European Development Days 6-7 December, Brussels

EDD logo

The United Nations was among the participants of this year’s European Development Days (EDD) showcasing its work with a special focus on activities in the context of partnering with the European Union. 

Organized by the European Commission and the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, EDDs have been the leading European forums where the questions and issues about international development cooperation have been debated.

It was to this strong development focus of the work the EU that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon paid tribute in his special message to the EDD stressing that “the European Union is a leader in development cooperation. The Lisbon Treaty has put development at the forefront of its agenda.  With this, come great responsibilities.  Many around the world look to the European Union to help lead the way forward.”

Numerous visitors stopped by at the UN stand – staffed by a dedicated group from the UN Brussels Team – to pick-up key reports and documents (see Catalogue) as well as to engage in an in-depth discussion on the work of the Organization with the UN experts on hand. A number of them also made concrete suggestions on how the UN and the EU could improve their partnership in development efforts and what areas should be seen as especially important in this regard (see “Visitors Views).

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Summing up the upbeat feeling of the UN team, Antonio Vigilante the Director of the UN Office in Brussels noted that “we feel this year’s European Development Days event was especially successful as a forum for in-depth discussion, debates and experience-sharing. It was good to see the genuine public and professional interest at work during the two days of the event and this certainly will add enthusiasm to engage a wide variety of actors in future development cooperation work. The UN was able and pleased to contribute to the debates with senior participants and to the overall event with a single and functional UN stand in the development village, expressing in this form the vibrant partnership which exists between the EU and the UN. We commend once again the European Union as a whole for the organization of such an important forum and we will continue to be present in the future as well.”

UN Brussels team at the UN stand

UN Brussels team at the UN stand with visting UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan.

UN experts attend high-level debates

Senior UN officials attending the event took time to stop at the UN stand as well as take part in various discussion forums organized within the framework of the EDD. All in all 15 High Level Panels, keynote speeches and 30 seminars were held on subjects as diverse as governance, the future of development cooperation, access to energy,  global health, the management of natural resources, support to the private sector, the effectiveness of aid, and human rights.

Several of the UN visiting experts were on hand as participants in the special panel debate on: “The Special Challenges of the Least Developed Countries” on 7 December. The UN High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Cheick Sidi Diarra said basic infrastructure was necessary to attract foreign direct investment. "In order to take full advantage of the preferential schemes available to them they need to produce more to be more productive – more with less, more value added and better products to be able to access foreign markets," he said.

Stressing the importance of policy coherence for development, UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan noted that “the vulnerability of LDCs to exogenous shocks and threats, and the disproportionate effects which they experience, also brings into light the importance of increased policy coherence so that development progress is not undermined by contradictory policies in important areas such as trade, migration, agriculture, technology transfer, and environment.”

In the same debate, UNICEF Executive Director Hilde Johnson told the panel that studies proved that investment in human development such as education led to progress. She pointed to experience in Nepal where basic investment in education and hygiene, as well as training local people to use new skills to benefit local populations had led to lower rates in child mortality. "Investment in education is one of the very best investments in the Least Developed Countries that we can do," she said. "This is an approach that can be used in other countries. Otherwise, we won’t make progress."

The high-level panel on "Democracy and Human Rights: Clichés, Hopes, Cynicisms" included UNRWA Commissioner General Filippo Grandi. In addressing the of "human rights and human development are sides of the same coin: myth or reality?", he was firm in stressing that "peace starts with the full enjoyment of human rights, the full range of civil and political, cultural, social and economic rights. In our work on the ground every day, we demonstrate that human rights protection and development really are two sides of the same coin".