Simon Maxwell

European Development Cooperation: Priorities for 2011

Simon, Elizabeth and Mikaela were in Brussels for the European Development Days, hosting a dinner and a breakfast event, participating in panel debates, and promoting ODIOverseas Development Institute (London) at a joint stand with the other members of the European Think Tanks Group.

The EDDs are growing in stature and importance as the premier European event on development. The range of topics is substantial – see the programme here. Dozens of large plenaries and small workshops, covering everything from development finance and aid effectiveness, to children’s rights and gender equality.  The European Development Report (on social protection) was launched at the event, as was DARA’s Humanitarian Response Index 2010. There were meetings on WDRWorld Development Report 2011 and on Doing Business 2011. There were sessions on many aspects of EUEuropean Union development policy, including the private sector, budget support, humanitarian relief and the Commission Green Paper on development policy. All the relevant Commissioners participated, along with heads or deputies from other agencies (Strauss-Kahn (IMF), Hilde Johnson (UNICEF), Kaberuka (ADB), Anstey (WB)) and many European development minsters (including Andrew Mitchell).

SM spoke at the opening plenary, alongside Andris Piebalgs, Andrew Mitchell, Gunilla Carlsson from Sweden, Pierre Vimont (SG of the new EEAS), Erastus Mwencha from the AU Commission, and others. He also chaired a panel sponsored by EUNIDA, the network of implementing agencies (GTZ and others). Together with our think-tank partners, we hosted two private events, a dinner for Heads of Policy from the Commission and Member States, and a breakfast for DGs and other change-makers, both chaired by SM. Approximately 60 people attended these two events, from the Commission and 15 countries.

The European Think-Tanks Group had a shared stand, with an ETTG banner and a range of publications. A computer was available for people to vote on the ‘swingometer’ (see here). The ODIOverseas Development Institute (London) project (EDCSP) distributed many copies of our papers, including Mikaela’s new briefing on the Financial Perspectives 2014-20.

How to characterise the mood and the key issues? Some key themes:

  • The backdrop of the euro-crisis, but also repeated comments about relative European decline and lack of confidence;
  • Strong statements everywhere about the widening development agenda, need to engage on trade, global imbalances etc . . ., but little evidence that much is actually happening, and actually very few sessions on the wider agenda (e.g. trade);
  • In particular, great disappointment with lack of attention to development in the external action service (see MG blog on that subject here);
  • Louis Michel scathing about the new division of labour between the EEAS and Dev, leading to de-politicisation of development cooperation;
  • Concern about poor prospects for oda, little public support, and some quite strong comments from very senior people about the need to look again at the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) definition of oda, in order to make it easier to fund security engagement;
  • Absolutely no interest in finding a resolution to the ‘new and additional’ conundrum on climate finance, with several donor representatives emphatic that no additional money would be found;
  • Continued ambiguity about the swingometer question on the balance between coordination and consolidation, with many still arguing for a cooperation model, even though the ECEuropean Community is the largest aid donor in the world, bigger than the World Bank and pretty well the whole of the UN;
  • A big debate to be had about the middle income countries issue, with Andris Piebalgs talking about the need to focus on the least developed (a quarter of which, by the way, are middle income), others wanting to focus on the poorest, but many, unsurprisingly, making the case for continued partnership with middle income countries;
  • In this context, a lot of talk about blended grants and loans for MICs, but also more engagement through the private sector;
  • Support for the Piebalgs growth agenda (see SM blog on the subject  here), but many confused as to the scope of the EUEuropean Union Green Paper;
  • Great nervousness about re-opening the European Consensus on Development, because of scepticism on development and Europe’s role across the EU;
  • In that connection,  a cri de coeur from Gunilla Carlsson, about how the World Bank is so much easier to work with and influence than the EU;
  • Some support for SM’s capacity-building agenda – the merger of DG Dev and EuropeAid offers an opening, as does the DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) peer review next year;
  • Note what is not on this list, but would have been in the past – quality or timeliness of ECEuropean Community aid. Indeed, notable that Andrew Mitchell spoke very positively about the EDF ranking in the DFIDDepartment for International Development multilateral review.

Many of these issues are general to many aid donors, rather than specific to the EC, and doubtless reflect themes elsewhere. However, there does seem a need to inject some momentum into the EUEuropean Union debate. See SM piece earlier in the year on the importance of recognising the Commander’s Intent here.

In terms of priorities for the coming year, here are three:

  • First, make the Green Paper process as successful as possible. It would have been much better to separate out the ‘overarching policy framework’ story from the ‘inclusive growth and infrastructure/energy’ story, but separately or together, we need both. SM has written about ‘playing poker’ with development cooperation policy: skip to the end for a paragraph or two arguing that the Green Paper discussion needs to work from the outside in, beginning with an analysis of where poor countries and people stand in relation to changes in the world economy, with more emphasis on differentiated needs and responses. All this plays to conversations about what we think development cooperation is for, and how we help ministers make the case to their publics. Certainly, development cooperation is not just about aid. Certainly, development cooperation has a moral imperative, but also can be justified by European self-interest. Certainly, inclusive growth should feature prominently in our policy. And certainly, there needs to be a constant focus on the correct distribution of responsibilities and resources between the Commission and the Member States. This may mean that the Green Paper should result in a full revision of the European Consensus. Many think not. Maybe a strong ‘re-interpretation’ by the Commissioner will be enough.
  • Secondly, contribute to strong financial frameworks for European development cooperation. In the short term, this means: making the case for oda, with or without a new definition; exploring the potential of new resource flows, including private finance and blending; and trying once more, transparently and with real leadership, to reach a deal on the additionality of climate finance. In the medium term, it means contributing to the negotiation of the Financial Perspectives for 2014-2010 – a subject on which Mikaela Gavas’ paper provides the basis for discussion, but to which a stream of Commission communications will also contribute.
  • Third, help to make sure the Commission is equipped to play its role as one of the big three development actors, alongside the World Bank and the UN – matching its undoubted level of resources with the policy heft needed to provide leadership across the range of development issues. The merger between DG Dev and EuropeAid provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thinks systematically about the capacity and competences required, not just to write aid policy and deliver aid, but also to engage at the G20 and the G8, the trade and climate talks, the global and regional security institutions, and the myriad other fora in which development policy is made. How can we benchmark the Commission against its peers? Does the forthcoming DACDevelopment Assistance Committee (of the OECD) peer review provide an opportunity?

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