In the next seven years, African Caribbean and Pacific countries can expect to receive up to 30.5 billion euros ($33.7 billion) worth of aid from the European Union, following the full entry into force of the 11th European Development Fund earlier this week.
In a joint statement, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and development commissioner Neven Mimica noted that this represents a concrete implementation of the long-standing Cotonou agreement — a treaty governing foreign policy, trade and aid ties between the EU and 79 ACP countries until 2020.
The current EDF presents an increase of $7.8 billion compared with the previous one. But nongovernmental organizations noted that this upsurge is “no revolution” — especially when the difference of duration, inflation and partners are factored in.
“If we calculate based on the current EDF expanded to seven years, instead of six as it currently stands … this increase will barely cover the inflation over the years,” Concord, the European confederation of relief and development NGOs, said in a briefing paper. “Moreover more member states will be contributing — making a shift in the contributions of some of the bigger contributors to lower contribution percentages — and Overseas Countries and Territories are eligible.”
Nevertheless, a closer look at the distribution of funds shows more encouraging developments.
Under the 11th EDF, Brussels will sustain its commitment to helping ACP countries tackle common thematic challenges. Although bilateral cooperation will continue to absorb more than 80 percent of the funds, the intra-ACP program is slated to absorb about 12 percent of the total EDF envelope — the same share it received in the 2008-2013 period.
Furthermore, the European Commission’s administrative expenditure will jump from 430 million euros to 1.1 billion euros. Many civil society actors hope this will help the EU delegations build the expertise they need to ensure more policy coherence and better delivery of commitments.
According to Alisa Herrero Cangas, policy officer at the European Center for Development Policy Management, the trends set out by the Agenda for Change — the EU’s guiding policy for programming its aid — are well reflected in the 11th EDF.
For one, EU resources are now targeted where they are most needed and can be the most effective. Indeed, most national indicative programs for the period 2014-2020 are articulated around a maximum of three priority sectors, which often are governance, sustainable agriculture and energy.
“It is striking that 30 sub-Saharan countries had transport as a priority sector in the 10th EDF, but now only Uganda, [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and Sierra Leone have it as a separate sector,” she highlighted to Devex.
But the willingness to achieve maximum impact and value for money hasn’t led the EU to sideline the use of a multifaceted and holistic aid approach. According to Herrero Cangas, priorities in current NIPs tend to be quite broad, and encompass a wide variety of policy areas.
“There are many cross-linkages and overlaps between sectors,” she said. As an example, countries like Tanzania, Ghana, Kenya and Ethiopia have all integrated transport into sectors such as agriculture, infrastructure or energy.
Meanwhile, aid coordination seems to be off to a good start as well — another principle prescribed by the Agenda for Change.
“There has been an attempt of ensuring complementarity between the EDF and other instruments, based on an internal exercise of EU assistance and in line with joint programming [with other donors],” Andreia Oliveira, advocacy officer at DSW and member of Concord’s Cotonou working group, revealed.
Citing the possibility for Ebola-affected countries to revisit their priority sectors, OIiveira also sees renewed political commitment by the European Commission to demonstrate increased flexibility. In Guinea, for instance, the EU has recently adopted a more comprehensive approach that links emergency response with long-term recovery and preparedness.
More generally, situations of fragility and vulnerability seem to be given special consideration under the current EDF. In Niger, the EU’s 596 million euro aid package is articulated around four sectors instead of three — social policies, security and governance, food security, and infrastructure.
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