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May 2015

How important do you think Europe’s contribution to international aid and development is?

The numbers speak for themselves even if someone denies the catalytic role of Europe in these areas. According to official figures, the European Union and its Member States are the largest sponsors of the Official Development Assistance (ODA).

In 2013 jointly provided support of around 56.5% billion euro, which accounted for 52% of the total world ODA granted that year. The EU is present in 140 countries, with long term programs, and thanks to its transnational dimension, can design wide-ranging solutions to address the challenges of global development.

The EU can be proud for reducing the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries from 46% to 27% (from 1990 to 2005), but unfortunately around 1.2 billion people worldwide still live below the international definition of poverty, on less than $1.25 a day.

Poverty however is not the only important issue. While many countries have been exempted from extremepoverty and conflicts, many other countries have resulted in even greater poverty, conflicts and insecurity with complete absence of respect and protection of basic human rights. The development should be attuned with the defense of human rights and freedoms. EU has the philosophy and the ability to incorporate these issues into all aspects of its development policy.

What development theme is particularly important to you?

Surely, the elimination of poverty initially and then the transition to sustainable development with a view to obtaining stable, decent living standards is really important to me. The EU is giving special attention to the most vulnerable countries and according to official figures almost half of the development aid is channeled to fragile states. The assistance provided should be geared towards peace-building and state-building in order to achieve better quality of life. It is essential to ensure sustainable development, including sustainable agriculture, energy and social protection, health, education for all as well as job opportunities regardless of gender.

What inspires you to help support international development?

"Small", everyday stories that validate that the EU has gone from theory to practice, that people’s lives are changing in reality and not in some statistical figures. Stories such as Rafaela’s Kotsochai; a woman who lives in a small Mayan community in the province of San Juan Sacatepéquez, about half an hour from Guatemala City. She is 44 years old and has been a victim of domestic or sexual violence. Rafaela managed to change her life, with the help and knowledge acquired from a special non-governmental organization CALDH (Centre for Human Rights Legal Action. Over time, and with the help of this organization, she has been transformed from a shy, abused and illiterate woman in "mother of the community" and legal consultant.

How do you think European citizens can personally get involved in development?

Citizens can act through non-governmental organizations, social partners, professional associations or even the media. These bodies are usually located close to local communities and can help sponsors to meet the real needs of vulnerable populations.

What change would you like to see in the world?

Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, ensuring universal primary education, promoting gender equality will lay new foundations for economic growth with simultaneous cultivation of respect and protection of fundamental human rights. This is the dynamic I would like to see developed...