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VotingElections to the European Parliament will take place in May this year. Yet, an oddity of the European elections is that they are out of synch with the main policy and budgetary processes of the EU. Does this suggest that the role of the new Parliament is limited; that all that is left is the job of holding the executive to account for the implementation of decisions taken by others? Have the Parliament’s guns been spiked?

In this blog, Simon Maxwell and Mikaela Gavas argue that rather than being powerless, the new MEPs have an opportunity to exert influence in various subtle ways.  They also set out a series of questions on international development that can be asked of all political party manifestos.

Read the recent manifestos from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), the Socialists & Democrats (PES) and the European People’s Party (EPP), and our summary of the 2009 manifestos, which highlights the areas of consensus and points of contention.

New build EthiopiaMost developing countries face a chronic deficit of infrastructure constraining economic growth rates, leaving the world’s most vulnerable communities without access to basic services and hampering attempts to achieve broad-based poverty reduction. While over £500 billion is currently invested in infrastructure every year, it has been suggested that annual infrastructure spending will need to more than double by 2020 to meet the development requirements for infrastructure. However, public finance is insufficient and private finance too volatile to bring financing up to the level required. Blended finance enables infrastructure projects to be financed that would otherwise be too costly for a single donor.

In this unique guide to ‘Blended Finance for Infrastructure and Low-Carbon Development’ written for the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Mikaela Gavas, Annalisa Prizzon and Shakira Mustaphawe provide an overview of both the theory and practice of blended finance. It examines the types of financial instruments used in blending, the rationale for the use of blending and how the European Union and the International Finance Corporation, two of the biggest players in infrastructure, have defined, structured and operationalized blending. It also assesses six challenges associated with blended finance. The guide concludes by identifying critical questions donors and Development Finance Institutions could consider when assessing the opportunity of a blended finance package.

This year’s European Development Days, A decent life for all by 2030 – building a consensus for a new development agenda, took place on 26 & A new development agenda: The way forward27 November. Simon Maxwell moderated the closing panel, A new development agenda: the way forward. The panellists were: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary General of the UN; Andris Piebalgs, EU Commissionner; Winnie Biyanyima, Chief Executive of Oxfam International; Depapriya Bhattacharya; and Paul Collier.

In this blog, Simon highlights the main challenges raised during the discussion, and identifies some lessons that could help bring the post-2015 agenda safely into harbour.

Fresh water poured into a jerry canThe political decision that led to the creation of the European External Action Service (EEAS) stated that the Service should be reviewed two years after its establishment. The resulting EEAS Review was published on 29 July 2013.

Building on other assessments of the EEAS’ performance, including ODI’s earlier analysis, we argue that although the Review’s recommendations related to development cooperation are credible, they are incomplete.

Read our commentary on the Review here.

Recent European Union (EU) documents, the EU Accountability Report 2013 on Financing for Development and the accompanying Commission Communication, Beyond 2015: towards a comprehensive and integrated approach to financing poverty eradication and sustainable development, suggest that a careful argument is being prepared to transform aid. In his latest blog, Simon Maxwell summarises and comments on the five steps in the argument and asks about the game-changes that should shape future finance.

Read his blog here.

Rogerson and Jackson in conversationWe hosted the EU Change-makers at the ODI on 24 and 25 June 2013 for a conference on EU development cooperation.

The purpose of the conference was to take stock of progress on EU development cooperation, on paper and on the ground; but also, to look forward strategically to the future. We had participants from a dozen countries, from the public and private sectors, and from think-tanks and NGOs, as well as official aid agencies. The debate focused on how the  EU needs to adapt itself to the changing political, economic and social landscape and the ringing of the changes in 2014 which will be important staging posts in delivering new development cooperation in the second half of the decade.

Read the conference report and see the programme, panellists’ presentations and Simon Maxwell’s first reflections on the conference here. Further thoughts and takeaways from other participants will be added.

Mikaela Gavas wrote a commentary on Owen Barder’s article on the Centre for Global Development’s ‘Commitment to Development Index’ (CDI), which was published in Europe’s World. She argues that ‘the CDI could arguably be more proactive in raising awareness of the EU’s and its member states’ track record, and in stimulating greater debate on the specific policies needed to bring about change’.

In his latest blog, Simon Maxwell asks whether the EU can deliver joined-up thinking and action in international development. He recommends eight changes which should be recommended by the review of the EU’s external affairs currently underway. Read the blog here.

In his latest blog, Simon Maxwell assesses the long-awaited European Commission Communication on the post-2015 Goals and suggests that  the Council Conclusions should consist of no more than six words: ‘Thank you very much. We agree.’

Read the opinion here.

EU leaders have finally reached their decision on the size and shape of  the EU budget from 2014 to 2020. Against a continued backdrop of  austerity and faced with domestic political pressure, it is no surprise  that they hEU%20member%20countries%20-%20reflection%20of%20letters%20on%20building_jpgave cut the EU’s long-term budget in real terms, by €34 billion, from the current €994 billion to €960 billion. In this blog post, Mikaela Gavas expresses surprise that, in spite of all the rhetoric around making the EU ‘fit for the challenges of the modern age’, they have left it with a 20th century budget that is largely inefficient and out of date.

In October 2012, the European Commission published a Communication on ‘The EU approach to resilience’. This is to be followed by Council Conclusions and an Action Plan. The former will formalise EU policy in this area. The second will put flesh on the bones of the policy. In this opinion, Simon Maxwell sets the Communication in context and offers some thoughts on next steps.

The EU played a clever game at the climate talks in South Africa last year, but faces a difficult task this yeaSad Earth_jpgr in Doha. In this blog, Louise van Schaik asks if Connie Hedegaard, the EU Commissioner for Climate Change, will be able to hold the progressive alliance together, and build momentum for a global deal in 2015? Or will the talks end once more in recrimination between developed and developing countries?

At the recent EU Development Days (16 & 17 October), on behalf of the European Think-Tanks Group, Siân Herbert recorded audio interviews with key participants on confronting inequality in developing countries.

Click on the participant’s name for a link to the recording.

  • Guggi Laryea – International Affairs Officer at the World Bank
  • Simon Maxwell – Senior Research Associate at the ODI
  • Ola Bello – Researcher at Spanish based think-tank FRIDE
  • Tamsyn Barton – Director-General for Operations outside of the EU at the European Investment Bank
  • Luc Bagur - Head of Unit, General Coordination, DEVCO at the European Commission
  • Jeske van Seters - Deputy Programme Manager Food Security at the European Centre for Development Policy Management
  • Mario Negre – Researcher at German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
  • Paul Engel - Director of the European Centre for Policy Development Management
  • Rilli Lappalainen – Secretary General of the Finnish NGO platform Kehys

The need for greater differentiation between partner countries and the extent to which middle-income countries (MICs) should continue to receive EU aid have become contentious issues in the EU’s ongoing process of modernising EU development policy. While there is wide acknowledgement that a changing development landscape requires donor agencies to better adapt their approaches to the varying levels of development of partner countries (‘differentiation’), there seems to be less agreement on the nature of these changes and how exactly the EU should respond to them.

Svea Koch and Siân Herbert examine this dilemma in a blog.

Both ‘sustainable’ and ‘inclusive’ are adjectives that have for quite some time now been used in conjunction with growth. Current approaches to inclusive and sustainable growth focus heavily on the sustainability aspect, both in terms of economic sustainability through consistent GDP growth, and environmental sustainability through greening the economy. Inclusive growth is now commonly used to refer to a development strategy that goes beyond GDP growth, and that also considers its process and outcomes.

In this blog post, Mark Furness, Mikaela Gavas and Mario Negre argue that if EU development policy is to take inclusive and sustainable growth seriously, the politically sensitive issue of rising inequality will need to be tackled.

Simon Maxwell and Mikaela Gavas analyse the Conclusions regarding the new EU development policy, ‘Agenda for Change’, published by the EU Foreign Affairs Council  in October 2011. They ask what has been gained and lost in the process, and whether it is now possible to see what kind of settlement will be reached when the Multi-Annual Financial Framework for 2014-20 is agreed. Read their opinion here.

Mikaela Gavas analyses the two latest reports on EU development aid, the UK’s House of Commons International Development Committee (IDC) inquiry published on 27 April, and the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) peer review published three days earlier. She finds that although the main findings of the evaluations were not dissimilar, the key takeaways from both reports are rather different and there are some stark contrasts between the two reports.

Simon Maxwell examines the practical implications of the benefits of measures to improve aid effectiveness at the European level, by analysing the European Commission funded report on the subject by Bigsten, Platteau and Tengstam and an EDCSP commentary by Prizzon and Greenhill.

On 27 January 2012, the European Commission published a Communication on ‘Trade, Growth and Development: Tailoring trade and investment policy for those countries most in need’. On 12 March, this was discussed in the Council of Ministers, which adopted Conclusions on the subject. Simon critically analyses the ambiguity of European policy-making, taking the Commission’s Communication as a case study in this EDCSP blog.

Four months old, the International Year for Sustainable Energy for All seems well down the road to successfully ensuring energy poverty has higher priority in development policy and programming. The EU Sustainable Energy for All Summit this week, brought together development ministers from the EU and Norway, energy ministers from developing countries, the Commission President, the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, and three or four hundred others, to express support for the three objectives of the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative: to achieve by 2030, universal access to modern energy services, a doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, and a doubling of the share of renewables in the global energy mix.

ODI Research Fellow Andrew Scott analyses the initiative in this EDCSP blog

The planet is under pressure – a whole conference is devoted to the topic this week. Global growth is under pressure ­- full debt deleveraging has not yet taken place in Europe, and every day brings new evidence of a growth slowdown in China and India. The normal course of action is to see these as separate issues and discuss solutions in separate fora.

What if we argue that this is no longer considered efficient because short-term welfare and long-term planetary boundaries are increasingly linked? In what ways could environmental and growth thinking in the G20 and Rio+20 reinforce each other?

Out of the blue a significant number of EU Member States have begun advocating for the European Development Fund to be incorporated within the main EU budget – not in 2021, as previously discussed, but as early as 2014, when the new Multi-Annual Financial Framework comes into force. Is this some kind of conversion to rational analysis? A device to reduce spending through Brussels? Or a clever negotiating strategy designed to achieve something else entirely?

Read Simon and Siân’s analysis in this EDCSP Opinion.

Following the release of the European Commission’s communication on trade, growth and development, Dirk Willem te Velde examines how the policy plans to respond to a growing differentiation amongst countries and a growing list of global challenges in this ODI blog.

The high share of aid provided to relatively better-off middle income countries is one of the biggest challenges to the aid record of the European Commission. But what are the reasons behind this?

Simon Maxwell sets out to explore the issue in this EDCSP Opinion.

Over on his website, Simon Maxwell looks at the outcome of the climate talks in Durban, focusing  on the central role played by the EU. Simon notes:

“The most interesting aspect for me is the role of the EU in brokering this deal, first by developing the idea of a ‘road-map’ to a post-Kyoto framework, and second by stitching together an alliance across the traditional dividing lines of Annex 1, Annex 2 and non-Annex 1 countries, as well as large and small emitters. I can’t say that I have studied the internal EU processes in any detail, nor been able to disentangle the role of European institutions versus Member States, but at first sight Connie Hedegaard, the EU Climate Commissioner, deserves a great deal of credit. There are a couple of implications.

First, Durban may well provide a case study of why it is sensible for Member States to work together through the EU, and of how to do it. At a time of political crisis in Europe, there are valuable lessons about the benefits of developing an EU-wide vision and set of targets, as well as specific instruments like the European Emissions Trading Scheme, however flawed (but NB worth celebrating and defending, especially given the current row with the Chinese, Americans and others about bringing airline emissions into the Scheme). Are there implications for development ministers working on climate change, but also more widely?

Second, it is interesting to speculate whether and how EU momentum will be sustained. Is it sensible to think, for example, that the global public good would be served if EU Member States concentrated more of their climate change energy through Brussels institutions rather than bilaterally – giving Connie Hedegaard more bargaining power in the negotiations over a new treaty? From a development angle, there might be implications for the funding of the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance, so far very poorly funded, and for the allocation of bilateral funds, like the UK’s International Climate Fund.”

To read more, click here.

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