Thursday, July 05, 2007

European development cooperation: starting to make a difference?

The Hague, 4 July. How does the picture of European development cooperation look like today? What results have been achieved and what challenges are still to be addressed? And how do different actors perceive these?

These were some of the question addressed in the EADI-facilatated SID pre-conference event on European development cooperation.

Fran├žoise Moreau of the European Commission highlighted the crucial steps that the EC/EU has taken to live up to its role as a global development player. In particular, the European Consensus on development represents a major improvement, because it has been endorsed by all the different official actors, and it clearly defines the principles of EU development cooperation and the role of the Commission in facilitating coherence and coordination. Further, the recently agreed 'Code of Conduct' will assure complementarity between the different actors, reducing transitional costs and promoting ownership [See Bernard Petit and other panelists discussing the same issues, at the same time, in Brussels].

From a Member State perspective, Stefan van Wersch of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed: “It’s true, things are changing in Brussels: there is a new dynamic, and this is a real change, we can see it and recognize it”. In particular, concrete examples of this change can be seen in the Consensus on development, a major mind shift for some Member States, and in the lead taken by the Commission to bring forward the Paris Agenda. Nevertheless, some critical points still need to be addressed: “what will be the role of the Commission in the new division of labour? And what about the peace and security issue, where Europe has potentially a lot to offer?”

Paul Engel of ECDPM concurred: “the glass is not half-full yet, but I see in Europe a good dynamic to face the challenges deriving from a shared development policy”. In his view, Europe has so far failed when it comes to the implementation of development policy. The main reason is the complexity of its aid architecture. In this sense, “moving towards a more integrated approach needs more than just one step" by the Commission. While policy coherence is top of the European agenda, there is still not a systematic approach to it. Ownership and agenda setting are still unresolved issues. It is still not clear how additional money (‘more aid’) will be spent, and if there will be ownership of these funds by developing countries. IN the past this has been elusive simply because EU agendas move at a faster speeds compared to those of recipient countries. But again, things are moving, as demonstrated also by the undergoing EU-AU dialogue, where for the first time there is recognition of the African Union as an equal partner.

Last to speak, Alex Wilks offered an NGO perspective . He shared the results of the latest CONCORD research on European Member States aid figures. “It is not so much a matter of more and better aid, but instead a matter of how this aid is counted and how it is delivered by European governments.” The report demonstrates that ‘genuine aid’ is much lower than promised and that development issues are shadowed by other policies. Only four countries (Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Denmark) have matched the ODA target of 0,7%, while all the others are much behind, with Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain missing the individual minimum 2006 target. Looking at this picture, European NGOs demand that “governments just deliver on what they have promised.”

More on EU aid and aid effectiveness

story by Pier Andrea Pirani