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Kees Blokland, director of Agriterra, becomes member of new EU Taskforce Rural Africa

Kees Blokland, director of Agriterra, recently was appointed member of the EU Taskforce Rural Africa, a group of 11 experts in the field of agriculture, trade, and migration created by European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Phil Hogan.  

In addition to providing substance to the new European agricultural policy in regards to Africa, the task force will present proposals on how the EU can contribute to the SDGs and advise it on how to deal with the aging population in rural Africa. Finally, the task force needs to present proposals for better coordination between the different government programs and the active players in the field of agriculture and economic development in Africa.

Press release - Agriterra website

European Council votes on 2019 EU budget

EU ambassadors have agreed to the European Council's position on the 2019 EU draft budget, approving €164.1 billion (US$181.5 billion) in commitments and €148.2 billion (US$163.9 billion) in payments. This represents a 2.1% increase in commitments and 2.3% increase in payments over 2018.

The Council wants to increase support for research and innovation, youth exchanges, and targeted infrastructure investments. The EU’s research program, Horizon 2020, would receive 5.8% more than in 2018 and the Asylum, Migration, and Integration Fund would get 55.8% more to promote the efficient management of migration flows.

The Council is expected to formally adopt its position in early September as a mandate for the Austrian presidency to negotiate the 2019 EU budget with the European Parliament. 

Website – EU

EU

EU approves €800 million for African investments

The board of the European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) has approved its first programs under the EU’s External Investment Plan (EIP). These include €800 million (US$885 million) in financial guarantees to leverage €8-9 billion (approximately US$9 billion) in public and private investment, mainly in Africa. Overall, the EIP plans to leverage €44 billion (US$49 billion) of private investment by channeling capital and guarantees worth €4.1 billion (US$4.5 billion) from the EU budget through national and development finance institutions.

The approved projects focus on renewable energy and increasing access to mobile finance, through partnerships with the African Development Bank and Spanish and Italian banks. 

Website - EU

EIP Fact Sheet – EU

EU

Auditors want more value-added from EU budget

A new briefing paper from the European Court of Auditors (ECA) urges greater emphasis on EU value added in the proposed EU 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF). Auditors argue that the strategic frameworks and objectives for EU action are overlapping and unsynchronised, and that the budget seeks to lead political priorities rather than follow them.

The auditors welcome the budget’s increased flexibility to deal with unforeseen events, and they identify challenges before the new MFF can start: a comprehensive financial plan needs to be developed; EU spending programs will need mutually consistent and strategically aligned performance frameworks; and proposed funding schemes must ensure a consistently high level of public accountability and transparency. The ECA’s briefing paper “The Commission’s proposal for the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework” is available on the ECA website  in English.

Briefing paper – EU

EU

European parliament votes to end early and forced marriages

The European Parliament (EP) has adopted a resolution that identifies “…the empowerment of women and girls through education, social support, and economic opportunities” as a crucial tool to fight early and forced marriage.

The resolution recommends that the EU promotes and protects equal rights for women and girls including for education; integration of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education into schools’ curricula; providing girls’ families with financial incentives and/or assistance to complete school; guaranteeing refugee children full access to education and integration; supporting and protecting those at risk of child, early, or forced marriage; and providing support to those already married.

The resolution also calls on the European Commission and Member States to support the 'SheDecides movement' and pledge additional funding to international development for SRH information and services, including safe abortions.

Website – EP

EU

NGOs argue EU external migration funding should not be used to stem migration

At a joint hearing of the European Parliament committees on budget, foreign affairs, and development, CONCORD Europe – representing 2,600 development NGOs around Europe – argued that EU use of external funding instruments to stem migration into the EU is not consistent with traditional development cooperation values, the principles of sustainable development, nor the aim of poverty eradication.

CONCORD recommends that migration-related funds support partner countries to develop safe, orderly, and regular pathways for migrants; never be used for forced returns; address the specific needs of women, children, and vulnerable persons; and aim to create sustainable solutions that address legitimate grievances, particularly around demographic processes, rule of law, social accountability, wealth distribution, gender justice, and access to social services. They argue these funds should not be used to stem migration.

Website – CONCORD Europe

Website – EP

EU

Swedish government doubles its development support to Somalia for 2018-2022

The Swedish government has adopted a new strategy for development cooperation with Somalia. Sweden's support to Somalia will amount to SEK3 billion (US$334 million) for the period 2018-2022 and aims to contribute to Somalia's ongoing peace and state-building processes. This doubles the support extended to Somalia compared to the previous strategy period. 

The new strategy will focus on building resilience in Somali society, which has been declining following decades of conflict and recurrent natural disasters. Sustainable livelihoods, climate change adaptation, and women’s economic and political empowerment are priorities of the strategy. Sweden will also strengthen support to the Somali security sector. The government has tasked the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) with implementing the development cooperation activities of the strategy, while the Folke Bernadotte Academy (FBA), is tasked with the work on inclusive conflict resolution initiatives. 

On July 16-17, Sweden will co-host the annual High-Level Conference of the Somalia Partnership Forum in Brussels, where efforts for peace and development in the country are discussed. These will include commitments to delivering political reforms, such as a revision of the constitution, a 'one person, one vote' election in 2020/2021, and national reconciliation process. In addition discussions will focus on economic recovery, security sector reform, and humanitarian issues.

Press release - Swedish government (in Swedish)

EU Sweden Agriculture

Guardian: EU accused of claiming UK NGOs will lose funding if no Brexit deal reached

Officials working under Martin Salmyr, Secretary-General of the European Commission, have been accused of inserting language into service contracts that warn UK NGOs will be ineligible for funding in the future if the Brexit deadline expires with no deal in hand, according to the Guardian. The Guardian cites unnamed sources claiming that UK NGOs working in Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Myanmar had been "dissuaded" by such language from pursuing contracts, which is viewed as a "over-reaching" because many NGOs would remain eligible for EU funding because the UK will remain a member of the OECD. The newspaper goes on to report that the EU has intensified planning around a no-deal scenario.

News article - The Guardian  

EU United Kingdom

Austria launches EU Council presidency

Austria has started its EU Council presidency, and faces complex and challenging issues in the coming period: internal and external security, border protection, asylum system reform, conclusion of Brexit negotiations and the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), including redesign the EU's external financing instruments.

Negotiations will begin to renew partnership with Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Countries. Austria plans to pay more attention to gender equality in development, with emphasis on issues such as women and education; women and health; political and economic participation of women; the role of women in conflict and crisis situations; and the fight against violence against women and girls. 

Website – EU

EU

Africa and Europe put 'Women in Power'

Africa Union (AU) Chair President Kagame and EU Development Commissioner Mimica co-hosted a joint 'Women in Power' event at the 31st AU Summit in Mauritania. The purpose of the event was to hold a high-level dialogue between Africa and Europe on the role of women as key drivers of political, social, and economic development, and to deepen existing commitments in this area.

The AU and EU plan to accelerate efforts to support gender equality and women’s empowerment as fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Website – EU 

EU