No bottom-up approach

Development Policy19 Jun 2008Marco Zupi

The idea of a European Development Report (ERD) is interesting for two reasons. First is that it contributes to making a European language on development a reality (i.e. to facilitate a common language on such issues, which is necessary due to the different approaches of member nations and the enlargement process), and it makes it easier to promote abroad a European vision on these issues.

Fragmentation, lack of common approach and the lack (at least, now) of a recognized strong idea (convincing and fascinating idea at least, as the World Bank paradigm or the Ul Haq, Streeten and Sen ideas for the UNDP) may prevent the ERD from imposing its relevance in cultural terms. Therefore, it is important to stress the fact that this is a process which is not driven from the bottom, with possible implications in terms of the time needed and requested real convergence of policies among European countries as a precondition to impose the ERD as a leading report. The fact that the project will be led by a restricted team of experts (to be selected through a bid, based on the commitment of a limited number of countries, who will play the leading role) shows that the report is everything but a demonstration of its bottom-up nature.

It is true that there was an ambitious agenda, both at internal and external level. This guided European policy at the beginning of this decade with, for example, the Lisbon strategy on the need to make growth and social cohesion more coherent and by the idea that development cooperation policy may be interpreted as an external policy to promote the interlinkage between growth and poverty reduction in developing countries, by emphasizing the importance of social cohesion and welfare, etc. However, the idea of a welfare state is under attack in Europe which, together with the problems in the economic growth, is going to postpone the priority of social cohesion.

Thus, the crucial question is: notwithstanding cyclical changes, is idea to combine economic growth and social development really important? If the answer is yes, that Europe’s top priority is to combine economic growth and social development despite the problems on growth, then European development cooperation can be proposed as a special instrument to promote this idea in developing countries, as a way to support their development process with a specific added value

As a consequence, European development cooperation must address some crucial aspects, based on the perceived European approach: three top priority areas have to be addressed, and sub-Saharan Africa would have to take priority to address them:

  1. inequality and poverty have to be directly addressed. From this point of view, the MDG (millennium development goals) agenda is quite weak, as it lacks any direct importance to inequality;
  2. sustainability and environment, by readdressing the importance of environment as a real cross-cutting issue;
  3. regional integration and dynamics, by emphasizing the importance of regional and cross-border phenomena within developing regions – think about human mobility, regional crises and conflict dimensions – as a reflection of the European integration process. Consider also, the recent idea to promote these values in the neighbourhood countries and the idea that regional public goods are as important as national or global public goods.