Win-win situations are rare

Development Policy19 Jun 2008Ondrej Horký

The Broker asked Ondrej Horký to reflect on the following three questions concerning Europe’s role in internatioanl development.

1. Does Europe have a specific role to play in the world, with regard to poverty and inequality, environment and energy, global governance and security?

Europe’s share of the global economy is declining, and its political and military power is fragmented. Promoting its own model of development, based on economic growth, social equity, democracy and human rights, and the respect of the environment worldwide, may be the only viable strategy for the European Union in a competitive world with limited natural resources. The European Development Report can become a ‘soft’ tool to support this idea of the global future. However, it will not be taken seriously unless the EU is respectful of its own principles at home and abroad.

2. As for the European Report on Development, what do you think should a) be the content/urgent themes of such a report, and b) be its approach? Given the existing annual publications like the World Development Report and the Human Development Report, what should the EDR do to distinguish itself and to prove its added value?

Our knowledge of the impacts of the EU policies on the developing world is still limited. In my opinion, a strong focus on policy coherence for development is vital. If the European Development Report is to make a difference, its policy recommendations must draw on evidence, and, therefore, naming and shaming is unavoidable. Win-win situations are rare and reflect policy-makers’ wishful thinking rather than reality.

If the report is more visionary than critical and only puts new and next issues on the international agenda, it might be redundant to the existing reports – unless its approach is more participatory and takes into account the most recent concerns of the South more efficiently. However, the current process, supervised by the Commission and a handful of member states, seems exclusive. I am afraid that the European Development Report cannot pretend to have a joint European perspective.

The report should directly address controversies between ‘European’ and ‘non-European’ approaches. For example, the attention paid to Tibet and the food crisis has shown that different stresses are put on the first and second generations of human rights. With its global ambition and the accent on the relations between the North and the South, the report should not concentrate on specific regions. But of course, poverty is the most pressing issue in Africa.

I believe we have had enough of more or less useful indices. Nonetheless, quantitative research on the costs and benefits of the EU policies for the developing countries can bring valuable arguments in favour of the policy coherence. Finally, the European Development Report should be clear and understandable.

3. Are the (im)possibilities of a European development agenda a subject of discussion in your country among academics, the government and/or civil society organizations?

The Czech development constituency is very much concentrated on the ongoing reform of bilateral cooperation. Awareness of European development policy is very low because, with a few rare exceptions, Czech companies and NGOs are not directly involved in the projects supported by European funding, which is difficult to attain. According to Eurobarometer (the European Commission‘s website for public opinion analysis) only one quarter of the Czechs have ever seen or heard some information about EU development aid, and almost nobody is aware of the amount. Moreover, in 2005 the European Council decided that the ODA/GNI (official development assistance / gross national income) objectives for the new member states would be lower and has therefore approved a ‘double speed’ EU development policy.

If the European Development Report can raise the awareness of the European development agenda, it cannot solve the problem of its ownership by the Czech citizens. The development debate and direct contacts, essential for understanding the South, cannot be ‘outsourced’ to Brussels.