The Italian Cooperation has to be stronger in order for Italy to be an international leader. This was the message from Minister for Cooperation Andrea Riccardi and Under-Secretary Marta Dassù during the first meeting of the Development Cooperation Steering Committee on 12 March.The two members of the government sparked a broad-based reflection on Italian official development assistance (ODA), particularly in light of the steady drop in resources over recent years, and underscored the need to realign funding with the workload that Italy is carrying if we intend to play a leading role on today’s complex international scenario. Both also cited the need for closer coordination among the various actors administrating ODA resources at national level.
With special reference to the cooperation guidelines, Minister Riccardi cited the usefulness of placing greater attention on areas critical to Italy’s security, making explicit mention of the Sahel region (where he indicated Niger as a country that needed to be reclassified a priority) and to the political and humanitarian emergency in Syria.In the second part of the meeting, the Steering Committee approved the various deliberations on the agenda, which included an approximately €20-million package of aid initiatives for developing countries, nearly half of which is earmarked for programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa in accordance with the distribution criteria laid down in the Cooperation’s three-year guidelines. Over €3 million go to interventions in the healthcare, nutrition and agriculture sectors in Somalia through UNICEF, FAO, UNDP, UNHCR and OCHR. Italian aid continues in Sudan and South Sudan through various programmes for respective amounts of €3 million and €2 million, and include the areas of healthcare, education and humanitarian assistance to the populations affected by civil war.The top priority in Asia remains Afghanistan, a country for which €5 million in funding has been approved for initiatives in support of the country’s reconstruction through the World Bank and a bilateral infrastructure initiative. Finally, €1.2 million for two initiatives in Iraq, and €1 million for healthcare in Lebanon, round out Italy’s commitments in the Middle East.