Foreign Affairs Council
Member states back targeted development aid
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Tuesday 15 May 2012
The member states’ foreign ministers agreed, on 14 May, to refocus the Union’s development aid to fewer countries and to concentrate bilateral development cooperation to a maximum of three sectors per partner country.
The 27 ministers argued that “the rapidly changing global environment and the new international aid architecture require a more comprehensive, responsive and effective approach in EU external action and development policy”. However, while stating that they were shifting development aid to “countries most in need,” putting special emphasis on the sub-Saharan Africa and on LDCs (least developed countries) elsewhere, the ministers concurred on the necessity to continue to cooperate with other countries and regions, such as in Latin America and Asia, “where poverty and inequalities remain widespread”. However, according to ActionAid’s Laura Sullivan, “this is not the right way to tackle poverty within the EU’s new development policy”.
Anticipating NGOs’ concerns regarding the shift in bilateral aid allocations, the Council noted that the EU will continue its fight against inequalities with more advanced countries. “Differentiation will also imply new forms of strategic cooperation based on mutual interests and allow for joint initiatives to address global challenges with more advanced partners, to whom development grant aid is being accordingly phased out,” the ministers explained.
The 27 member states also announced their commitment to “use budget support effectively to support poverty reduction and the use of country systems, make aid more predictable and strengthen partner countries’ ownership of development policies and reforms”.
“Budget support is one of the best ways of ensuring development focuses on developing countries’ needs, rather than the political and economic strategies of donors,” commented Catherine Ollier, Oxfam’s EU development expert. “We expect governments and the Commission to champion this aid modality when deciding the EU’s development priorities for the next EU budget (2014-2020),” she added.
In all forms of budget support, which is the EU’s aid delivery instrument addressed directly to third countries’ governments, the EU will apply a tailor-made and dynamic approach to eligibility, focusing on “progress in the implementation of credible and relevant sector reforms strategies,” ministers said.
Ministers also urged the EU and member states to strengthen their efforts to coordinate their approach to budget support at country level, “including to assess whether it is appropriate to use that aid modality”. Indeed, according to the Council conclusions, budget support must only be provided “when and where it is assessed that there is trust that it will contribute to effective development impacts and will be spent in accordance with shared objectives and values, in particular human rights, democracy and the rule of law, as well as public sector reform and financial management”.