We are entering a new period for the European Union – in 2014 a new European Commission and a new European Parliament have been installed in the last six months. On top of that, will be an important year for global development – an agreement will be reached on a development framework to succeed the Millennium Development Goals, and the EU will have a key role to play in these negotiations given its position as the world’s largest ODA donor. With all this in mind, DSW wanted to get a sense of what the priorities are for at least one of these institutions, the one that sees itself as being closest to European citizens. So, in the autumn of 2014, together with the polling company TNS EMNID we asked the newly arrived Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) what they thought about the EU’s role in global development, and what their priority issues were for post-2015. Here’s what they said…
Looking at the EU’s development priorities in general, and then more specifically at the post-2015 process, MEPs were consistent in highlighting the following issues as being of most importance: education, health, agriculture, rural development and food security, and women and girls’ rights. Additionally, support to children and adolescents scored highly as an issue of importance that the EU should lead on in the post-2015 negotiations. The support for girls and children in particular chimes with the support that DSW and our partners received during the European Week of Action for Girls in October, when over 20 MEPs came out to support girls and the Girl Declaration.
European Parliament development priorities: Geography
The traditionally strong geographic focus of EU development assistance on the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries in reflected in the Parliament’s attitude to where the EU should target its support. Given recent developments in the EU’s southern and eastern neighbourhoods, it is no surprise that these regions feature highly in the thoughts of MEPs.
DSW has worked for the last 20 years to support young people in low- and middle-income countries to be empowered to take control of their health and their futures. Ensuring that they have access to their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is a vital part of achieving this. It is natural, then, that we would like to know what MEPs are doing and the importance that they place on SRHR-related issues. The survey found that 83 per cent of MEPs agreed that supporting SRHR in EU development cooperation is either very important or important. This support for SRHR within the Parliament was subsequently borne out when MEPs voted through a non-binding report on the post-2015 agenda that was strongly supportive of SRHR.
Another important part of the advocacy work that we do in Brussels is pushing the EU institutions to increase their support for research and innovation in global health. In particular, with the launch of DSW’s “Let’s Save Lives” campaign, we have been actively working with MEPs to encourage them to work with us to advocate for increased political and financial investment in R&D for the fight against HIV & AIDS, TB, malaria and neglected tropical diseases. What this means in practical terms is support for programmes which can stimulate innovation to create new diagnostic, preventive and treatment tools – new medicines, vaccines, and improved contraceptives. Do MEPs agree that this is an important issue for the EU to advocate? Well, 81 per cent of MEPs think it is important or very important to fund research and development for PRNDs through EU research and innovation programmes.
Worryingly, however, only 27 per cent of MEPs said that they were satisfied how informed they are about neglected tropical diseases and their impact on people’s health. This indicates a need for a greater effort on our part to inform about the current impact of these diseases and how they can be dealt with. The Ebola crisis has shown that acute global health emergencies can receive sufficient public and political attention, neglected tropical diseases are more chronic in nature and consequently more difficult to highlight as health emergencies. It is something we are working on every day!
Overall, these results are encouraging. As we move towards the end game of negotiations on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, the EU and European parliamentarians will be important actors in the process. If we are to achieve an agenda that places the rights of girls and young women at its core, which re-affirms commitments to universal access to SRHR, and which establishes an environment conducive to innovation in global health R&D, it can only be a good thing that MEPs are supportive and pushing for the EU to lead. We look forward to an interesting 2015!
With thanks to Antonio and the Magnethic team for the great infographic design work