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The European Development Days: a mix of optimism and criticism

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By Desiree Ketabchi This year the European Development Days are being hosted in Brussels on 6th and 7th December. The event – a series of conferences and discussions about development - has a particular meaning this year, 2010 being the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion and the world facing a big economic crisis.

fayyad.JPGThe money allocated to development and humanitarian aid is never enough, and the western countries are always accused of not wanting to help their poorer neighbours. What dimension does this criticism take during the biggest world economic crisis of the last decades? According to Yves Leterme, the Belgian Prime Minister, the European Union and its Member States will continue engaging themselves to fight against poverty and to support the development of the poorest countries in the world.

The aim of this event is to gather experts, professionals, heads of states and politicians from all over the world to build consensus and to discuss about the future of development. Despite the criticism concerning the big costs of such events – 2 millions euro in this case - putting these issues in the spotlight is never useless.

Health, Gender Equality, Human Rights, Natural Resources, there is much to discuss about... Let’s face the truth: the media do not talk much about Development. Media and Development will be the topic of one of the panels of the second day of the European Development Days. As Gérard Latortue, former Prime Minister of Haiti, pointed out during a discussion on Democracy and Human Rights, the attention the media give to a country really makes the difference. He underlined the fact that when a democracy violation is followed by a strong reaction by the International Community, the whole world reacts. He took the example of Ivory Coast, currently facing a deep political crisis that could lead to a civil war, and reminded the audience that even the African Union was obliged, thanks to the strong reaction by the International Community, to recognise that the country is facing a real problem.

hr_and_democracy.JPG Criticism is present in the halls of the Square Centre, where the event is taking place, but also optimism. Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister of Palestine, thanked and acknowledged the importance of the ongoing and significant European Union support to the Palestine people.

Also some of the participants showed their optimism. An amazed Asian professional was asking himself why there were so many young people attending this event, as, he said, that would never happen in his country. This large participation is due to the accessibility of the event, free and open to the public, and probably also to the fact that young Europeans are interested in the topic.

The biggest optimists are probably the political figures that spoke during the opening ceremony. What Yves Leterme said during the opening ceremony describes well what this optimism is about: « I hope that you will go home with the conviction that you are not alone in this combat ». Let's see what Jacques Chirac, former President of France, will say during the closing ceremony taking place tonight at 5 pm.