Blog

We have not yet won the global race against polio

October 24th, 2014
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polioWorld Polio Day is a timely reminder of just how close we are to wiping polio off the face of the earth. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, bringing together international organisations, governments, foundations, healthcare providers and others, has cut polio cases by an incredible 99% since 1988 and saved 10 million people from paralysis. Thanks to vaccination campaigns targeting millions, a disease that once paralysed a thousand children every day is now almost history. And these efforts have delivered another huge benefit: they have paved the way for us to provide every child on the planet with vaccines and other critical health care services-.

Over the past two decades or so the European Commission has contributed over 180 million euros in support for polio eradication programmes. I am sure that the Commission will continue working with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative and with partner countries around the world until we make polio history. However, the Commission recognises that to do this we also need functioning immunisation and sustainable health systems. An immunisation system needs a great deal more than vaccines. It requires financing, human resources and tailor-made approaches to cater for specific needs. That’s why the Commission puts an average of half a billion euros into support for the health sector in partner countries every year.

Today, happily, the vast majority of the world is polio-free. But let’s be in no doubt that we have not yet won the global race against polio – as the rising number of cases in Pakistan, triggered by insecurity, demonstrates all too clearly. Wiping out a disease is never easy; the final push is often the most challenging.

By donating, fundraising and spreading the word, we can all be part of that final push that will get us across the finish line.

 

Statement by Commissioner Piebalgs in reaction to the ECA’s report on effectiveness of blending regional investment facility grants with financial-institution loans

October 23rd, 2014
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I welcome today’s special report by the European Court of Auditors on the effectiveness of blending regional investment facility grants with financial-institution loans to support EU external policies.

EU regional investment facilities have been set up to finance key infrastructure projects and to support private sector development. This is done through so-called blending: combining EU grants with third party funds, such as loans or equity from financial institutions. We believe this is an excellent method to meet the massive needs for investment in EU partner countries. The idea behind blending is that the EU grant can be used in a strategic way to attract additional financing and achieve additional development benefits for important investments in these countries.

This covers a wide range of areas such as energy, climate action, transport infrastructure, water and sanitation or the creation of employment through the private sector. Programmes might involve constructing the electricity network in a country or the electricity connection between countries, financing major road projects or building the infrastructure for water and sanitation in cities with hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. The EU has been making increased use of blending as an innovative funding source for development, with very good success: With grants of €2.1 billion, the EU has achieved an estimated leverage of €40.7 billion in 226 projects since 2007.

Today’s report confirms that, overall, our regional investment facilities for blending are effective and well set up and that the 30 projects examined by the Court were all relevant. The auditors share our view that blending has allowed us to achieve better coordination between donors – a key priority if we want to make sure that we get maximum results with our funding.

I am equally pleased that the Court has noted the constant improvements in rules and procedures that we have made in the set-up of the regional blending facilities. Of course, we can always do better and the pertinent recommendations of the Court will help us enhance our work even further; in most cases they resonate with changes that we have already launched, and are already discussing with EU Member States and our partners in the financing institutions. These changes will be implemented in 2014 and 2015.

Celebrating Dr Mukwege as 2014 Sakharov Prize Winner

October 22nd, 2014
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With Dr Mukwege during my joint visit with Jean-Pascal Labille (at the time Belgian Minister for Development cooperation) to the DRC, earlier this year

With Dr Mukwege in the Panzi Hospital. during my joint visit with Jean-Pascal Labille (at the time Belgian Minister for Development cooperation) to the DRC, earlier this year

I was very pleased to learn that the European Parliament has awarded Europe’s top human rights prize to Denis Mukwege for his work helping victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Dr Mukwege founded a hospital for rape victims and is a fierce advocate for women rights. Despite an attempted assassination on him a few years ago, he has returned to the DRC and continues working in his hospital, treating victims of sexual violence and those who have sustained serious injuries.
Read the full entry

World Food Day and the Global Hunger Index

October 16th, 2014
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nigerToday, as we mark World Food Day and just some days after the Global Hunger Index was published, is an important moment to reflect on where we stand on fighting global hunger.

When I started as EU Development Commissioner five years ago, the number of hungry people in the world had reached the alarming figure of one billion, in part due to soaring food prices and to the financial crisis. Our challenge was huge, the expectations were high and not everyone was optimistic.

Today close to 805 million people still go to bed hungry and much remains to be done. Still, I believe that together, not only have we stopped the spread of hunger, but we have managed to turn around a trend, even if differences across regions persist. Read the full entry

A long-awaited Africa Energy Outlook

October 13th, 2014
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energy2Today the International Energy Agency (IEA) launched its first ever Africa Energy Outlook. It represents ground-breaking work in examining the reality and challenges of energy and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and highlights the need for strengthening governance and energy infrastructure.

Like the authors of this report, I believe that no country can expect to enjoy sustained or sustainable economic growth without reliable access to energy. Energy is needed to support sustainable agriculture, to provide access to clean water, a decent education and basic health care. It creates new job opportunities and contributes to poverty eradication. Read the full entry

Transparency pays off

October 8th, 2014
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transparencyToday the independent watchdog organisation Publish What You Fund published their annual Aid Transparency Index, which examines the performance of international donors, including a number of departments of the European Commission. We are delighted to see that our ongoing efforts are paying off: The report shows that the European Commission is managing taxpayers’ money for development, humanitarian aid, conflict prevention and crisis response, and pre-accession assistance in a transparent way, and has even made significant improvements since last year’s report was released. Read the full entry

Keeping ODA levels where they belong

October 7th, 2014
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OPT-2-Report-Page-GraphicYesterday, the advocacy group ONE published its 2014 data report, in which it looks at international levels of official development assistance (ODA) and issues of financing development. For us, the report is a very valuable contribution to keeping track of ODA levels and driving the debate around future financing. For a second year in a row, the ONE Report also provides some very interesting insights into African domestic spending commitments. Read the full entry

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.