Delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, Belize, Turks and Caicos Islands, Bahamas and the Cayman Islands

The Ambassador shares EU perspective during the Government of Mauritius / United Nations Strategic Priorization Retreat for the period 2019-2023

Mauritius , 26/09/2018 - 11:53, UNIQUE ID: 180926_25
Speeches of the Ambassador

The Government of Mauritius and the United Nations have embarked on a process to develop a Strategic Partnership Framework (SPF) for the period 2019-2023. They organised a Strategic Prioritization Retreat from 26 to 28 September 2018 to discuss the UN’s strategic contribution to the country’s vision and national development priorities. The EU Ambassador was invited to make a presentation of the EU perspective.

    Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • I am pleased to be here today and to contribute to the development of the UN Strategic Partnership Framework  for the period 2019 to 2023 by speaking about the European Union’s perspective and plans in Mauritius. 
  • I wish to convey my sincere thanks to the Government of Mauritius and the Office of the United Nation Resident Coordinator for organising this workshop.
  • It provides Mauritius' development partners with the opportunity to promote complementarity of our efforts, with all relevant stakeholders, in supporting Mauritius in its transition towards a high-income status.
  • It is an opportunity for me as the Ambassador of the European Union in Mauritius to talk about our vision of the challenges that Mauritius has to face, and of the EU partnership with Mauritius in several key areas.
  • Let me also add that at a time of unprecedented and pressing global challenges, the United Nations and the European Union continue to engage together, as positive forces for change to promote and renew full commitment to multilateralism and a rules-based global order.
  • The European Union is committed to strengthen and further promote the multilateral system, with a reformed UN at its core. This is a message that has been reiterated by the President of the European Commission and the EU High Representative/Vice-President when they met with the UN Secretary General on Sunday.

THE CHALLENGES :

  • So let us come back to our subject today: what are the challenges that Mauritius is facing – or to be more precise, the way the EU sees them?
  • First, we do recognize that as an Upper-Middle Income Country, Mauritius faces the challenges of getting less attention from development partners than few years ago.
  • Notwithstanding this, the European Union has been, and will remain, a leading donor and key trading partner for Mauritius.
  • We see our collaboration moving from the traditional donor-recipient relationship towards a close partnership based on trust, mutual respect, transparency and mutual accountability.
  • Second, we recognize the variety of development challenges which are still present and that range from inequality, vulnerability, lack of competitiveness and innovation, institutional weaknesses to the negative impact of climate change. 
  • These challenges are particularly important for Mauritius as they relate to efforts to address poverty, ensure social equity and catalyzing development.
  • The Government has a long term Vision 2030 which seeks to inclusively transform the economy towards a high-income status.  This vision has the same timeframe as the Sustainable Development Goals. 
  • We note with satisfaction that Sustainable Development Goals are well mainstreamed in programmes at national level. It shows Government commitment to achieving the SDGs.
  • Before getting into the perspective for support, we need to recognize the fact that there are some constraints and issues that may hamper the implementation of the Vision 2030 and SDG targets if neglected.   
  • First: as a small island, Mauritius is vulnerable to the effects of climate change which impact negatively on agriculture, food security, its economy and livelihoods;
  • Second: in a number of sectors, there is a lack of skilled and specialized technical expertise; skills mismatch; low-youth employment;
  • Third: illicit transactions, such as drug abuse and maritime crime, due to its geographical location;
  • Four: threats of poverty and inequality;
  • Five: gender equality and women empowerment as well as the need to curb gender-based violence and domestic violence.
  • At the same time, there are emerging sectors which can provide a boost in job and wealth creation, what are they and the related challenges?
  • Some of the key emerging sectors are ocean economy, fisheries, ICT, financial services, port bunkering services, and renewable energy.
  • How can the European Union assist Mauritius in its endeavor to become a High-Income Country?

EU-MAURITIUS PARTNERSHIP IN ACTION :

  • The principles of our partnership have grown to encompass not only development cooperation and financial assistance, but also a range of policies and instruments, to leverage additional private finance to implement the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. 
  • Indeed, in all our actions, we remain guided by the Global Strategy for the EU's Foreign and Security Policy and by the European Consensus on Development which build on key international agreements that the EU has strongly supported, namely the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.
  • Our bilateral cooperation with the Republic of Mauritius is to accompany the country in its endeavor to become a High-Income country in the medium term.
  • We work with Mauritius in key areas such as tertiary education, fisheries, trade, sustainable development, climate smart agriculture, migration and maritime security. 
  • As you can see, these encompass most of the key challenges I enumerated earlier.
  • While Mauritius has seen its allocation reduced under the bilateral programme up to 2020 in view of its graduation as an Upper-Middle Income country, this has not prevented Mauritius from tapping funds from various EU instruments to address some of the aforementioned challenges.
  • For instance, as a member of the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), SADC and COMESA, Mauritius benefits from the various regional programmes up to 2020.
  • Our Delegation here works closely with the Indian Ocean Commission on issues pertaining to maritime security; the defense of the interests of Small Island Developing States; sustainable fisheries; renewable energy; and biodiversity, which are all key priorities for Mauritius. 

MAURITIUS AS A KNOWLEDGE HUB :

  • The first area I would like to talk about is Tertiary Education and Research and Innovation which is the focus of our bilateral programme up to 2020.
  • With this bilateral programme, the European Union is supporting the Republic of Mauritius in its ambition to become a Knowledge Hub.
  • Tertiary Education, Research and Innovation have been identified as sectors that have the potential for Mauritius to develop as a Knowledge Hub and would address some of the challenges such as skills mismatch, low-skilled youth, etc.
  • The objectives of this programme, which amounts to €8 million,  are twofold:
  • Firstly, to improve the relevance and outreach of the training offered (e.g. in polytechnic campuses, through the Dual Training Programme) and the access of young people to the job market (e.g. with career guidance);
  • Second, to support Mauritius to become a hub for knowledge and innovation, by (i) encouraging projects from the private sector and more innovative and job-creating projects through a call for proposals and (ii) supporting the well advanced nanotechnology research at the University of Mauritius, among others.
  • In parallel, short-term technical assistance will be made available to the government to develop post-secondary education.  
  • But, for Mauritius to succeed in becoming a knowledge hub in the region, the country must offer accessible, relevant and quality tertiary education and an environment conducive to research and innovation. In addition, Mauritius must offer quality infrastructure and be ready to welcome thousands of foreign students. This is an important aspect that should not be neglected.

FOCUS ON TRADE AND INVESTMENT:

  • Trade relations and investment, and the creation of jobs, in particular for young people, are imperative. The second area where we are working closely with the Government and other stakeholders is Trade and Investment.
  • The EU's cooperation with Mauritius and the region has an important economic diplomacy component, especially for business facilitation, so we attempt to exploit the opportunities offered by the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
  • The EU and Mauritius have signed an EPA in 2009.
  • The agreement provides complete and immediate quota-free and duty-free to a market of 500 million consumers. It offers Mauritius a long-term transition period to open only partially its market to EU imports.
  • The agreement also offers more flexible rules of origin, making it easier for Mauritius to export products with inputs from other countries that may be less expensive, of better quality and more innovative.
  • Several Mauritian businesses we have approached have talked about the positive impact of the EPA on their operations.
  • Through the EPA, the European Union supports regional integration on a day-to-day basis and strives to create opportunities for local development and employment, leading to greater competitiveness of exports.
  • Moreover, improving investment and business climate is essential to enhance competitiveness. The European Union supports Mauritius in developing a transparent investment regulatory framework to attract and strengthen private sector investment and development.
  • To this end, the EU has recently launched an e-licensing platform aiming at boosting investment, steering economic growth, job creation and sustainable development.
  • It will enable Mauritius to process business permits and licenses through a single point of entry, therefore contributing to facilitate the business and investment environment.
  • The EU is also supporting Mauritius in building a national Intellectual Property framework that would elaborate strategies to address issues impeding the development of Intellectual Property (IP) to attract investors in high value added sectors. This support will review and finalise the IP Bill and support implementation of an IP Development Plan through capacity building of intermediary organisations to help in the implementation of new procedures, including new IP Treaties, drafting of patent specifications, and registrations of licences.
  • The EU has constantly promoted regional integration as an effective means of achieving prosperity.
  • We support Mauritius in its regional integration process notably through the IMF’s AFRITAC South centre based in Mauritius, which provides technical assistance to Southern African countries including Mauritius to tackle reforms and address new emerging challenges in areas such as public financial management tax and customs administration.
  • The European Commission has recently announced a new 'Africa - Europe Alliance for Sustainable Investment and Jobs'. The package builds on the commitments taken during the African Union – European Union Summit of last year in Abidjan where the two continents agreed to strengthen their partnership. The Alliance will lead to the creation of up to 10 million jobs in Africa in the next 5 years alone.
  • The European External Investment Plan (EIP), which was launched last year at the AU-EU Summit, is a cornerstone of this new alliance. It aims at encouraging investment in Africa by triggering additional public and private investment volumes, up to €44 billion.
  • A key component of the EIP is the European Fund for Sustainable Development which will guarantee private investors against the risk they face when they start a business in developing countries, in areas including sustainable energy and connectivity, financing SMEs, sustainable agriculture, rural entrepreneurs and agro-industry, Sustainable Cities and Digital Development.
  • The Plan could provide new opportunities to work with Mauritius to implement its Africa Strategy together with the private sector.

MARITIME SECURITY :

  • We all know that the region is confronted with many challenges such as piracy as well as the trafficking of narcotics, people and illicit goods, arms proliferation, illegal fishing, environmental degradation and destruction.
  • In order to respond effectively to the threats against maritime security, the European Union has spared no effort to support the region.
  • The EU has been enhancing its capacity to act as a security provider. The objective is to be able to respond effectively to crises while helping partner countries to develop their own capabilities and working closely with regional and international partner organisations, such as the UN.
  • The EU launched its first ever naval operation – EU NAVFOR ATALANTA in December 2008 within the framework of the European Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). This operation is in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and International Law.
  • Data collated since 2008 demonstrate that EU NAVFOR, in co-operation with her counter-piracy partners, has become highly effective in preventing attacks before they happen.
  • Since the launch of the Operation in 2008, EU NAVFOR – Operation ATALANTA has had a 100% success rate in providing protection to World Food Programme vessels delivering food / aid to the Somali people and to AMISOM shipments critical to the success of the African Union operation in Somalia.
  • The EU Maritime Security programmes (MASE) and CRIMARIO are strategic initiatives to promote maritime security and maritime governance in the Eastern, Southern African and Indian Ocean region.
  • In collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission, we are investing to create a network of countries for the entire region of Eastern and Southern Africa and Indian Ocean on improved maritime capability.
  • This has led to the formulation of two regional agreements namely a Regional Agreement for the Setting up of a Regional Maritime Information Exchange and Sharing Mechanism and secondly a Regional Agreement on the Coordination of Operations at Sea.
  • I would like here to highlight the important and positive role played by the Contact Group on Piracy chaired initially for two years by the European Union and which is now under the chairmanship of the IOC.
  • The EU is also particularly active in addressing the so called cross cutting themes.
  • The European Union identifies i) climate change and ii) gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment as cross-cutting themes that all programmes/projects need to address.
  • To this end, EU has set up two dedicated Policy Dialogues on Climate Change and Gender respectively with the Government of Mauritius.  These two policy dialogues will allow us to jointly monitor implementation of agreed key performance indicators in the achievement of the SDGs. 

TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE AND PROMOTING A GREEN ECONOMY:

  • An area where SIDS are frontliners is the battle against climate change, as you are the ones most affected by the effects of climate change, even if you don’t contribute significantly to global warming. The key role played by SIDS for the success of the Paris Agreement on climate change is testimony to this.
  • Global actions can make the real difference, as demonstrated by both the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change. 
  • The EU contributes to the implementation of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement by mainstreaming climate change and sustainable development in its external actions programmes with its beneficiaries, and through climate financing.
  • As a Small Island State (SIDS), Mauritius is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and its adverse socio-economic impacts. 
  • The EU works together with the SIDS (including Mauritius and Rodrigues) in their sustainable development efforts spanning a wide range of issues.  Key areas are climate change, sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, healthy oceans, seas and marine resources (be it bilateral or regional or thematic programmes). 
  • EU supports Mauritius in tackling climate change through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA+) Flagship Initiative.
  • Promoting Climate Smart Agriculture practices features as one of the priority adaptation actions for the agricultural sector in the Nationally Determined Contributions of the Republic of Mauritius. 
  • The objective of the climate smart agriculture programme of the GCCA+ will therefore be to increase the resilience of small farmers to the effects of climate change.  We have recently awarded 4 grants to help small planters who depend on the agricultural sector for their living and are affected by the negative effects of climate change. 
  • Switch Africa Green Initiative is another climate-related programme that aims at supporting transformation towards an inclusive green economy. It is implemented by UN Environment.
  • Through the Switch Africa Green initiative, the European Union supports this development and offers a significant opportunity for this transition in Mauritius.  Under Phase 1, women entrepreneurs were empowered to adopt green businesses.
  • In May, we awarded a grant to the Mauritius Tourism Authority to promote sustainable tourism in Mauritius under the Green Business component of the 2nd phase of the programme.
  • We believe that the Republic of Mauritius has the potential of becoming a model in sustainable development, particularly in the context of Small Islands States. 

OCEAN ECONOMY:

  • We fully support the Government's vision which is to "transform the Nation and its economy into an ocean State by promoting the ocean economy as one of its main pillars of development".
  • We signed a new Fisheries Partnership Agreement last year.
  • Through this agreement, the EU provides an annual financial contribution in support of joint priorities in the areas of better surveillance, catch declarations, and the development of the ocean economy.
  • Last week, we also signed a financing agreement with the IOC for an amount of 28 million € to support sustainable fisheries in the region under the E€OFISH programme.  The focus will be on fisheries management and fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
  • We also work together closely with the Government for healthy oceans and sustainable development of marine resources. 
  • As I mentioned before, we have recently signed a new contract with the Mauritius Tourism Authority in order to promote sustainable tourism and contribute to the green destination objective.
  • Moreover, we continue to accompany Small and Medium Enterprises to adopt more Sustainable Modes of Production and Consumption in Mauritius and Rodrigues.
  • We support regional action to protect marine biodiversity, including the first status report on the coral reef in the Western Indian Ocean - which has officially been presented in December last year during the General Assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative.

ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY, WOMEN AND GIRLS’ EMPOWERMENT:

  • Human rights are at the heart of the European Union's external action.
  • We have a National Human Rights Strategy for the Republic of Mauritius which results from a consultation process with a network of Human Rights Defenders. This strategy focuses on a number of priorities including women and children rights where the EU is committed to continue to provide support to the Government of Mauritius.
  • Gender equality is not simply a moral duty, and a matter of social justice, of equal access. Granting the same rights to men and women makes our societies richer and more secure. It is a matter of development, and a matter of peace and security, not purely a matter of principles.
  • When women are empowered, the benefits are perceived by the entire community. When they have access to good education and good jobs, social and economic inequalities are easier to overcome.
  • When women are recognised as full and equal citizens, the whole society is more stable and democracies get stronger. It's part of the resilience of our societies, of our institutions, of our countries.
  • For these reasons the European Union has worked to put women's and girls' rights at the core of the new Sustainable Development Goals. We must reckon that there is no sustainable development without gender equality.
  • In October 2015 the EU adopted the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment: Transforming Lives of Girls and Women through EU External Relations (2016-2020).
  • Our action here in Mauritius is in line with that framework.
  • Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and domestic violence still remain alarming in Mauritius.
  • We have committed to supporting the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare by providing technical assistance in the elaboration of the Gender Equality Bill, Children’s Bill and Adoption Bill, as well improved statistics on gender. 
  • The adoption of the Gender Equality Bill, the Children’s Bill and the Adoption Bill by Parliament this year would be landmark achievements as Mauritius celebrates its 50 years of anniversary of independence. 
  • We welcome the setting up of gender cell in all line ministries.  In this regards, the European Union has also provided capacity-building to line ministries on gender mainstreaming.
  • We have committed to supporting the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare in the elaboration of a National Costed Gender Action Plan for Gender Mainstreaming.
  • I am glad to inform also that for the first time ever, the EU Delegation managed to mobilise, in 2017, an amount of EUR 200 000, i.e. approximately MUR 8 million, to fund a project promoting respect for human rights in Mauritius through the National Human Rights Commission.
  • From March to August 2018, 3,000 women and young people across the island have been sensitized on human rights.
  • As part of this important project, activities will be implemented for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Human Rights Day and to mark 70 years of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
  • Given the emphasis on prevention of violence against women and girls and children in this project, we have recently called for a close and formal collaboration between the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, and the National Human Rights Commission and the EU for the implementation of this component of the project. This will enable us to have collaborative actions, in order to pursue the common goal of fighting and preventing violence against women and children.

PROMOTING AN INCLUSIVE SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT – LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND:

  • We have also contributed to poverty alleviation and inclusive growth with the Decentralised Cooperation Programme. Since 2006, more than 400 community-based projects have been successfully implemented in Mauritius and Rodrigues.
  • We also have other thematic instruments in support of civil society actions in Mauritius and Rodrigues.
  • NGOs play an important role in Mauritius and Rodrigues as they support a number of national programmes related to improving the welfare of the vulnerable groups.  They fill the gaps which would not be filled by Government with respect to provision of services to the under privileged and vulnerable groups. 
  • The EU Delegation has elaborated a Roadmap for EU engagement with CSOs in the Republic of Mauritius
  • The Decentralised Cooperation Programme : the EU has been supporting the CSOs/NGOs in improving service delivery under its Decentralised Cooperation Programme over more than a decade.  We also provided capacity-building on project write-up, M&E, policy and advocacy. 
  • Over the years, we have seen a significant improvement in the capacity of NGOs to advocate for their cause and bid for funds. 
  • The EU also accompanies Civil Society Organisation (CSO) under a new thematic programme.
  • A Call for Proposals was launched by the EU Delegation early this year to support actions in 8 priority areas: governance and accountability, poverty alleviation, women and girls' empowerment, gender equality, maternal health, disability, environment and climate change.  Evaluation of project proposals is underway and we hope to award grants to NGOs by the end of this year. 
  • Drugs - In view of its geographical location, drug trafficking poses as a real threat which needs to be tackled on various fronts.  We commend Prime Minister’s commitment to tackle this scourge and we are happy to inform you that the EU has just started a first exploratory mission of its experts to support Mauritius in fighting drug trafficking and to support the government in structuring its response.
  • Allow me before I conclude to say a word on the negotiations between the EU and the Africa Caribeen Pacific (ACP) Group of States.
  • The Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) between the EU and 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries (ACP) will expire on 29 February 2020. Covering one in five people in the world, the ACP-EU partnership is a legally binding treaty between the 28 EU Member States and 78 ACP countries. It covers trade, development cooperation and a political dimension.
  • The EU is willing to work towards a substantially revised agreement with a common foundation at ACP level combined with three regional tailored partnerships for Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The future agreement is expected to cover priority areas such as: democracy and human rights; economic growth and investment;     climate change;     poverty eradication;     peace and security and migration and mobility.
  • On Friday, at the United Nations General Assembly, the EU commission for Development and International Cooperation Mr Neven Mimica will launch the first round of talks on a Post-Cotonou partnership with the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states.

CONCLUDING REMARKS:

  • In its transition to a High Income Country, Mauritius needs to consolidate the existing sectors such as manufacturing, tourism and ICT but at the same time should seek to explore new emerging sectors for growth – e.g. financial services, ocean economy, and bunkering services.
  • However, while exploring the new drivers of economic growth, Mauritius needs to ensure sustainability for future generations.
  • The long term objective should be greening the economy.  This calls for investment in new technologies and the need for specialized expertise, vigorous research and development and capacity building.  EU is committed to supporting Government in capacity-building and, research and innovation, and development.
  • Mauritius and EU partnership will be guided by partnership framework rather than aid delivery based on the needs of the country and on mutual interest.   
  • Thank you for your attention.
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