European development days 2010
The fifth year of the European Development Days was held on 6 – 7 December 2010 in Brussels, organised jointly by the European Commission and the Belgian EU Presidency. This year’s theme highlighted the future of European cooperation, and more than 5000 participants attended the event.
OCIPE joined forces with the Réseau Belge des Ressources Naturelles (Belgian Natural Resources Centre) to organise a seminar jointly with other European organisations (Forum Syd, Evert Vermeer Foundation, 11.11.11) on the topic of political consistency with regard to the management of natural resources and what they contribute to sustainable development.
The Commission launched a strategy in 2008, the Raw Materials Initiative, designed to guarantee access for the EU to the raw materials necessary for its economy. The aim of this text is to fight export barriers being raised by third-world countries and to develop recycling within the EU. A new Communication on the implementation of this Initiative is now in preparation in the framework of the EU’s 2020 Strategy.
European development organisations are worried about the lack of consistency between the EU’s trade strategies and its development policies. One question raised at the seminar organised during the European Development Days was to find out how the Commission’s Initiative could and should be reworded in order to guarantee a positive contribution to the sustainable development of developing countries and to respond to the EU’s commitments in terms of development.
Among the panellists, Paul Collier, director of Oxford University’s Centre for African Economics Studies, declared that the proper management of natural resources is central to the development of countries where such materials abound, and that taxes on the export of such materials often represent one of the very few mechanisms they have to diversify their economies and reach a certain level of prosperity.
Madeleine Tuininga, representing the Commission’s DG Commerce, spoke on the Raw Materials Initiative and on several other initiatives such as the current consultation round on country-by-country reporting.
The next speaker was Claude Kabemba, director of Southern Africa Resource Watch. He described the unfavourable position of the governments of developing countries when they negotiate with multinational companies. Alfred Hickey M'Shichilli of the Alternatrade Project expanded upon the conclusions of a recent report explaining how restrictions on import taxes have a direct impact on the development of the countries producing the raw materials.
Finally, Vanessa Herringshaw, director of the London office of the Revenue Watch Institute put forward a possible first approach to a solution for obtaining greater transparency, one where companies would from now on be bound to publish their accounts on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. This would follow the model of recent American legislation: ‘the Wall Street Reform Act’, which from now on obliges all extractive companies listed on the New York exchange to make public every payment made to foreign governments.
Given that the European Parliament adopted a Resolution in 2007 that provides for this country-by-country reporting method, civil society is now waiting with impatience for the new Commission Communication on the Raw Materials Initiative. We hope that development goals will be taken into account in the framework of the new Initiative, as envisaged by the Lisbon Treaty. Indeed, countries that are rich in raw materials should be able to diversify their economies, benefit from the added value of these resources and reduce their economic dependence on these exports.