International cooperation: why is it valuable?

Date 05.07.2018

The other is not an enemy to be rubbed out, but someone to collaborate with, not because we are good, but because it’s better for us.

This is the fact that we experienced recently in Brussels at the European Development Days (EDD), the most important forum of the sector organized by the EU and open to heads of state, queens, senior officials, NGOs operators and think tanks who, being daily confronted with the ambition of the Agenda 2030, are now fully aware that alone one can’t get anywhere.

Defeating hunger, defending the environment, assuring quality education and decent work for everyone: the magnitude of these goals is such as to require overcoming mutual objections and joining resources. The strength of this agenda lies not only in its integral approach but in a discontinuity that deserves to be underlined: it has disrupted the way we look at inequalities and development. There is no longer a poor South against a rich North, poor people are everywhere and move in unprecedented ways, a famine in South Sudan or an economic crisis in a very distant country set in motion processes that in a short time have an impact on our Western lives. By now we have become aware of it and after all it is never too late.

However, although necessary, the global agenda is not sufficient. If it does not get to consider up to the last person left behind or work until the last mile, all its architecture collapses and we too. This could also be perceived in Brussels, where "the last mile" was presented at the forum in flesh and blood. Teddy and Sharon, from a slum in Kampala, respectively 44 and 20 years, have been invited at the EDD: their lives changed - they told - when, suffering from AIDS, beaten by their husbands, escaped from war, they met those who assured them food, shelter, care and education. But first of all those who looked at them not as a social cost, but as peers thanks to a multi-sectoral program supported by AVSI, Meeting Point International (local NGO) and by different donors including the Italian cooperation. The certainty of their dignity allowed them not to solve all their problems, but to consider them as manageable. Teddy and Sharon document the idea of development aid as a partnership: "We are not interested in just getting money - they explained to the highest officials of the European commission - but in plans where we can be the actors. These may help us to generate opportunities for other women and vulnerable people like us".

This is the help that works, provides measurable results and on which it is worth to continue investing. Our country, which has undertaken a process of progressive increase in the resources allocated for international cooperation (not to be confused with the funds for refugees, which remain a separate item) cannot stop just now, especially knowing that Teddy and Sharon added something very important: they want to live in Kampala, they do not intend to cross the Mediterranean and move here, because they have more than one chance there. Sharon is preparing to start a business and has all the numbers to do it. Her startup is going to create job opportunities for girls and boys like her, foster the economic stability of her country, and open up new markets. Development aid is not a zero-sum game and Italy has a leading role in this. Why should we abdicate?