Highlights of ECDPM activities
in support of EU External Action
in 2012

EU and the global development agenda

ECDPM is closely involved in the growing global debate on the post-2015 development agenda that is exploring what will come after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Along with our partners ODI and GDI, we published the 3rd European Report on Development (ERD 2011/2012) on the theme "Confronting scarcity: Managing water, energy and land for inclusive and sustainable growth". The report was launched in May 2012 ahead of the Rio+20 Conference. ECDPM was much in demand to provide initial insight to various stakeholders on the report as they began to formulate their own positions on the future of development.

Yet the largest specific piece of work we did towards this end was our preparatory activities for the 4th European Report on Development, which specifically addresses the post-2015 development agenda. While this report will be published in 2013 significant and intensive work occurred in 2012. This body of work included research and fieldwork as well as consultations with diverse actors in Africa and Latin America. Throughout the year we received numerous requests from our institutional funders and others to present our analysis on this topic to support deliberations by the UN High-Level Panel on Post-2015 Development and assist various EU institutions and individual countries to formulate their positions. ECDPM also made formal submissions to the European Commission’s request for input on this topic.

While ECDPM has been at the forefront of asking critical questions and putting forward analytical ideas on the impact on non-development policies on developing countries measuring progress has proved elusive. ECDPM sought to close this gap by laying out the state of the art and how this might be achieved. In 2012 ECDPM produced two more reports that contributed to global discussions on the future of development. 

The first report was titled: “Measuring Policy Coherence for Development” and was jointly commissioned by the Netherlands Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS) and the German Ministry of Development Cooperation (BMZ). The underlying study built on related reports published during the year to explore the potential impact of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy on development. The second report addressed the accounting of financial flows to developing countries. This report gathered significant high- level interest within both the Dutch and German Ministries and ECDPM was also invited to present it to the OECD as it began talking this difficult question. All of these are likely to feed into thinking on the post-2015 development agenda. 

In an effort to bring questions of inequality to the highest levels, ECDPM with its partners of the European Think Tank Group organised a specific session at the European Development Days on this issue. Building on our good relations with the Malawi Embassy in Brussels, we successfully invited the Malawian President to be part of the high level panel. Andrias Piebalgs the Development Commissioner and other high level political figures also participated. At least one of our institutional donors described the debate as “the best session” of the entire EU Development Days event.

At the same time we sought to bring global development issues to the highest agenda within the EU. We were invited to write informal background notes on water and education as foreign policy issues to feed into the 6-month retreat of EU Foreign Ministers held in Gynminch, Cyprus, in August 2012. This was possibly one of the very few times that Foreign Ministers have explicitly discussed issues with a clear development dimension.

EU development policy

We engaged in two key policy processes under this theme. The first was Agenda for Change the EU’s new framework for development cooperation. We closely followed the process right from the initial Communication by the European Commission in late 2011 to the adoption of the Council’s conclusions and their implementation in May 2012. The second process was the EU budget negotiations in preparation for the Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020. 

Contributing to the EU’s Agenda for Change

Following informal feedback from key stakeholders about the draft Conclusions, ECDPM felt that the main challenge would be in translating the policy agenda to practice. It is against this backdrop that we prepared a background paper and practical facilitation of the event to the EU Practitioners Network – a partnership of implementing agencies - which sought to turn the Agenda for Change and Busan commitments into action. Our analysis concluded that taking appropriate action would be a fundamentally political choice. This begged the question whether the EU Practitioners Network has sufficient clarity of mandate to push forward the progress agenda and address the political implementation challenges that are likely to materialise. Despite this, the Network’s membership makes for an important and unusual forum. 

In our publication Reprogramming EU Development Cooperation for 2004-2014 we identified ways in which Agenda for Change might influence focal sectors and engagement. We were called upon to provide expert input into the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) regulation on several occasions, in addition to giving evidence at a special session of the Development Committee of the European Parliament on the Pan-Africa Programme (PAP). To support this dialogue, we convened an informal meeting on the Pan-African Programme within the DCI attended by a number of EU member states, the Commission and the EEAS. The meeting helped these stakeholders to arrive at a common understanding of about what would be worthwhile in the PAP. ECDPM was subsequently invited to make a presentation to the European Parliament’s Development Committee to inform the Parliament’s negotiating position on this topic.

Building the capacity of developing country stakeholders to influence EU processes

Stakeholders from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) and other developing countries have a keen interest in engaging with and influencing EU budget negotiations but do not have the capacities to follow and engage this complex internal process. Indeed even some member states struggle to follow the twists and turns. To address this gap ECDPM produced a series of briefings and publications to inform ACP stakeholders about the MFF process and help them understand the dynamics underlying behind member states negotiating positions. Based on the feedback received, we discovered that even EU policymakers based in different member states, as well as members of the European Parliament, the Commission and the EEAS are also avid readers of the ECDPM briefings. Stakeholders have been understandably guarded about disclosing how our work has informed their own policy positions. The publications have tried to make the case for continued or increased levels of aid, while pointing out the risks that certain courses of action may engender. The publications have also analysed the financial rationale driving the positions of different member states (the overwhelming majority of member states support elements of the MFF and European Development Fund that present the least financial impact for them). 

ECDPM arranged an informal briefing at our Brussels office for a group of ACP Ambassadors and ACP Secretariat officials on the EU budget negotiations and possible implications for the ACP group in June 2012. The meeting focused on the MFF negotiations as well as on the programming for the 11th European Development Fund. The issues of differentiation aid and whether the EDF would be included in the EU budget were also covered. Analysis presented at the meeting was based on previous ECDPM publications on a financial analysis of the 11th EDFEU member-states positions on the budget negotiations, and whether there would be “billions less for development”. The ACP Secretariat and ACP stakeholders remained opposed to budgetisation and were unconvinced that safeguards could be put in case of a budgetisation of the EDF, although at this stage budgetisation seemed unlikely. A point made in the paper on member-states positions on the MFF negotiations was subsequently picked up by the UK International Development Committee, which included a reference to our publication in their report.

Although our ability to influence the course of the MFF negotiations was limited, we continued to produce publications on the different options for negotiators and their potential costs. Despite our ‘pro-development’ stance diverse stakeholders in the negotiations appreciated the impartial nature of our reports. While a number of NGOs also produced analysis much of this had a clear and very specific advocacy agenda.

EU external action policy by region

Facilitating ACP-EU relations

The ACP-EU Partnership has been a particular focus of ECDPM over the last year. Given the many stakeholders involved and the delicate nature of these discussions, ECDPM saw its role as being to put difficult issues on the agenda. On several occasions both EU and ACP stakeholders took advantage of ECDPM’s intermediary role to table issues that – for diplomatic reasons - they found difficult to raise openly. Such questions included: “What is the added value of the ACP group?” and “What type of relationship does the EU want with it in the future?”

In addition to articulating sensitive issues ECDPM’s work also had a catalytic effect. An example was a request by the German government for ECDPM to work more closely with the German Development Institute on the future of the ACP-EU relations. France, Belgium and Finland made similar requests.

ECDPM also provided support to successive EU Presidencies on this topic. In December 2011 during the Polish Presidency we were invited to undertake the background and facilitation work for an internal meeting of EU stakeholders, which continued during the Danish and Cyprus EU Presidencies in 2012. This was the first time that EU stakeholders had openly discussed the future of the ACP-EU relationship and they recognised our expertise and knowledge in informing evolving EU thinking on the matter. In March ECDPM was invited to make a presentation to the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly’s Political Affairs Committee in Brussels on the future of ACP Group and again at the Joint Parliamentary Assembly meeting held in May in Horsens, Denmark. ECDPM was also invited to participate at a number of internal ACP meetings discussing their own work on the Future of the ACP Group. 

In addition, we received a steady stream of calls from the EEAS, the EC, and ACP Ambassadors seeking informal advice and insights on future options for the ACP group and the possible future ACP-EU relationship. The issue is now firmly on the formal agenda of relevant committees in the EU and the ACP has established a Working Group on the Future of the ACP. In March, ECDPM produced a briefing note “What future for the ACP and the Cotonou Agreement? Preparing for the next steps in the debate” that has quickly become the reference document for this debate and which we subsequently followed up. The paper focuses on how the positive elements can be maintained while at the same time modernising the partnership to enable it to tackle the new global and EU institutional realities. As with all ECDPM work in this area, the paper seeks to facilitate and frame the debate while laying out potential options rather than prejudicing what must be a process of negotiation within and between the ACP and the EU. We noted that the EU is moving away from the ACP construct to more regional approaches to its engagement with the rest of the world.

By translating the paper into French and Portuguese we have been able to bring these issues to new audiences in the ACP and Europe. 

The EU and Africa

The other major partnership related to ECDPM’s area of interest is the Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES). During the year ECDPM raised a number of difficult questions touching on the effectiveness of the partnership and whether the creation of the EEAS had improved EU-Africa relations. Our colleagues in the Africa Change Dynamics programme wrote an influential piece on the Pan African Programme that received significant attention. At the end of 2012 ECDPM published its annual Challenges Paper: The Road to the 2014 EU-Africa Summit. The paper identified some of the critical issues in Africa-EU relations that will be on the agenda of the Summit. In collaboration with our SAIIA colleagues we also published an op-ed piece on the EU-South Africa Summit that was published in South Africa’s Independent on Sunday and Business Week newspapers.

EU’s internal institutional set up

It is still unclear how the EEAS - and in its relationship with the newly created DEVCO - will impact development issues at the regional and country level. Yet ECDPM has been able to offer analysis and commentary to help illuminate this. As the EEAS and DEVCO became more established in their roles over the past 12 months more insights emerged on where the likely pressure points might be. ECDPM produced one of the first independent analyses of how the EEAS was working with DEVCO to produce development outcomes in the discussion paper: EU development cooperation after the Lisbon Treaty: People, institutions and global trends. 

ECDPM also noted that when it comes to Africa there is some cautious optimism with the approach of the EEAS. ECDPM continued to promote greater harmony between EEAS and DEVCO approaches to similar problems, such as the links between conflict analysis championed by the EEAS and political economy analysis championed by DEVCO. At a number of events held during the year (such as the ECDPM-facilitated Northern Nigeria Conflict Assessment sponsored by EPLO) officials from both DEVCO and EEAS were present. By building on our good networks in both institutions we sought to facilitate appreciation of more joint approaches to common development problems. 

One of ECDPM’s most significant outputs in 2012 was our analytical work that aimed to inform the most important financial process that EEAS and DEVCO had begun jointly: the programming of EDF/DCI resources for 2014-2020. As this was a fairly opaque process we produced a discussion paper Reprogramming EU development cooperation for 2014-2020 in which we were able to help illuminate the inner workings of the EEAS-DEVCO relationship. While “turf wars” between the two institutions are widely reported, our analysis found that the programming exercise (at this stage led from the EU Delegations) seems to be progressing. Yet there are questions as to how much partners in developing countries have been involved and whether EEAS and DG DEVCO are really of one mind. When engaging with ACP stakeholders, civil society and even some member states, there seemed to be little awareness that the programming processes were ongoing, nor that there are some significant changes from past iterations of the EDF programming process. In one example, it was only when they visited ECDPM at the end of their one-week visit that a delegation from Malawi learnt that unlike the past, Country Strategy Papers were only to be used under specific circumstances. Moreover, the new programming timetable indicated that decisions on focal sectors for development resources were already well developed. ACP stakeholders informed in an ECDPM stakeholder seminar were similarly surprised about details, many of which were new to them. Certainly our publication has helped raise awareness and demystify the bilateral programming process for 2014-2020. This should help ensure that all stakeholders (including member states) are well informed so they can influence the process accordingly. 

Towards the end of the year we produced a Briefing Note on the Review of the External Action Service (EEAS) in 2013.As the first publication to analyse options for the review and the potential pitfalls and opportunities the paper received a good deal of interest. We were invited (with others) to an informal talk to a senior level within the EEAS about the review. Other interested stakeholders included the European Parliament and European Court of Auditors as well as a number of our institutional partners. We also made a submission to the UK House of Lords on the topic. Furthermore, our specific piece on changes on DEVCO for ECDPM’s Weekly Compass blog proved one of the most popular articles of the year. This experience highlighted that one of ECDPM’s unique selling points is being “ahead of the curve” in providing information about significant institutional changes and that this is well appreciated by our stakeholders.