The first chapter from the new spotlight report.
CHAPTER 1: INSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK
The time has come for the EU to face up to the global impact of its policies and make policy coherence for development (PCD) a reality. The PCD principle builds on the Union’s founding values of solidarity, equality and respect for human rights, and under Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty PCD is a legal obligation on the EU.
While progress has been made over the years in PCD rhetoric, we have yet to see the positive words and policy documents make a real difference. Adopting fair and coherent policies is first and foremost a political choice. All too often, European decision-makers put narrow, short-term Eurocentric interests before the longer-term interests of both its own citizens and people in developing countries. Decisions in favour of development require a rethink of Europe’s domestic (economic, political, commercial and geopolitical) interests, and its role in global affairs, including how these affect people’s welfare, human rights and poverty eradication.
The voices of the people whose lives are affected by EU policies need to be taken into account. All too often, inadequate impact analyses, and information that is insufficient to establish a clear causal relationship between EU policies and their impact on the ground, are quoted as a justification for the EU not taking more progressive decisions in favour of development. Only by systematically looking at potential and existing impacts can PCD become a useful tool for thinking policies through properly, and adapting policymaking. Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty calls for this type of “due diligence”. To comply with this treaty obligation, EU policymakers must demonstrate that they have taken the necessary steps to gather all the relevant information on the development impacts of their policies, throughout the policymaking cycle.
Explicit political commitments to these tools and mechanisms, entered into at a high level, will enable the EU to advance towards more responsible, evidence-based policymaking. By taking a precautionary approach, this more effective kind of policymaking will prevent potential incoherencies. Where they exist, it will detect them and – through policy review and revision – it will correct any measures that have proven to be incoherent. Thus the tools and mechanisms not only make PCD operational – they also ensure that EU policymakers can be held accountable for their PCD obligation.
Since CONCORD last reported on PCD issues, in its 2011 Spotlight report, there has been patchy progress in operationalising PCD. The EU’s last report on PCD, also published in 2011, provided no analysis of the actual impacts on developing countries, nor did it make any recommendations for how to advance towards taking these issues into consideration.
In May 2012, however, the EU’s development ministers reiterated their commitment to PCD at the Foreign Affairs Council, emphasising the need for a more evidence-based approach and for enhanced dialogue with stakeholders in developing countries. This gave fresh impetus to the issue, thanks to the support of the Danish presidency – which might have been the reason why in 2013 the European Commission (EC)’s development directorate (DG DEVCO) pressed ahead with the first detailed development impact study, for which the chosen topic was biofuels. That said, the study did not focus on the impact of the EU’s biofuels policy, but adopted a more general approach, and it played no part in the formal inter-service consultation.
For its part, the European Parliament (EP) has for the second time appointed a Standing Rapporteur on PCD and has played a decisive role in gathering support for a more development-friendly outcome from the revision of EU legislations on combating illicit financial outflows from poor countries.
Furthermore, the reform of the Common European Fisheries Policy and the Commission’s proposal to cap the EU’s biofuels targets (so as not “to interfere with global food systems”) give the first glimpses of political will, on the part of EU institutions, to take the rights of poor people living beyond the EU’s borders into account in major policy reforms.
Nevertheless, the overall picture shows that EU policymakers active in non-development sectors (in all three EU institutions) still have a poor record of delivering PCD. Examples include notably the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where both the Commission and Parliament rejected the proposal put forward by civil society organisations (CSOs) that they should – “at the very minimum” – commit to monitoring the CAP’s external impacts on developing countries (and, implicitly, food insecurity).
EU mechanisms for gathering evidence
Institutional mechanisms do matter, but they are nothing without the political will to acknowledge research findings and act on them.
PCD offers a new “thinking matrix” for policy analysis: it is a fresh way of looking at old issues. In order to succeed in this, ways to gather knowledge systematically need to be established. In terms of institutional mechanisms, this means tools that enable policymakers to make more informed choices, which will in turn result in development-friendly policies.
It is important that PCD is not perceived as an extra burden, or something that would necessarily require heavy investment. Rather, many existing mechanisms within the EU policymaking cycle can be adapted to play a valuable role in preventing, detecting or correcting incoherencies. By doing this, the EU can demonstrate compliance with its treaty obligations (see graph).
We shall now look in more detail at possibilities for ensuring PCD in EU policymaking. The focus of this chapter will be on some of the mechanisms that have the greatest potential to contribute to information gathering about development impacts, in order to prevent and detect incoherencies.
1. Prevent incoherencies: Ex-ante impact assessment
One of the pivotal instruments for evidenced-based policymaking and for preventing – at the earliest possible stage – the adoption of incoherent, development-unfriendly policies within the EU system, is the so-called Impact Assessment (IA).
IAs are an obligation for all new major legislative or policy proposals such as regulations, directives, major strategies and mandates for negotiations with third countries. According to the Commission guidelines for impact assessment, as revised in 2009, all IAs “[…] should establish whether proposed policy options have an impact on relations with third countries. In particular they should look at: […] impacts on developing countries – initiatives that may affect developing countries should be analysed for their coherence with the objectives of the EU development policy. This includes an analysis of consequences (or spill-overs) in the longer run in areas such as economic, environmental, social or security policy”.
Why are impact assessments in their current form not working for PCD purposes? In practice, IAs are carried out by the lead Directorate-General (DG) in the European Commission, sometimes drawing on external expertise for specific studies, and are released together with the policy proposal assessed. No dedicated support is provided to help the IA drafters to address development issues in their analysis. A quality check of all IAs is carried out by a Board composed of high-level civil servants appointed by the Commission president, acting in their own name. The members’ development expertise is rather limited (none of the members come from DG DEVCO). It is not surprising that no IA has ever been rejected and sent back for improvement on the sole ground of inadequate assessment of development impact.
This is borne out by an IA screening carried out by Concord Denmark, which showed that in the period from 2009 to June 2011, out of 77 IAs that were relevant from a development perspective, only seven – a mere 9% – actually assessed or even mentioned the impacts on developing countries. In the entire period since the introduction of the new IA guidelines in 2009, up to June 2013, the ratio rises to 19%. with 33 relevant IAs out of 177 actually acknowledging a potential impact on development. This remains a very unsatisfactory record.
The IA guidelines are to be revised again during 2013, which presents an important opportunity for the Commission to bring the IA process into line with the ambitions of Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty. Interestingly, since 2012 the European Parliament has had its own IA unit, whose main responsibility is to review the Commission’s IAs for the benefit of debate in the Parliament, and possibly to carry out alternative IAs. Overall its capacity is limited, but it does hold great potential for the advancement of PCD as it can help bring development concerns back onto the discussion table.
Civil society participation in the IA process is extremely limited. For example, CONCORD was involved very sporadically in the IA of the proposal on the future CAP published in 2011. In its 2010 report the EU Court of Auditors formally criticised the lack of systematic consultation of external stakeholders, stating that “the IA process should be transparent and draw on the expertise and views of others. Public scrutiny is as an effective verification mechanism to ensure that IAs address the most relevant issues, include all feasible policy options, and provide a balanced view. Consultations enable the Commission to gather the opinions of interested parties and to take into account various points of view”.
CONCORD therefore recommends that:
- The new IA guidelines should make explicit reference to the PCD obligation, and that development impacts should be made a key section of the assessments, alongside the present economic, social and environmental assessments;
- CSOs’ inputs – both qualitative and quantitative – should be systematically included in all stages of the IA process;
- among the high-ranking EC officials, a development specialist should be appointed to the IA Board, in order to increase the development expertise on that body;
- the capacity of DG DEVCO to give input and support to other DGs in assessing development impacts should be strengthened institutionally – e.g. by establishing a DEVCO help desk on IA matters;
- the EP’s IA unit should pay special attention to development impact issues, and strengthen its capacity to address loopholes in the Commission’s IAs where development is concerned.
2. Detect incoherencies: dialogue on policy impacts with stakeholders in developing countries
Making PCD happen means involving those who have a stake in the issue concerned.
Public consultation on major policy proposals is an obligation on the Commission and often takes place through a public questionnaire. There are also more informal or selective ways of consulting stakeholders. How questions relating to PCD are included in these consultations varies a good deal, while it is also the responsibility of stakeholders to bring forward PCD-related issues in their responses if they wish.
Policy dialogue is additional to these above-mentioned consultations, and entails a longer-term approach and a broader agenda. The system of advisory boards set up by DG Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI), such as the one on the external impacts of the CAP, is an example of a form of institutionalised policy dialogue involving diverse stakeholders – CONCORD, for example, has been participating in it. A recurrent criticism has been that it is hard for stakeholders to influence the agenda, which is set by the Commission alone. As a result, like for the above-mentioned public consultation, the ability of such fora to address the development impacts of non-development policies (which is at the heart of PCD) is very limited, while direct participation by stakeholders from developing countries is often not envisaged.
For CONCORD, the primary stakeholders to involve in any policy dialogue that could raise issues relating either directly or indirectly to development are the women and men directly affected by the impacts of EU policies. In May 2012 European development ministers took a major step forward by deciding that the EU must organise formal dialogues on policy impacts, in developing countries, with the local stakeholders, including local civil society organisations and parliaments. The Council underlined that the EU Delegations had a “crucial role” to play in this.
In the implementation of this decision there is great potential for gathering first-hand information on the likely impacts of planned policies and also for detecting negative impacts, and therefore incoherencies, while a policy is being implemented. The information collected through these in-country multi-stakeholder policy dialogues could thus be a major resource for improving the analysis of the usual ex-ante impact assessments and policy evaluations carried out by the Commission.
Nevertheless, a year after the adoption of the Council Conclusions, the ministers’ demands had not been followed by any instructions to the EU Delegations from the European External Action Service (EEAS) or the Commission (see focus box 1). In 2013 an opportunity was missed, as the EU Delegations organised consultations for the aid programming process – in some instances local civil society was consulted. Clearly, linking up PCD and aid dialogues is essential for ensuring that the full development and anti-development footprint of the EU in a country is assessed.
To make progress on country-level dialogue in PCD, important issues must be addressed. For one thing, the EU Delegations’ mandate on PCD is vague; PCD is part of a long list of responsibilities of the EU Delegation Head, and there is no such thing as a “template” job description. Delegation staff are still largely undertrained on PCD, in spite of recent efforts. More importantly, major questions still need to be answered: what are the objectives of such a dialogue? Who will be invited to take part? How will topics be selected? Who will prepare the agenda? And, key to the process: what will be done with the information collected?
CONCORD recommends that:
- the Commission should mainstream PCD in public consultations and policy dialogues that focus on questions relevant to development;
- the Commission and EEAS should take urgent action to implement the Council Conclusions regarding PCD. This includes setting in motion a process that will answer the outstanding questions, which relate inter alia to the consultation of relevant stakeholders such as the lo
cal communities, CSOs, and local policymakers and representatives in developing countries;
- a system should be set up for feeding the information and evidence collected into the policymaking cycle, leading ultimately to the correction of incoherencies where they occur, and a commitment to do this should be given.
3. Detect incoherencies: development impact monitoring
All EU policies include provision for monitoring, review and evaluation systems. As explained in the case of EU biofuels policies, in this report’s chapter on food security, some EU policies already have a built-in requirement to report on development impacts. This is especially appropriate when the ex-ante analysis has been able to establish that there is a risk of adverse impacts on development objectives. The explicit obligation to monitor and report on development impacts as part of the policymaking cycle is very important and very welcome, as it provides a key safety valve to prevent the risks from materialising.
The proof, however, is in the pudding, and so far the number of instances of implementation of this reporting requirement at EU level has been far below expectations. The level of knowledge of development impacts is insufficient to enable a lead (non-development) Commission service to draw up terms of reference for reports or studies that would include the relevant development aspects. Nor are there any guidelines that explicitly state how to bring in development expertise when development impacts are involved. This is unacceptable, and it discredits the EU’s commitment to PCD. There is a need for far better incorporation of PCD into existing guidelines (where they exist), and far wider use of this monitoring tool, together with a broader recognition of its usefulness for potentially correcting incoherent policies once sufficient analysis has been provided.
Specifically, CONCORD recommends:
- oimproved impact assessment (see above) to see whether or not a policy should be adopted in the first place, and whether there is a need for a monitoring clause. In all cases where an EU policy is in danger of having an adverse impact, development impact monitoring should be introduced as a precautionary measure;
- othe drawing up of guidelines for participatory monitoring involving local stakeholders, with a particular focus on civil society and the people affected;
- oa control of the quality of the monitoring process outcomes by independent experts, which may include alternative policy options and possible corrective action;
- otimely public access to the outcomes of the monitoring process, and consultation on alternative policy options and possible corrective action.
4. Detect incoherencies: complaints mechanism
Two possible types of complaint could be envisaged in relation to PCD:
- complaints about the effectiveness of the policymaking process in studying the development impacts of policies;
- complaints that the policies themselves either undermine or are in danger of undermining development objectives.
In the case of the former, the complaint would be based on a violation of the obligation of conduct enshrined in Article 208 of the Lisbon Treaty. This is the obligation on EU policymakers to show that they have considered development objectives when adopting a course of action, and have adequately monitored and assessed the effects of their policies on development on an ongoing basis.
While a suitable judicial remedy is lacking, these complaints would fall squarely within the jurisdiction of the European Ombudsman. The potential here is limited, however, because the Ombudsman has no actual power to require the EU institutions to act – merely to recommend reporting the matter to the European Parliament.
For complaints about policies that are incoherent with development objectives (type 2 above), there is no recourse. Indeed, today, individuals and communities in developing countries who are negatively affected by EU policies (and whose testimonies can be found in the subsequent chapters of this report) still have no institutional channel through which to appeal to EU decision-makers and seek redress. The redress sought is not primarily about compensating the victims for the harm done to them, but rather about addressing the issue and introducing fair policies. Giving a voice to the victims of incoherencies would be a significant move towards more responsible and higher-quality policymaking, as it would provide useful feedback on policy impact. It is also a question of human rights.
This has been a constant demand from CSOs, but no progress can be reported. Some encouraging signals came from the European Parliament during the recent debate on CAP reform, where amendments to introduce a PCD-based complaints mechanism did receive a significant, if insufficient, level of support from MEPs. Whilst this was well intended, the CAP result ultimately came out against a pro-development outcome.
As with many other aspects of PCD, in the particular area of a recourse/complaints mechanism, stronger political will is needed to make a difference and enforce PCD properly within the EU.
CONCORD recommends that the EU should set up a recourse mechanism open to citizens of developing countries who wish to challenge the negative consequences of EU policies on their development, where a violation of PCD can be demonstrated. The objective of such recourse will not be to gain individual compensation for the damage done, but to trigger an investigation into the impacts of the policy, and a policy review. This will give decision-makers a chance to consider alternative, more development-friendly, policy options.
5. Redress incoherencies: the missing link
In CONCORD’s view, the outcomes of the above mechanisms (impact assessment, impact monitoring, multi-stakeholder dialogue, complaints mechanism) should feed into an evidence-based policymaking process, so the data and evidence collected in thes
e ways should be passed on to policymakers in Brussels.
Where there is serious evidence of damage, policymakers should investigate the matter in more depth and then start a policy review process, with the intention of revising the incoherent aspects of the policy, from a PCD perspective.
Astonishingly, no such mechanism exists at present and there is no institutional way of forcing a policy review. It all depends on political will, linked to the level of sensitivity of high-level policymakers to development issues and the extent to which they feel accountable for the impacts of EU policies on citizens outside EU borders.
 Foreign Affairs Council of the EU, Council Conclusions on Policy Coherence for Development, 14 May 2012 )
 European Commission, Impact Assessment Guidelines, 15 January 2009
 European Court of Auditors, Special Report No. 3 on Impact Assessments, 2010
 A helpdesk of this kind already exists in DG Environment, to help other DGs address environmental impact issues properly.
 EU 2011 Report on Policy Coherence for Development, Commission Staff Working Paper, SEC(2011) 1627 final, p. 14
 “The Council stresses in particular the need to include the issues of PCD systematically in the regular dialogue with partner countries to better assess the impact of EU policies at country level and the interaction with partner countries’ policies. EU Delegations have a crucial role in this regard.” Council Conclusions on Policy Coherence for Development, 14 May 2012
 See CONCORD EEAS Review 2013
( http://www.concordeurope.org/226-concord-eeas-review-2013) and the forthcoming CONCORD survey on the involvement of civil society organisations in the aid programming process (due in September 2013)
 CONCORD survey on the involvement of civil society organisations in the aid programming process (due in September 2013) – available on CONCORD website
 A representative from the Ombudsman’s office affirmed this in a meeting on 22 February 2010: see Niels Keijzer (2010): EU Policy Coherence for Development: from moving the goalposts to result-based management?, ECDPM Discussion Paper 101, page 25, note 38