European External Action

Click here for a detailed report of our programme activities in 2012.

ECDPM Andrew Sherriff
The challenge

In 2010 the European Union embarked on major restructuring of its internal institutional architecture to function more effectively in a rapidly changing global context. Central in this was the unification of diverse branches that deal with external action - from cooperation with third countries, humanitarian aid, relations with international organisations and the EU Delegations – to create two overarching and complementary institutions: the EU External Action Service (EEAS) and the Directorate General Development and Cooperation (DEVCO). However, while the new infrastructure was largely in place by 2012, a lot still needs to be done to streamline day-to-day policy and practice. In particular, the increasing focus on national and bilateral interests by member states - driven in large part by the continuing financial crisis, the rise of Middle Income Countries, and continued development and security issues - all present considerable challenges to coherent external action.

ECDPM’s role

ECDPM’s External Action Programme supports the European Union’s efforts to achieve an integrated, development friendly and coherent external action policy. We contribute to inclusive and informed policy dialogues, effective and responsible integration of development dimensions into EU external action, and participation of relevant EU and developing countries’ public and private actors in modernising EU development policies.

Key partners

In 2012 we worked closely with key European stakeholders including EU Delegations, European Parliament Committees and different units of DEVCO and EEAS engaged in setting political direction and policy formulation. We also provided support to successive EU presidencies, and representatives of EU member states, especially from the respective ministries of foreign affairs and international development. Other close partners were the various institutions of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and the African Union Commission and national representatives from these regional blocks based in Brussels. 

In our research and policy analysis work we collaborated closely with a number of think tanks and research networks focusing on EU-Africa relations and the BRICs countries. Among these were the European Think Tanks Group (a partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK, the German Development Institute (DIE-GDI) and the Madrid-based FRIDE); the South African based Institute of Strategic Studies and South African Institute of International Affairs; and the Europe-Africa Policy Research Network (EARN). We also developed a new partnership with the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS). 


Highlights of our activities in 2012

  • We produced a number of reports assessing whether the new institutional architecture was helping to reconcile EU values and interests especially in relation to its development policy.
  • We closely followed the negotiations of the new EU budget and raised critical questions about the implications of aid cuts and the accounting of financial flows to developing countries. 
  • Our work on Policy Coherence for Development highlighted growing concerns about the impact of EU policies on food security and underscored the need for continuous monitoring of EU policies and actions. 
  • Continuing our collaboration with ODI and GDI, our partners in the European Think Tanks Group, we produced the 3rd European Report on Development on the theme: Confronting Scarcity: Managing Water, Energy and Land for inclusive and sustainable growth. The report examined the constraints on water, energy and land and how this nexus of challenges can best be managed to promote sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • Working with partners we planned and conceptualised the high-level panel on inequality at the European Development Days in October

Click here for a detailed report of our programme activities in 2012.

 Key Outputs in 2012
  • In collaboration with the UK Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and the German Development Institute (GDI) we produced the Third European Report on Development Confronting Scarcity: Managing Water, Energy and Land for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth ( The report was released in May 2012 ahead of the Rio+20 Conference.
  • The German and Dutch foreign ministries (BMZ and DGIS) commissioned ECDPM to produce reports on two cutting-edge issues: (1) measuring policy coherence for development and (2) financing for development beyond current ODA criteria. Both were lauded as critical and challenging contributions, moving beyond traditional approaches to aid. 
  • ECDPM led and presented the first thematic evaluation of the visibility of EU external action. Its results underscored the importance of political strategies and communicating outcomes. 
  • ECDPM was among the first to comment on the upcoming official review of the EEAS (
  • At the European Development Days, we co-organised two events with our European Think Tank Group partners. The first was a high-level discussion on inequality, which featured the presidents of Malawi and
    Benin, the European Commissioner for Development and the Secretary General of the ACP Group, among others. The second was the ‘Change Makers Breakfast’, at which high-level officials debated the future of EU development cooperation.