On Monday the 25th of April the European Commission’s Directorate-General for International cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) officially launched the EU Garment Initiative on responsible supply chain management in the garment sector worldwide, one day after the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh which claimed more than 1,100 lives. The initiative is part of a broader EU policy to boost development in the world and to promote EU’s core values, objectives and common priorities.
After the tragic event in 2013 DG DEVCO decided to specifically develop policy to improve the labour standards in the garment industry in Bangladesh first as to make it efficient and visible to EU citizens, after which a broader policy scope would be developed to support governments and other actors in producing countries to encourage the signing, ratification and implementation of relevant international conventions and multilateral agreements and to strengthen global governance on these issues. Shortly after the accident in 2013 the EU, together with the Government of Bangladesh, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United States launched a joint initiative known as the Bangladesh Sustainability Compact to bring lasting improvements to Bangladesh’s garment industry and ensure that the EU’s open market helps to spur prosperity into the country. Canada joined this initiative in 2016. The EU Garment Initiative launch this week broadens the scope to other countries in the garment supply chain and promote successful existing initiatives, including from Member States and industry, and provide a platform for continuing the dialogue at EU level. The active engagement of the EU, Bangladesh and other concerned partners so far has brought tangible progress on the ground. A number of labour rights are better protected in Bangladesh today than they were two years ago. The building and workplace safety have also improved. The Bangladesh Sustainability Compact opened a dialogue and supported exchanges with stakeholders, including trade unions, employers, buyers and NGOs in the EU, as well as in Bangladesh.
EU development policy
The broader EU development policy seeks to eradicate poverty in a context of sustainable development. It is a cornerstone of EU relations with the outside world – alongside foreign, security and trade policy (and international aspects of other policies like environment, agriculture and fisheries). EU action on development is based on the Lisbon Treaty and on the 2005 European Consensus on Development, which commits the EU Council, European Parliament and Commission to a common vision. The EU focuses on certain sectors of intervention, depending on the needs of partner countries. The Millennium Development Goals (or MDGs), which expired at the end of 2015, have guided the EU development policy by raising public awareness, increasing political will and mobilising resources to end poverty. With the policy paper ‘A Decent Life for All: From Vision to Collective Action‘ the EU sets out the post-2015 agenda for eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable development, including the need for a new global partnership.
Providing over 50% of all global development aid, the EU is the world’s leading donor. In 2013, the EU spent €56.2 billion on development aid – aid from EU funds combined with aid from EU countries’ national budgets, which amounts to 0.43% of EU gross national income (GNI). EU countries committed themselves to reaching the target of 0.7% of GNI by 2015, but failed to meet this commitment.