2009 saw the European Union focusing its aid-related reforms on technical cooperation and staff development, according to a report on the bloc’s aid efforts for the year.
To make EU development assistance “simpler, more focused on quality and results, and in line with internationally agreed objectives on aid effectiveness,” the bloc in 2009 concentrated its aid reform efforts on:
- Executing technical cooperation reforms including developing guidance and establishing system for monitoring the results of these reforms. - Adopting a number of methodology instruments to “simplify and streamline” the implementation of EU foreign aid.- Developing skills and capacity of staff engaged in external aid programs at the Brussels headquarters and delegation offices.- Revising the peer review mechanism called Office Quality Support Group, a tool to ensure quality of projects.
The EU has committed 12 billion euros (USD14 billion) in external aid last year. Of the sum, the largest allocation, worth 4.08 billion euros or 34 percent, went to social infrastructure including education, health, population and reproductive health, government and civil society.
The EU has also began testing a new methodology for evaluating budget support. Pilot evaluations were launched last year in Tunisia, Mali and Zambia. Some 2.4 billion euros had been committed through budget support in 2009. “If the pilot tests prove positive, the agreed methodology providing for harmonised evaluation procedures in all beneficiary countries will be available by mid-2011,” according to the 2010 annual report on EU’s external assistance.
European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs earlier announced he intended to issue a green paper, a discussion document aimed at stimulating debate, on budget support sometime in the second half of 2010.
The European Commission also drew up new guidelines to adjust criteria for budget support for fragile states in post-crisis or post-conflict situations. Efficient public financial management is crucial to the provision of budget support.
“The European Commission believes that for some fragile states in post-crisis or post-conflict situations budget support provides the best means of aid, even if these countries do not formally qualify for it,” the annual report notes.With the new guidelines, “budget support programmes will be designed in such a way that risks are mitigated while ensuring a proper use of the window of opportunity immediately following a conflict or a crisis situation,” the report adds.In nearly all countries and regions, the shift toward budget support had a positive effect on EU’s dialogue with partner countries, donor coordination, public financial management and policy reforms in aid-recipient nations, the European Commission’s geographic evaluations finalized last year show. The findings, however, are based on a limited number of cases and cannot be generalized.The EU in 2009 also set up new instruments to help 140 developing nations deal with triple economic, food and environmental crises.The bloc’s 1 billion-euro food facility has helped provide food aid to more than 50 million people, while some 236 million euros were committed under the Vulnerability FLEX instrument to help cover the budget deficits of 15 African, Caribbean and Pacific nations. The EU has also agreed to “fast-start” climate aid of 2.4 billion euros each year from 2010 to 2012 for developing nations.
The EU said it has also redoubled efforts to advance the Millennium Development Goals on gender equality. In 2009, support went to non-governmental entities focused on combating adult illiteracy and promoting women’s property ownership.
In a June 14 meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council, EU member states’ ministers of aid and foreign affairs agreed that the European Commission should draft a list of the nations in need of “special attention” to speed up progress toward the MDGs.