Farmers harvesting cabbages, Sierra Leone, 2016. The EU is continuing to rely on private capital and major company groups, although these need to implement projects aimed at small and medium-sized farmers and companies. <br/>Photo: ©Sebastian Liste/NOOR for FAO

Farmers harvesting cabbages, Sierra Leone, 2016.
The EU is continuing to rely on private capital and major company groups, although these need to implement projects aimed at small and medium-sized farmers and companies.
Photo: ©Sebastian Liste/NOOR for FAO

What are the benefits of the European Consensus on Development?

The European Consensus is an attempt by the EU to put its development policy and that of its member states on a common footing. The strategy paper presented in late 2016 promises binding coherence for Agenda 2030.

In contrast to the often expressed criticism that the EU needs to step up its development efforts, the economic and political alliance of 28 member states is on a good track, as shown by the discussion evening hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Berlin in mid-March 2017. The Deputy Director of the EU Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development, Klaus Rudischhauser, debated with the Member of Parliament of the “Green” party, Bärbel Höhn, before an expert audience.

In late 2016 the EU Commission presented a proposal to put development cooperation on a new basis, following the earlier Consensus in 2005. The proposal, which has yet to be agreed with the heads of the member states and the European Parliament, is based on the five Ps – People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnership.

The more political paper from 2005 was based on the Millennium Development Goals and a joint but non-binding framework. Even so, Rudischhauser said, the national development goals of the individual countries converged, leaving only small differences. The EU also plays a major role financially, providing around 55 per cent of global development aid, 20 per cent of which comes from the European institutions themselves.

Alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals

Now, the aim is to coordinate national goals better and more bindingly with EU development policy. There are also new challenges in connection with the issues of climate change and migration, so that new goals need to be defined, without losing sight of the old ones. This is why the framework is aligned with the UN Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Rudischhauser explained that the important issue is the coherence between the individual policy areas, noting the EU paper on common foreign policy, which was presented last year, and in which development cooperation also played a major role. Rudischhauser complained about the inadequate media coverage of European policy, with no mention being made of aid to African troops fighting the al-Shabaab militia in Somalia. Given that the EU is not allowed to provide military assistance, it has gone to the very limit of what is possible, assisting the African troops with a daily allowance for food. In the region around Lake Chad, the EU is going a step further, financing vehicles for the struggle against Boko Haram. This militant religious group is pushing ahead there, and most recently in neighbouring Cameroon, exploiting gaps in development aid by paying young men to fight where there were otherwise no income-generating opportunities.

Is European development policy moving away from its core areas?

While European policy-makers see this as adapting to the changing conditions in the world, Bärbel Höhn criticised the EU’s withdrawals, arguing that the community of nations was too preoccupied with itself to speak with a single voice at international conferences. She claimed that the USA and China were the movers in the Paris Climate Agreement, whereas the preceding Kyoto Protocol had primarily been the work of the EU. For Höhn, European development policy is retreating from the core areas of environment and climate, which cause and exacerbate hunger and poverty. Money for the military and to combat migration is remediation after the event, rather than working in advance to prevent the causes of flight.

While the Commission’s paper talks about coherence between the areas of policy, this has little to do with reality. Heavily-subsidised agriculture is an obstacle to fair market participation by the countries of the South, and trade agreements only promote European exports.

Rudischhauser sees things in a more nuanced way. Arguing that the asymmetry in trade conditions for African countries, such as the ‘everything but arms’ principle, still exist even when tariffs are lowered. The reasons for the development gap in the regions are the lack of industrialisation and the lack of intra-African trade. The countries could establish their own competitive industry, but they mostly funded themselves through customs revenue rather than levies on companies. Even so, Rudischhauser commented, the African Union does intend to establish a free trade zone covering the entire continent.

Scarcity of resources makes it impossible for the economy to continue in its present form

The new concept also intends to reflect the new development policy. Past decades have shown that pilot projects for a few hundred small-scale farmers have failed to produce any large-scale effects. This is why the EU is continuing to rely on private capital and major company groups, although these need to implement projects aimed at small and medium-sized farmers and companies. Work also has to be geared towards changing the political environment to counter land grabbing and give access local resources.

Rudischhauser was asked about new growth models in development aid, since the scarcity of resources makes it impossible for the economy to continue in its present form. Here again, Rudischhauser had a coherent answer ready. Within the next two years the EU will reformulate its growth targets by 2020 to encompass achieving a sustainable economy by 2030, and this is also reflected in development policy. Moreover, projects are progressing faster in countries which are working directly on developing rural areas and achieving self-sufficiency in food.

The European Consensus on Development is due to be agreed with the Council and Parliament in May and signed at the 2017 European Development Days from 8 June.


Author: Roland Krieg