The importance of International Development in EU Policy:
Q&A with Maurice Ponga, MEP
Following recent recognition at Parliament Magazine’s annual MEP Awards, Maurice Ponga, Member of the European Parliament (MEP, EPP) for New Caledonia and winner of the 2019 MEP Award for Development, shares his perspectives on the importance of international development for the European Union, and highlights positive progress being made.
When did you first develop a passion for international development policy?
Hailing from New Caledonia, my political career began in a number of local governmental roles before being elected to the European Parliament. During this time, I had the opportunity to travel to several small developing countries in the Pacific, near New Caledonia. These visits first established my interest in development policy. Since then, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to several African countries and see the contribution of the European Union’s international development efforts to communities across the continent.
Why is international development so important to the European Union?
The European Union is the largest donor of funds at an international level for development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Its leadership is indisputable and supporting Africa and our neighboring countries is part of our European "DNA." I am certain development cooperation is an important topic for people living across Europe and that sharing and mutual support are values that bring us together at a European level.
What are the key initiatives you are most proud of?
I am pleased to have contributed to informing the debate about the future relations between the European Union and the ACP Group (African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States) after 2020, and also for having worked on the Ebola crisis and the EU/Africa strategy, for which I was rapporteur. One thing I am also proud of is the new Overseas Association Decision setting the legal framework between the European Union and OCTs (Overseas Countries and Territories), including New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna in the Pacific.
How much progress have you seen over ten years since you joined European Parliament?
I hope I have been successful in increasing awareness of the sustainable development issues and priorities for small island developing countries. With the migration crisis that hit Europe four years ago, Africa has also become an increased priority for Europeans. The need to help people who are suffering, so they improve their situation in their country is now, in my opinion, a priority shared by all.
Are you pleased with the response to the European Investment Plan and the European Fund for Sustainable Development?
The European Investment Plan (EIP) and the EFSD (European Fund for Sustainable Development) are initiatives that support our priority to help face the root causes of migration, including poverty and insecurity. These excellent initiatives complement the EU's traditional development assistance work. The private sector has a role to play and must be supported in eradicating poverty. The EIP and the EFSD are tools for helping to mobilize and build association and partnership with the private sector.
Where must our development priorities lie moving forward? What hurdles must still be overcome?
As mentioned above, it is important to involve everyone – private sector, public sector, civil society – in eradicating poverty in the world and achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015. We must have a comprehensive and inclusive approach. This is how we will eradicate poverty.
What role do you think public-private partnerships can play in making effective progress?
Private-public partnerships offer opportunities to involve the private sector to complement the public sector. The need to eradicate poverty in the world is enormous. We must therefore value and use all tools, including public-private-partnerships, to achieve this. The private sector has a role to play.
* Original responses translated from French to English for Coca-Cola EU Dialogue