"The EC disregards the state as an agent of development"

On 25th June 2014, Marita Gonzalez, CGT Argentina, addressed the European Commission following its communication on the private sector:

"The European Union Communication on strengthening the private sector’s role in development cooperation has failed to take on board the political dialogue mechanism established with civil society. Despite taking part in the consultation as trade unions, presenting our objections and suggestions, none of the views expressed by workers’ organisations have been included in the EU Communication.

We are therefore calling for a dialogue mechanism that reflects a commitment to open and inclusive dialogue, not sham consultations. Examination of the consultation system reveals that 35% of those consulted were representatives of large multinationals, in addition to other business groups, whereas only 17% of those consulted were civil society organisations.

Secondly, with regard to the content, the Communication rests on an economic paradigm based on the logic that growth invariably creates employment and therefore alleviates poverty. As citizens of Latin American countries, we know that employment creation and poverty reduction cannot be achieved by growth alone, but require policies geared towards job creation and distribution.

Thirdly, the European Commission describes development as a consumer good rather than a right to be enjoyed by citizens the world over.

Fourthly, through its Communication, the EC disregards the state as an agent of development, and in our continent we are conscious that poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor increase when the state is absent. The state has an essential role to play in development.

Fifthly, the Communication does not sufficiently set out the transparency, accountability and democratic ownership requirements to be observed by the private sector as an agent of cooperation. The principles of international cooperation have been adopted by all members, and now they want to exclude the private sector from this responsibility.

The Communication loosely refers to the voluntary principles of corporate social responsibility but not to the binding rules regarding respect for and the promotion of labour, environmental and social rights. Moreover, the Communication states that the Commission "encourages" the private sector to adhere to internationally recognised guidelines and principles, even though these international standards are binding.

Finally, we are concerned over the references to mixed lending systems or "blending" facilities, as it would appear, with this declaration, that the EC is promoting the privatisation of aid and, more particularly, the participation of European multinationals. Civil society needs to watch out for the covert privatisation of Official Development Assistance in the name of development."