The 2019 edition of the European Development Days kicked off on the 18th – 19th of June 2019 at the Tour and Taxis venue in Brussels, Belgium under the title: Addressing inequalities: building a world which leaves no one behind. Under this theme, the African continent was on the spotlight as the continent has always been deemed the mother of all inequalities. Each year, the global development community is invited to contribute directly to the official EDD programme by proposing activities and sessions. The forum fosters a true spirit of partnership with all development actors. Since its launch in 2006, the forum has been an incubator of new ideas to bring about real change towards a poverty-free, sustainable and fairer world, where everyone has the opportunity for a decent life.
The European Development Days (EDD) highlight Europe’s commitment to building a sustainable and fairer world. The forum builds on the core belief that cooperation is key to achieving real change towards a poverty-free and sustainable world where everyone has the prospect of a decent life. An essential aim is thus to inspire the desire to work together in a spirit of true partnership through facilitating networking.
For the first time since the official launch of the EDD, Africa Unite was invited to take part in this year’s edition. The conference was structured around the three main themes: i. Why inequalities matter for sustainable development ii. Understanding the structural causes of inequalities iii. Working better together through more effective policies to address inequalities; and the 5 “Ps” of the 2030 Agenda: People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, Partnership. The focus was on promoting inclusivity and equality as a catalyst for progress towards global sustainable development. The forum attracted more than 8 000 participants from over 140 countries worldwide, representing 1 200 organisations from the development community. Participants ranged from Heads of state, human rights activists, business and industry leaders, policy makers, entrepreneurs, representatives from non-governmental organisations as well as academics. Everyone was given a voice in this open, collaborative and inclusive global platform.
Jean-Claude Juncker European Commission President delivered this year’s EDD2019 opening remarks. In addition, Commissioners Neven Mimica, Christos Stylianides, Marianne Thyssen, Pierre Moscovici and Mariya Gabriel also participated in different events. High level attendees High-level speakers and participants included: Her Majesty Mathilde, Queen of the Belgians; Paul Kagame, President, Republic of Rwanda; Jorge Carlos Fonseca, President, Republic of Cape Verde; Macky Sall, President, Republic of Senegal; Charles Michel, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Belgium; Lotay Tshering, Prime Minister, Kingdom of Bhutan; and Antonio Tajani, President, European Parliament. Tony Blair, David Miliband and Cesar Alierta were among the many other leading figures from partner organisations, the private sector and civil society that participated in this year’s edition.
Fifteen young leaders selected by the EDD from around the world were also invited to debate inequalities but also to exchange ideas and experiences with world leaders and key policy-makers. Among the selected 15, 8 were youth from African countries such as Ghana, Malawi, eSwatini, Nigeria, Burundi, DRC, Namibia and Zambia. Over 100 NGOs and private sector institutions exhibited their work during the 2-day forum. In addition, over 200 sessions ran concurrently during the 2 days with various themes and topics and participants had the liberty to move around and join any session of their interest. The topics covered issues of migration, political instabilities, gender inequalities, human rights, climate change, partnerships, agriculture and food security, youth leadership, achieving SDGs, inequalities in countries etc. One of the highlighted sessions was on how countries are copying with inequalities and South Africa was the case study. 2 Government officials from the Department of Justice and a professor from Stellenbosch University were invited as the guest speakers. A number of issues were raised that are directly linked to the work that Africa Unite through its Youth is implementing in South Africa. During the closing ceremony, Magic System a popular musical group from Ivory Coast electrified the whole audience with their performance which gave participants time to refresh after 2 days of unpacking pressing global issues.
In a nutshell, experts tried to address the inequalities the continent faces. Proposing ideas and solutions to solve the issues. Despite the real progress that has been made, inequality is still is a major impediment to sustainable development, limiting life chances by restricting access to everything from education and healthcare through to energy and sanitation. The European Commission also issued a document reflecting how to better address inequalities through EU development cooperation, notably by making existing development cooperation policies more relevant to addressing inequalities; mainstreaming the reduction of inequalities in their programmes and projects in partner countries; working more closely and effectively with partner countries, EU Member States and partner organisations; and building up a data and knowledge base around inequalities issues.
During these days Africa Unite had the opportunity to network with different stakeholders where we explored the possibilities of partnering. A follow up will be conducted by Africa Unite in order to explore these potential partnerships further.
Africa Unite would like to thank the European Commission for giving us this opportunity to participate in this eye-opening global forum.