Maciej Popowski

#KAPTalks interviews: sustainability of development results

#KAPTalks interviews – we’re discussing with our top speakers major development challenges facing the world. Today Maciej Popowski, Deputy Director General at the European Commission (European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations).

Thursday 01.01.1970

Ryszard Kapuscinski’s works addressed leading development issues of the 1970s, 1980s, and (arguably to a lesser extent) the 1990s.  Have the world’s development challenges changed since then?  What was the biggest challenge then and what is it now?

Kapuściński witnessed the end of the colonial world and the development challenges of his time were mainly linked to the painful process of state building. Today’s biggest challenges are global, ie not specifically limited to the developing world – climate change, asymmetrical conflict, trade barriers, irregular migration. Therefore, the Sustainable Development Goals have been adopted as a global agenda for all.

Some people dismiss sustainable development as an aspirational vision, others an unattainable fantasy, and still others absolutely necessary to our future. In this age where few seem interested in working for the collective good of all, what’s your argument to convince others that it is necessary to change the way we develop?

The development policy was born some 70 years ago and has come of age. Yet, the world community is still struggling to meet some of the objectives set back then – eg the 0,7% GNI ODA ratio formulated in 1968 by the Pearson Commission. Development policy today is rightly looking beyond the task of dealing with post colonial legacies and focuses on common global goods like access to water, limiting effects of climate change and dealing with migratory pressures. Discussion on the definition of ODA should continue at OECD DAC as further updates seems necessary.

What is the biggest challenge/hindrance to successful development?

What area of development or Global Goal do you think sustainable development hinges on? Which one is at the core of all the others?

Despite white spread perception, the main hindrance to successful development of not access to funding. The main obstacle remains sustainability of the results achieved – or still to be achieved – which hinges on much more than money – international burden sharing in dealing with global challenges, ownership by partner countries, maintaining peace and stability.

What’s the most striking thing you have personally witnessed in relation to development? i.e. a challenge, opportunity or just personal observation about a human story.

Firstly, it is the appearance of new players – private donors with global outreach, middle income countries turning into donors, South-South cooperation. Secondly, it is really striking how important the security/development nexus has become and how military and civilian institutions have developed into both providers and recipients of aid.


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Maciej Popowski is a Deputy Secretary General at the European External Action Service. He is a Polish diplomat, who since the beginning of his career has been working on European affairs. He took part in the accession negotiations of Poland with the European Union both in Brussels and in Warsaw, where he was director of the EU department of the Foreign Ministry between 2000 and 2001. From 2001 – 2008 he was the Deputy Head of the Permanent Representation of the Republic of Poland to the European Union’s Political and Security Committee (PSC). From 2008 - 2009 Popowski was a Director at the Development Directorate General of the European Commission responsible, inter alia, for policy coherence, aid effectiveness, relations with other donors and public information. In 2009 he was seconded from the European Commission to head the cabinet of Jerzy Buzek, President of the European Parliament.

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