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Foreword by the Minister for Development Cooperation

Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach
Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach
Photo: Scanpix

2012 was an eventful year for Danish development cooperation. With four significant initiatives in the field of development in 2012, the Government has created a strong foundation for an effective international engagement that will strike a responsive chord throughout the world: a successful EU Presidency, an increase in the budget for development assistance (1), a new, modern act on international development cooperation and an ambitious strategy for Danish development cooperation, “The Right to a Better Life”. Both the strategy and the new Act were unanimously passed in Folketinget (Danish Parliament), and this means that we have rebuilt consensus regarding Denmark’s participation in development cooperation. This is crucial in ensuring that we can combat poverty and promote human rights over the long, tough haul. That is something I am extremely happy and proud of.

Overall, we are talking about the most comprehensive and proactive change in Danish development policy in decades. Our efforts have now been adjusted to meet the global challenges and the demands for an open, transparent and proactive administration of development cooperation that will ensure that we provide sustainable results and maintain popular support, both here at home and in our partner countries. We put human rights first and ensure increased openness and participation.

Development assistance cannot do it alone. Developing countries in general and fragile states in particular are facing complex challenges. Therefore, Denmark increasingly thinks of development in the context of security, the environment and climate, migration as well as trade and investment. This approach has not gone unnoticed. In 2012, the American think tank “Center for Global Development” ranked Denmark first in a report of rich countries’ total engagement for the benefit of developing countries.

There was also progress on the international scene in 2012. The process of formulating the goals replacing the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) was initiated. And at the same time, the UN’s 2015 report from 2012 documented that there were signs that progress was being made. Fewer people are living in extreme poverty, more children are attending school, and maternal mortality is decreasing (2). At the same time, a large number of developing countries in Africa presented high growth rates. This creates new opportunities and reasons for optimism. But there are still major challenges. Inequality is growing in Africa, and globally more than 1.4 billion people are still living in extreme poverty (3).

In November 2012 Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary and I visited Mozambique in order to, among other things, direct focus on women’s rights and gender equality. During this visit we met Victoria, who already has four children and does not want more children. At a local clinic she was waiting to get a sterilisation injection. Victoria and more and more women in Mozambique are demanding the right to control their own bodies. When women like Victoria can decide for themselves whether they want to be pregnant, the number of children will fall significantly and in general, it will provide women a better chance to shape and influence their own lives. Denmark is also working with this issue at the international level. Thus, a key objective for Denmark is to ensure that sexual and reproductive health and rights become focus areas in the goals that are to replace the UN’s MDGs.

Even though progress is made within women’s rights, we must acknowledge the fact that in many places both the will and the means are lacking to promote sexual and reproductive health and rights. Therefore, in Danish development cooperation we have a strong focus on women’s rights and opportunities. It is not just a question of gender equality and human rights but also of creating strong societies, growth and prosperity. When the women in a country have the right to own land, buy seeds and take out loans from the bank, then the production of food increases. This contributes to fighting hunger and to creating growth and jobs. In Uganda, the Danish engagement has, for example, contributed to 60,000 women having an increased income through agricultural production. This has, moreover, proven to reduce domestic violence and it has strengthened the economic and legal rights of women.

Thus, sexual and reproductive health and rights is the theme of the annual report for 2012.

Enjoy the report!

Minister for Development Cooperation Christian Friis Bach

 

1 Clarification provided 3 July 2013
2 “The Millennium Development Goals Report”: www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/MDG%20Report%202012.pdf#page=7
3 African Development Bank, Briefing Note 5: INCOME INEQUALITY IN AFRICA (2012) and “The Millennium Development Goals Report” (2012)