Of course it’s not just about more aid.
Late last year, European NGOs published the “Spotlight on Policy Coherence” report.
The report highlights the many ways in which EU policies and practices undermine the Union’s stated aim of helping to eradicating global poverty. By publishing the report, European NGOs want to remind the European Union that it is legally obliged to take account of the objectives of development cooperation in other policy areas, if those are likely to affect developing countries (art 178 of the Treaty establishing the European Community).
In the jargon of the EU, this principle has become known as “policy coherence for development”: ensuring that the external impacts of EU policies do not undermine the aims and objectives of EU development cooperation. Put simply, EU policies that contradict or oppose its commitment to help make poverty history must end. It is not right for the EU to give with one hand, and to take with the other. What NGOs are looking for is “fair politics”.
The EU’s Views
Spurred on by the Maastricht Treaty and the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union has not exactly been idle on this front. In September 2009, the European released its second biennial EU report on “Policy Coherence for Development, which was based on an earlier Communication from the Commission to the EU institutions. In the report, the Commission proposed to concentrate on five “priority areas” where the biggest gains could be made in terms of reducing the conflict between the EU’s other “external” policy areas and its development policy: climate change, food security, migration, intellectual property rights, and security and peace-building.
In November 2009, the EU’s Council of Ministers adopted its Conclusions on Policy Coherence, which reaffirmed the Member States’ commitments to improving their performance in this area, and which called on the Commission to develop a work programme for the period 2010-2013 focusing on five priorities: climate change, trade and finance, food security, migration, and peace and security.
The European Parliament, for its part, initiated a report “on the EU Policy Coherence for Development and the Official Development Assistance plus concept”, which was welcomed by the NGOs.
The NGO view.
What the Spotlight report says, is that:
– The EU’s considerable efforts to improve the coherence among its various policies can be further improved. Many of the commitments made have yet to be translated into decisive action. And the EU’s approach of looking at development objectives in one single policy area at a time disregards the fact that all the policies are closely interlinked and interact with each other in many different ways. The Spotlight report focuses on the inter-linkages between different EU policies.
– Trade-offs between conflicting objectives are inevitable and some degree of inconsistency is unavoidable. Nevertheless, more transparency and accountability are needed. And clear benchmarks have to be established, against which to assess whether, when there is a conflict of interests, another priority (economic or political) should override development considerations.
– Sustainable development and the fulfilment of human rights should be the basis for any other EU policy affecting development countries. The EU has a global responsibility to all the citizens of the world not to undermine, but to honour their right to development. The report proposes introducing the interests and rights of the people in developing countries as the basis for a new approach to PCD.
The report puts forward specific recommendations for each of the policy areas scrutinised, as well as general recommendations on how to make progress towards greater coherence:
– Indicators for assessing development impact are necessary to demonstrate the anti-developmental aspects of a particular policy;
– The hierarchy of values has to be clearly spelled out otherwise EU economic interests are bound to win;
– A complaints mechanism should be introduced in order to improve accountability and coherence.
It can work. Just look at the examples from Sweden, where Government has legislated for its obligation to assess the global impact of all new policies. The Irish Government has also committed to improve its coherence. An Inter-Departmental Committee on Development has been created, and the minutes of its meetings are available on the web.
Like so much else in the fight against poverty: whether it works depends on the will to make it work.