Young reporters against poverty in European Development Days

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The Young Reporters Against Poverty contest, organised in cooperation with the European Journalism Centre, is an initiative targeting journalism students in the EU Member States with the purpose of raising their interest for development issues. Southampton student Vladims Sondors is one of 33 applicants selected to participate in a workshop during this year’s European Development Days – the leading European forum where issues about international development cooperation are debated. He reports from the event in Brussels, and argues why it is still an important occassion in the international community…

The dip of YRAPers (Young reporters against poverty) in the World of Journalism was deemed another success by the Europe Aid.

The morning for YRAPers felt really early for some participants, due to the time differences, but everybody seemed to be glad to be able to make it to the event – despite adverse weather conditions hitting in several countries across the Europe.

The day has started with a breakfast and introduction about YRAP by Charlotta Asplund, Valentina Bonaccorso and Alexandra Lobao.

One of the main speakers of the days was Philippe Loop – head of Unit, Information, Communication and Front Office of Europe Aid. He gave a brief introduction how Europe Aid tackles poverty. He says that there are 1.4 billion reasons to tackle poverty. 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty; a child which dies from malaria every 45 seconds; nearly a billion don’t have access to drinking water; ½ million mothers, die each yea rin pregnancy, or within 7 weeks of giving birth.

Thanks to Europe Aid, more than 9 million pupils have been enrolled in primary education since 2004; more than 31 million people being connected to drinking water; 9 million has been given to sanitation facilities since 2004; around 85,000 female students have enrolled in secondary education in 10 countries of Sub- Saharan Africa during the past five years. He also argued tha tover 7200 km of roads have been built and of more than 29,000 km of roads have been maintained.

He says “The EU is committed to eradicating poverty and promoting freedom and security. The EU’s external policy aims to promote the core European values of peace, stability, democracy and prosperity. We work in partnership with other countries to ensure our actions have a real, positive and lasting impact on people’s lives.” Based on OECD/DAC figures from 2009 European Commission is the second largest donor of development aid (13%, after USA) presentin 150 countries.

Already on day 1, European Development Days (EDD) has faced criticism by students across the Europe. Students like me were arguing why the € 2 million could not be spent on schools in Africa rather than talking about the development in Europe.

Meagan Baldwin, policy manager for Condord, argues, “the people at the bottom are influenced by the people at the top and vice versa. EDD is there to push Development Aid on the agenda on the main meetings of European Countries (EC). We try to make sure that poorest people benefit the most from the European Aid. Especially women and people with HIV are targeted the most. If we look at our vaccination rates for malaria, we are actually doing pretty well.”

When answering the question on why taxpayers should give their money to Europe Aid, Baldwin says, “we want to make the world more equal. We have the role to help our neighbours and improving the lives in developing countries will help the Europe in the future. The main aim of is to help countries, so they won’t need aid in the future.”  She is arguing that those countries would be able to benefit Europe in terms of labour and resources, which are two main things which countries often lack.

She concludes, “EDD has no clear objective. There is no answer why we have EDD, and what is its goal.”

Following on, Roeland Scholtalbers, who is Media & Communication Officer for CIDSE, argues: “With EDD we try to create a global community whereby the information is going from South to North and vice versa.”

From what Roenald Scholtalbers was talking, we could understand that the money sometimes does not always go to an organization, which is in the best position to help the community, because it does not satisfy the conditions of funding application.

Meagan Baldwin says, “Pakistan which regularly receives money from the Europe Aid defends the right of man to stone a woman to death, which is clearly wrong.” Those countries receive money, even though they do not sometimes support our goal.

What participants understood is that EDD is place to make aware of development issues we have nowadays. It is argued that development is not always on the first page of major newspapers. Therefore, EDD makes people aware of development issues and whereby European Commission tries to push the media to take this problem more seriously.

Paul Ames and Gareth Harding, who have together more than 30 years of experience being in the World of Journalism have visited YRAPers. They were able to discuss their ideas in groups with the experts, whereby the experts looked from their perspective and were able to give a more in depth view what readers would find interesting to read about. This seemed to be the key session for all of the participants as this helped them to make understand how a professional would approach in everybody’s case.

Later on, YRAPers had a chance to look into the technical aspect of how to present their information on the YRAP website. Ryan Pierce, who is the EJC Editor and YRAP Moderator, explained everything regards to how to publish material on the website and how to modify content if needed. This was the quickest session of the day. After the session participants had 2h break before heading to the town for a dinner.

In the evening YRAPers went to a nice restaurant called L’ Hemispheres, which had an international cultural touch of different countries. Wall pictures have included people like Mahatma Gandhi and other worldwide known people. This was a really unusual restaurant for YRAPers as this isn’t a type of restaurant which you would see in everyday life, but they have enjoyed every course.

Sunday will be a day to relax and enjoy the beauty of Brussels.

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