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House of Commons Hansard
Foreign Affairs Council
12 June 2014
Volume 582
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On 19 May, I attended the Foreign Affairs Council for Development in Brussels. The meeting covered a number of UK priorities, including on post-2015, the role of the private sector in development, and girls and women.

Introduction: Eastern Partnership, Policy Coherence for Development, and the Global Partnership for Effective Development

In her introductory remarks, the High Representative Baroness Ashton gave an update on the Eastern Partnership, including Ukraine. Coherent and effective donor co-ordination in Ukraine is vital and the EU has an important role to play in supporting political and economic stability. Commissioner Piebalgs noted the successful outcome of the global partnership for effective development co-operation (GPEDC) high level forum, held on 15 and 16 May, and praised the UK’s leadership as co-chair of the forum. He updated Ministers on policy coherence for development (PCD), noting the Commission’s varied work on fisheries, food security, migration, conflict minerals and maritime security. I expressed the UK’s regret that, despite recent progress, the African economic partnership agreements (EPAs) had yet to be concluded, calling for the remaining issues to be resolved swiftly.

Post-2015 development agenda

The post-2015 development agenda was the main discussion item. The UK remains at the forefront of the post-2015 discussions, building on the Prime Minister’s co-chairing of the UN high level panel. There was agreement on the need for continued EU engagement, in particular on issues such as good governance, rule of law, human rights, peace and security. I urged the Commission and member states to think strategically about tactics and substance in order to secure the best possible framework in September 2015. The EU Commission signalled its intention to publish a communication on post-2015. It has since been published. It does not represent a formal EU position but should be seen as a contribution to internal EU thinking on post-2015. It is for Council to decide when to adopt a new EU position. My Department will continue to work with the Commission and other member states to ensure we get the best possible outcome from next year’s UN negotiations.

Agenda for Change

Commissioner Piebalgs set out how the agenda for change was being implemented through EU aid programming. As a result of UK and like-minded member states’ efforts, there will be a greater focus on the poorest and most fragile countries, increased flexibility and country ownership, and an enhanced ability to measure results of EU aid. Piebalgs noted that future EU aid programmes will prioritise a limited number of focal sectors to maximise impact and that joint programming in 40 countries is helping reduce aid fragmentation. This is good progress, but there is more to do to ensure even greater effectiveness of EU aid, particularly for girls and women. Thanks to UK interventions, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) have committed to ensuring that a gender analysis is carried out for each national programme. Commissioner Piebalgs also highlighted that the EU remained the world’s biggest aid donor but was far below the 0.7% the (Overseas Development Administration) ODA target. He praised those countries, including the UK, which had met the target and called for stronger political commitment from others. Looking ahead, my Department will continue to push other member states for ambitious, time-bound, EU ODA commitments beyond 2015.

Private Sector Development Communication

Commissioner Piebalgs gave an overview of the new private sector development (PSD) communication. The EU has long been a key player in areas vital to economic development, including trade, transport, energy and infrastructure but until now has not had a coherent approach to working with the private sector. I welcomed this new focus; the private sector creates the tax base for public investment, and provides the jobs and stability that enables individuals to plan and to build better lives. The UK is at the forefront of working with the private sector. We can play a valuable role to help shape this new EU agenda by sharing our expertise and experience. The communication is not ground breaking but represents an important shift in approach.

My Department will continue to work closely with the Commission to drive forward a stronger focus on economic development in EU programmes.

AOB: PM’s Girls’ Summit

The Prime Minister and UNICEF will co-host the “Girl Summit” in London on 22 July to rally a global movement to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage for all girls within a generation. I updated my counterparts on this ground-breaking event which is tackling issues faced by many member states domestically as well as overseas. With global co-operation, we can build on the efforts of many developing country Governments and local communities to end these harmful practices. The Girl summit will be a defining moment to share best practice, secure new commitments to action and increase public engagement on these issues.

Adoption of Council Conclusions

The Council adopted conclusions on: the 2013 report on the implementation of the EU action plan on gender equality and women’s empowerment; rights-based approach to development; EU development and co-operation results framework; the annual report 2014 to the European Council on EU development aid targets; the comprehensive approach to external conflict and crisis; and the EU common position for the third international conference on small island development states. A Council decision on the resumption of EU development co-operation with Madagascar was also adopted.