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Tomorrowland: development cooperation as seen by Emilio Ciarlo – Joshua Massarenti, October 28, 2015 –

Among the protagonists of the new Law 125, Emilio Ciarlo explains the new scenarios opening up in the world of international cooperation and the role that Italy is called upon to play, consistently associating new and traditional tools and actors.

“There was a time when talking about development cooperation meant mostly money collections to build wells in Africa, postal bulletins to adopt children from a distance, small communities donating resources to build schools or supply hospitals in countries that, with a certain paternalism, we considered underdeveloped or, at most, ‘developing.’ Today, a new generation is called upon to take a step forward, retaining the spirit of the pioneers but having the courage to move beyond categories and concepts that are no longer sufficient to fully achieve common goals. Those of all time: the promotion of man, the liberation of peoples from want, the eradication of poverty, the support of democracy, the spread of sustainable development.” As a good lawyer and expert in law and international relations, Emilio Ciarlo has the gift of brevity. One only has to read the first paragraphs of Tomorrowland (“Tomorrow’s Land”) to get a sense of how much development cooperation has changed in recent decades.

Today a new generation is called upon to step forward, retaining the spirit of the pioneers but having the courage to move beyond categories and concepts that are no longer sufficient to fully achieve common goals.

Emilio Ciarlo

Hi Bob, it was nice

That the days of Live Aid promoted by Bob Geldof back in 1985 were well and truly over is no surprise to anyone. At least not for insiders. But never 30 years later would we have imagined that we would be confronted with a development narrative declined through headache-inducing tools of cooperation. Yet the various “impact investing funds,” “Advanced Market Commitment,” “Diaspora Bonds,” “Catastrophe Deffered Drawdown Option,” or “USAID Innovation Ventures” are realities to be reckoned with. For those who have failed to reset their development agenda, Tomorow land will prove most useful. For the uninitiated, we propose to ask the following three questions: what on earth happened between the mega-concert of the famous British singer-activist and what is now termed by some experts “international cooperation 2.0”? How has Italy gone through these 30 years of rampant globalization of development aid? More importantly, what role will our country take in the era of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted last September at the United Nations General Assembly?

To these questions, Emilio Ciarlo, who was one of the protagonists of the great reformist season of Italian cooperation, has the merit of answering them with great clarity, also thanks to the contributions of international experts and politicians. After all, one only has to scroll through the summary of Tomorrow Land to get a sense of the worlds that intersect in development cooperation today. From Federica Mogherini (current EU super foreign minister) to Lapo Pistelli (former deputy foreign minister with responsibility for international cooperation and father of the new Law 125), via Simon Maxwell (expert), Amina J. Mohamed (Ban Ki-Moon’s special advisor for the post-2015 agenda), Nino Sergi (founder of the NGO Intersos) and Marco Carletto (CEO of the Calzedonia group), the fight against global poverty and for sustainable growth calls together very different actors (institutions, international bodies, civil society, private-financial sector).

There is certainly no shortage of challenges. Despite the progress made with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ciarlo reminds us in his introductory essay, “there remain about one billion people, some sixty countries, stuck in what Paul Collier calls the four ‘poverty traps’: conflict, lack of natural resources, landlockedness, poor governance.” Alongside these realities, “direct investment in developing countries (which we now call partner countries) in 2014 reached $778 billion (UNCTAD), migrant remittances that of $436 billion (World Bank data), tripling the total volume of official aid from DAC countries.” Africa sums up well this contrast between average annual GDP growth that often exceeds 5 percent and ever-expanding social inequalities. The phenomenon is all the more worrisome that, as Nino Sergi points out, “Africa’s population will grow from the current 1.1 billion to 2.4 in 2050 with an average age around 20 years old compared to 43 in the EU and with 700 million people of working age.” It is therefore “not difficult for this situation to contribute not only to fueling migratory flows, but also to triggering a social bomb with heavy consequences for the stability of regions” such as Africa, Ciarlo argues.

From aid logic to partnership

To avert this danger, the international community has set itself three dates in 2015: the Third International Conference on Financing for Development held in July in Addis Ababa and at which the financial instruments and resources needed to implement the SDGs were identified (approved in New York in September), and the new climate agenda that, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 will be discussed in Paris with the aim of “reaching a universal and binding agreement that can effectively combat climate change and guide the transition to low-fossil fuel societies and economies.”

Today all states have a shared responsibility to secure our common and sustainable future

Amina J. Mohammed

Beyond the billions that are at stake and the new financial instruments that are to be implemented (see blending) to reach the fateful threshold of 0.7 percent of GDP to be reserved for official development assistance (ODA) in the OECD area, Ciarlo draws attention to the new development agenda that the international community is adopting. An agenda that no longer focuses only on aid and a technicist approach to poverty, but one that is intended to be universal (i.e., addressed to all countries and not just developing ones), more political and holistic (dealing with all sectors, from the environment to human diriti). There are three key concepts that characterize the “new grammar of development,” because as Amina J. Mohammed states, “all states have a shared responsibility to secure our common and sustainable future. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with their 169 targets,” Mohammed continues, “are by their very nature global and universally applicable, and each nation should seek to align its national development policies and plans with the ambitious global framework, tuning them with state needs and capacities.” Italy like Burundi. But for this there is a need for everyone’s effort, as “the full and effective participation of all actors will be essential in the monitoring, review and follow-up phase of the new agenda. The new paradigm of ‘accountability’ must include governments, international institutions, the private sector, civil society and the people themselves.”

Italian cooperation: a Copernican revolution

Yeah, accountability. A challenge for everyone, especially Italy, where the percentage of citizens (especially young people) who do not consider development cooperation a priority policy of either the EU or Italy is growing (55 percent versus 67 percent in the rest of the Union, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey). But how does our government intend to overcome this skepticism? Above all, as Ciarlo argues, “after all, why would a citizen approve a state funding line, subsidized with taxpayer money, to make gifts and philanthropic actions around the world when so many NGOs, International Chiarities p United Nations Agencies are working to that end?”

Africa is the greatest opportunity we have before us, but we have fallen victim to decades of neglect and also to a certain sometimes ideological attitude of some worlds.

Matthew Renzi

Some answers were given to us by Matteo Renzi in an interview with Vita (see August issue), in which the PM insisted on the need to look at a continent like Africa in a radically different way than in the past. “Africa is the greatest opportunity we have before us,” the PM said, “but we have fallen victim to decades of neglect and also to a certain sometimes ideological attitude of some worlds.” Along with the cultural step change to be made, for which the Italian political class and media bear great responsibility, “it is necessary to strengthen our Italian cooperation and its weight internationally,” the Prime Minister said. With the latest stability law, the Renzi government increased the funds to be allocated to the DGCS by 40 percent (from 297 in 2015 to 418 million euros in 2016), marking the first turnaround after years of lean cows. But above all, it will be Law 125 and its implementation that will determine whether or not yes or no Italy will rise to the challenges ahead in this area. Rightly so, Ciarlo starts from a sacrosanct principle: “for Italy, cooperation is not only ‘an integral and qualifying part of Italian foreign policy’ (Article 1 of Law 125) but, more, a fulfillment of it and almost a new and more modern form of foreign policy. It is concrete and dramatic aid to the men, women and children we otherwise see dying on our shores, fleeing wars and underdevelopment. In this sense, stabilizing the Horn of Africa, improving conditions for women in Mali, supporting development in West Africa is part of our national interest.” In an era where major foreign policy strategies are increasingly made at the Elysée Palace, Downing Street or Palazzo Chigi, where the coherence of policies implemented by a state’s ministries and falling under the coordinating prerogatives of a head of state or government, is decisive for the fate of international cooperation, the latter “can constitute, along with the culture and quality of our companies, one of the resources of our ‘soft power.'”

I knew that the reform of the governance of Italian cooperation represented an essential investment for our country, a key instrument for our foreign policy, an important support for development, stability, security and peace in so many areas of the world

Federica Mogherini

The four pillars of Law 125

The new law has the ambition to modernize Italian cooperation. How? Ciarlo evokes four pillars. The first is “government policy coherence,” ensured by the Interministerial Committee on Development Cooperation (ICCS), “the place where, by way of example, contrasts between Italian climate commitments and concerns about the additional production costs these may entail for industry should find synthesis.” The second pillar is the establishment of a Deputy Minister for Cooperation “with a broad and specific delegation on the subject and who can sit in the Council of Ministers when dealing with issues concerning cooperation.” In this regard, the failure to replace former Vice Minister Pistelli (who left office last July) is beginning to weigh seriously at such a crucial time as the law is being implemented. The third pillar identified by Ciarlo is the definition of “an Italian system of cooperation,” which, according to him, proposes two innovations: the involvement of new nonprofit actors (Foundations, Onlus, Ethical Finance, migrant diasporas, etc.) and the private sector; and making them interact in a coherent and systemic way. Finally, the fourth pillar is embodied by the new Italian Agency for Cooperation, of which Ciarlo himself is a likely candidate to assume its leadership. An agency that, “under the supervision of MAECI, will be endowed with a broad capacity for action through an autonomous legal personality, its own budget and its own organization.” These are all capabilities that should enable it to serve as a true hub between national and local institutions, the nonprofit world and the for-profit world. Finally, one cannot help but evoke an institution that Ciarlo has always called for: an Italian Development Bank. Law 125 assigned this role to the Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, whose operations, current availability of liquidity, know-how and network of alliances in the financial world “can enable a remarkable leap forward for our country, in a field from which we have been substantially excluded in recent decades.” Provided, however, that the Italian cooperation system never loses sight of the ultimate goal of its vocation: to reduce social inequalities in the Global South together with, among others, partner countries.


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