Caribbean has to do better on project implementation – EU Commissioner

European Union Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs today said that the EU remains committed to strong ties with the Caribbean but he stressed the region has to do better on project implementation and he also pointed to the need for the highest standards of accountability and transparency.

Piebalgs was speaking at the opening plenary of the 11th European Development Fund Caribbean Regional Programming Seminar at the Guyana International Conference Centre where he announced plans for scaled up cooperation with Haiti and unwrapped a 1 billion Euro grant promise under the new funding programme. The 10th EDF is still underway and Guyana and other Caricom countries plus the Dominican Republic benefit from it.

The commissioner said value for money and innovation in financing mechanisms were pivotal and he hinted at more regionally-funded programmes particularly in the energy sector.

Andris Piebalgs
Andris Piebalgs

Over the last decade there have been growing concerns that the EU was turning its back on the Caribbean and focusing on other regions. Swinging changes to the EU sugar regime has hit countries like Guyana hard. The quantum of funds under the 11th EDF and how they are apportioned will be closely watched.

 

The commissioner’s speech follows:

 

Mr President, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends,

I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the Government of Guyana for its hospitality and warm welcome. It’s a real pleasure to be here in Georgetown.

Before embarking on our discussions on the evolution of the relationship between the Caribbean and the European Union I wish to congratulate our partners for the incredible results the Caribbean has achieved.

You have witnessed exponential growth in per capita GDP, substantial improvements in terms of poverty eradication, and the achievement of the MDGs in the great majority of the countries. You can be extremely proud about having transformed your region into one of the most culturally rich, pluralistic and dynamic in the world.

We gather together only one week before the UN Special Event on Millennium Development Goals in New York. The task there will be to review the MDGs and discuss the next, post-2015 framework, whichneeds to be comprehensive and reconcile the objectives of eradicating poverty and ensuring the sustainable development of the planet.

First, of course, we must finish what started, and that means not letting up in our efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon’s recent report, “A life of dignity for all”, highlights the significant progress the world has made on the MDGs.

I am proud to say that the European Union has made a significant contribution to that progress. Over the past ten years the EU and its Member States committed around 50 billion euro per year to development aid. This is more than half of all global assistance. Let me give some striking examples: through our EDF and DCI instruments the EU has helped 70 million more households to gain access to drinking water; our support has brought nearly 14 million more boys and girls into primary education; and 18 million children under one have received the measles vaccine.

But the work is far from complete. Together we can, and must do more. We therefore need an ambitious post-2015 framework. The European Commission has laid out a vision on how to bring together the strands of poverty and sustainable development, building on five key elements: basic living standards to empower people; inclusive and sustainable growth to benefit all; sustainable resource management to preserve the environment; justice and equity to ensure fundamental human rights; and peace and security.

Ultimately the objective is to ensure a decent life for all by 2030. And this is a vision I want to share with you.

The EU remains steadfast in its engagement in the Caribbean. We must first complete our current efforts under the 10th EDF, and we are committed to work together with you towards future cooperation that even better responds to Caribbean needs and priorities under the 11th EDF.

We have already achieved a lot, and continue to make good progress. Let me give a couple of examples: in Haiti the EU has supported a 38 m euro programme (PARQE) for improving the quality of public primary education. Under the programme the EU has contributed to the establishment of 17 educational support centres and rehabilitation of 77 schools. At least 120.000 children have benefitted from the overall project.

The 200 km road between Port-au-Prince and Cap Haitian, funded by the EU, is another example. In 2010 the journey between these cities took 8 hours  – soon it will be reduced to just 3. Yet another example is the construction of a bridge, customs office and the Dajabon market building on Dominican Republic – Haiti border as part of the bi-national programme, transforming the lives of the people living in the town of Ouanaminthe in Haiti

And just this week we have signed a 22 million euro programme on the Reduction of Maternal and Childhood Mortality (PROMAC) with Jamaica under the MDG Initiative. This is very satisfactory.

However, we must ensure effective, efficient and rapid implementation of our programmes. While we have committed nearly all of the over 900 million under EDF 10 for the Caribbean, in payments the pace has been slower and we will have to do better in the future. If we look at all EU instruments and their contributions to the Caribbean, in 2011 we disbursed 332 million and in 2012 disbursements were 280 million. So far we are at the level of 64 million in 2013. We must reverse the trend of slow implementation, make real progress and together ensure that we can complete our work under 10th EDF.

The Caribbean region still must overcome its remaining development obstacles. There are major challenges linked to region’s inherent vulnerability. As you might expect to happen to small states vulnerable to exogenous shocks, the Caribbean has been very hard hit by the global financial crisis;this has affected the key sectors of tourism and remittances, with serious implications on the level of indebtedness, the unemployment rate and the security situation. Security is a particular concern because it is a prerequisite for social and economic progress.

That’s why we are right to give it a prominent place in our Joint Strategy; moreover, I believe it is an issue that needs to be addressed effectively in our future cooperation programme. In addition, climate change and its related impacts – such as rising sea levels and more frequent natural disasters –continue to cast a long shadow over global development efforts and pose a major obstacle to sustainable development here in the Caribbean.

It is with these persistent development obstacles in mind that we have to look for even more effective ways to cooperate.

The Joint Caribbean-EU Partnership Strategy I mentioned a moment ago gives us a new vision, and as such will be a sound springboard to take our cooperation to greater heights. But if we are to transform the vision into reality, we have to start undertaking concrete actions now. That’s why we have cometogether today. We are here to discuss with you the priorities, modalities and methodologies that should guide our cooperationat the national and the regional levels and ensure that both levels work together effectively.

In providing continuedsupport for your efforts, the European Union wants to see our partnership, our mutual understanding and our friendship go from strength to strength.

Agenda for Change; continued support

The world has changed, the Caribbean region has changed and EU cooperation policy has changed too. The new approach, set out in our Agenda for Change, calls for a concentration of resources in those regions that are still struggling to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

At the same time this change requires a more strategic approach to our work with countries with which we will seek a partnership of equals and move away from a traditional donor-beneficiary relationship.

We are well aware that such a change of strategy will still require financial resources.As a result,the EU is ready to invest 1 billion euro under the 11th EDFin grants for the Caribbean region.

This considerable amount demonstrates our renewed commitment to the Caribbean. That commitment is reflected in a larger envelope for regional programmes and new implementation options for regional cooperation – which will be discussed in a dedicated session tomorrow. Furthermore, we will scale up cooperation efforts with Haiti, which is continuing its struggle towards reconstruction and against poverty.

Innovation and accountability

On top of this, we need to deliver value for money and think outside the box. The EU has been striving to do just that, setting up new mechanisms for blending loans and grants. Via the Caribbean Investment Facility, the EU can work with investment banks and gather sufficient resources for larger-scale infrastructure projects. Several Caribbean countries have a limited population.These projects can thus be particularly effective when pursued at regional level. This is especially true for the energy sector, where the new CARICOM energy policy provides a solid basis for joint actions in the years ahead. And in addition to blending, we must be open and identify other innovative mechanisms to finance investments.

Moreover, we might want to look at different implementing modalities for the regional programmes, with national authorising officers leading in the implementation of multi-country programmes, under the general guidance of anEU-CARIFORUM steering committee. We will have the chance to discuss these and other innovations in detail in our bilateral meetings and working groups.

In times of financial crisis and budgetary constraints, it is even more important to ensure the highest possible level of accountability and transparency. This will require clearer indicators and more mutual accountability. It will also require more donor coordination and alignment with national policies.

Last but not least, we should be seeking synergies in our actions in the Caribbean, in Latin America, in Overseas Countries and Territories and in the French Outermost Regions. To that end we would like to see all these countries, territories and regions engage in dialogue and we will support regional integration and cooperation processes like the CELAC process.

Shared Basic Values; Close Friends

Our common objective is to provide better opportunities to millions of people here in the Caribbean region. You have your own ideas about where you want to go. We will accompany you on that journey.

That journey is underpinned by our shared values of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, which have progressed substantially in this region. It’s only right that we keep these principles in mind, because the advancement of international trade and economic development must ultimately lead to social progress and justice. These are the ingredients for long-term prosperity.

The time has come for concrete action. That means working closely together and focusing on results, starting today. Over the coming days, therefore, we need to look at how we can own this process together. Let there be no doubt: the European Union’s engagement in the Caribbean will continue. We are committed to working with you as a reliable partner in the years to come.

 

Thank you.

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