There is no longer a distinction between us and them

Date 24.01.2018

In the Mediterranean, between Africa and Europe: this is the area where the latest situations regarding Italian and international development cooperation are assessed. A paradigm shift that will be debated at the First Italian National Cooperation Conference held by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation on 24th and 25th January in Rome. But what new things are happening? Very briefly, this: there is no longer a distinction, with which we had become comfortable, between us here in developed countries, and people in developing countries. The 2030 Agenda, divided into 17 global sustainable development goals, documents it well: every "goal" (from quality education for all to the protection of the environment, from the fight against hunger and poverty to the promotion of energy efficiency) inseparable from the other, contributes to defining a work plan that involves everyone, everywhere. Those who think it only involves others are deceiving themselves.

The event will present the results of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, of NGOs together with the private sector, the diasporas, the universities. But to live up to its ambition, the conference must have the courage to renounce technical language and try to make everyone understand the importance that cooperation can have for our country: a push to move as a "system", to act as a leading player in international relations, to develop the experiences of civil society that understand that there are no more developing countries, just potential partners.

The thinking is completely the opposite. Every type of colonialism, even those cloaked in philanthropy, is obliterated by the need for a collaboration of equals between European and African countries. But the theme of partnership, clamored for at the last Europe-Africa summit in Abidjan, must be examined with nothing left out. In other words, concrete actions and long-term strategies, in line with the new context in which we act, must be brought into focus. The national conference will also ask a fundamental question: how should development cooperation evolve to meet today's challenges, especially the more complex challenge of sustainability?

From our experience of over 45 years of daily work with the so-called "beneficiaries" of the projects, this is our answer: cooperation is required to understand what it means to always place the person at the center of the work and to actually do it.

It is interesting to note that many areas of the business world also underline that the person must be at the center: CEOs of multinational corporations and marketing experts say the same thing. Some more forward-looking companies translate this awareness into generous corporate welfare. But beyond the attempt to monetize it, putting the person at the center remains the cornerstone of cooperation because it supports every project that works towards the 2030 Agenda goals, right to the last detail - from conception to implementation and evaluation. Without this precedent, the global goals are picked apart as games of do-gooder rhetoric. We think of the future of cooperation action like this: to work for a world in which every person, thanks to the awareness of their value and dignity, plays a true central role in their development and their community. Whenever and wherever, even in situations of crisis and emergency.