Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

An Open Letter to Neven Mimica

October 28, 2014

Dear Mr Mimica,

At last the European Union has confirmed you as its new commissioner for international development.

The delay by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, in naming you, followed by the oral and written hearings, made for a nail-biting summer for many of us in Europe’s international development community.

As you will know, the EU and its member states together are the world’s largest aid donor and world’s largest trading bloc. As such, EU development policy is crucial to ending extreme poverty.

Before confirmation of your appointment as EU Commissioner for Development and Cooperation, your development credentials were not widely known. But you persuaded Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) of your suitability to take on the challenge. As Chief Executive of Bond, the UK membership body for more than 425 international development non-governmental organisations (NGOs), I was impressed. Now you need to turn the words into action.

Post 2015 agenda

First, I welcome your commitment to the EU’s aim to reduce, and in the long term eradicate, extreme poverty. I was particularly reassured by your determination to tackle inequalities when you negotiate the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It is crucial to tackle all inequalities – economic, social and environmental, and those both within and between countries. You can expect pressure to narrow the agenda, so be prepared to resist it.

Any watering down of the ideal to address all inequalities – particularly those relating to women’s rights – will have real repercussions for real people. I have nothing but admiration for the recent Nobel peace prize recipient Malala Yousafzai and the many other brave girls and women who put themselves above the parapet in the quest for equality. But we must insist on and work towards a world where this is no longer necessary.

Second, I welcome your words on sustainability. We are running out of time to prevent catastrophic climate change. Many developing countries are feeling the impacts now. Witness the increased flooding in Bangladesh and erratic rainfall patterns in East Africa.

The post 2015 goals present a wonderful opportunity to build a transformative development agenda which works for both people and planet. Please use your leadership role to insist that environmental sustainability is included as a “green thread” running throughout the post 2015 agreements.

Effective aid

Third, you talked of the importance of development aid. I welcome your firm aim to ensure that the EU and its member states deliver their commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on aid. This must not be a fanciful commitment. It must be backed by concrete and verifiable timetables. The UK reached this target in 2013. You need to persuade others to follow as soon as possible.

Effective aid is one of the only forms of development financing that in principle is transparent and accountable. You can ensure it is in practise too by insisting that international agreements on aid effectiveness are acted upon and backing the International Aid Transparency Initiative. Then, ordinary people can find out what is spent, where, and how.

Working with partners

Mr Mimica, you have a tough five years ahead. As well as minding your own portfolio, you must ensure your Commission counterparts also prioritize the fight against extreme poverty and inequalities, and EU policies and laws do not undermine this overall goal. This ideal of Policy Coherence for Development is enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty, the very basis of the Union.

If you can do this while working with all partners, including civil society and developing countries, you will be fulfilling your brief in a truly admirable way.

You have demonstrated that you know the challenges that lie ahead. Please, Mr Mimica, demonstrate now that you can also rise to them.

I wish you well, and look forward to working with you.

Ben Jackson

Chief Executive, Bond

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