18.4.2012   

EN

Official Journal of the European Union

C 113/52


Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on ‘Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change’

2012/C 113/10

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

shares the Commission's political will to continue to lead the fight against poverty in the world, particularly by contributing to the achievement of the MDGs, despite the economic, social and financial crisis;

agrees with the Commission that, although the EU has made a major contribution to MDG achievement, there is still a long way to go, and this means rethinking the future of EU development policy;

calls once again for the review of EU development policy and the European Consensus to emphasise the place, role and added value of regional and local authorities in these areas and policies; the CoR will continue to work closely with the Commission, increasing the use of tools such as the "Atlas of Decentralised Cooperation" and the web portal and helping to organise the annual conference on decentralised cooperation;

calls for RLAs to be recognised as playing a more central, differentiated role in EU development policy, both because of their political expertise in areas such as devolution of powers, strengthening institutions and local governance, and because of the substantial added value that they can bring to third countries in these fields and in key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, which are important when it comes to the initiatives the EU intends to support relating to food security;

agrees with the Commission that the EU should continue to recognise the particular importance of supporting development in its own neighbourhood and in Sub Saharan Africa, and therefore calls for the potential of the ARLEM and the CORLEAP to be taken into consideration.

Rapporteur

Jesús Gamallo ALLER (ES/EPP), Director-General for External Relations and Relations with the European Union, Regional Government of Galicia

Reference document

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions – Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change

COM(2011) 637 final

I.   POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS

General comments

1.

acknowledges the value of the recent Commission Communication on Increasing the impact of EU Development Policy: an Agenda for Change. This communication presents various proposals to increase the impact of development cooperation policy in the coming decade, continuing to pursue the EU's objective of poverty elimination in the context of sustainable development and Millennium Development Goal (MDG) achievement;

2.

shares the Commission's political will to continue to lead the fight against poverty in the world, particularly by contributing to the achievement of the MDGs, despite the economic, social and financial crisis;

3.

agrees with the Commission that, although the EU has made a major contribution to MDG achievement, there is still a long way to go, and this means rethinking the future of EU development policy with a view to combating poverty effectively, channelling aid to partner countries where its impact will be greatest and focusing development cooperation on support for human rights, democracy and other key elements of good governance, in the context of inclusive, sustainable development;

4.

calls once again for the review of EU development policy and the European Consensus to emphasise the place, role and added value of regional and local authorities in these areas and policies, as already requested in Opinions CdR 312/2008 (1), CdR 116/2010 (2) and CdR 408/2010 (3); in this connection, and in order to promote exchange and provide a platform for RLA political expression in the area of development cooperation, the CoR will continue to work closely with the Commission, increasing the use of tools such as the "Atlas of Decentralised Cooperation" and the web portal and helping to organise the annual conference on decentralised cooperation;

5.

welcomes the Commission's emphasis on stakeholder-based efforts, but regrets the fact that European regional and local authorities (RLAs) are not singled out as key development players but are merely mentioned together with other bodies;

6.

calls for RLAs to be recognised as playing a more central, differentiated role in EU development policy, both because of their political expertise in areas such as devolution of powers, strengthening institutions and local governance, and because of the substantial added value that they can bring to third countries in these fields and in key sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, which are important when it comes to the initiatives the EU intends to support relating to food security. The particular role of the outermost regions must be taken into account – they are active borders and platforms of the EU in the world and can boost the effectiveness of EU development policy, as stated in Opinion CdR 408/2010;

7.

agrees with the Commission regarding the need to select the right mix of policies, tools and resources to be effective and efficient in the fight against poverty, and calls for joint criteria and guidelines in order to define unambiguously how to measure the effect and impact of development policies. The EU should contribute to the work of bodies like the OECD's Development Assistance Committee and other global players;

Human rights, democracy and other key aspects of good governance

8.

agrees with the Commission that all dimensions of good governance are essential for inclusive and sustainable development, and that institution-building in the partner countries and improving their levels of effectiveness, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law constitute one of the key tasks of any development strategy;

9.

points out that experience has shown that decentralisation processes play a crucial role in achieving more democratic institutions which better respect the rule of law and human rights, have better governance and are closer to the needs and interests of the people, and that RLAs should have a key place in these processes;

10.

agrees with the Commission that there is scope for the EU to work more closely with both civil society and local and regional authorities, but stresses that it must forge closer ties with civil society organisations and regional and local authorities through regular structured dialogue. It regrets that in this connection emphasis is not placed on the key role that RLAs should play as democratic, representative bodies. For example, they could set up partnerships of excellence with local and regional authorities in developing countries, and the Committee of the Regions therefore urges the Commission to create a specific financial instrument that will encourage the creation of such partnerships. The CoR also asks the Commission to set goals for support to local authorities under specific programmes so that the country strategies can produce a wider range of initiatives that promote decentralisation. By this token, the CoR welcomes the proposal to provide more support for decentralisation in line with the funding and objectives relating to social cohesion and human rights;

Inclusive and sustainable growth for human development

11.

supports the Commission in its proposal to promote inclusive, sustainable growth, focusing on sectors such as social protection, health and education, which bring about inclusion, or agriculture and clean energies, which bring about sustainability, although it regrets that there is no reference in this connection to the need to improve redistribution of the fruits of progress, ensuring fair redistribution of income;

12.

stresses that RLAs are key players in ensuring local and sustainable growth, and that their contribution is therefore crucial if this development is to be viable, and stresses the importance of the relations established between Europe's local authorities and their counterparts in the beneficiary countries for implementation of the principle of ownership enshrined in the Paris declaration;

13.

agrees that support should be provided to tackle competitiveness gaps, as part of the EU’s Economic Partnership Agreements and other free trade agreements, but reiterates the need for compliance with the basic rules of the EU's trade agreements concerning the rules of origin of products from partner countries, because of the damage to the smooth operation of the internal market associated with certain exemptions from legislation;

14.

points out that the Commission should explain more clearly what is meant by "new ways of engaging with the private sector", given that Europe has little experience in this area of cooperation compared with other multilateral donors such as the World Bank, and that existing assessments of co-financing projects with the private sector have shown that it is difficult to establish clear indications of development in a large proportion of the initiatives financed;

15.

agrees with the Commission regarding the need for support for the agricultural sector in order to provide the foundations for sustainable growth, but adds that rural development and food security are fundamental aspects of the development process, as stated in point 39 of Opinion CdR 408/2010;

16.

agrees with the Commission that the EU should support sustainable practices, giving priority to locally-developed practices and focusing on smallholder agriculture and rural livelihoods, formation of producer groups and the supply and marketing chain, and continue working on strengthening nutritional standards, food security governance and reducing food price volatility at international level. However, it calls for account to be taken, here too, of the regions’ capacities and experience in designing basic infrastructure for the distribution of food products, in studying soil productivity and managing crops in harmony with local conditions, in caring for fragile local ecosystems and in drawing up plans to guarantee supply;

17.

agrees that the EU should provide technology and expertise as well as development funding in the energy sector, promoting in particular more intensive use of renewable energies, combining European expertise with the specific conditions in certain partner countries needed for use of this kind of energy;

18.

stresses once again the need for an international Covenant of Mayors and Regions to be signed, aimed at providing energy for everyone under the joint programmes and with an appropriate and specific financial instrument, as called for in point 37 of Opinion 408/2010;

Differentiated development partnerships

19.

agrees with the Commission that the EU should continue to recognise the particular importance of supporting development in its own neighbourhood and in Sub-Saharan Africa, and therefore calls for the potential of the Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) and the annual Conference of Local and Regional Authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) as forums for local and regional authorities from the Member States and partner countries to meet and dialogue to be taken into consideration;

20.

agrees with the Commission regarding the criteria for allocating EU development aid, but calls also for the bonds of historical and cultural proximity and the tradition of carrying out joint preparatory work to be taken into account;

21.

points out, however, that 70 % of the world's population below the poverty line live in middle-income countries, and therefore stresses the need to implement the new policy of concentrating the aid effort on certain countries gradually and cautiously, defining transparent criteria and objectives for decision-making;

Coordinated EU action

22.

agrees with the Commission that joint programming of EU and Member States’ aid would reduce fragmentation and increase effectiveness, but stresses the need to develop coordination beyond mere joint planning, given that coordination of aid is one of the principles of the Paris Agenda, forms part of the European Consensus on Development and is a principle enshrined in primary legislation (Article 210 TFEU);

23.

welcomes the Commission's reference to the need for progress in the division of labour between European donors, with a view to greater coordination and coherence. However, it stresses, as explained in Opinion CdR 408/2010, that the division of labour should be viewed not only in terms of national donors but also as between these and subnational (regional and local) donors, given the important role that these play in different EU cooperation systems. It therefore calls on the Commission to set up reference points for local and regional authorities in the European External Action Service and in the DEVCO Directorate-General, both in the EU and in partner countries. In addition, it considers that it is essential to establish a specific funding line that is available to EU local and regional authorities;

24.

believes it is necessary to seek coherence and avoid overlaps in initiatives, in order to help enhance development cooperation policy and make it more effective; to this end, progress is needed in distributing responsibilities between players, taking into account their areas of specialisation and expertise and highlighting the key contribution of regional and local authorities;

25.

welcomes the Commission's appreciation of and backing for the budget support instrument, which helps bring about alignment with partner countries, as recommended in the Paris declaration. However, it calls for a careful assessment of the conditions for budget support, including the options for decentralising parts of that support, to be included in the dialogue. To this end, it points out that the recommendations resulting from the Commission's structured dialogue include incorporating indicators related to local governance into all the terms of partnerships established by between donors and national governments;

Improved coherence among EU policies

26.

agrees with the Commission regarding the need to safeguard development policy coherence and continue to evaluate the impact of its policies on development objectives;

27.

agrees with the Commission regarding the need to ensure a smooth transition from humanitarian aid and crisis response to long-term development cooperation;

Embracing the Agenda for Change

28.

supports the Commission in calling on the Council to endorse the Agenda for Change, which equips the EU with more effective development cooperation policy with greater impact and supports the changes needed in partner countries to bring about faster progress towards poverty reduction and the MDGs; it calls for RLAs to be involved in this.

Brussels, 16 February 2012.

The President of the Committee of the Regions

Mercedes BRESSO


(1)  CdR 312/2008 fin Local authorities: actors for development.

(2)  CdR 116/2010 fin Spring package: EU action plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

(3)  CdR 408/2010 fin EU development policy in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development – Increasing the impact of EU development policy.