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Foreword by the Minister for development cooperation and humanitarian affairs

Dear readers,
Dear friends of Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation,

It is difficult to comprehend how much the world has changed since I took over at the head of the Department for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs in February 2020. The COVID-19 crisis is having an impact on everything we do and on the way we live and act. There are still many unknowns about the exact nature of the virus, the scale of its direct impact on health and on the socio-economic consequences for populations across the world, particularly the most disadvantaged. Two certainties, however, remain: our development cooperation and humanitarian activities are more important and more urgently required than ever, and only collective action, based on international solidarity, will enable us to effectively respond to this global pandemic. Luxembourg has taken the steps required to work towards that objective.

In 2019, the new government confirmed the existing main principles of Luxembourg’s policy for development cooperation and humanitarian affairs. Even in this time of crisis they remain valid. Our commitment is based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and continues to focus on basic social services, socio-economic inclusion of women and young people, sustainable growth and inclusive governance. In a difficult international context featuring growing instability and insecurity in many of our partner countries, Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation has been able to maintain its sustained action and its concrete impact in the field, by relying on innovative solutions and multi-actor partnerships, including, in particular, the private sector and civil society.

While we have maintained our overall objectives, a modernisation of our activities was launched last year and I would like to take the opportunity here to thank my predecessor, Paulette Lenert, whose one-year term of office at the Directorate for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Affairs has left its mark. Thus, Luxembourg was able to join the ‘Digital4Development Hub’, a European initiative with the aim of promoting a consistent European approach to other countries in the area of digital cooperation. The expertise of Luxembourg operators in digital innovation, particularly in the area of research and the private sector, will be able to contribute to the development of innovative digital solutions, especially in Africa.

With the same mindset, there has been a move to review the traditional development cooperation relations with the priority partner countries, shifting to a country approach that is more coherent and which takes into account the actions by other bodies such as the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Sustainable Development and the Ministry of Finance. Thus, this year I have been able to sign the first ‘Development-Climate-Energy’ Programme with Cabo Verde.

Gender inclusiveness and an increased focus on women have also been guiding principles in the actions supported in 2019. This has been seen from Bangladesh, where the role of women in their communities is being strengthened, to Niger, where school attendance of girls is being promoted, to Burkina Faso, where access of women to microcredit is being guaranteed, enabling them to have stalls at local markets. Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation has also been the first donor to announce a significant contribution to the Panzi hospital project in the Democratic Republic of Congo promoted by Dr Mukwege, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The hospital aims to develop a holistic approach to looking after rape survivors and victims of war crimes.

Many of these actions have been carried out in collaboration with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and I would like to emphasise their importance as part of Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation, where they have often initiated action. In 2019 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Cercle de Coopération, the 50th anniversary of the ASTM and the 25th anniversary of ADA, to mention just a few notable dates. An impressive 26 framework agreements and 74 projects were co-financed last year, and various field visits highlighted the crucial role of NGOs, particularly in regions weakened by conflicts. It was also possible to strengthen the responsibility taken and the duty of diligence of NGOs towards their partners and beneficiaries through, firstly, the eligibility of the costs of preventive activities relating to security, and, secondly, the joint production with the Cercle de Coopération of development NGOs of a charter to combat harassment, exploitation and sexual abuse.

As you read through this report, you will see that our development cooperation is retaining its focus on Africa, and in particular the Sahel. Luxembourg has become a major player there and is taking on the role of European lead partner in many partner countries in the sectors of vocational training (Senegal, Mali and, soon, in Burkina Faso once again) and water and sanitation (Niger). African Microfinance Week, which in October brought together more than 800 participants in Ouagadougou, was another resounding success in our development cooperation in a region that faces many challenges. Evolving within the difficult context of the triple nexus between development, humanitarian aid and peace, we also place a special emphasis on respect of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Luxembourg remains extremely committed in the field of humanitarian affairs, which faces many challenges. A self-evaluation and an update to our humanitarian aid strategy were commenced in 2019 and we have joined the HQAI (Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative). We have also supported the production and publication of the Guidelines on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.

At the operational level, our programme has received European Civil Protection Pool certification. This pool has been created to strengthen European cooperation in the area of civil protection and to facilitate a faster, more coordinated and more effective response by Europe in the event of natural or man-made disasters. In 2019, our module was triggered by the Emergency Response Coordination Centre (ERCC) and deployed to support the humanitarian response to the hurricanes in Mozambique and the Bahamas.

It is not possible for me to list, in this introduction, all the progress that was made last year in numerous fields, but I would like to stress that the speed and scope of the measures taken to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals remain inadequate in global terms. The start of 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 crisis, as well as the start of the decade of action to achieve the SDGs by 2030. Bold efforts will be needed globally, locally and individually in order to attain these goals and put an end to poverty, preserve our planet and build a peaceful world.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the co-workers at Luxembourg’s Development Cooperation, as well as all the volunteers and professionals at the NGOs, who do remarkable work. Together, we will find sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, gender equality and climate change.