Four institutes joined forces to call for new beginnings in European Development Cooperation

Knowledge brokering24 Feb 201001/01/1967 01/01/1967

The October 2009 issue of The Broker featured an opinion piece from 3 current directors and 1 former director of leading European development institutes that formed the start for this discussion blog. The 4 institutions – DIE based in Bonn, ECDPM based in Maastricht, ODI based in London and FRIDE based in Madrid – have joinedt forces again. They have just published a Memorandum titled ‘New Challenges, New Beginnings: Next Steps in European Development Cooperation’. The report presents practical recommendations for moving forward in Europe’s international engagement, based on an analysis of the current state of play and the key challenges Europe and the world at large is faced with.

The report deals with a range of topics in twelve different chapters, including peace and security, migration, climate change, trade, development finance, and policy coherence for development, and identifies five key priorities for action.

First, the authors call for a new EU leadership in thinking about how development cooperation can deal with shared global problems. The Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen illustrated the complexity of reaching agreement on collective action and the EU’s inability to play a leading role. Renewed EU efforts are needed for effective Copenhagen follow-up actions, feeding into the climate change negotiations in April/May/June and the next Conference of Parties in November/December in Mexico. The review of the Millennium Development Goals, to be discussed at a UN Summit in September 2010, provides another opportunity for the EU to provide valuable input. In June, Canada will be hosting a G8 and a G20 meeting, where the EU can make its voice heard.

Second, the authors point to the need for the EU to improve the effectiveness and targeting of its development aid and deliver on its financial commitments. The EU has pledged to scale up aid to 0,7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015, setting an intermediate target of 0,56% for 2010. Yet according to the Commission’s own estimates this lower target will not be met until 2012 and a further 20 billion funding gap will need to be filled over the next two years. Besides the quantity, the quality of EU aid deserves extra attention. While the EU has been actively involved in shaping the international aid effectiveness agenda, resulting in the Paris Declaration and Accra Agenda for Action progress on the ground has been slow.

Third, the report calls for greater efforts to ensure that all EU policies contribute to the Union’s development goals, what is often referred to, also in previous blog contributions, as ‘policy coherence for development’. Regardless of commitments made by the European Union to ensure PCD, the authors state that it has remained more of an aspiration then a reality. They encourage the EU to seize opportunities created by the Lisbon Treaty to strengthen PCD, including through the new European External Action Service, and to adopt an ambitious results-oriented PCD Work Programme.

Fourth, the authors underline the importance of new investment into genuine partnerships with developing countries. The spirit of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement between the EU and ACP countries, including its principle of co-decision, can be used as a model for EU cooperation with other regions. Furthermore, as reality is often less rosy than the partnership paradigm as included in joint agreements, the EU should ensure that actual dialogue takes place, based on the principle of mutual accountability and in full respect of partners’ national and regional specificities. By supporting a reform of the governing structures of the World Bank and the IMF, the EU can contribute to making sure that voices of developing countries are heard in those institutions.

Finally, the authors call for the EU to improve cooperation between Member States, so that the EU works as one. The European Consensus on Development and the EU Code of Conduct on Complementarity and Division of Labour provide valuable frameworks for EU donors to work together in developing countries, but progress on the ground has proven to be slow. To speed up progress, the authors’ recommendations include a more systematic assessment of comparative advantages of EU donors and encouraging EU representatives at the country level to take the issue forward. There should also be better information sharing among EU donors, and an effort to unlock the potential of the new EU delegations in partner countries to facilitate a more effective European contribution to development on the ground. The EU is further encouraged to speak with one voice at international fora.

For those interested in reading more, I invite you to download the full report or executive summary. You might also find it interesting to know that the analysis and recommendations of the memorandum will be discussed by the Members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Development with Commissioner Piebalgs and the authors on 17 March 2010. In a future posting to this blog, one of the authors will report back on that discussion.