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The Hungarian, Polish and Cypriot EU Presidencies put global poverty reduction into the spotlight in new EU member states, says MRG

15 September 2011

The presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU) has brought into focus the important role new EU member states have to play in global poverty reduction, says Minority Rights Group (MRG) at a conference in Budapest, Hungary today. The two day event looks at the experiences and plans of Cyprus, Hungary and Poland, three emerging donors and new member states holding the presidency during 2011-12 and its impact to their approach towards development policy.

The conference will be opened by Zsolt Németh, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Greg Dorey, British Ambassador and will be closed by Zita Gurmai, Member of the European Parliament and Virág Kaufer, Member of the Hungarian Parliament.

The presidency of the EU puts these countries in particular at the centre of the drive for global poverty reduction and EU-Africa relations. In May 2011, Hungary for the first time hosted the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, a platform for elected representatives of the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states. Whilst, Poland will be the first new EU member state hosting the European Development Days, the leading European forum on development cooperation in December this year.

The conference, attended by representatives of ministries, embassies and the civil society and academicians from new EU member states as well as from UK and Swedish development agencies, is looking both at lessons learned and new approaches towards development, in particular the importance of the integration between development and human rights.

‘Linking development with human rights provides an attractive venue for new member states’, says Neil Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia Programmes. ‘These countries could capitalize on their particular expertise as emerging donors while being in line with international and EU obligations’.

New member states act in a specific context as donors: they often have limited human and financial resources, limited public awareness on aid and small aid budgets. On the positive side, they have a recent history of being aid recipients, substantive experience in democratization and civil society strengthening and greater flexibility in driving forward new approaches.

‘A hospital or school will be used and taken care of by the members of the community if they are involved throughout the planning process and it reflects to their needs. This will make the programme sustainable even after the donor has left’, says Esther Somoire, Director of the Centre for Indigenous Women and Children (CIWOCH) in Kenya, who is attending the conference along with other representatives of the global south.

‘Meaningful participation is crucial to use aid money effectively’, says Wilson Kipsang Kipkazi, Programmes Coordinator of the Endorois Welfare Council (EWC) in Kenya, who has seen the results of donor aid on his community. ‘There have been several occasions when aid money was spent on products or services which the community did not need. It could happen only if targets are settled and aid is delivered without asking the community’.

Recognising in their development policies that human rights and development are closely interrelated would allow Hungary, Poland and Cyprus to focus more on the real needs of the recipients through an inclusive and participatory approach, that ensures planning and delivery of aid is spent in a more effective way.

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact the MRG Press Office on [email protected].