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EU Development Days: time for new action, new thinking

Written by Eric Pichon,

The European Development Days (EDD)The main global development partners meet in Brussels for the European Development Days (EDD, EUDevDays.eu) on 7 and 8 June. This year the focus is on the various ways of ‘Investing in Development’. The debates take place at a time when the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the international community in 2015 are expected to cost ‘between billions and trillions’, while climate change, increased migration and man-made crises demand the emergence of new thinking on development issues.

The EU and its Member States are pivotal players in development policies, since together they provide more than half (€68 billion in 2015) of global official development aid. Nevertheless, this remains less than their commitment to spend 0.7 % of EU gross national income (GNI) collectively. Globally, public financial flows are not enough to eradicate extreme poverty. For this reason, the EU now tends to use its ODA to leverage other financial sources through public-private partnerships, trust funds (combining money from the EU budget, the EDF and voluntary contributions from some Member States), or blended finance (a combination of loans and grants).


See also our topical digest on the European Development Days 2017


In parallel, concern regarding the effectiveness of development projects has increased. Among other principles, countries receiving aid are encouraged to increase ownership of their development. Ownership implies that recipient countries have functioning and reliable institutions. Indeed, aid is least effective in the fragile states that are the most in need.

Greater harmonisation between donors is also called for, aimed at limiting overhead costs by better planning, implementation and appraisal of development projects. However, this is not an easy task, even between the EU and its Member States: development is a shared competence, which means the EU institutions and Member States can concurrently carry out projects and policies. To avoid costly duplication, several coordination mechanisms have been tested, such as limiting the number of countries aided by each donor, joint programming in coordination with EU delegations, or one EU Member State taking the lead, entrusted by other donors to coordinate EU development programmes in a given country or sector (‘division of labour’). Despite encouraging results, this coordination remains limited because some Member States want to retain control of a key aspect of their foreign policy. However, a new EU Consensus on development has been reached by the EU – and will be signed during the Development Days. This redefines the EU’s common development policy goals and principles that guide Member States’ development policies and cooperation.

The new EU consensus on development is structured around the five ‘P’s guiding the Sustainable Development Goals; the EU and Member States commit to:

  • People: foster universal access to health and education;
  • Planet: integrate environment and climate into all development cooperation strategies;
  • Prosperity: help developing countries to improve their business environment to develop trade and investments for inclusive and sustainable growth and jobs;
  • Peace: use development cooperation as one of the key instruments to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts, and to foster democratic, peaceful and inclusive societies;
  • Partnership: develop collaboration with all development actors.

While approving the consensus, the European Parliament has frequently drawn attention to the fact that development policy should not be subordinated to security and migration control policies, but remain centred on poverty eradication, and addressing the root causes of irregular migration.

The EPRS has dedicated a number of papers to development policies:

Le système multilatéral de développement: indispensable mais complexe, mai 2017

How the EU budget is spent: Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, May 2017

New European consensus on development: Will it be fit for purpose?, April 2017

Understanding ‘development effectiveness’: An overview of concepts, actors and tools , April 2017

Understanding capacity-building / capacity development: A core concept of development policy, April 2017

European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD), February 2017

Implementing Agenda 2030: Fresh impetus for reforming the UN Development System, February 2017

ACP-EU relations after 2020: The end of an era, December 2016 [A podcast on this topic is also available]

Growing impact of EU migration policy on development cooperation, October 2016

Africa’s economic growth: Taking off or slowing down? [also in French and German], January 2016

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The content of all documents (and articles) contained in this blog is the sole responsibility of the author and any opinions expressed therein do not necessarily represent the official position of the European Parliament. It is addressed to the Members and staff of the EP for their parliamentary work. Reproduction and translation for non-commercial purposes are authorised, provided the source is acknowledged and the European Parliament is given prior notice and sent a copy. Copyright © European Union, 2014. All rights reserved

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