which I launched a couple of weeks ago and that focuses on Libya, Tunisia and Niger, but also includes other important Countries such as Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Somalia, Senegal and Sudan.

Yesterday I gave instructions to draw on the Fund for Africa to implement 8 Cooperation projects comprehensively worth 21 million euros.

Ours is an effort grounded on dialogue and partnerships, whose underlying spirit is to combine solidarity, development and security, putting protection and human dignity at the centre of our every effort.

I would like to conclude with what, in my opinion, are three points of strength of European Cooperation:  

First: the leadership and credibility of European Cooperation at global level, which also derives from the responsibility of being the number one donor in the world. It is no coincidence that the EU has played a key role in defining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and now performs a similar role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 development goals.   

Second: the plurality of actors in European Cooperation, who constitute its biggest asset, insofar as they are drivers of dialogue and change: the Partner Countries; the EU Institutions and Services; the Member States and their Cooperation Ministries or Agencies; the Parliaments; civil society; the academic world; the private sector; financial institutions and development banks.

The revision of the European Consensus on Development (to be concluded in June) is the maximum expression of this inclusivity. Diverging voices united in pursuing a common objective: eliminating poverty in all its forms and promoting inclusive and sustainable development, in a universal context respectful of human rights, in which challenges are increasingly shared and responsibilities jointly shouldered.

Third: always working in teamwork, especially in the field, thanks to joint planning formulas and delegated cooperation.

Italy, wherever it is present, is a leader in joint planning efforts with the EU aimed at singling out – together – shared development priorities in partner Countries.

Moreover, Italy has tripled the funds from EU delegated cooperation programmes, namely the funds managed by Italian Cooperation on behalf of the EU, to 130 million euros in 2016.

Let us recall that Development Cooperation is a very important priority for the Italian Presidency of the G7, and is mainly focused on the Mediterranean and Africa.

At the G7 Taormina Summit, we have scheduled an outreach session with Africa, which will include representatives of the African Union and of several Heads of State and Government. We also plan to address cross-cutting themes such as: sustainable development, innovation, infrastructure, energy, migration crisis and food security.

This is a crucial year for EU-Africa relations, with the 5th Africa-UE Summit scheduled in November in Abidjan. Italy is in forefront in promoting a new and fruitful partnership between our two continents in Abidjan, with ample attention focused on youth, who are our best hope for growth!

I am convinced that our action must hinge on the Mediterranean and Africa. The development of the Mediterranean and of Africa is the biggest challenge of the 21st century, as it translates into security and prosperity for all of us. I am confident that, together, with a strong and cohesive Europe, we will be able to make a real difference.