The European Union continues to be the world's major source of development aid, providing Ђ 46.9 billion (56.67%) of total official development assistance (ODA) reported to the OECD for 2006. The external aid managed by the European Commission amounted to about Ђ 12.1 billion of new commitments in 2006, of which Ђ 9.8 billion is classified as ODA. Over 160 countries benefit from this aid.
2006 saw major changes in the way the EU manages its relations with the rest of the world. First, by ensuring that policies which affect developing countries can support the objectives of development; second, by adopting regional strategies that reflect its main priorities; third, by simplifying the range of instruments that provide the legal basis for external assistance; fourth, by implementing measures to work more closely with partner countries and other development actors so that aid becomes more effective; and last, by improving the ways in which results are measured and lessons learnt.
This overview aims to present the main features of each of these changes.
A better framework for development policy: Policy coherence
Since the adoption in December 2005 of the European Consensus on Development, the Commission has increasingly focused on the contribution that policies beyond development – such as trade, agriculture, environment, security, migration, the social dimension of globalisation, employment and decent work, and international scientific co-operation, including health research - can make to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
It is widely agreed that development policy alone will not bring sufficient results and that a number of other policies can have a major impact. The EU's aim is to maximise the positive effect of its policies while minimising their negative impact on developing countries.
Under the impetus of the EU Presidency, a rolling work programme for 2006-2007 on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) was elaborated to identify common priorities for action. In October 2006, the Council adopted conclusions covering both the Presidency's rolling PCD work programme and the integration of development concerns in the Council's decisionmaking processes. The Commission has made progress in a number of areas, including trade, and in particular in the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreements with ACP countries that aim at fostering trade and regional integration as an engine for long-term development. The fight against infectious diseases linked to poverty is another good example, e.g. through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP).
Considerable progress has also been made in the area of migration, within the framework of the EU Strategy for Africa1 and with the launch of a Ђ 380 million Thematic Programme for Migration for 2007-2013 and, further, in the area of security, with support for security sector reform in partner countries. Migration is a topic for which coherence is particularly important. In the framework of its broader co-operation agreements, the EU has developed a dialogue on migration-related issues with various countries and regions in the world. The European Neighbourhood Policy is a case in point, and other dialogue processes are underway with partners in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean2.
Such a dialogue typically covers a broad range of issues, including for example the linkages between migration and development, the fight against illegal migration and trafficking in human beings, the impact of refugee situations on development, and joint efforts to manage economic migration better. It can lead to the provision of EU assistance to help partner countries build their capacity to manage migration flows and to maximise the positive linkages between migration and development.
Also in the context of coherence, questions of human rights and good governance are addressed systematically. In 2006 for instance, 13 EU Election Observation Missions were mobilised and some 1 400 EU observers deployed. These missions contributed by their presence to reducing the possibility of fraud, manipulation and intimidation. They increased transparency and public confidence in the election process, and thus supported progress in democracy and governance. In some cases, the missions played a role in conflict prevention, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the most important EU Mission ever deployed (300 observers) monitored the two rounds of elections in July and November. These elections paved the way for a return to civil peace, re-establishment of governance, sustainable development in the DRC and the stabilisation of the whole Great Lakes region.
On governance, the Commission proposed a new approach to "Governance in the European Consensus on Development"3. This builds on a major evaluation covering the period 1994-2004. The EU, it found, has made the right choice in putting governance at the top of its political and co-operation agenda, and the Commission has made substantial progress in defining what are likely to be the most effective approaches to sustainable improvements. The Commission also stresses the importance of promoting good governance in areas such as the tax, financial and judicial area, and scientific co-operation.
As a whole, coherence is of crucial importance for implementing EU external assistance policies. When dealing with partner countries, the Commission adopts three main identities – political player, development agency and donor administration – and is continuously seeking ways in which it can more effectively combine these three.
EU Strategy for Africa: Towards a Euro-African pact to accelerate Africa's development. COM(2005) 489 final.
A parallel dialogue is also underway with the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) grouping as such.
COM(2006)421 of 30.8.2006.