Speaking at the opening of the ASEM conference held Monday, European Commission Director General of the EuropeAid Cooperation Office Koos Richelle confirmed his view that development aid alone can never be enough to change the quality of people’s lives. Sustainable development has to be led by quality leadership and governance within individual countries. Donors must respect countries’ own policies and cooperate with the policy makers to maximise impact. This way, “donorland avoids becoming Disneyland”.
Representatives of the 45 members of Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) – 43 countries and the European Commission and the ASEAN Secretariat are meeting today and tomorrow to seek ways in which Europe and Asia can cooperate in securing economic development that is sustainable in a period of global recession.
The European Commission and the Government of the Philippines are jointly hosting this ASEM Conference to help more than 100 high-level senior officials seek out innovative ways forward.
At the 7th ASEM Summit in Beijing last October, leaders approved the Beijing Declaration on Sustainable Development stressed the importance of striving to maintain environmental quality alongside economic development and social progress. The ASEM Conference aimed to be a follow-up to this declaration.
Speaking at the opening of the event last Monday, Koos Richelle, presented a challenge to the future of development cooperation: “An event like this is precisely the kind of exchange between Asia and Europe that will promote better understanding and deepen our cooperation even in this time of economic crisis. As we strive to ensure sustainable development, we need to be reminded that not a single country has been lifted out of poverty as a result of development aid alone. The key factor has proved to be the quality of leadership and governance - or ‘ownership’. Development cooperation is just one element and should be based on respect for that ownership - donorland is not Disneyland.
“Donors are willing to put more money on the table. The EU remains committed to its target of providing aid equal to 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income by 2015. But more money means that parliaments - and taxpayers in general - have become more and more interested in seeing tangible results. That is why the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals is such an important part of our cooperation.”
Delegates at the two-day ASEM conference examined a wide range of themes:
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) The Beijing Declaration reaffirmed that the MSGs underpin international cooperation. How can global partnership and the ASEM framework contribute to taking these goals forward?
Climate Change Sustainable development can only be achieved if countries work together to combat global climate change. How best can both developed and developing countries respond to the challenges, particularly in the context of economic downturn?
Social cohesion and sustainable development are mutually supportive goals and ASEM partners share a common interest in contributing to both. How can the challenges of social cohesion – such as inequalities – be addressed?
Aid Effectiveness International agreements on aid effectiveness seek to ensure greater alignment of aid with countries’ own polices and strategies. What is the track record of ASEM developing countries and what are their needs in using overseas development assistance more efficiently.
Principal speakers included Ralph G Recto, Director General, National Economic and Development Authority, the Philippines; Jakub Karfik, Director General, Development Cooperation Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic; Koos Richelle, Director General, EuropeAid Cooperation Office, European Commission; Arjun Thapan, Director General, Southeast Asia Department, Asian Development Bank.