UN General Assembly: Paul Magnette holds bilateral meetings
Today, Minister for Development Cooperation Paul Magnette held various bilateral meetings on the fringe of the UN General Assembly. He met, among others, Mozambique’s Minister for Development about the new Joint Committee, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about issues including the situation in Syria and the Sahel, and with the UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet.
The Belgian Minister for Development met Mozambique’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, Oldemiro Marques Baloi. The Mozambique Joint Committee concludes at the end of 2012. Belgium primarily supports projects there in the health and agricultural sectors and renewable energy. The current indicative cooperation programme amounts to EUR 48 million for the past 4 years and should come to EUR 65 million for the following 5 years. Paul Magnette wants to make the same sectors a priority during the next cooperation programme, albeit with a few new emphases. Minister Magnette: “In addition to the critical importance of energy for everyone, economic development via renewable energy must also be supported.”
International Committee of the Red Cross
The Belgian Minister for Development had a long meeting with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mr Peter Maurer. The cooperation between Belgium and the ICRC is constructive and open. Paul Magnette confirmed that the ICRC can continue to count on specific active support from Belgium.
With regard to the situation in Syria, both men were in agreement that it is absolutely necessary to clearly separate the political aspect from the humanitarian. Humanitarian aid cannot become instrumentalised in order to solve conflicts. The maximum amount of pressure must therefore be exerted on the parties involved in the conflict so that the ICRC can continue its field work and the vicious circle can be broken.
With regard to the situation in the Sahel, which is experiencing the worst crisis ever, Minister Magnette informed his interlocutor that he intends to work out an ad hoc financial framework that must make it possible to meet the needs of the region even more quickly.
Paul Maurer thanked Belgium for the efforts made regarding the humanitarian aid it has offered in both regions. (Indeed, Belgium recently released additional envelopes worth EUR 2,000,000 in humanitarian aid for Syria and EUR 2,000,000 for emergency aid in the Sahel).
Finally, Minister Magnette also had a meeting with the UN Women Executive Director, Michelle Bachelet. UN Women merges four preceding UN gender agencies (OSAGI, DAW, UNIFEM and INSTRAW). It has five objectives: the elimination of discrimination against women, the empowerment of women, equality between women and men, the involvement of women in peace and security processes and gender mainstreaming within the UN system. Belgium will become a member of the Executive Council in January of next year. The meeting also provided the opportunity to exchange ideas on this issue. Paul Magnette: “Gender is and remains a priority and cross-cutting theme in the new legislation on Belgian International Cooperation. It is deplorable that women’s rights are under threat, particularly during conflicts. For this reason, a substantial increase in the voluntary contribution to UN Women has been proposed to the government.