What are Italy’s development policy priorities?
«For the first time, Italy was able to draw up a strategy for the next three years developed in close cooperation with all Italian development cooperation actors. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was mindful of involving the regions, civil society and the private sector in order to have a sort of common strategy vis-à-vis developing countries and make it more effective.
The guidelines were based on our pulling together; to make the G8 Italian presidency more effective, and more in line with our development priorities which will be reflected, we hope, in the outcome of the G8.
Sectors identified are health, education, food security and the environment with particular focus on water. Fifty per cent of our funding will go to sub-Saharan Africa.
In a period of international crisis when funds are being reduced across the entire donor community, we think there is a need for governments to increase resources for development. Africa is a priority for us and there are priority sectors. But there are some areas where a cross-cutting approach is extremely important. One of these is gender. We also tried to rationalise the channels for distribution of funds; the multilateral sector and the bilateral sector. The UN system and the international financial institutions remain of utmost importance to us: we identified their specific role, and their potential added value to our contribution and also the Italian added value to their own programmes».
In some countries, the state is reluctant to share the ownership of their development policy with regions. Is this the case in Italy?
«We are in favour of decentralised cooperation and in keeping with laws as to what regions can or cannot do in the field of international development cooperation, we are committed to encouraging all regions committed to development cooperation to work together with us. We have asked them to join in elaborating priorities and the drafting of our cooperation strategy guidelines».
How can you retain a strong development policy when there has been, roughly, a 55 per cent cut in your development budget this year?
«Budgetary restrictions are certainly a serious problem for Italian cooperation. As I said, our financial planning covers a three-year period. The cuts will also be reflected in next year’s financial commitments and in the 2011 budget. This is a significant issue. We very much want public opinion in Italy to be aware of the fact that money for development cooperation is not only important in terms of cooperation policy but also in terms of our contribution to global stabilisation in the context of the entire globalisation momentum we are currently seeing. We should increasingly become aware of assisting economic growth, reducing poverty and reducing disease in other less advanced countries. Such efforts are also in the interests of our own long-term stability. I am not afraid to say, for instance, that the big emphasis that we put on the consequences of migration flows should not disregard the fact that real intervention has to start with a contribution to the development of the countries where these migrations originate. I very much hope that in the course of the year there will be adjustment to the big budget restrictions but I also have to draw attention to the duty we all have to assist our own financial domestic crisis which implies seeking additional resources for financing development, such as from the private sector. What’s more, we should probably start thinking in terms of a new development concept that puts the accent on trade and other mechanisms».
How far up the agenda is development for Italy’s G8 presidency?
«Italy has put a lot of energy into handling the G8 presidency. Development issues will be the big bulk of the dossier. Of course, I don’t want to anticipate the results of the Summit – but what I can say is that Italy very much hopes to give development special momentum. The G8 should restate the commitment of the big donor countries and their responsibility to the development of developing countries. We will promote an ‘all development actors’ concept that goes beyond official development aid and intends to show that a real development process must encompass all contributions to developing countries; all actors and all instruments».