Partnering with the world: How Europe addresses global challenges

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Co-design, co-create and co-invest. That’s how the European Commission’s Department for International Partnerships believes an interdependent world should approach shared challenges, according to its Director General, Koen Doens.

The body is responsible for overseeing the European Union’s international partnerships and developing policies in areas including combating poverty, promoting democracy and human rights, and driving forward sustainable development.

Speaking to Microsoft Vice President for European Government Affairs Casper Klynge for the latest episode of the Tech Fit 4 Europe podcast, Doens explains how the traditional parameters of ‘development’ have evolved, and what this evolution means for the EU’s relationships with other countries and the private sector.

Here are some key takeaways from their conversation.

Global challenges call for global solutions

Issues such as climate change, digitalization, and the need for sustainable jobs and finance affect us all. For example, Europe reaching net zero would have limited impact if the rest of the world was lagging behind.

Because of this interdependency, Europe must work with partners across the globe to achieve the best outcomes. This includes ensuring Official Development Assistance, which provides funds to developing countries, is used to develop skills, support entrepreneurs, and unlock bigger financial flows.

“We want to partner where we actually think that there is something to win for both sides,” Doens says. “If we enter into dialogue with our partners, from that perspective, then we are appreciated partners.”

These relationships are also crucial to sustaining international values and the global rules-based system.

“It’s clear now that a rules-based order anchored in international values is really not something that we want to play with. It’s really not something we want to question,” Doens adds.

Partnerships can help with challenges including digitalization and health

The EU’s Global Gateway initiative gives strategic coherence to partnerships on issues like climate change, health, education, and the digital agenda. It aims to bring in investment while promoting democratic values and standards.

Europe is also playing an important role providing regulatory inspiration, including on issues such as privacy and a human-first approach.

Togo, for example, is looking to attract foreign investment in green data centers. It wants to base its regulatory framework on Europe’s model.

“[Togo believes that] at the end of the day, the whole digital system will depend on whether consumers and citizens have trust in it. And, therefore, they see advantages in the European model precisely because it helps [in] building the trust of the citizen – as a citizen and as a consumer,” Doens says.

Elsewhere, Europe has been supporting efforts in Africa to grow its pharmaceutical sector. The majority of the continent’s drugs are imported, and the weaknesses of this reliance were laid bare by the pandemic. The European Medicines Agency has been working with the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and European drug companies to help create regional centers of excellence.

Private sector cooperation is essential

The future global economy will be green and digital, but the transitions needed to ensure this won’t be possible without private companies on board.

“If we design a model whereby you, the private sector, cooperate with us, […] we then bring into that the corporate social responsibility agenda. If we also bring into that an attachment to principles and values, then I think we can do very good things together,” Doens says.

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