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Commemorating the International Day of Peace

September 19th, 2014
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Asmanidar - Goat farmer_01This Sunday 21 September is the UN’s International Day of Peace; an important opportunity for people all over the world to come together to call for a more peaceful world.

I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you an example of an EU project which has helped to promote peace in the area of Aceh, Indonesia, to help former female soldiers to make a living. It’s a nice example of what can be achieved when we work together with our partners to promote peace and security.

Since the tsunami in 2004, thousands of former female soldiers sidelined by Aceh’s peace process have received business start-up packages in the form of a livelihood programme run by the Italian NGO, Terres des Hommes. Read the full entry

Hunger in the world: an encouraging new report from the three UN food agencies

September 16th, 2014
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blog_FAO_hungerToday the three Rome-based UN food agencies –the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP)- have published their latest annual report on food insecurity in the world. I find it a thorough and informative analysis that everyone with an interest on food security should have a look at.

Every time I get the chance to visit our projects on the ground, I am reminded that too many children are still going through the day without enough food to eat. I never get over seeing people who don’t have enough food for themselves or their families.

But according to the report, we are making some good progress here: the new figures show a reduction in undernourished people around the world by more than 100 million over the last decade (up to 805 million people, or one in nine, are suffering from hunger these days).  Read the full entry

Human Rights Watch report on Sexual exploitation and abuse in Somalia

September 10th, 2014
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A Human Rights Watch report on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by African Union Forces in Somalia has just seen the light and I have read it with great concern. Sexual exploitation, abuse and violence are intolerable. The European Union condemns all crimes of sexual violence, including in situations of conflict, of whatever nature, and we extend our deepest sympathy to the victims. Protecting those people who are particularly vulnerable in conflict situations, such as women and children, is not just our moral obligation, it is also a commitment that we are determined to fulfil.

Where there is the slightest suspicion of incidents of sexual violence, the countries which contribute troops to AMISOM should carry out thorough and impartial investigations and ensure that all those responsible are held accountable for their actions.

I will make sure that this clear message is channelled not only to the African Union but also to the Troop and Police Contributing Countries.

Prevention is also very important: the African Union has already made some progress in preventing sexual exploitation and abuse in peace support operations and I encourage it to work towards a situation where such crimes no longer occur at all. The EU will, together with the UN, support AU capabilities in this field until we reach “zero tolerance” on these issues.

2014 Annual Report: Providing good answers to tough questions

August 22nd, 2014
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blog annualreportEvery once in a while, I meet people who ask me, ‘ why does the EU spend part of taxpayers’ money abroad, when there are so flagrant needs within its own borders?’ Personally, I do not share this concern as I can witness on a regular basis during my visits to partner countries what EU taxpayers’ money manages to achieve in the world’s poorest countries, such as giving millions of children access to water, food or school. But I can understand these concerns, especially after the severe financial crisis, which Europe is only starting to wake up from now.

However, there are also days like this when, reading the Annual Report on the EU’s development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2013, just published, I am reminded of all the elements of answer we already have at our disposal to respond to these concerns about the use of EU taxpayers’ money. This report includes a comprehensive overview of what we have achieved in the last year and it shows that, through investing in development aid, we’re improving the livelihoods of millions of people.
Read the full entry

Open Working Group: a valuable report on the road to the Sustainable Development Goals

July 24th, 2014
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PiebalgsThe Open Working Group (OWG) on Sustainable Development Goals has just published its Outcome Document – the culmination of a lengthy process that brings together the follow –up of the 2010 UN  Summit on the Millennium Development Goals and the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

Just over one year from now, in September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly will be asked to agree on a transformative agenda which calls on us all to take the necessary steps to eradicate poverty from the face of the earth by 2030, and deliver on the promise of sustainable development.  It is an inspirational vision and I very much wish that we will reach an ambitious outcome by that time. This is why I welcome the OWG report as it rightly puts together poverty eradication and sustainable development – they are two sides of the same coin and should be tackled together. The OWG co-chairs had an extraordinarily tough job but handled it remarkably well.  The OWG Outcome document represents a positive and valuable contribution that, together with other inputs, will provide a good basis for the synthesis report that the UNSG will deliver later this year and which will form the basis for intergovernmental negotiations.

All in all, I think the report takes us further forward than perhaps we might have originally expected.  I see a lot of similarities between the Open Working Group’s outcome  and the Commission Communication on post 2015 adopted on 2 June this year. Inevitably, there have been a few compromises along the way and some of the proposed goals and targets do not always reflect our preferred options.

However, the conversation does not stop there as the intergovernmental negotiations will kick off as of early 2015. There are still discussions lying ahead which will allow us to inject a higher level of ambition into the final outcome. We need to further refine the goals, targets and to agree on how the international community will develop a new Global Partnership, including means of implementation.

Ultimately the challenges we see in the world today are universal and interrelated and need a global response, with each playing their part.  The EU is ready to play its part.

Statement by Commissioner Piebalgs on the adoption of the 2014 Accountability Report on Financing for Development

July 3rd, 2014
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P024024003702-788739The EU Annual Accountability Report on Financing for Development has just been published, and it shows progress on a range of commitments. Financing played a key role in development: in 2013 and the EU and its Member States alone provided €56.5 billion to global efforts to overcome poverty, remaining the world’s most generous donor. Read the full entry

A battle worth the fight

June 18th, 2014
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From right to left:  Commissioner Piebalgs, Mr de Merode, Mr de Donnea (Belgian Minister of State), and a Commission high level public servant

From right to left:
Commissioner Piebalgs, Mr de Merode, Mr de Donnea (Belgian Minister of State), and a Commission high level public servant

Today I had a very enlightening meeting, the result of a long fight that we should be winning despite the odds. I have had the opportunity to meet personally with Emmanuel de Mérode, the director of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This park, declared as World Heritage by UNESCO, is one of the most extraordinary places in the world in terms of biodiversity and the variety of its landscapes. It is also a source of revenue and food for the population based around it. For instance, the Edouard Lake alone provides livelihood and food for 27,000 Congolese families. The European Union has supported its sustainable management since 1988. Read the full entry

An image is worth a thousand words – some say…

May 14th, 2014
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So, let me just add a few words here!

foto1 I recently had the privilege to visit some very remote islands in the Pacific, such as Samoa, in the picture, accompanying New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully. There, we are jointly implementing different projects with a focus on renewable energy. Read the full entry

Girls kidnapping: This can’t be business as usual

May 7th, 2014
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bringBack.2jpgOne can only condemn again and again the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria last month, and the fact that even more girls continued to be abducted afterwards, supposedly by the same group. This can’t be business as usual. Attacks on schools are never acceptable.

The video released this week with the leader of the extremist organisation, claiming that the militants intended to sell the girls, can only infuriate us even more.

In the video, it is even said that the girls should not have been in school in the first place, but rather should get married. Read the full entry

Making progress on TB – battle far from being won

March 24th, 2014
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TBToday, on World Tuberculosis (TB) Day I take the opportunity to put this issue in the spotlight. With modern antibiotics, TB is much less common in Europe nowadays than in the past, and usually treatable, if diagnosed in time, but in lower income countries it remains a deadly killer.

Globally, TB is a leading cause of death from an infectious disease worldwide, second only to AIDS. 1.3 million people die from it each year, and over 95 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries. It is also known as a disease of poverty, affecting mainly young adults in their most productive years. Read the full entry