The meeting (28 February 2012) took place ahead of Catherine Ashton’s hearing at the European Parliament’s Development Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in March. The delegation - presenting a CONCORD shadow report ‘One year EAS’ on the EU foreign policy arm’s first anniversary - welcomed that Ms Ashton has appointed a member of her senior leadership team responsible for development, as well as the responsiveness of the service to NGOs. At the same time, the delegation expressed its concerns about the way that the European External Action Service has been set up and addresses development and poverty eradication.
The new European diplomatic corps could make a valuable contribution to making sure that EU foreign relations support the European values of solidarity, justice, equality and human rights.
While there is progress and potential in these areas, there is also a lack of clarity about the integration of development and strategies for poverty eradication into the heart of all the EU’s external actions.
The External Action Service should guarantee more policy coherence, making sure that EU policies in areas such as energy and climate change, taxation and agriculture don’t undermine what it’s trying to achieve with its development aid.
During the meeting, CIDSE Secretary General Bernd Nilles highlighted concerns about the focus of the EU Agenda for Change, a set of proposals for increasing the impact of EU development cooperation on poverty eradication:
“We understand and agree that governmental relations between the EU and several middle income countries need to change due to their growing economic and political weight, but 70% of the world poorest live in these countries. We can’t leave these people alone.
Mrs. Ashton took up this point in her hearing the following day with the European Parliament’s Development Committee, underlining that “the poorest people do not always live in the poorest countries.”
Nilles added: “The EU focus on macro-economic growth is also worrying. It should not forget about its Treaty obligation to work towards poverty eradication and respect of human rights as well as the need to increase support to civil society working for social justice and to regulate multinational companies to reduce the negative impacts of their operations on local communities, workers and the environment.”
2012 is a crucial year for the future of EU development cooperation. A European Commission proposal to increase foreign affairs, development and climate spending for 2014-2020 on the basis of the Agenda for Change is under negotiation, while new policy orientations on EU-Civil Society cooperation are to come in October. CIDSE welcomes the continued support of European people in form of campaigns, voluntary work and solidarity donations and rejects moves by several European countries to reduce their development aid.
The CONCORD ‘One Year EAS’ report makes five recommendations:
1. Make policy coherence for development a reality
The High Representative should acknowledge her role in making Policy Coherence for Development a reality through the EEAS, particularly its delegations. She should make a statement setting PCD as a clear priority for the service, explaining clearly to staff their role in relation to PCD when developing regional and national strategy papers. The Agenda for Change marks a great opportunity for the EEAS and DEVCO to clarify what mechanisms they will put in place and how they will work together to ensure real policy coherence - with emphasis on development - becomes a reality.
2. Clarify role on programming
In the interest of transparency and accountability, the EEAS and DEVCO should complete and publicise the Memorandum of Understanding on how they will divide tasks and responsibilities for development. The MoU should cover both the approach to the programming of funds as well as PCD, cooperation in-country, joint programming and in-country consultation processes. The scrutiny role of the European Parliament on external instruments programming should also be maintained and this needs to be clarified. Programming guidelines should clearly establish the roles of the different actors and should properly integrate the principles of ownership, alignment, joint programming and multi-stakeholder consultation including civil society.
3. Develop a clear narrative on development cooperation
The EEAS should develop a narrative on EU development cooperation and its interaction with security and human rights policies. Under its watch, no further erosion of the civilian character of development cooperation through military or quasi-military spending should take place. It should work with the Commission to develop a more informed and wide-angle view of EU long-term development objectives, which have poverty eradication as their end goal. The High Representative should state her vision of the EU’s role in development that is grounded in the achievement of human rights, tackling inequality and gender equality. This narrative should respect the Lisbon Treaty. It should also be shared with the EP Development Committee and Council, which will need to support the vision in the years to come.
4. Sharpen your development expertise
Expertise on development policy and practice must be present at all levels in the institutions, including the EEAS. The EEAS and DEVCO should develop a training programme for all new EEAS staff to ensure their ability to understand and apply a rights based approach to development issues, including PCD. The EEAS and DEVCO should develop an overall and coherent policy on the role of staff at delegation level, including clarity on reporting lines.
5. Seize the day: work with civil society in country
At the delegation level, both the EEAS and DEVCO should work more actively to engage in political and policy dialogue with stakeholders including CSOs and NGOs, who know the context of human rights and poverty on the ground and can help to shape strategies to tackle it. This will ensure that the programming for the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework have a strong in-country basis and a proper reality check.
A key consideration here is to give ample time to allow for comprehensive in-country consultation.
Read the full report