"Even though the concept of policy coherence for development (PCD) was enshrined in the Treaties a long time ago, the issue has never made it all the way up to Commissioner level. Until now", reflected Bernard Petit, Deputy Director-General, at DG Development's meeting on this topic, on 1 March. Since October 2006, a rolling Work Programme on Policy Coherence for Development has been approved by the Member States of the European Union.
Policy coherence is all about optimising policy decisions, about the balancing of different interests. Policy coherence for development means that the possible impact on developing countries of EU policy decisions is seriously taken into account. Naturally, the EU still faces trade-offs between legitimate interests that are not necessarily compatible. "Things have changed, however, since the adoption of the MDG package", stressed Bernard Petit, "development is not always losing out any more".
Apart from the inevitable conflicts of interests, he identifies two other main challenges for the future, in terms of PCD. First, the divergent positions of member states on policy issues such as agriculture and fisheries. The ACP themselves, however, are not exactly a homogenous group of countries either. "We are ambitious but realistic," Petit underlined. In order to take progress on PCD further, discussion and consultation with civil society and NGOs remain important.
The meeting on 1 March was organised by DG Development to demonstrate, first and foremost, how the EU implements mechanisms and tools that lead to improved coherence between development policy and other policy areas. "The new unit A/1, forward-looking policy agenda and PCD, has become the focal point for PCD within the Commission," explained Françoise Moreau, Head of Unit. She pointed out that, indeed, as was suggested by the EU Coherence Programme, the role of the Secretariat-General of the Commission – responsible for the overall coordination between the different DGs – has been increased, now that the Inter-service Consultation Group has become an official Commission working group. Last but not least, the Impact Assessment System, which evaluates the consequences of new policy proposals, now contains a section devoted to PCD.
The first Biennial Report on PCD is currently being prepared by the Commission on the basis of a questionnaire sent out to all the Member States. "It will be a kind of naming and shaming exercise, demonstrating what the European Commission and the Member States have done to keep their commitments to policy coherence for development," commented Petit. The PCD Report is due in October of this year.
It is clear that strong commitment within DG Development has led to the improved functioning of the different mechanisms within the Commission structures, designed to enhance PCD. However, DG Development by itself cannot guarantee that development-friendly alternatives to policy proposals will be seriously contemplated in all policy areas. Efforts should now be aimed at communicating the importance of PCD to other DGs as well.
For further information: Else Boonstra, EU Coherence Programme.
Source: CONCORD Flash - March 2007.
See also Euforic dossier on coherence.