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Foreword by the minister

Dear friends of Luxembourg Cooperation,

Although after 2020 we had all hoped that things would be different, there is no escaping the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to impact our lives in 2021. The health crisis has significantly reversed progress on poverty, access to education and the food and security crisis. These consequences have had the greatest impact on populations in the “least developed” countries. It has therefore been particularly important in our work to ensure that the quality of our support to our partners does not diminish, but is instead constantly adjusted and improved. Our goal was and remains the same: to leave no one behind!

In order to be effective and have a real impact, we must have adequate resources, in terms of human resources, expertise and budgets. With regard to financial resources, we saw a positive development in 2021. Following an unavoidable reduction of about EUR 43 million in the financial envelope for official development assistance due to the decline in gross national income in 2020, the amount of financial resources we were able to dedicate to official development assistance increased once more in 2021. In total, a record net amount of EUR 456 million was spent on Luxembourg Development Cooperation’s activities.

This has enabled us, for example, to strengthen our support in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and increase our contribution to the COVAX market commitment financing instrument from EUR 2 million to EUR 4 million. This instrument is enabling 92 low- and middle-income economies to be supplied with donor-funded doses of vaccine. Luxembourg has also committed to donating more than 600 000 doses of vaccines through the COVAX mechanism. Together with the Ministry of Health, Luxembourg Development Cooperation has also been active bilaterally and has donated 56 000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Cabo Verde, as well as providing ventilators to Tunisia and vaccine refrigerators to Burkina Faso.

However, in addition to COVID-19, other worrying developments took place, or even worsened, in 2021. We must acknowledge that in many countries the overall situation and poverty rates are not improving, but in fact quite the reverse. This is true in many countries in the Sahel, where the critical security situation, the impact of climate change, permanent political instability, the continued absence of a state presence in rural areas and demographic pressure are mutually interdependent factors that are having a major impact on people’s living conditions.

In these uncertain times, it is reassuring that we can count on our reliable partners in this region. During a working visit in November, we were able to reaffirm our good relations with Senegal during a partnership committee meeting. This allowed us to take stock of the achievements of Luxembourg’s support, which focuses on the health sector as well as on vocational training and labour market integration for young people. Niger is another long-standing partner of Luxembourg Development Cooperation in the Sahel region, with development cooperation relations dating back more than 30 years. The 4th Indicative Cooperation Programme (ICP) was signed in 2021. With an indicative financial envelope of EUR 144.5 million, this is our largest ICP so far, enabling us to lay the groundwork for continued collaboration during the 2022-2026 period. Given the situation in the Sahel, it will be important to broaden and diversify our bilateral cooperation base by exploring potential partnerships with developing countries in other regions.

Beyond conflict situations, our interventions and the issues linked to them are increasingly impacted by the climate crisis. Climate change poses a real threat to all aspects of our society, and scientists are unanimous in stating that it will continue to worsen in the future if we do not act. We therefore have a clear responsibility in this connection and must rethink our strategic policies and actions so that we can better target those who are in greatest need. Our geographic and thematic priorities remain relevant, but the goal is to achieve even more sustainable, resilient and inclusive development.

With this in mind, in 2021 we developed a new Environment and Climate Change strategy. This aims to place all development cooperation activities within a sustainable, renewable and resilient development dynamic by 2030. This paradigm shift toward a more sustainable approach is a lengthy but urgent process, and we are firmly committed to moving forward on this path.

In line with Luxembourg’s feminist foreign policy, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls are other priority themes at the heart of our development cooperation challenges. In general, but particularly in the difficult context of the pandemic, girls and women continue to be particularly vulnerable to political, social, economic or climate change exclusion. It is therefore especially important to defend and protect their rights in a sustainable way. We thus developed a new Gender Strategy in 2021 that underlines the importance and urgency of acting in this context. This will enable us to define the long-term orientations, priorities and guidelines for the gender dimension and to promote its inclusion across the board in all Luxembourg Development Cooperation’s activities.

In terms of our humanitarian action, 2021 was a year of many crises, with humanitarian interventions becoming increasingly necessary in many parts of the world. The war in the Tigray region, the situation in Yemen and in Syria and the regional refugee crisis in the Middle East are just a few examples. In view of the many ongoing challenges, I have increased the humanitarian aid budget for 2022 so that our emergency aid can be even more effective and substantial. In addition, we have just developed a new humanitarian strategy, in which we pay particular attention to the promotion of technological and logistical innovation, digital transformation with Luxembourg’s know-how, and international humanitarian law.

As part of our development cooperation policy, we also attach particular importance to the system of multilateralism by earmarking about 30% of the official development assistance budget each year to supporting programmes and projects run by multilateral organisations. In this connection, in 2021 we have been able to renew our ties with our long-term partners, notably through the signing of new partnership agreements with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF.

In terms of the future of our development cooperation work, innovation, research and modernisation will play a key role in ensuring that our impact is as strong as possible. While continuing our traditional cooperation in the area of basic social services such as health, education and access to water, especially in the least developed countries, we will place greater emphasis on innovative financial mechanisms and new technologies. In these areas, Luxembourg can make an important contribution. Thus, we can build on a dynamic and innovative local ecosystem in the information and communication technology sector. Thanks to its expertise in this vast micro-system, Luxembourg plays a leading role in the field of inclusive finance, which contributes to the promotion of more responsible development cooperation through innovative and inclusive financial instruments.

In many ways, we must admit that 2021 was not an easy year, but fortunately we did not have to overcome its many challenges alone. Thanks to our stable partnerships across Europe and internationally, and the commitment of all the actors involved in development cooperation, we have been able to make the best of things and to ensure that the living conditions of many people have improved. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have contributed to our achievements. That includes the many NGOs, whose work is essential in reaching local communities and populations and strengthening civil society in the field, all the volunteers and professionals on the ground in humanitarian crises and in partner countries, people carrying out our activities from the Luxembourg headquarters, our private sector partners and all those who, in one way or another, support our work – without your courage and dedication, we could not have managed 2021 so effectively! I count on you and your commitment so that we may continue to act together for a better future for all. Thank you.