Development Cooperation – Where is the World heading was the title of an international conference organised by the Forum FER in the framework of the project “For an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world – EU Presidency Project 2020-2022”. Participants from Slovenia, Albania and Uganda took stock of the situation on the ground in the three countries, noting that development cooperation is more important than ever at this critical moment and that it is important for any project to be grounded in the local context and to involve women, refugees and other vulnerable, marginalised communities at all levels.
That the global pandemic covid-19 has exposed and deepened inequalities (“Those who were doing well yesterday are still doing well, those who are doing badly will be joined by many new ones tomorrow”) and that climate change is forcing us to act now was emphasised by Albin Keuc, Director of the SLOGA Platform, and echoed by other participants.
Case studies: Albania and Uganda
Elvana Zhezha, Balkan Centre for Cooperation and Development – BCCD, Albania, reported on a recent conference in Korca on gender, equality and water, which was attended by representatives of government and NGOs, as well as youth groups. Many girls and women, especially in rural areas, still suffer from inadequate access to sanitation and clean water. In times of pandemic, access to clean water is even more important, she stressed.
John Bolingo, Hope of Children and Women Victims of Violence – HOCW, Uganda, reported in more detail on the situation on the ground. He outlined the range of problems faced by women and girls, and other vulnerable groups, in Uganda. While climate change affects everyone, it affects women and girls even more. When people have to move to new locations because of climate change, it is again women who are more vulnerable. In difficult situations, parents often think that they will protect their daughters if they marry them off as soon as possible. But girls have to drop out of school and young mothers are often left alone as their husbands abandon them.
Water and Women
Anuša Pisanec, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia, illustrated the importance of involving women in all decision-making phases by using the example of water and women, which are priority topics of the Slovenian EU Presidency in addressing growing inequalities. Women are, for example, the greatest beneficiaries of the construction of the well in their village and know best where it would be most practical to build it. She explained that Slovenia is in favour of a comprehensive approach to the water issue and expressed her satisfaction that EU Foreign Affairs Council has approved conclusions on the water in the EU’s external action.
The EU-EU Summit, which is expected to take place in February next year instead of 2020, will be an opportunity to move towards a new partnership between the two continents, Albin Keuc stressed, adding that this is an opportunity to involve civil society more actively.
The FER Forum project The Reflections for a Just and Equal Future has produced a number of papers over the past months, some of which were presented live at the conference.