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Commission aims to attach more conditions to development aid

By Toby Vogel  -  13.10.2011 / 05:17 CET
Funding to governments set to decrease.

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THAT DIRECTION Andris Piebalgs, left, wants more conditions attached to development aid. EC
Fact file

Budget support

The Commission's Agenda for Change is accomp-anied by a paper on budget support, which draws out some of the implications of the Agenda's push for stricter conditions. Budget support – aid that goes directly to recipients' treasuries – is the EU's preferr-ed mode of delivering development assistance.

If stricter conditions are to have an impact on recipient governments, donors have to ensure that they pursue the same goals and share their assessment of the situation in a given country. Member states that are keen on using less direct budget support – for example, the Netherlands – have made it clear that they want the more critical view of budget support to a particular government to prevail in cases where member states differ in their assessment. The Netherlands has also been the most outspoken member state in seeking to link development aid to other foreign policy goals, such as human rights, or co-operation in prosecuting pirates.

Funding for the next MFF

The new development policy is intended to strengthen the Commission's position on development aid as it prepares for negotiations on the EU's next multiannual financial framework (MFF), from 2014. The Commission has proposed a funding increase for development in the next MFF. The budget for the development co-operation instrument (DCI), managed by the European Commission, is to rise from €17.3 billion to €20.6bn. The European Development Fund (EDF), which provides aid to countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, and is controlled by the member states and hence falls outside the MFF, is set to increase from €22.3bn over the current six-year period to €30.3bn for the seven years from 2014. This is supposed to help member states, and the EU collectively, reach their target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on development.

Joint programming

The member states are expected to view most elements of the Agenda for Change as fairly unproblematic, although resistance might grow once they are translated into actual policy. But one issue raised in the agenda – joint programming – is likely to get a cool reception from some member states.

The draft seen by European Voice announces that the EU will take a “more active leadership role” in co-ordinating and harmonising donor activities. Some member states are bound to see this as a bid by the Commission to have a bigger say over national development aid, and over aid channelled through the European Development Fund, which is controlled by the member states. But the Agenda goes beyond mere co-ordination, proposing that the EU, together with the member states, should develop a single programming document for each recipient country, laying down a division of labour and financial allocations to guide member states' aid as well. This could, if implemented, reduce member states' ability to pursue their own goals with their national development aid.

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