David Miliband, the UK Foreign Secretary between 2007 to 2010, told EurActiv that in his present capacity as President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), he was often told by colleagues that the EU should get its act together and play a bigger role in global affairs.
EurActiv spoke with Miliband yesterday (3 March) at the Ebola: from emergency to recovery conference.
David Miliband, the older brother of Labour leader Ed Miliband, resigned from Parliament in April 2013 to take his post as head of the IRC in New York. The organisation is a global humanitarian and development NGO, founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein. It is currently working in over 40 countries.
“The EU is needed more than ever. Whether you look at Ukraine, or whether you look at Ebola, whether you consider the EU economy, the case for a stronger, effective EU, adding value to the efforts of the member states and the local communities is very strong,” David Miliband said.
He complimented the new Commission led by Jean-Claude Juncker, saying that it had made “a relatively decisive start in its work”, adding that it was “very important” that this work is continued.
“Obviously the problems remain substantial, but sitting in New York, I’m reminded how important it is for the EU to be present and active partner in global efforts whether economic, social or political or security,” David Miliband said.
Asked what the main message he received from his non-EU counterparts, he said,
“Non-EU counterparts want the EU to get its act together and be a good partner. That’s certainly true for the Americans. And I think that’s a good message for Europeans to hear, that Americans conceive the consistency of values across the Atlantic. What they like to see is a practical commitment to put these values into action, and that’s what the EU needs to do.”
Asked how he felt watching the EU from abroad, Miliband stated:
“I feel the work I’m doing now is quite humbling, in the daily struggle to help people survive and rebuild their lives, in the humanitarian sector. And I think I have a perspective on global politics, but it’s a more of a ringside seat than an active participant. So it’s a change of perspective.”
In his speech at the conference, Miliband paid tribute to doctors and nurses, tragically killed in large numbers by Ebola, but also to local staff and local leaders, who “turned the tide of the disease”.
His main argument was that the international community needs to turn upside down responses to epidemics like Ebola. Instead of trying to develop solutions from outside, and then getting communities on board, we need to proceed in reverse order, he argued.
The IRC has worked in Sierra Leone and Liberia for nearly twenty years and has 700 staff, the vast bulk of them local people, on the ground today, working to help both countries eliminate the disease.