#DevelopmentStories 60 years of EU

Travel with us through the past 60 years and discover how we achieve sustainable development while reducing poverty in the world.

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Sixty years ago, the EU took its first step towards international cooperation and development aid. As intended by the Rome Treaties, the European Development Fund was created and used for the first time to support the decolonisation of African countries. Back then already, we focused our efforts on important sectors, such as food, health, infrastructure, culture and education.

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The Yaoundé Convention, established in 1964 between the EC and the ASMM (African States, Madagascar and Mauritius), expired on 31 May 1969. The Yaoundé Convention II was established and signed on 29 July 1969. This association increased trade and formed a framework for the technical and financial aid provided by the European Development Fund. The fund helped build ports, roads and hospitals. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service (silent movie clip)

Mali food supply

1685 1961
2614 2007

EU played a part in increasing the average kilocalorie available per person by more than half in Mali between 1961 and 2007.



In the 70s, our development aid approach was expanded to Latin America and Asia; and we struck a first partnership (known as Lomé Convention) with 46 African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, replaced later on by the Cotonou Agreement. Scroll down to see the sectors we improved the most.

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Sixteen ambassadors from Africa, Asia and America (Bangladesh, Dahomey, Haiti, Upper Volta, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Pakistan, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Chad) signed financing agreements for the first instalments of European aid granted through the European Development Fund (EDF) which provides to third world countries particularly affected by the economic and oil crisis. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service (silent movie clip)

Child mortality


EU played a part in decreasing child mortality by more than 80% in Latin America between 1970 and 2015.


The adoption of the Single European Act made the EU and its member states reconsider their aid priorities. In the 80s the Lomé IV Convention was signed, which initiated deeper cooperation between the EU and ACP countries. Eradicating poverty all over the world still remained our overarching goal.

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The new ACP-EU Convention was signed in Lomé during a ceremony presided by Gnassingbe Eyadema, President of Togo. This signing fulfil the will expressed on both parts to reinforce cooperation, based on solidarity and mutual interests, in respect of their sovereignty. This Convention includes several innovations: the local transformation of basic products as a fundamental objective; population, demography and development; the development of service activities; the environment; the private sector and the enterprise and their role to stimulate growth and diversification of the economies of the ACP; the improvement of commercial access of ACP goods to the community market and the taking into account of the debt. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service

World poverty


EU played a part in reducing extreme poverty worldwide to ¼ between 1981 and 2013.


The signing of the Vienna Declaration in the 90s turned development into a human right. Protecting human dignity was then and is still one of our main goals. Discover below how we ensured a human rights-based approach in our development work.

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Women parliament


Rwanda has the highest percentage of seats held by women in a national parliament. EU played a role in giving women the opportunity to take part in decision making.

On 24 March 1999 NATO launched its first air strikes in Serbia, with the goal of ending the conflict raging in Kosovo. March 2009: ten years have passed. Today, Kosovo is on the way to reconstruction, both moral and material. International organisations - among them the European Union - played an active role in this process by supporting assistance projects for ethnic minorities, or contributing to the region's stability and economic development. Several operations were also being conducted to confront the atrocities of the past. Forensic units identified parts of human bodies and provided answers to families who had lost their beloved ones. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service

In Kosovo, with the Task Force starting to rebuild the region, talking to people taught me how 'easily' people had become violent against former friends and neighbours. But also that all people want to get a bright future for their children. That is what the EU tries to bring, 'here' and 'there'.

Nico Keppens
Nico Keppens
Kosovo 1999


With the new millennium came a new stage for the EU development policy. It brought together the adoption of a new EU Development policy in 2006, the Millennium Development Goals proposed by the United Nations, the Cotonou Agreement – to reinforce the ACP-EU partnership, as well as aid effectiveness worldwide.

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Je suis surtout fier de l’adoption, en décembre 2005, du Consensus Européen pour le Développement. Il montrait une vision commune, fondée sur des valeurs, principes et objectifs communs. Une réalité statistique (premier donateur dans le monde) était enfin transformée en projet politique.

Bernard Petit
Bernard Petit
Belgium 2005

Water access


More than 90% of the world population has access to drinking water sources. EU played a part in giving people access to clean and drinking water.


The Cotonou Agreement signed on 23 June 2000 is the result of 18 months of negotiations between ACP countries and the EU. It will last until 2020, and starting from 2008 it became possible to conclude some regional free trade exchange agreements. The main objective of the Agreement is the eradication of poverty to enable the creation of stable economies and contribute to the global economy. Source: EC - Audiovisual Service

En mai 2004 j'ai quitté le Nicaragua pour le Kosovo. Un moment d'émotion pour la fin d'une expérience importante, mais aussi de satisfaction pour le travail accompli. A mon arrivée quatre ans auparavant, la Délégation était composée de 12 personnes et ne couvrait que le Nicaragua, à mon départ nous étions 160, et la Délégation couvrait les 6 Pays d'Amérique Centrale, de Panama jusqu'au Guatemala.

Giorgio Mamberto
Giorgio Mamberto
Nicaragua 2004


During the last 60 years of EU development aid and international cooperation, we have achieved some major successes, including in the areas of health and education; but there are still many issues to tackle in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable world. Therefore, the EU and member countries agreed on a common shared vision on how to do development work in the 21st century committing to take the lead on the implementation of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. We strongly believe that together, we can achieve better and faster results and make a real difference in people's everyday lives across the planet.

World Refugees

100% 1990
100% 2012

EU played a part in decreasing the number of refugees worldwide by 10.5 million in 22 years.

Hello Sabrina, what is your story?
It’s about Maria Nakut- a 65 year old woman in Nadunget, in Moroto District in Uganda. She had inherited land from her father, but a son to her father’s shepherd denied her the right to access and possess land. He considered that women had not the right to inherit the land. Maria reported the matter to the ULS community paralegal, who initiated mediation. ULS lawyers enlightened members participating in the mediation on the law regarding land ownership, emphasising women’s right to own land. As a result, the adverse party agreed to return the piece of land to Maria, who, in a gesture of good will, opted to share the land with the adverse party.

What was the EU part in this story?
The DGF is a pool fund programme of 8 donors, namely the EU, 6 EU MS and NO. It started in July 2011. Currently a second phase is being set up. All development partners have committed to continue their support looking at the great value of this joint undertaking. The EU has been a major partner since inception and, because of the positive outcomes of the programme, is envisaging to further scale up its support.

Can you say more about the programme’s successes?
Bringing eight Development Partners together under one umbrella governance programme is unique in the context of other governance programmes in the region. It has allowed donors to present a united voice to the Government of Uganda on democratic governance over the last six years and has demonstrated solidarity with civil society and other actors in supporting initiatives and advocating on key legislation.

DGF has over the years reached out to over 18,000,000 Ugandan citizens with knowledge in human rights (over 8 million), legal information (over 5 million) and civic rights and responsibilities (over 5 million).

And how do you contribute?
I am extremely proud of being part of the steering committee of the programme in its current implementation phase and of being proactively engaged on behalf of the EU in its new joint-programming exercise.


Sabrina Bazzanella

Uganda 2015

What drove Sabina, a young European blogger, to visit the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the Philippines and Lebanon in such a short span of time? She jumped on the opportunity offered by the European Year for Development to visit 5 development projects around the world. Along the way she discovered what the EU is really doing with partner countries and organisations to improve the lives of millions. From the great Chololo sustainable eco-village in Tanzania to the harsh conditions of the refugee settlements in Lebanon, Sabina believes that when our paths cross, we can truly make a difference in each other's lives. Source: Youtube

In recognition of support to the people of Mountain Province and indigenous people in the Philippines in general I was made an adopted son of Mountain Province by the governor, which made me an honorary indigenous person.

Nicolas Taylor
The Philippines 2010

In the year 2000, the European Union joined world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in a pledge to reduce global poverty and save millions of lives. Leaders of 189 countries agreed on eight specific goals to be achieved by 2015. Source: Youtube