AidEx, the second-biggest event in the development calendar in Brussels, opens today (16 November), for 48 hours, in which the international aid community, NGOs, professionals come together to share experiences and expertise.
The event – now in its sixth year – comes at a crucial time in EU development policy, as the world’s largest collective donor of aid is at something of a crossroads.
Later this month the Commission will publish a proposed new European Consensus on Development, setting out the future of development policy between the EU and the 28-member states.
Meanwhile, in September the EU adopted the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, which tackle everything from climate change to gender discrimination and poverty eradication, with Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans leading EU implementation.
Simultaneously, the EU’s existing partnership with African, Caribbean and Pacific states, the so-called Cotonou Agreement of 2000, expires in 2020, with much work – and dispute – going on in the background on a successor deal.
Meanwhile, a majority of member states still fail to meet the 0.7% of GDP target on aid spending, whilst others are diverting supposedly ‘overseas’ aid to spend on housing and processing refugees and migrants at home.
Finally, the EU’s fledgling Emergency Trust Fund for Africa – aimed at mitigating the root causes of so-called “irregular migration” by boosting job opportunities and infrastructure in African states – has run into its own problems, as recipient countries such as Ethiopia have seen violent crackdowns on public disorder.
The AidEx event – in Brussels Expo centre – also brings in the private sector, as alongside lectures and seminars it functions as something of a trade fair for aid supplies and technology.
This year’s “theme” of AidEx is ‘localisation’. The keynote opening speech is from Jemilah Mahmood, under secretary general for partnerships at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
With the situation in Syria never far from the headlines, there are discussions on the conflict there, as well as awards for ‘Humanitarian Hero of the Year’ and a prize for Development Journalism.
With thousands of visitors expected over the two days (AidEx runs 16-17 November) at Hall 11 of the Brussels Expo, the event is second only in size to the Development Days, organised each June by the European Commission, and this year attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.