“Back to the Future: Recent Evolutions in EU Development Policy and Its Implications for the Global Development Agenda”

The European Centre for Development and Policy Management (ECDPM) is an independent foundation established in 1986 to promote cooperation between the European Union and developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific (ACP). Global Washington members heard a presentation by ECDPM’s Senior Executive for International Relations Andrew Sherriff, on the complex interactions between and among European nations, and how EU development policies might have implications for the global development agenda. Andrew asked the members present if there are parallel trends in the U.S. If you would like to share your thought, please feel free to “comment” in response to this blog.

Andrew presented the EU’s current role in providing “Official Development Assistance” (ODA) to the developing world. (By definition, ODA must be provided by the official (government) sector, its main objective must be the promotion of economic development, and it must have a grant element of at least 25 per cent.) The UN has established a target for each developed country to provide 0.7 per cent of its GNP to ODA by 2015. A few countries (Sweden, Luxembourg) have already met that goal. The U.S. is currently at <0.2 per cent of GNP. With the current worldwide financial crisis, many countries are backing off their current commitments; however, the U.K. and the European Commission are bucking the trend and proposing to raise their contributions. Another way to “increase” ODA would be to broaden the categories that ODA can fund. (The U.S. contribution, for example, would be considerably higher if military aid were included.) Some have suggested that support for security sector reform, such as police forces, be included within the ODA categorization.

Another major change that is influencing the EU’s outlook on its contributions to ODA is the rise of the “BRICS” – the emerging market countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. BRICS are investing in Africa in a different way from the EU model of investing ODA in good government; over 37 per cent of Africa’s trade is now with BRICS countries. Much of the BRICS investment is in infrastructure, such as roads and transportation routes to access raw materials that the developing countries have.

A further complication is that the fragile and conflict states, countries which could benefit most from outside investment, are often the least well performing. “How do you spend money well?” in fragile states, Andrew asked.

Andrew presented the conclusions of a European Commission “Green Paper” on Developmental Policy, prepared in 2010. [http://ec.europa.eu/development/icenter/repository/GREEN_PAPER_COM_2010_629_POLITIQUE_DEVELOPPEMENT_EN.pdf] The goal of the paper was to launch a debate on how the EU can best support developing countries' efforts to speed up progress towards the Millennium Development Goals centering on four main objectives:
• how to ensure high EU impact development policy, so that every euro spent provides the best value added and value for money, the best leverage and the best legacy of opportunities for generations to come (Andrew noted that ensuring high impact requires measuring results, but cautioned that overemphasis on short-term results may lead to perverse outcomes);
• how to facilitate more, and more inclusive, growth in developing countries, as a means of reducing poverty and providing a chance for all to have a decent living and a perspective for their future;
• how to promote sustainable development as a driver for progress (but noted that blending loans from the private sector may lead to unsustainable debt); and
• how to achieve durable results in the area of agriculture and food security (without additional “new” money).

However, he also noted that this paper was prepared before the Arab Spring of 2011, which could have long-ranging effects, particularly on Northern Africa.

Andrew ended his talk with the title of his talk: Back to the Future. He asked where the EU might be going “back” to:
• The early 1990’s, focusing on sustainable development?
• The 1980’s, focusing on competition and the Cold War?
• The 1960’s, focusing on economic growth?
• The 1950’s, focusing on the political strategy of the Marshall plan?
Do you have any thoughts? Feel free to “comment” below.