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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’.

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