On the spotlight: EU aid quality and effectiveness

Road rehabilitation project in Haiti. The European Union’s complex aid architecture has become “cumbersome” for both donors and recipients, Concord says in a new report. Photo by: Vincenzo Collarino / European Commission

After receiving criticism over its failure to reach a budget deal last week, the European Union is once again on the hot seat. This time, over the quality and effectiveness of its foreign aid.

In a report sent to Devex, Concord, a group of European-based aid groups, highlights the bloc’s complex aid architecture, which has become “cumbersome” for both donors and recipients. The European Commission and its 27 member states all have their own aid agencies, financing mechanisms, regulations and guidelines that even the European Council has recognized to have become “exceedingly difficult to manage.”

This was also among the areas where the European Union performed poorly against aid effectiveness targets made in Paris in 2005.

The report also questions EU aid spending. Six EU donors continue to tie 30 percent or more of their aid, and a large part of contracts continue to land in the hands of consultants and firms in donor countries, according to the report. These reduce the amount of aid flowing to recipient countries, which could have created business opportunities or jobs that will help reduce poverty.

As for the effectiveness of EU aid, the report notes the European Union has “missed all but one” of the 13 aid effectiveness targets that were due in 2010. And the implementation of EU’s commitments in Busan last year has been “limited and uneven.”

The report also underlines the European Union’s failure to show leadership at the high-level forum on aid effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, last year. The bloc, according to the report, has “demonstrated much less effort to push for a strong, binding and far-reaching agreement in Busan than at previous HLFs in Paris and Accra.”

This is the same criticism the bloc received from former Concord President Justin Kilcullen at the end of the last year’s forum: “The EU allowed a watered down agreement on global aid reform; European Member States were fragmented and the EU leadership suffered.”

The report recommends that the European Union should, among other things, set its own targets and deadlines for implementing aid and development effectiveness reforms. It also calls on the European Commission to lead the “full implementation” of the aid and development effectiveness agenda across Europe.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.