Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have all been reminded this morning of the importance of international mobilization and response to the worst epidemic of recent times. But – more important than the money pledged and delivered – is the fact that our response has been comprehensive from the very beginning of the crisis. From DAY 1, the European Commission has made use of the various instruments at its disposal to provide a sustainable answer to this unprecedented outbreak. From providing treatment to infected persons to mobilizing in-kind assistance; from medical evacuation to providing mobile laboratories; from raising awareness to reinforcing preparedness; from efforts on medical research and development for Ebola treatments to entry/exit airport scanning; etc.
From DAY 1, even if we were still in an emergency phase, we stepped in with our development tools with a view to early recovery. Fifty percent of our development assistance is or will be channelled through budget support to the governments of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to help them deliver urgently needed public services and cushion the economic impact of the epidemic. At the end of last year, I visited Guinea, where I saw many of these consequences first-hand. I was able to see how the assistance that has been provided until now has helped to mitigate the full impact of the epidemic. I also understood that we must shift our attention to ensuring that the post-Ebola recovery is sustainable. In a few moments, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will present their national recovery plans and share the findings of the Ebola Recovery Assessments carried out together with the United Nations, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the European Union. It is our duty, as the international community, to coordinate our work towards recovery. But it will be based on the priorities of our partners.
The European Union will fully contribute to these recovery efforts. We will exploit synergies between our initial Ebola package and our 11th European Development Programmes that are already well designed to deal with the post-Ebola situation. The fact that schools are reopening after months of closure is to be welcomed. Not only will they provide once again the much-needed educational stimulus to children, but they will also provide an environment in which to share knowledge about the virus and how to help avoid its spread in the future. In this respect, it is crucial to ensure that re-opened schools are equipped with the necessary levels of safety, hygiene and sanitation. Here, our National Indicative Programmes will be supporting the education sector in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ensuring sustainable healthcare services will of course need to be a top priority, based on an in-depth analysis to identify vulnerabilities exposed by the outbreak. This is not only about filling the gap in terms of knowledge, skills and experience, but most importantly building resilient and accessible health services integrating effective alert, response and preparedness mechanisms along with human resource development. Moreover, resilience across the whole region, beyond national boundaries, should also be promoted.
Support for general economic recovery is also of vital importance, especially to reverse the impact of the job losses, reduced economic activity and damaged growth prospects that have accompanied the Ebola outbreak. This is why the European Union has been frontloading its budget support disbursements to affected countries from the outset. The fact that basic industries such as agriculture have been hit makes the need even more acute. The sooner that they can be re-established, the sooner they will be able to contribute to the recovery effort.
Investment in infrastructure to ensure economic recovery and rehabilitate social services will be necessary. The EU will be looking at innovative ways of blending financing to develop infrastructure, in particular energy, not only in the affected countries but across the region.
Of course, none of this can be done without strong and robust governance and accountability within national systems. While the international community can help, this must accompany partner countries’ own efforts. Development has never been a success when it was imposed from outside; it has to be a bottom-up process.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
If anything, the Ebola crisis demonstrates the need for all countries, organisations and institutions to work even more closely together – ideally to anticipate events before they even happen. Otherwise, to ensure that we are better prepared to react to such events if they do occur again – in a way that is more rapid, more coordinated and with more immediate impact. On behalf of the European Commission, I want to underline our strong commitment to overcome the effects of the epidemic. Our objective is to make sure that the countries can quickly recover from this crisis and get back on a path of sustainable development. On this, I am sure that our commitment is shared by everyone here today and that this conference will serve as a significant milestone towards sustainable recovery.