How to improve the effectiveness of EU and member states’ development cooperation? Read the Commission’s study.

The study indicates that the EU collective capacity to rethink the effectiveness agenda in practice will be decisive.

In spite of the commitment to effectiveness in EU and Member State policies being maintained or even strengthened, the study, Effective Development Cooperation: Does the EU deliver?, shows an overall deterioration in performance on effectiveness in their Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries. A similar trend is evident across most bilateral donors.

The study is based on data collected for the 2019 Global Progress Report published by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC), reviewed EU development policies and interviews with EU and Member State officials.  

How to do better?   

  • rethink effectiveness:  
    • make it more relevant to the complex and contested development contexts in partner countries and 
    • address European domestic concerns about development cooperation in ways that are coherent with effectiveness; 
  • continue building up our collective effort towards greater effectiveness through Team Europe, joint programming and joint implementation.

What did the study show?

The collective EU performance has stagnated or deteriorated since 2016. This became obvious across a range of effectiveness indicators related to alignment with partner countries’ development priorities and the use of partner country systems for implementing and reporting on development programmes. 

Rather than formal policy changes, the reasons are:

  • budgetary constraints in donor countries, 
  • a reduced tolerance of risk coupled with pressure on aid programmes to respond to domestic political priorities in donor countries, such as business or trade opportunities, reducing carbon emissions or migration,
  • the effectiveness principles and the GPEDC monitoring system are sometimes seen as a rigid and top-down framework with little relevance to real in-country contexts,
  • a fragmented understanding among interviewees of what constitutes effective development cooperation in practice, 
  • there seems to be little interest or incentive at field level to consider effectiveness when planning and implementing projects and programmes. 

Also:  European donors provide less direct aid to Governments and, instead, channel their assistance through international organisations, such as the UN and World Bank, and NGOs. This because of:

  • poor partner country management of public finances, 
  • increasing awareness of corruption and 
  • the need to work in fragile and conflict affected countries, where governance failures are endemic.

Effectiveness is key, and so is cooperation

Effectiveness is fundamentally about how to do better – to join our efforts with those of Government and other partners to deliver more impact with the scarce resources we have.  

We are at a time when we need to bring the many Covid19 responses together into a common effort. Because we have to meet immediate and short-term needs, and also to build the systems, in healthcare and beyond, to prevent and respond to recurrences of COVID or new pandemic threats. The importance of effective development cooperation has never been clearer. 

As the EU builds its collective effort through Team Europe, joint programming and joint implementation, this report, rather than just documenting a declining interest in effectiveness, points the way for the EU to be a champion by working better together for more effective development. 

Sunset or a new dawn? - the EU collective capacity to rethink the effectiveness agenda in practice will be decisive.