Highlights and lingering thoughts from EDD12

Nick Ishmael Perkins
Director, SciDev.Net

Eight things I saw that impressed me at the European Development Days gathering:

1. Every High Level Panel I attended had some representation from the global South. While the represention tended to the public sector, civil society were sufficiently in evidence not to raise alarm. And there were enough of these Southern voices speaking truth to power to keep the punting for funding palatable. I have been to enough international meetings without real international participation not to take this for granted.

2. The majority of High Level Panels had a respectable gender balance. And where they did not it was publicly acknowledged from what I saw.

3. Ugandan Member of Parliament Alaso Alice Asianut offering this contribution to an enthusiastic discussion about Sustainable Development Goals: ‘Uganda won’t meet most of the MDGs because it’s been mostly reversals and slow progress, so we need to learn from that.’

4. Kalilou Sylla from ROPPA ( a West African farmers association) challenging African governments and EC donors equally with his blunt irrefutable logic. One gem – if there is all this political will why are the statistics around the disenfranchisement of farmers so appalling?

5. Journalist Monika Hoegen moderating the panel ‘Free Humanity From Hunger’ delivering a masterclass in how to deploy the follow-up question. Whether challenging Caritas Rwanda to substantiate their claims of citizen participation or exploring the notion that the EC Development unit is an apologist for EU agribusiness she was constantly stimulating but never rude.

6. The French ministers challenging the financial world order. Whether making suggestions about how to regulate speculation in agriculture or describing how tax reform could leverage more funds for development, they were often the panellists making the point that the structural relations underpinning development determine the type of development we have. This kind of reform may be some way off but it was inspiring to hear.

7. There were some interesting examples of ‘joined up development’ in practice. The integrated planning of development and humanitarian teams in agencies like the EC, USAID and DFID along with the new deal on fragility which draws together peace building goals and state building goals are two examples.

8. The recurring attempts to define sustainable growth and inclusive growth. It wasn’t pretty or new but it was engaging. And mapping the common denominators and outliers matters.

Three things I didn’t see nearly enough of:

Scientists. Talk of technological transfer, practicable knowledge and evidence of adaptation surfaced in several discussions in a range of sectors. Strange then there was no one actually talking about their research.

The media. There was widespread – and unchallenged – enthusiasm for the possibilities of new (and older) information and communication technologies. But apart from the folks interviewing some of delegates in the public spaces, we did not see many communication professionals, certainly not sitting on panels as equal stakeholders (perhaps with the exception of World Bank’s Managing Director Caroline Anstey who regularly acknowledges her journalistic training.)

The BRICS. Middle-income countries and ’emerging’ economies were conspicuously under-represented. This is curious given that they, more than have a particularly current take on managing inequality and forging new development paradigms. Tellingly one session featured a question from the Colombian Ambassador in the audience (intriguing I know) which stumped most panelists as it seemed to refer to issues beyond the remit of those in the room.

This post is part of our blog on European Development Days (EDD12), which takes place 16 and 17 October 2012, in Brussels, Belgium.


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