David Martin MEP

Labour Member of the European Parliament and one of the six MEPs representing Scotland in Brussels and Strasbourg

Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future

The Caithness Courier, January 2015

Since 1983, the European Union (EU) has dedicated each year to a specific topic. Proposed by the Commission and adopted by the European Parliament and EU member governments, the aim of ‘The European Year’ is to raise awareness of an issue, encourage debate and change attitudes. During many European years, extra funding is provided for local, national and cross-border projects that address the year's topic. The European Year can also send a strong commitment and political signal from the EU institutions and member governments that the subject will be taken into consideration in future policy-making.

As 2015 begins, so does the European Year for Development - a year dedicated to raising awareness and engaging EU citizens in the EU's development cooperation and a sparking a debate around the motto 'our world, our dignity, our future’. It is the first time a European Year has focussed on the EU's international development policy. There will be activities throughout all member states and the Development Year featured online and in social media.

Despite the current economic downturn, support for development remains high. A 2013 Eurobarometer gave a surprising insight into how EU citizens see development. More than 80 % believed that development aid is important, and 60 % actually thought we should be giving more. However at the same time, 50 % admitted they knew nothing about where European Union aid was going.

The European Year of Development 2015 (EYD2015) will be a key opportunity to raise awareness and to more do more to show European taxpayers how EU development aid works and to demonstrate that it makes a real and lasting difference.
In 2000, countries from all over the world agreed on the Millennium Development Goals, to be achieved by 2015. They range from halving extreme poverty to stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS and giving primary education to all children. The EU played a leading role in negotiating this vision. Over the last decade, thanks to EU funding, almost 14 million pupils could go to primary school, more than 70 million people were linked to improved drinking water, and over 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health workers, saving the lives of mothers and babies.

EU development aid goes to around 150 countries in the world and programmes follow what governments, non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations consider priorities. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could be trade unions, human rights groups, environmental organisations, chambers of commerce etc. They can be a large well-known international group such as Amnesty International or a small local association of female lawyers helping women to their legal rights. It is the EU’s objective that aid in the future should focus more on sectors such as good governance, human rights, democracy, health, education, agriculture and energy.

European Year for Development 2015 will be an opportunity to showcase Europe's commitment to empowering our fellow human beings around the world who are mired in poverty through no fault of their own to make a living for themselves, their families and their communities.

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