Ending extreme poverty: A majority in the EP is a majority in Europe

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Karen Ercoli

Karen Ercoli

A combination of persistence and an affinity with development issues has allowed ONE’s young campaigners to, against all odds, achieve their objective of persuading half the members of the European Parliament to sign a petition to end extreme poverty in the world by 2030, writes Karen Ercoli,

Karen Ercoli is Italian Youth Ambassador for The ONE campaign

Six months ago, 130 ONE Campaign Youth Ambassadors from across Europe were set a pretty substantial task: to convince half of the European Parliament to commit to ending extreme poverty by 2030. In a time of unprecedented political divide across Europe, and heightened skepticism about young people’s engagement in politics, the odds were stacked against us.

The first day of the campaign, European Parliament President Martin Schulz signed the ONE Campaign’s ONEVote 2014 pledge, and this week, Elmar Brok became 376th MEP to sign. This majority and political breadth across the European Parliament represents a new hope for partnership on global issues, and fundamentally highlights the strength and passion of young people who want to see a change in the world around them. For many of our young campaigners, Europe has not only become the platform for political engagement, but a clear avenue for making incredible progress on urgent issues worldwide. Getting half of the European Parliament to sign shows they’re right. Now it’s up to the MEPs to deliver.

Typically, this level of political engagement is often thought to be outside the interest of young people across Europe. Scratch below the surface and this could not be further from the truth – in fact it is often the very urgent and pressing issues which the global community faces, which galvanize young people to take action.

The ONE Vote 2014 campaign offers a clear example, among many, of how  young people who are socially engaged and passionate are not only eager to be involved in importance issues, but actively want to influence the decision making process and create a more level playing field. A combination of persistence and an affinity with development issues has allowed ONE’s young campaigners to, against all odds, achieve their objective of persuading half the members of the European Parliament to sign the ONEVote 2014 pledge.  The pledge itself, called on newly elected MEPs to commit to using their influence in Parliament to tackle extreme poverty.

Although Europe, including the 28 member states plus the European Commission, is the biggest aid investor in the world and has already committed to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on development assistance by 2015, in reality the promise has proved to be a challenge. Today, the EU is still €39.1 billion away from hitting that goal.

Nevertheless, this new generation of Europe-focused activism is optimistic. For those of us who have campaigned over the last year, many have seized the chance to communicate with leaders and policy makers, focusing on a renewed political will among European representatives to improve the lives of the world’s poorest.

With 383 MEPs signed up to the pledge, at the time of writing this, this commitment not only highlights a key opportunity for further youth engagement but a better chance to implement more efficient measures in relation to poverty reduction especially across sub-Saharan African countries. With a majority of MEPs publicly committing to ending extreme poverty by 2030, and agreeing to do their part in the next 5 years, we now have now a golden opportunity to hold them to account.

In recent years, the European Parliament has taken great steps to help combat extreme poverty. Earlier this year, members of the European Parliament voted on a law that could reveal who is behind European companies and trusts. Now they must get Member States to agree. This will be hugely important in the fight against phantom firms that are used to rob developing countries of millions.

As well as a clear focus on transparency, the European Commission’s support for its food and nutrition programme, the Food Facility, has helped improve agricultural productivity and food supply in the 49 countries and benefited 59 million lives. This long-lasting support has been consistent with the European Union supporting the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, an international organisation which vaccinates children against preventable diseases, stretching back to 2003.

This support for international development is promising and must be continued if we wish to build real momentum on the Millennium Development Goals, which expire this year, and the new Sustainable Development Goals which will help us to end extreme poverty by 2030.

So, it’s pretty clear what the European Parliament has to do. In line with ONE’s pledge, MEPs should make sure they keep up the great work they’re doing on fighting corruption, prioritise that essential investment which helps to protect lives and help developing economies to thrive, and give millions of people the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. There’s no doubt that the next five years are crucial. With 130 newly engaged Youth Ambassadors watching across Europe, I’m quietly confident that MEPs won’t be able to hide until the job is done.

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