In the last two weeks SOLIDAR has taken part in conferences in Accra, Ghana and Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, in the Middle East and Palermo on a very crucial issue. They all dealt with the vital question of the empowerment of the continent. Let there be no misunderstanding: our progressive approach is not about trading development cooperation for fewer migrants coming to Europe. This is often what can be read between the lines of European Institutions’ and governments’ statements. Our approach is linked to the sustainability Agenda 2030 which, if taken seriously, shall become a real game changer in eradicating poverty, misery and exploitation. If really understood and properly implemented, it also represents stability, it can be an anchor for a changing world where multilateralism is under threat.
Many of our members have worked for decades in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East with partners from the region. Together we have managed to build up regional and even global networks of progressive civil society, like in the MENA region or in the past around the promotion of the decent work for a decent life campaign. The expertise is there, the recognition of the institutions also. However the debate has changed over the years and led to a paradigm shift: from development cooperation which can afford to debate policy coherence in development, to opening development cooperation to the private sector and to private actors. Now it is about the notorious investment plan for Africa announced by Commission President Junker in his last speech on the State of the Union.
How could anyone oppose a mega plan to “assist” the development of the African continent? However as always it will depend on the conditions. From our side we cannot accept the paradigm of investment at any price. Trade agreements have too often been to the detriment and or even destruction of local economies like farming or fishing – let alone other natural resources of mineral origin. Global companies still extract the continent’s rare resources and send back the waste, as we saw in Accra. Capitalism produces exploitation and poverty and once the rare resources have been used, the system (in this scenario represented by the western world) leaves the population to face the waste product and the pollution.
Are we serious? We will need to continue to challenge Europe on trade policies and it’s effects, but cannot ignore China to continuing its exploitation and colonization of third world countries if we want to be reliable as development NGOs. Circular economy is not extraction the richness from the South and sending back trash. Sustainable development needs responsible stakeholders and actors at all levels. It has to be done with awareness raising on the consequences of a consumption and growth model which is everything than sustainable, on tackling climate change and the root causes of migration effectively. An ambitious programme which we want to see on the agenda of the next Commission! Progressive policies needs progressive majorities!