On the 16th of May 2019, EU Member State Ministers responsible for Development Cooperation met in Brussels for their semestral meeting to discuss and adopt conclusions on the most important topics on the development agenda. CONCORD, the European NGO confederation for relief and development, while slightly disappointed with the turnout of participants, shares its views on the meeting’s outcomes.

2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement & Council conclusions on Policy Coherence for Development

In the past, CONCORD has regularly observed that the EU takes with one hand what it has given with the other, as we see for example through aid given to African smallholders while flooding African food markets with European dairy products. CONCORD therefore welcomes the Council Conclusions on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD). CONCORD is glad to see the Council’s emphasis on political will to ensure all EU and Member States policies are coherent with development objectives. The Council calls on the Commission to take concrete action to promote policy coherence in sectoral EU policies. We welcome the Council’s political engagement to promote whole-of-government approaches, to ensure political oversight and coordination efforts at all levels, and to support evidence-based policy formulation and decision making for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) implementation, for example through ex-ante impact assessments (hence CONCORD’s ongoing efforts in monitoring these). As the Council rightly states, PCD relies on political will and shared ownership and responsibility of all EU actors including the Member States. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and it will be up to the new Commission to make it happen. In its latest report ‘How will you work for sustainable development? A litmus test for EU leaders’ CONCORD calls on EU leaders to take responsibility at the highest political level and across all policy areas. 2019 provides a unique opportunity which cannot be missed. This was also acknowledged by Ministers as they discussed how to maintain momentum for the 2030 Agenda and climate action in 2019. We now count on Member States to demonstrate the leadership they talk about and guarantee momentum for sustainable development when they set the priorities for the next 5 years.

EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF) and Sahel

EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF)

Since the publication of the report “Partnership or Conditionality-monitoring the EUTF for Africa” CONCORD has been reiterating the crucial integration of human rights at the core of the fund’s programming and strongly supports the protection and promotion of human rights in the countries concerned.

CONCORD welcomes the Council’s position on stressing the importance of transparency and accountability for EUTF, but remains concerned about the level of local communities’ engagement. EUTF can only be effective if it provides local Civil Society Organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations with the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way in the design and the implementation of the project. This step will contribute to the respect of local needs and human rights, including migrants’. Further, the EUTF, which is using Official Development Assistance (ODA), must be aligned with development aid principles and promote needs-based strategies for addressing migration and displacement. The use of ODA for building higher barriers – physical and metaphorical – is unacceptable.

CONCORD Europe asks for a better focus on structural causes of migration, protection and resilience instead of using aid for migration and security operations which undermine human rights and asylum rights (such as in the case of Libya).

The countries of the Sahel, especially Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, are facing a massive security and humanitarian crisis that keeps spreading, affecting more and more people at a growing speed. It is also creating a climate of mutual distrust between communities affected by the conflict. The military response of the states, which deployed their armies in conflict areas in order to stop the violence, has also resulted in fuelling tensions between communities rather than solving the tensions.

The conflict in the Sahel takes its roots in long-term grievances around a lack of inclusiveness in the political system and economic opportunities, wealth redistribution, gender justice and governance. To address this, the European Union has to understand the current challenges in the Sahel beyond its own internal domestic agenda focused on migration and terrorism, and adapt its foreign policy accordingly. The European Union should focus its support on good governance which is crucial to ensure that men and women’s rights are respected and that they are provided with equal opportunities. Access to justice, basic needs such as food, water, health and education are priorities which cannot be guaranteed if they are delivered through security actors who are part of the conflict. Rather than being prevented, migration should be promoted as one of the major resilience mechanisms for the communities in the Sahel.

Sustaining humanitarian and development aid on socio-economic issues and addressing climate change is welcome but a clarification on the integrated approach is needed because mixing aid with security measures could have counterproductive effects, jeopardising human rights and democratic stability. The integrated approach must respond to Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development principle.

Financial Architecture 

An ambitious budget 2021-2027 with concrete commitments is key to progress on all the issues discussed by Ministers at the FAC meeting: achieving Agenda 2030, ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and reversing the downward trends concerning ODA.

Yet, when discussing the future financial architecture for development, Ministers decided to focus on boosting private investments in least developed/fragile countries. This was despite mounting evidence – see for example the recent ODI report – that blending is far from reaching the expected results in terms of leveraging/additionality and impact, especially in the poorest countries.

CONCORD would like to see a more balanced approach to the private sector, one that safeguards people and the planet and that uses ODA and public resources to the benefit of local private actors.

That it why the European Fund for Sustainable Development plus (EFSD+) must include strong and clear social and environmental safeguards. Private finance through the EFSD+ should primarily benefit local markets, sustainable production and local micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and social economy actors. It should not lead to a diversion of resources from public service provision, particularly in key areas such as health and education.

Official Development Assistance (ODA)

CONCORD welcomes the Council’s recognition of the crucial role played by Official Development Assistance (ODA) to help achieve the SDGs and as a catalyst in the overall Financing for Development (FfD) agenda as well as the concerns for the considerable downward trends in ODA that will impact on the achievement of Agenda 2030. We welcome the Council’s call to step up efforts to meet the collective commitment to deliver 0.7% of GNI as ODA and 0.20% of GNI as ODA to LDCs which is crucial to ensure no country is left behind. We expect these efforts and ambition are also translated into concrete decisions in the framework of the negotiations for the next EU budget 2021-2027.

We welcome also the recognition by Development Ministers that ODA volumes have been largely inflated over the past few years. In-donor refugee costs have played a central role in pushing aid up and now the EU Council must acknowledge that a downward trend is in place with numbers that can only worse if no real action is taken. With the ODA/GNI that is plummeted from 0,53% to 0.48% within the space of three years, the poorest countries, including LDCs, are paying the prices. An ODA crisis is possibly in the making and the calls for partner countries’ financial framework or greater transparency  will not address EU’s responsibilities.

Read below CONCORD’s letter to Ministers ahead of the Foreign Affairs Council  meeting on Development, as well as CONCORD’s report on the outcome of the meeting.