Development cooperation and humanitarian aid as topics in joint meeting of two EU working groups in Helsinki

The Working Party on Development Cooperation (CODEV) and the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) of the Council of the EU will meet in Finlandia Hall, Helsinki, on 15–16 July 2019. The informal joint meeting takes place during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.

“The timing of this meeting right at the beginning of our Presidency provides a good basis for Finland’s efforts,” note Katja Ahlfors, Director of the Unit for Development Policy, and Claus Lindroos, Director of the Unit for Humanitarian Assistance and Policy, Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

People fleeing ethnic violence in Ethiopia in 2018 were provided clean drinking water, toilets and tents with EU assistance. Photo: Anouk Delafortrie/EU

One of the topics will be the coordination and follow-up of the support for development cooperation, humanitarian aid and peace. The term used in this context is ‘humanitarian-development nexus’.

“The key issue is how the EU could better support development and consolidate peace so that there would be no need for humanitarian aid in the first place and assistance would not be needed in the longer term,” explains Claus Lindroos, who chairs the Humanitarian Aid Working Party.

Another theme will be the importance of water for peace. As a result of climate change, conflicts are increasingly linked to the management of water resources. Finland, who has a great deal of expertise in water issues, has much to offer in this field.

In geographic terms, the meeting will focus on the situation in the Horn of Africa.

Greater insight and open discussions

Contrary to formal working group meetings, participants of an informal meeting are not bound by Member States’ official positions. As the purpose of the meeting is not to produce binding decisions, there will be time to conduct frank and open discussions on a wide range of issues, focussing on selected themes.

Another benefit is that participants will have a chance to get to know each other, whereas the tight agendas of formal meetings tend to leave very little time for discussion and interaction. Knowing the participants also makes the work of the chair easier.

The two working parties will also have separate activities. CODEV will visit the UN Technology Innovation Lab (UNTIL Finland) in Espoo.

COHAFA, in turn, will meet to discuss the definition of a crisis, because it is key to the planning and funding of humanitarian assistance. During this exercise, the participants will be asked to solve issues related to the funding of relief for a fictitious crisis.

The objectives of the Finnish Presidency

The task of each six-month presidency is to work efficiently and effectively to prepare the ground for good decisions in the Council of the European Union. What are the issues the Finnish Presidency intends to raise with regard to EU development cooperation and humanitarian aid?

The EU granted humanitarian aid to flood-affected areas in Kenya in spring 2018. With the help of the EU, the Kenyan Red Cross and Action Against Hunger organised shelters, water and health care in the region. Photo: Anouk Delafortrie/EU

For development cooperation, we have four main objectives: combating climate change; promoting equality and sexual and reproductive health; a more equal partnership with Africa; high-quality teaching, education and training, where Finland has a lot to offer.

Our objectives for humanitarian aid are: to support and promote humanitarian law; to finance humanitarian aid whenever the need for assistance grows; to take account of vulnerable groups, such as disabled people and women, in crisis situations; address and prepare for extreme weather phenomena brought about by climate change.

In the preparations for the forthcoming EU budget period and the related external relations funding, Finland has an opportunity to exert influence. It can also play an active role in the negotiations for a framework agreement with African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) on issues such as future EU-ACP trade relations.

“Launching the implementation of the five-year Strategic Agenda, adopted last June, also presents a major opportunity for Finland to influence future EU action,” notes Director Ahlfors.

 

Hanna Päivärinta

The author works as Communications Officer at the Department for Communications of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

 

Working groups prepare the work of the Council of the EU

The working groups and committees assisting the work of the Council of the EU currently number over 150. During its presidency, Finland will chair nearly all Council and working group meetings. The only exception is the EU’s external relations, for it is the responsibility of the EU High Representative, assisted by the European External Action Service (EEAS).

Although the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is also in charge of development cooperation, the chairmanship of the working groups is held by the rotating presidency. Some 30 Council working groups are now chaired by Finnish Foreign Ministry staff.

The two working parties, CODEV and COHAFA, meet regularly in Brussels. The Working Party on Development Cooperation meets once or twice a week. The Working Group on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid meets approximately once a month. Their meetings are attended by officials either working in the Foreign Ministry or in the permanent representation of Finland to the EU in Brussels.