EU ministers want more digitalization in development policy

European ministers of International Development today agreed that digital technologies should play an important role in the European development policy. Belgium is one of the driving forces of 'Digital for Development' on the European level. Member States also discussed the European consensus on Development for the first time today.

In the Council conclusions Mainstreaming of Digital Solutions and Technologies in EU Development Policy, EU member states highlight the important role of digitalization in strengthening democracy and good governance . The conclusions also focus on the benefits of digital technology for the socio-economic development of the partner countries of European development policy. The European ministers refer in particular to the positive role that digitalization can play in the registration of births and a more efficient deployment of humanitarian aid. They also emphasize that freedom of expression is an essential principle that also applies online.

 
Belgium, driving force of digital technologies

In recent years, Belgium has been among the countries advocating for an enhanced role of digital technologies in development policy. Last year, Minister De Croo launched an initiative to convince his European colleagues to invest more in digitalization as an engine for development.

The Minister outlined the opportunities offered by digitalization to support development policy in a European concept note Digitalisation as driver of change for development cooperation. The positive reactions to this note resulted in the drafting of a joint letter of Minister De Croo and 14 of his colleagues. In addition to Belgium, the call was also signed by France, Estonia, the Netherlands, Hungary, Finland, Malta, Spain, Poland, Latvia, Germany , Sweden, Slovenia, Austria and Greece.

 
Economic impulse

Minister De Croo welcomes the fact that these efforts now lead to Council conclusions on the reinforcement of the role of digitalization in European development policy.

"The digital revolution is a source of worldwide progress. Mobile payments reduce corruption, e-learning allows students and teachers to cross thousands of kilometers, and online access to meteorological information enables farmers to optimize their harvest. Giving developing countries equal access to the Internet gives a boost to their economy and can generate up to 140 million new jobs, " said Alexander De Croo.

Belgium will now further insist on the leading role that digitalization must play in development policy, both at a national and a European level. This Wednesday 30 November, the Royal Museum of Central Africa organize its first innovation fair. At the initiative of Minister De Croo, the Prize Digital for Development (D4D) is awarded for the first time to promising initiatives in the field of digital development. On Thursday, Belgium organizes, together with the Slovak EU Presidency, a High-Level Event on Digitalization for Development. In the Egmont Palace, the Slovak Deputy Prime Minister Pellegrini, the European Commissioner for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and the Director General of the International Organization for Migration, William L. Swing, will discuss this topic with other speakers.  Click here for more info (PDF, 1.23 MB).

 
European Consensus on Development

European International Development Ministers today also discussed the draft texts of the European Consensus on Development for the first time. These include the general guidelines of European development policy for the years to come. Our country insisted that Europe pays particular attention to a rights-based approach and the importance of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, which are the two pillars of Belgian development policy. Minister De Croo is pleased that these two issues are central to the European Consensus on Development.

During the discussion on the European Consensus on Development, Minister De Croo addressed the issue of tax exemptions for donor countries in partner countries. Belgium considers that these tax exemptions are no longer logical. Donors and development organizations are exempted from VAT and import duties on services and products which are part of their development initiatives. Minister De Croo called on his European colleagues to change that.

With the EU Global Strategy on the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy presented recently, the loop is now closed and European policy is being grafted onto the Sustainable Development Goals. Belgium also welcomes the fact that the European consensus is embedded in a larger vision the European Union's foreign policy. Digital for Development has also been integrated into the European consensus.

The approval of the European Consensus is scheduled for May 2017.

Click here for Minister De Croo's statement following the discussions.