European Development Days 2012: increasing governance to reduce inequality

The European Development Days (EDD) 2012 just passed through Brussels. The official theme of this year’s EDDs was “supporting inclusive and sustainable growth for human development.” What was proposed for the fight against corruption, and what is the place of governance in the sustainability debate? These are my thoughts from the two days of discussions.

One thing was clear: in order to support inclusive growth, people engagement is essential. For the fight against corruption, this is good news. Transparency International (TI) has long advocated that citizens need to play an active role in monitoring their governments. The European Commission seems to agree, and spoke about their recently released Communication on engaging with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) which firmly places CSOs as a root for participatory democracy and good governance.

In this debate, technology has been a game changer. 50% of the phones sold in Kenya today are smartphones; instantaneous access to the internet means that the oversight capacity of citizens is increasing exponentially.

At the same time, the Commission also acknowledged that the space for civil society is shrinking in many countries. Ensuring this space is one of TI’s mains asks for the new global development agenda which is currently being debated. The good news is that at the EDDs the EU committed vocally to promoting and representing CSO, with an emphasis on ensuring civil society space in partner countries and the global South.

Worryingly for TI however, the European Council conclusions on the CSO Communication adopted on Monday in Luxembourg made no specific reference to the fight against corruption, where as the Communication released by the European Commission last month did. The need for policy coherence came up again and again at this year’s EDDs; all EU actors must place the fight against corruption central to this.

Delegates at the European Development Days 2012

Inequality fosters instability
There was consensus that if we are to reach the Arcadia of sustainability, development policy needs to address inequalities as the root cause of instability. Good governance is central to this. Without proper governance, it is impossible to enable a stable, growth promoting investment climate. Governance is not only a responsibility for governments however; the European Parliament’s Development Committee was clear that this needs to be a multi-stakeholder effort, with the accountability of civil society and private sector actors key.

Alice Asianut, member of the Ugandan Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee, placed this in the context of natural resources. Asianut is concerned that wealth from recently discovered Ugandan oil reserves will not result in social gains. Without proper governance and anti-corruption commitments, the potential for this money to address inequality will be lost.

Eva Jolly, chair of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, spoke of the need to address illicit financial flows and tax havens; addressing these would release untold capital for development objectives. TI is working actively on revision of the EU’s anti-money laundering regulations, to try and reduce capital flight from resource rich countries ending up in Western banks. The voice coming out of the Parliament was promising: we need accountability at all levels.

For Jolly, this specifically means fighting corruption that has its roots in developed countries. (TI-EU recently highlighted a study which revealed that many rich countries are more likely than their poorer neighbours to carry out financial transactions and flout global money laundering standards). By the time the next EDD comes around, we will know whether any of these words will be met with action. The European Commission’s proposals for a new EU anti-money laundering framework are expected to reach co-decision by the European Parliament and Council some point towards late 2013.


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