Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Policy coherence for development: Priorities for European NGDOs

Brussels, 22 November. Eighteen people today participated in a workshop on 'policy coherence in development.' They aimed to clarify concepts and definitions, exchange information on what each organization is doing, and identify main elements of a way forward.

Organized by the Evert Vermeer Foundation and Concord as part of the EU Coherence programme, the diversity of the participants, the participatory approach adopted by the organisers and the informal atmosphere of the event were key elements for a fruitful and stimulating two-hours discussion.

All participants agreed to a definition of coherence as "the fact that development policy is not challenged by other policies", it was much more difficult to find a common ground in terms of desirable activities and experiences.

It was clear that different organizations and countries have different levels of experience and expertise in dealing with the all the issues involved. The Finnish NGDO platform Kehys, for example, centered its EU Presidency activities on coherence and organised an important call for coherence conference that raised awareness of these issues. On the other side, participants from new EU Member States (Slovenia, Latvia, Cyprus), acceding countries (Bulgaria) and neighbours (Armenia) saw coherence as a new issue on their agendas. In particular, as some people underlined, it is very difficult to talk about PCD and monitor Government actions when national plans and strategies for development are simply not in place, and documents are difficult to locate. This is an issue that Trialog is also looking at.

All agreed that coherence will be more and more important in the strategy of all national NGDO platforms in the EU.

In spite of the apparent diversity of knowledge and awareness, mixture of concrete experiences and lack of 'spaces' where NGOS can formally monitor PCD, participants agreed on several important notions. Three in particular are:
  • First, NGOs, and civil society in general, can and should play a much more significant role to raise awareness, lobby for policy coherence at national the level , and monitor government actions.
  • Second, NGOs should adopt an 'issues based approach' in which several concrete issues are identified for joint action: trade, agriculture, health, environment, peace and secrity, and arms trafficking are the most urgent policy areas to focus on.
  • Third, it is crucial to exchange information and experiences on these specific areas, encouraging networking and collaboration between 'coalitions of like-minded people', replicating successful experiences and learning from them.
The ongoing EVS/CONCORD programme aims to continue its work in these areas, finding creative ways to effectively work on the issue, putting expertise together, sharing success and failure stories, learning from experiences, and making sure that PCD is integrated in the mainstream policy agenda.

More information on the Euforic's coherence dossier.

Story contributed by Pier Andrea Pirani.