Handling immigration at national but especially European level; the political transition in Libya; the conflict in Syria; ISIS. Foreign policy will be at the centre of international debate in the upcoming months.
With the appointment of Mario Giro as Deputy Minister to complete the institutional framework, what role can cooperation policies play on each one of these fronts?
The challenges connected to the handling of refugees and migrants make it compelling to agree on a new integrated approach capable of assuring the conditions for a safe, orderly and regular migration, fully respecting human rights. In the last few years, Italian Cooperation has taken resolute action to combat the causes deeply underlying the origin of migration flows. For example, in Senegal, Niger and in the Horn of Africa, it has started actions aimed at resilience-building, food and nutritional security, combating the degradation caused by climate change, supporting employment and production sectors, and supporting schooling and women entrepreneurs. In 2014 Italy promoted the so-called Khartoum Process which is one of the founding members of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa launched at La Valletta in November of last year. The fund will be allocated to 23 African partner countries and we have been entrusted with the first project, worth 20 million euros, which aims at creating conditions favouring economic development and job creation in Ethiopia. As for the Syrian crisis, from 2011 to now, Italian Cooperation has contributed with interventions worth 84 million euros, including the latest aid for Syrian refuges – worth more than 4 million – in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. In the coming years we will be doing much more. The Libyan crisis has also brought serious consequences on migration flows; Italian Cooperation has recently intervened, allocating 1.4 million euros for relief aid provided by international organisations.
Laura Frigenti was appointed to head the Development Agency at the beginning of January. What are the points of strength in her professional profile? What mandate and budget has she been assigned? What is the difference between the role and scope of competence of the Agency and that of the DGCS?
The professional profile of the new director is of absolute excellence and of great repute at international level, having worked for almost 20 years at the World Bank and subsequently appointed president of the Global Development Practice. Already in the delicate start-up phase, she has confirmed her great competence. Ms Frigenti will be managing approximately 358 million euros allocated under the Budget Bill. As for her scope of competence, the Agency is an operational body under the guidance of the Foreign Ministry.
What will be the priority areas of intervention during the next three-year period?
During the last few years, Italian Cooperation has concentrated resources in three areas: North Africa and the Middle East; the comprehensive area of the Horn of Africa, including Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania; and the Sahel region. The aim is to create the conditions for economic development and the protection of essential rights which represent the best instrument in creating stability and growth and in countering the threat of terrorism, violent radicalism and illegal and uncontrolled migration. Italy has renewed its commitment to reinforce the rule of law and the respect of human rights – including the promotion of gender equality – as well as promoting agriculture and food security, by building on the legacy of the Expo Milano 2015 and of the Milan Charter. Then, we also want to invest in the future of youth, putting health, education, training and culture at the centre of the agenda.
Law 125 acknowledges private profit-making organisations as the possible agents of international cooperation. In your view, what should be their scope of action and consequently how will the Italian cooperation model change in the coming years?
The Italian cooperation system has long been based on the interaction between numerous entities, public and private, profit and non-profit. Also the law preceding the current one acknowledged their role. Moreover, large Italian corporations have long been implementing corporate social responsibility principles in partnership with Italian NGOs. Law 125/2014 is aimed at designing a more organic and functional framework in which all cooperation agents are recognised their specific role. Furthermore, the new law sets out new and more effective instruments to implement cooperation initiatives, both technical and operational – for example, the role of the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti as a financial institution – and political and representational: I am referring to the National Development Cooperation Council, an organisation that voices the opinion of the different agents of cooperation.
Do you have in mind a “new cooperation” intervention that could serve as a benchmark for best practices?
Italian Cooperation has already put in place significant public-private partnerships, especially in agricultural production chains. I am thinking of the "Café y Caffè" programme, which won the Expo’s "Feeding knowledge" contest organised by the Overseas Agronomic Institute (which has now merged into the Agency) in Central America. The programme has helped small family-run high-quality coffee growing enterprises in Central America to improve their economic situation and reduce the environmental impact of their activities by grouping into associations and adopting strict production and processing protocols based on traditional farming techniques which have made their coffee productions “unique” and compliant with the growing demands of the “gourmet” market niche, also in Italy. At the same time, we focused on upgrading the role and skills of women. Similar programmes are underway in Ethiopia, in the durum wheat and coffee production chains.
The latest OECD/DAC report of 2014 confirms a trend reversal in Italy’s ODA, which is starting to grow again. What are the odds that Italy might conquer the famous fourth place in the G7 ranking by 2017, so sought after by Prime Minister Renzi? Will it be possible to balance out aid, which is now focused on multilateral efforts to the detriment of bilateral assistance?
The larger resources allocated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation are in line with this Government’s strategy to achieve the targeted 0.7 Official Development Assistance/Gross National Income ratio set out in our international commitments. The 2016 Budget Bill has increased the resources allocated to Development Cooperation by up to 120 million euros for 2016, which will rise to 240 million euros in 2017 and to 360 million in 2018. We can thus finally upgrade the international profile of our Country. We also plan to gradually balance out the proportion of ODA allocated to multilateral channels and those allocated to bilateral channels. The Italian Development Cooperation Agency, which is due to become operational in the coming months, will obviously contribute to achieving this goal.