EU calls for action on migrant boat deaths
Andris Piebalgs, the European Union’s development commissioner, says the two recent fatal boat sinkings highlight the need to deal with fragile countries
The fatal sinking of an overcrowded boat packed with migrants en route to the Italian island of Lampedusa the second in 10 days has renewed debates in Europe about the threat of human trafficking.
At least 27 people died in the Mediterranean on Friday when their boat capsized. More than 300 died on 2 October in a similar incident. Preventing these tragedies in the future means targeting the root causes of the migrants desperate flight, according to the European Unions development commissioner, Andris Piebalgs.
It is definitely poverty and desperation. That means we have to concentrate on fragile states and the countries where the people are coming from. There are a lot of countries in Africa where people are not coming from. You dont find Ghanaians crossing the Sahel to go to Europe because they see a chance in their countries.
The nationalities of the most recent victims are yet to be ascertained, but many of the previous weeks sinking were from Somalia and Eritrea, two quintessentially fragile states. These nations exhibit some of the highest levels of poverty worldwide, but some, like Somalia or the Democratic Republic of Congo, have remained trapped in developmental stasis. Others, such as the Central African Republic, are sliding backwards as governance failings manifest in civil unrest and conflict.
Post-conflict countries remain a central focus of the European Commissions development assistance, with Somalia which is gradually emerging from decades of failure with a weak but internationally credible government high on its agenda.
Mali, whose government collapsed in 2012 after an insurgency in the north of the country, and was temporarily and tentatively stabilized by international military intervention in 2013, is also a priority. Piebalgs said the Sahel was perhaps, from a development point of view, one of the most challenging regions in the world.
However, he challenged the definitions of fragility currently used. Mali, with continuing conflict, could be defined as fragile. Neighbouring Niger, certainly, was in transition, but Burkina Faso was not, he said, even if a lot of elements [of the state] are not there.
I would say countries are fragile if they are coming from conflict or have security issues. Thats where you really have challenges, because... you really cant establish state functions. The terminology could be important as the development community gears up to codify its priorities after the Millennium Development Goals expire in 2015.
Some groups are pushing for fragility to be included in whatever framework replaces the MDGs, but Piebalgs said creating goals and funding structures around measures of fragility could create perverse incentives to remain technically fragile.
I know there are different country groupings, but for me, post-2015, all countries should guarantee for their citizens the same rights and opportunities. That means there is no different framework between fragile, non-fragile. You try to achieve the same.
Fragility means we have to have much more courageous forms of support, like state-building contracts.