There were three main topics on the agenda for discussion. Firstly, ministers discussed proposals to link debt relief and investments to the EU’s implementation of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), The SGDs are a crucial, core objective for European policymakers across all sectors, both inside and outside the EU, especially with regard to the digital and green transitions that form the backbone of the EU’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

Secondly, ministers discussed how best to further promote gender equality and to empower women. The EU’s third Gender Action Plan (GAP III) has gone through public consultation and is foreseen for adoption by the European Commission in the fourth quarter of 2020. This plan, titled An Ambitious Agenda for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in EU External Action, will guide work in this area from next year until 2025. It builds upon previous GAPs by the EU and reconfirms that gender equality and women’s rights are a key aspect of EU foreign policy.

EU ministers also discussed the successor to the so-called Cotonou Agreement. This agreement sets the structure for the EU’s relationships with 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement fosters economic and development cooperation,in its aim to reduce poverty. The Cotonou Agreement expires in December 2020 and negotiations on a new version are underway. The future agreement will likely include regional tailored partnerships.

Finally, development ministers also discussed the EU’s Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The latest proposal for the EU’s next long-term budget, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework, sets aside funds for the NDICI, which aims to promote human rights, stability and security, and to invest in sustainable development, among many other things. The instrument is used for development further afield as well as in the European Union’s closer neighbourhood, to the east and south.