Partnerships and Institutional Relations


In the past ten years the Centre has built an impressive network of strategic and institutional partnerships with official andnon-governmental organisations in the South. ECDPM now works with a number of partners in a structured cooperation framework based on memoranda of understanding, joint programmes and staff exchanges. The list of partners includes the AUC, SAIIA, ISS, the Africa Governance Institute (AGI), NPCA, FANRPAN and IIR-UWI in the Caribbean. In addition, ECDPM is an active member of several North-South Networks such as EARN, the Observatoire de l’Afrique, and the Development Finance Network (DEFINE).


Partnerships with ‘Northern’ partners 

The year 2012 was a challenging one for ECDPM. The Centre began implementing its new five-year strategy (2012-2016) in a context of financial and economic crisis in the EU and subsequent declining budgets for development cooperation. At the same time we became aware that scepticism about that the future prospects for EU-ACP and EU-Africa relations is growing in Europe. This is a worrisome development since it concerns ECDPM’s ‘core business’. We went to great lengths during the year to revitalise the debate on these partnerships in Europe, in the ACP and in Africa.

In response to the increasing globalisation of development issues, ECDPM widened the scope of its 2012-2016 strategy addresses new global actors and thematic areas of work. The strategy was accompanied by a new funding strategy, as well, which includes five components examined in detail below.

1. Deepening key institutional partnerships

In order to implement our new strategy, ECDPM continued to prioritise sustained and flexible institutional funding from key partners. As a first step, we organised an intensive process of dialogue with all of our longstanding institutional partners, both with their representatives in the European capitals and with members of their Permanent Representations in Brussels. As a result, in 2012, the Centre managed to consolidate and even further increase its institutional funding.

Our main institutional funder, the Netherlands, maintained its funding at the same level as in 2011. On this basis, negotiations between ECDPM and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued throughout 2012 and up until a new core funding agreement was concluded, early in 2013, which covers the remaining four years of the strategy period (2013-2016). 

The three-year (2012-2014) agreements signed with ECDPM’s other longstanding partners, Belgium and Luxemburg, show a substantial increase in funding. 

Finland, Ireland and Sweden consolidated their funding for the Centre. Despite the financial crisis, IrishAid reaffirmed its partnership with ECDPM and prepared the ground for even more intense cooperation during its upcoming EU presidency (January to June 2013). The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs similarly conveyed its wish to continue Finland’s partnership with ECDPM over the next three years, by signing a new cooperation agreement in 2013. 

We strengthened collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) under which ECDPM staff contributed to in-house seminars and provided feedback on policy documents. There was also an intense dialogue with SDC in Bern and with the Swiss mission to the EU in Brussels. For the Swiss, ECDPM is now a trusted partner and acts as an independent sounding board on EU development policy and management, as well as on EU external relations.

As the cooperation agreement with Portugal was to end in September 2012, discussions on the future of the relationship took place during the second half of 2012. Despite having to severely reduce its development aid budget due to the prevailing economic crisis, Portugal reaffirmed its commitment to partnership with ECDPM and indicated its desire to sign a new agreement as of 2013.

By maintaining its longstanding relationships – mainly with institutions in middle-sized EU member states – ECDPM has consolidated its position as a trusted partner, contributing to more intense and dynamic exchange and cooperation. While the upholding of these different relationships means that our staff must show even more flexibility, it has also increased our opportunities to increase the impact of our work through interactions with policymakers and development practitioners. 

The Centre also continued its cooperation with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), which remains an important ECDPM programme funder. One of our joint initiatives in 2012 was the project ‘Improving the Value for Money in EU Development Aid’. Other efforts analysed changes in the EU’s development policy, EU conflict prevention and peace building, EU inter-institutional relations and the future of the EU's regional engagements with Africa and the ACP. 

2. Preparing to establish new (institutional) partnerships

With a view to further diversifying our funding basis, ECDPM sought to establish new partnership relations with two ‘EU-15 countries’, with which it had not had previous institutional relationships. We organised visits to Denmark and held meetings with the Minister for Development Cooperation, with officials in two departments (EU and development policy) of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as with the management and staff of the Danish Institute of International Relations (DIIS). As a result, ECDPM and DIIS jointly drafted a number of policy papers on EU development issues that are relevant to the Danish Ministry, including papers on the role of the EU in middle-income countries and papers on policy coherence for development.

A similar initiative was launched to pave the way for a partnership with Austria. In May 2012, we held initial discussions with staff at the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (development cooperation) and the Austrian Development Agency (ADA). These discussions are expected to lead to a first two-year cooperation agreement for the period 2013-2014. 

In addition, the Centre deployed efforts to engage with additional non-EU partners, notably with major development agencies in Japan and the USA. In the case of Japan, ECDPM staff established a regular and intensive dialogue with JICA, primarily through the JICA representative in Brussels. Regular exchanges also took place in Tokyo with the staff at both JICA headquarters and at the JICA Research Institute, as well as in the JICA office in Paris. As a result, the two institutions signed a first cooperation agreement, according to which ECDPM will act as an independent sounding board on issues related to EU development and external relations. 

In addition, ECDPM signed a cooperative agreement with the US State Department representation in Brussels to organise two informal donor meetings there in 2013. These meetings will explore ways to enhance donor engagement with the private sector for development purposes, a growing area of key importance to US and European donors alike.

3. Strategic engagement with EU presidencies 

While the role of EU presidencies has been considerably downplayed in the new post-Lisbon EU institutional architecture, the six-month EU presidencies still play a key role on a number of issues that fall under ECDPM’s remit, notably ACP-EU matters. Through support to the Danish and Cyprus EU presidencies, ECDPM was able to strengthen its impact and visibility during the year. 

Danish EU Presidency

During the Danish EU Presidency, ECDPM was invited to facilitate a debate on the future of development cooperation at an informal meeting of the EU Council’s Working Party on Development Cooperation (CODEV) in Denmark (June 2012).

Cyprus EU Presidency

Upon invitation by the Permanent Representation of Cyprus to the EU, ECDPM facilitated a workshop in December on the future of ACP-EU relations entitled ‘What future for ACP-EU relations? Exploring emerging ACP perspectives from actors in Brussels and in the field’. The meeting gathered representatives from all EU member states, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU Commission, the European Investment Bank and the Council Secretariat.

We also provided oral briefings on development aspects of future EU external instruments to staff of the Cypriot Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including those posted to Brussels as members of the Permanent Representation of Cyprus to the EU. Another ECDPM contribution was the publication of a briefing note that was drafted at the request of the NGO Support Centre in Nicosia on the current state of EU development policy.

4. New partnerships with development foundations

Along with the institutional funding arrangements concluded with EU member states and Switzerland and with a view to diversifying funding sources, the Centre sought funding opportunities with multilateral organisations, Southern partners and development foundations. We embarked on a joint project with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), our UK partner in the European Think-Tanks Group and we conducted research to document development progress, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). At the same time, ECDPM and ODI jointly led another BMGF-funded programme, the External Evaluation of the Think Tank Initiative (TTI). The purpose of TTI is to strengthen a group of think tanks in developing countries to enable them to provide high-quality research that contributes to the development of more equitable societies. 

5. Strengthened ECDPM capacities for fundraising 

In 2012, ECDPM prepared to kick-start implementation of its new strategy by making substantial investments in the following capacity development activities:

  • We provided training on project and programme development, and on proposal writing. As a result, we now have a common ECDPM format for programme proposals that should provide the necessary guidance to our staff in streamlining concept notes and programme/project proposals. 
  • We identified the sectorial and thematic priorities of all major funding agencies that are relevant to ECDPM. We now have systematised information about strategies, policy priorities and target groups of most EU member states that are already, or could become, institutional partners in the future. 
  • We provided staff with access to the Assortis database, a tool that scans and filters the websites of all major donor agencies and financing institutions worldwide, on a daily basis. Access to Assortis eases the process of identifying calls for proposals and tenders that fit ECDPM’s strategic areas of work.
  • We established a set of criteria for selecting tender opportunities. One of the key messages communicated during the staff training process was that fundraising and tendering is not only about raising more money for the organisation, but that it is primarily about mobilising smart funding in line with our mandate, strategic orientations and capacities. 
  • We created an informal task force on innovative funding approaches. Led by the institutional relations unit, this task force meets regularly to discuss new funding opportunities as well as innovative approaches to fundraising. It also drafts proposals to improve the internal management of our fundraising mechanisms (for instance, by clarifying the division of roles between ECDPM programme-level activities and Centre-wide activities relating to Africa). 
  • We provided training to improve ECDPM’s knowledge management and communications (KMC) as well as public relations. The Centre’s new KMC strategy will help us improve our marketing skills, ‘selling’ our corporate identity, specificity, impact and value added. Particular attention was given to designing a new ECDPM institutional brochure that clearly explains who we are, what we do, what our value is and how we work. Moreover, additional effort was put into making our website more accessible and attractive and (for a limited number of days) we hired the services of a journalist and communication expert to help us target the media with improved journalistic products and press releases.
  • We introduced and developed an internal culture of ‘smart fundraising’. In recent months, we have witnessed positive signs of increased ‘collective entrepreneurship in fundraising’ at all levels in the Centre. It is clear that all staff members are aware of the importance of smart fundraising in line with ECDPM’s mandate and strategic orientations. In that respect, we can look with confidence to the future, even in times of insecurity.

These innovative funding approaches have contributed substantially to reduce ECDPM’s vulnerability when external, market-driven conditions become a threat to the essence of our mandate. We remain determined to prevent any undermining of our capacity to carry out our core business as a non-partisan facilitator of dialogue, independent analysis, and capacity development of Southern institutions. 

 Partnership with ‘Southern’ partners

Cooperation with the ACP Group

ECDPM continued to support to the ACP Group during the ongoing debates about the future of both the ACP and of ACP-EU relations beyond 2020. Our contributions included comments on the Van Reisen report entitled Study on the Future Perspectives of the ACP Group and the regular meetings we held with ACP ambassadors and ACP Secretariat staff. In May 2012, ECDPM was invited to make a presentation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) in Horsens, Denmark, titled What Future for the ACP-EU Relations Beyond 2020?

In addition, ECDPM assisted the ACP Group in other areas of great importance and relevance. In June 2012, we organised a seminar for ACP ambassadors (The EU Budget, European Development Fund 2014-2020 Negotiations and Programming, and Its Implications for the ACP). Finally ECDPM contributed to the ongoing debate on ‘differentiation’ by organising a meeting at the level of the ACP Secretariat for ACP ambassadors. 

Cooperation with the African Union (AU)

In July 2012, ECDPM attended the important AU Summit held in Addis Ababa as an observer. This summit confirmed the new leadership of the AUC. Our presence enabled us to establish informal and formal contacts with key representatives of the AU institutions, African member states and the international community in Addis. During the year, ECDPM also undertook a study to explore the feasibility of opening an ECDPM office in Addis Ababa. In Brussels, a joint ECDPM-AU mission discussed a broad range of areas of common interest in order to identify opportunities for collaboration such as, inter alia, the state of affairs of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES), the Pan-African Programme, and the 2014 EU-Africa Summit. We also established a regular informal dialogue with the new AU Ambassador to the EU and staff. ECDPM further participated in the international colloquium titled ‘The African Union at Ten’, which was organised by the South African Centre for Conflict Resolution and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation held in Berlin in August.

Caribbean partnership 

For the second consecutive year, we initiated and arranged for an IIR-UWI staff member to join us at ECDPM on secondment from her institute and university. She contributed to the ECDPM discussions on the future of the ACP-EU relations by conducting interviews with ACP stakeholders both in Brussels and in the Caribbean and by sharing her findings in written reports. In addition she conducted research and analysis on ‘differentiation’ and co-authored the discussion paper on the subject.

The Europe-Africa Policy research network (EARN)

On 23 and 24 April 2012, an international conference on emerging actors in Africa, impacts and opportunities for EU-Africa and global relations took place in Maputo, Mozambique. ECDPM was one of the co-organisers of the event, in collaboration with EARN, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies of the Higher Institute for International Relations (CEEI/ISRI, Mozambique) and the Institute for Strategic and International Studies (IEEI, Portugal). Furthermore, in December 2012, ECDPM actively participated in the conference entitled Building the Africa-Europe Partnership: What Next? which was jointly organised by the EARN and the Instituto Mârques de Valle Flôr (IMVF), and took place in Lisbon. 

During the year, we also increased efforts to engage more closely with African partners – including NPCA, SAIIA, the Mwanamasa Centre in Lusaka and AGI in Dakar.

  • ECDPM deepened its analyses of the future of the ACP Group as well as of EU-Africa relations on the basis of country consultations. 
  • Through various information channels (newsletters, blogs and policy briefs), ECDPM continued its awareness-raising activities, notably sensitising AU and ACP institutions to a variety of topics related to their partnership with the EU – and fostering empowerment in the process.
  • Regular exchanges with governmental and non-governmental partners in the South increased our institutional understanding of the concerns and expectations of key ACP and African players in their relationship with the EU.
  • Increased exposure through our partners to the complexities and political sensibilities in the field helped ECDPM bring Southern perspectives to the attention of EU institutions and member states.
  • Flexible multiple-year funding from key partners enabled ECDPM to maintain its independent character. There was increased recognition for ECDPM as a reference centre on the agenda of reform in EU development policy and management. 
  • ECDPM is increasingly recognised as a broker organising dialogue and debate on some of the most sensitive issues affecting EU relations with the ACP Group and Africa in particular.
  • Our systematic work with successive EU presidencies has helped to refine presidency priorities and to ensure that ACP and African perspectives are better reflected in more balanced policies.
  • The Centre’s practical focus has been instrumental in finding ways to operationalise policies in the field, leading to better outcomes on the ground.