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The New European Consensus on Development

ESSAYCelia Olivar [Spanish version]

The emergence of a new global context further challenges the European collective action in terms of development. The most significant challenge it faces are both the migrations coming from the south Mediterranean and the difficulty to articulate a common reaction. Given the urgency of the situation, the European Union is attempting to draft a new and ambitious response, which is the New European Consensus on Development (from now on, ‘the Consensus’). It is both an ambitious answer and revision of the Millennium Goals made by the United Nations.

The Consensus is an ‘acting framework’ that intends to boost both the integration and coherence of the cooperation for the development of the European Union and its members states. This acting framework needs to adopt various changes if the communitarian legislation and the national legislation seek to reach the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development proposed by the United Nations and the Paris agreement on climate change.

Despite its main objective to eradicate poverty, the Consensus additionally includes a triple proposal perspective: economic, social and environmental. Given its additional aim to fulfill the 2030 Agenda, the Consensus addresses five pillars: (1) the population; (2) the planet; (3) prosperity; (4) peace; and lastly, (5) partnership. The consensus adds to this list, numerous original and transversal elements that include: the importance of the youth (e.g. solve the basic needs of the youth, such as employment); gender equality; good governance (e.g. attain rule of law capable of guaranteeing human rights, boosting the creation of transparent institutions, a participative decision process and independent and impartial tribunals); mobilization and migration; sustainable energy and climate change, investment and trade, Innovative commitment with the most advanced countries; and the efficient use of national resources (e.g. through the initiative “raise more, spend better”).

Considering its intention to fulfill all the initiatives and objectives previously addressed, the Consensus applies not only to the European Union’s policy, but also through the new, multilateral and better adapted associations, given their inclusiveness to civil societies and a broader participation of the member states. The tools used to implement the Consensus are a combination of traditional aid and other innovative ways of funding. For example, the private sector’s investments and the national resources’ mobilization. Concerning its evaluation, the new Consensus will have a periodic monitoring mechanism that forces the European Parliament and national parliaments to be held accountable via its reports.

The first evaluations of the new Consensus agree that it is a perfect synthesis of the international concerns about development. Nevertheless, it raises criticism in terms of its effectiveness to solve those previous concerns.

Firstly, and as the ‘Overseas Development Institute’ has pointed out, it is not a true strategic plan. Rather it is a sum of unrelated priorities. If it were a real strategy, the Consensus would have demanded a set of determined roles for the Commission and the member states. Additionally, it would have required a definition of the thematic, sectorial and geographic priorities (e.g. The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) included in the 2030 Agenda are treated as equally important). Thus, it would have demanded the creation of new European institutions, or the utilization of the existing ones to more efficiently coordinate the national funds. This is the case of the ‘International Climate Found’. Lastly, if the Consensus was a real strategy it would have determined the way and the content in which the middle-income countries cooperate, ultimately leading to a horizontal, vertical and sectorial coordination. This coordination would have required at the same time an establishment of the division of tasks in the European Union in order to attain a better resource allocation.

Secondly and accepting James Mackie’s contribution (chief of the department of learning and quality of the European Centre of Development), it is difficult to know to whom the Consensus is addressed and what it demands. The fact that the geographic and sectorial priorities are not determined leads the members states to adopt an uncertain grade of commitment, and in the case that there will be a compromise it would be more tactic than explicit.

The third critic concerns the Consensus implementation. Although it is ambitious with its objectives, it lacks an adequate institutional framework and an efficient mechanism to implement its new proposals. Thus, as Marta Latex explained, investigator of the European Parliamentary Research Services, the Consensus gives the private sector a very important role, but it does not provide the needed transparency in the cases surrounding human rights abuses or environmental damages.

In terms of its objectives, there are a lot of stakeholders, like CARE (the International Confederation of Development) that agree that the Consensus primarily focuses on migration control, ultimately removing the attention from the poorer necessities. This can be proven with the fact that not only in the frame of cooperation with other member states, but also in the foreign investment plan, the Consensus prioritizes the security and economic interests of the EU over helping the population confronted with poverty.

The fifth critic refers to the political dimension. The new Consensus should contain a double concept of security, both holistic and sustainable, in order to join the problems of stability and democracy with the EU’s security and foreign issue problems. A holistic concept of development signifies a vision of a long - lasting sustainability. In other words, it comprises aspects such as the sustainability condition, social justice or democracy. (Critic taken by Henökl, Thomas and Niels Keijzer from the German Development Institute)

Lastly, concerning its funding, the European parliament continues asking the member states to donate 0.7% of their annual budget to the cooperation for development. Given the fact that only a few countries arrive to give that 0.7%, the Consensus reinforces the importance of the private sector’s participation in the European plan for foreign investment.

In conclusion, we are confronted with a document that gathers the needs of the current global context, but at the same time, requires an amount of changes to be both a true and effective strategy. Those changes are necessary if the Consensus is be an effective  strategy rather than yet another theory.

 

REFERENCES

Preguntas y respuestas: Nuevo Consenso europeo sobre desarrollo: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-17-1505_es.pdf 

El nuevo Consenso Europeo sobre Desarrollo – la UE y los Estados miembros firman una estrategia conjunta para erradicar la pobreza: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-17-1503_es.htm

The proposed new European Consensus on Development Has the European Commission got it right? https://www.odi.org/sites/odi.org.uk/files/resource-documents/11263.pdf

NewEuropean consensuson development Will it be fit for purpose? http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2017/599434/EPRS_BRI(2017)599434_EN.pdf

Seven critical questions for review of ‘European Consensus on Development’ https://www.euractiv.com/section/development-policy/opinion/sevencritical-questions-for-review-of-european-consensus-on-development/

The Future of the "European Consensus on Development" https://www.die-gdi.de/uploads/media/BP_5.2016.pdf

European Union Development Policy: Collective Action in Times of Global Transformation and Domestic Crisis http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dpr.12189/full