A date not easily celebrated for the first European year devoted to cooperation and the fight against world poverty, bringing with it the pain caused by the wound that has struck the heart of Europe in Paris, France.
Latvian prime minister Laimdota Straujuma, together with European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker, High Representative for European Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini, as well as representatives of various partners, NGOs and development agencies, could not help but remember the victims of the massacre that took place at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7 January, unaware that while the EYD opening ceremony was streaming, another attack (at the kosher market in Vincennes) was also occurring in the French capital. Circumstances which surely contributed to mitigating the tone of what should have been a celebration whose motto is “our world, our dignity, our future.”
How the European Year of Development Came to Be
The EU had never dedicated an entire year to the subject of foreign aid to the Community territory when in 1983 the custom of having thematic years around a specific area of intervention was instituted. The idea to institute the European Year of Development was first proposed in 2011 at the CONCORD General Assembly, which gathered development NGOs from across Europe. After years of discussions, EU institutions in 2014 finally voted in favour of their institutions. The idea came about not only for confronting humanitarian challenges, but also in relation to the political contest coming up in a few months. In fact, this year will see the conclusion of the “Development Objectives for the Millennium," the eight humanitarian strategies the United Nations have undertaken to reach during 2015 - that the European Union wants to be a decisive organization asserting itself among world leaders in managing international emergencies.
Initiatives in the field
So what happens now? Events and activities are taking place throughout Europe on a national level, because the EYD is not just 'something in Brussels.' First off, there's the European Year of Development's official site. Each month of the year will be devoted to a specific theme: January will be devoted to Europe in the world, February to education, March will look at gender related themes, April will be Health month. May for peace and security, June for sustainable growth, work and business, July will be devoted to children and youth, August to humanitarian aid, September to demographics and migration, October to food security, November to sustainable development and climate action, and finally December to human rights and governance.
The European Year of Development's Objectives
The European Year of Development's objectives, according to the European Commission, are to inform Union citizens about the cooperation between the Union and Member States on development; increasing awareness of the benefits of cooperation to Union development, not only for beneficiaries of development assistance, but also so that Union citizens can obtain greater understanding of development policies coherence, as well as promote among citizens in Europe and in developing countries a sense of communal responsibility, solidarity and opportunity in a changing and ever more interdependent world.