The European Union is launching the “European Year for Development 2015″. The first details were disclosed during a public event held in Brussels on Tuesday (9 November).
The European Year for Development 2015 is the first year designated with such a global theme, since European years have been designated thematically since 1983.
The initiative originated in Latvia. The European Year for Development 2015 will take place in Riga on 8 January, as part of the events marking the beginning of the first Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
The second half of the European Year for Development will be during the Luxembourg presidency.
Seamus Jefferson, Director of CONCORD Europe, the European NGO Confederation for Relief and Development who was instrumental for the launch of the “European Year for Development 2015”, called the coming year “seminal” in terms of expected events and decisions. He mentioned the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December, as well as the expected decisions concerning the post-2015 development agenda.
But 2015 is also the year of expiry of the Millennium Development Goals, with many European Union states falling off track on anti-poverty aid targets.
Commission representatives, communication experts, as well as figures from the NGO and business sector all agreed that the European Year for Development 2015 should provide an opportunity to reach out to a wider public regarding the importance of the development agenda. Possible new alliances are being sought with youth and women’s organisations, local authorities, and unions.
A study made by Weber-Shandwick highlighted the fact that a new “swing” audience could be reached, especially if messages are better thought. As an example, Julian Lambertin, head of Strategy, said that “self-reliance” or “empowering women” worked better than goals such as “ending poverty”, which act like trigger for sceptics.
Commission experts also said that people aged 15-24 were showing the highest degree of openness to international development, and that they were among the “swingers” the 2015 campaign was trying to reach.
It was also highlighted that the campaign was aiming to reach audiences in new member states, mostly Central European European countries that haven’t been very involved in development activities up to now. Key broadsheets and broadcasters in all member countries are expected to participate to the campaign.
The various events during the European Year of Development will focus on 12 themes. The month of January will be dedicated to the theme “Europe in the world”, February will focus on “Education”, March on “Women and Girls”, April on “Health”, May on “Peace and Security”, June of “Sustainable green growth, decent jobs and businesses”, July on “Children and youth”, August on “Humanitarian aid”, September on “Demography and migration”, October on “Food security”, November on “Sustainable development and climate action” and December on “Human rights and governance”.
Among the major events of the European Year of Development are a Belgian opening event with Bozar and Africalia to be held on 17 January, a gender event in Latvia on 2 March, the European Development Days on 2-3 June, as well as a closing event by the Luxembourg presidency on 8 December.
In addition, the Committee of the Regions highlighted another major event, called “Assises of Decentralised Cooperation”, to be held on 1-2 June in Brussels, with 800 to 1000 participants, many of whom would come from developing countries.
Maarten Roest, communication coordinator in Brussels of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), announced that his organisation would organise together with the Italian government a concert “with a very promising list of stars”.
This year (2014), which will see the election of a new European Parliament and the inauguration of a new European Commission, has not been assigned a specific theme. Instead, various projects linked with the 2013 European Year of Citizens will continue into 2014.
However, since 1983 every year has been assigned a particular topic, with the aim of to raise awareness and change attitudes of the Europeans with regard to certain issues. The thematic year is proposed by the Commission and adopted by the European Parliament and EU member governments. [See the list of European years here]
The European Year of Development 2015 is expected to be a key opportunity to raise awareness of development across Europe, and to show European taxpayers know that every euro spent on development benefits both people living in some of the world's poorest countries, and EU citizens themselves.