Stronger EU-Africa ties could stem crises

Europe needs to find a new way of working with Africa to prevent famines and other crises repeatedly occurring, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has said.

Stronger EU-Africa ties could stem crises

He said that may require the development of new structures or even a new institution to ensure proper dialogue and co-operation between the EU and the African Union.

“Who would have thought that in 2017, with the combined global wealth that is now there, we would have four famines at the same time — in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and in the Lake Chad region — affecting more than 20m people, 70% of them children,” he said.

“But that is where we are and despite the fact that it’s predictable and preventable in all cases, it still happens.”

While the international community was responding financially, Mr Coveney said money alone would not solve the problems of climate change, migration, water scarcity, and security.

“Many of the issues with which Africa is grappling have answers which are political rather than responses rooted in more funding,” he said.

“It’s questionable whether the political structure for dialogue between the EU and the African Union is fit for purpose. There will be an extra billion people on the continent of Africa in the next 25 years. If we are going to find lasting solutions to the issues there, we need a much more regular and deeper dialogue between the EU and the African Union and we need a structure and potentially an institution that can facilitate that.”

Mr Coveney stressed the importance of dialogue and collective action on a global scale. Questioned about Donald Trump’s ‘America first’ speech to the UN, he said: “It’s no secret that some of the policies of the US administration, we are not comfortable with.”

He said: “A new nationalism which is developing in some countries, with inward-looking, security-focused politics, is actually making it more difficult, in my view, to reach out and to understand each other’s problems in a more detailed way so that we can work out the solutions together.”

Mr Coveney was speaking at the publication of Irish Aid’s annual report which showed how €724m of emergency and development aid was distributed last year.

That figure was a 12% increase on 2015 but Mr Coveney warned that the increase he hoped to announce in the budget next month would be “nothing like that”.

“I have to manage expectations,” he said, but restated the Government’s commitment to the UN target of an annual aid budget that will be 0.7% of GDP by 2030. The current budget is less than half that amount.

The annual report shows that embattled aid agency Goal, which has been under a cloud after a US-led investigation into irregularities at a company set up by a number of its senior staff, received €8.8m.

After the series of resignations and reform of structures that followed, Mr Coveney said he hoped its problems were behind it.

He would not say if and when Goal’s multi-year funding from the State would be restored. The agency has been reduced to one-year blocks of funding while its problems are being worked out.

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