Select Committee on International Development Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Dr Gordon Crawford, Lecturer in Development Studies, Institute for Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds


  I have conducted research and written on this topic over the past few years. Most recently, detailed research was undertaken in mid to late 1999, with results published in a (forthcoming) book chapter.1 This written evidence is in three main parts. First, pertinent background information is provided. Second, a summary of the main findings is given, and finally some proposals for improvements are made. The main submission is that EC assistance in this field can be characterised as ad hoc, fragmented and incoherent, with adverse implications for effectiveness.


1.1  Policy objectives

  Over the last decade the promotion of human rights and democracy has become an increasingly important part of EU policy, including within development co-operation. The (Maastricht) Treaty on European Union provided a legal basis for Community development co-operation for the first time by defining its goals and objectives (Title XVII, Articles 130 u-y), inclusive of the general objective of promoting democracy and human rights as a priority aim (Article 130u, paragraph 2).

  Prior to the Maastrict Treaty, the European Commission had initiated discussions on the promotion of democratisation within development co-operation, leading to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers (Development) on "Human Rights, Democracy and Development" of 28 November 1991. The Resolution made the promotion of human rights and democracy both an objective and a condition of development co-operation, both for the European Community and Member States. It remains the pivotal policy statement.

1.2  Policy Instruments

  Financial resources for positive measures in support of democratisation are available from two main sources: mainstream regional development co-operation funds and dedicated budget lines. The clear message of the November 1991 Council Resolution was to encourage the use of funds from mainstream regional budgets, given further emphasis by the redefinition of the legal basis of regional co-operation programmes, inclusive of respect for human rights and democratic principles, for example, the 1995 Mid-Term Review of the Lome Convention. The specific budget lines are intended to have an "innovative" or "catalyst" role, providing initial support for short-term, pilot projects, potentially leading to medium or longer-term mainstream funding. Nevertheless, the main emphasis in the 1990s was on budget line funding, examined briefly here.

  At the instigation of the European Parliament, budget lines specific to the promotion of human rights and democracy were grouped together in 1994 as Chapter B7-70, the "European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights", covering the following 11 budget lines2:

    —  B7-7000  Support for democracy in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, including Republics formerly part of Yugoslavia, (including the PHARE Democracy Programme). Established in 1992, managed by DGI "Human Rights and Democratisation Unit", with a budget of 15 million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7010  Support for democracy in the New Independent States (of the former Soviet Union) and Mongolia, (the TACIS Democracy Programme). Established in 1993, managed by DGI "Human Rights and Democratisation Unit", with a budget of 10 million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7020  Human rights and democratisation in developing countries, especially ACP countries. Created as a direct result of the November 1991 Council Resolution, initially as a resource for all developing countries except Latin America. It is now focused on ACP countries, after the establishment of other regional budget headings. It is managed by DGVIII, "Democratisation, Good Governance, Institution Building" section, with a budget of 17 million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7021  Human rights and democracy in southern African countries. Managed by DGVIII, with a budget of four million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7022  Special programme for democracy and good governance in Nigeria. Managed by DGVIII, with a budget of four million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7030  Democratisation process in Latin America. Created in 1990 at the initiative of the European Parliament, its original aims were to support the democratisation process in Chile and the peace process in Central America, but was extended from 1991 to cover all of Latin America. It is managed by DGI, "Democracy and Human Rights in Latin America" section, with a budget of 14 million euro in 1996.

    —  B7-7040  Grants to certain activities of human rights organisations. Established in 1979 with a global remit, including Member States, this was the original human rights budget line with a focus on torture. By 1999, thematic coverage had expanded considerably, including women's human rights, minority groups, human rights education and training, abolition of the death penalty, although 40 per cent remained allocated to support for torture victims. Managed by DGI "Human Rights and Democratisation Unit", with a budget of 15 million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7050  MEDA (Mediterranean) Programme for Democracy and Human Rights. Established in 1996 at the initiative of Parliament, with a budget of nine million euro.

    —  B7-7060  Support for the activities of International Criminal Tribunals and to the setting up of a permanent International Criminal Court. Managed by DGI with a budget of 3.3 million euro in 1999.

    —  B7-7070  Human rights in Asian countries. Established in 1998 and managed by DGI, with a budget of five million euro in 1999. Current focus on China.

    —  B7-7090  Support for, and supervision of, electoral process. Established in 1997 and managed by DGI, with a budget of two million euro in 1999. Emphasis on funding of international electoral observation in countries where electoral assistance is not available from other instruments.

  Budget lines have been created in the 1990s in a largely piece-meal manner, differentiated by regional and thematic foci, with their management reflecting the institutional fragmentation of the European Commission in this field. Project funding is generally "re-active" (that is, application-driven). Priority areas and eligibility criteria have varied for each budget line, with criticism of the lack of an overall, coherent strategy.

  Two developments in 1999 aimed at improving the coherence of Commission activities in this field, a Council "Human Rights" Regulation and common Commission "Guidelines" covering most budget lines. The Council Regulation (975/1999) of 29 April 1999 provides the legal basis for operations with the objective of "developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law and respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms",3 found to be lacking by the European Court of Justice in its judgement of 12 May 1998 (Case 106/96). Common "Guidelines" covering nine of the 11 budget lines within Chapter B7-70 were published in June 1999, not including those for Latin America (B7-7030) and the Mediterranean (B7-7050).4 These establish common thematic priorities, chosen from the areas of activity covered by the above Council Regulation, as well as common criteria for project selection. Thematic priorities for 1999 were as follows5:

    —  education and awareness-raising of civil society;

    —  protection and promoting of the Rights of the Child;

    —  conflict prevention and resolution in countries in crisis;

    —  promotion of inter-ethnic and inter-racial tolerance (especially in view of the World Conference on Racism in 2001);

    —  good governance—measures to promote transparency, accountability and the fight against corruption.

Additionally, individual budget lines continue to set their own priorities.

1.3  Policy Implementation

  Research was undertaken by the author on the implementation by the EC of positive measures to promote human rights and democracy in developing countries. The period 1993-97 was examined, with data for 1997 being the most recent available. Information from the Commission's annual implementation reports up to 1995 was supplemented by (unpublished) statistical data provided by the Commision to the author for 1996 and 1997. Data covers expenditure from Chapter B7-70 and from "other sources", essentially the mainstream regional funds. A summary of findings is given below.6


  Despite the promotion of human rights and democracy becoming a high profile objective of EC development co-operation, policy implementation suffers from many deficiencies and inadequacies. Shortcomings were identified as follows.

2.1  Reporting Obligations

  The European Commission has failed to meet its annual reporting requirements to Council and Parliament, as stipulated in the November 1991 Council Resolution on "Human Rights, Democracy and Development". As of late 1999, no report had been submitted to the Council and Parliament since that for 1995. The consequent lack of accountability and transparency is particularly contradictory and ironic in a field that purports to promote good governance and democratisation in other countries.

2.2  Regional Distribution

  A regional analysis of positive measures in support of human rights and democracy revealed a concentration of assistance to Latin America and Africa, with an astonishing neglect of Asia.7 The small share of assistance to Asian developing countries, as low as 1.5 per cent of total EC political aid in 1994 and 1996, is particularly astounding given the large proportion of the global population that inhabits this region. In 1997, there was indication of an increasing focus on Asia, though expenditure remained relatively low. Such disparities in regional support indicate a lack of consistency in implementation of policy objectives amongst the fragmented regional programmes.

2.3  Sectoral Distribution

  The EC's political aid programme was mapped against stated priority targets.8 Disappointingly, the overall findings were of the arbitrary and ad hoc nature of policy implementation. There has been no guarantee, nor even likelihood, that a statement of policy intent will be translated into policy practice. This was demonstrated repeatedly in failures to re-focus on democratic consolidation to maintain the emphasis on civil society measures, to prioritise good governance measures, and by the decline, not increase, in conflict prevention measures. The example of support for "good governance" is instructive. Despite being highlighted as a future priority in the Implementation Report for 1993,9 activities that support the executive arm of government have remained limited. Modest rises in annual expenditure from 1994 to 1996 were not maintained, declining substantially to just 2.8 per cent of total expenditure in 1997. Indeed, only five measures globally were supported in this sector in 1997. Such lack of policy coherence is of particular concern given the insistence of the EU negotiators on the inclusion of "good governance" as an essential element of the post-Lome IV agreement.

2.4  Programme Evaluation

  At the end of almost a decade of democracy assistance, evaluation of EC programmes in this area was conspicuous by its virtual absence. As of late 1999, no major or comprehensive evaluation of democracy and human rights programmes had been conducted. At best, three studies can be pointed to, all limited in different ways: an early (but now dated) evaluation of two budget line measures (1991-93) by the German Development Institute (published in 1995); an evaluation of the MEDA Democracy Programme 1996-98 (published March 1999); and a large-scale evaluation of EU aid to ACP countries, inclusive of a small section on "good governance" (published November 1998). Currently a more significant evaluation is in progress, though restricted to the ACP countries, to my knowledge. It is due to be published shortly (late June) and its findings could be most pertinent.

  Evaluation is clearly essential to highlight current deficiencies and to learn lessons in order to improve future practices. A comprehensive study is needed, inclusive of all geographical regions, as well as a series of thematic studies on assistance to various sectors of democratic development, for example, local government, legal sector reform, civil society support, etc. All such evaluations could include a focus on the inclusion of gender considerations and of women's political representation and participation.


3.1  Reporting

  An innovation in 1999 was the first Council Annual Report on Human Rights, adopted on 11 October 1999. 10 One response by the European Parliament was to call for more information in future reports, including the details of projects funded through Chapter B7-70. 11 For projects in developing countries, such information was provided by the annual Commission Implementation reports up until 1995. Clarification is needed on the respective coverage of Council and Commission annual reports. It is submitted here that the Council report has a much broader remit and that the (lapsed) Commission implementation reports should be revived, inclusive of project information and analysis, with coverage extended to include human rights and democracy funding to all non-EU states.

3.2  Conceptual Clarity: Democracy and Human Rights

  Within EC assistance, the two concepts of democracy and human rights are discussed as one. Despite rolling off the tongue together very easily, the interrelationship between them requires clarification. Promoting respect for human rights is a wider objective than democratisation, encompassing not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the anti-discrimination covenants. Democracy is a narrower concept than human rights but also broader than civil and political rights, themselves constituting one component of democracy. In practice, human rights have tended to be subordinated to democracy, raising issues concerning the status of economic, social and cultural rights. In their report on the EU and human rights, Alston and Weiler expressed similar concerns that the budget lines of Chapter B7-70, the "European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights", are largely confined to activities relating to civil and political rights. 12

  To achieve greater conceptual clarity, two suggestions are made. One is that political aid measures be termed democracy assistance programmes, inclusive of support for civil and political rights as an integral element. The other is that the adoption of a broader human rights-based approach to development should entail by definition an increased focus on economic, social and cultural rights, with specific programmes for the promotion of those rights outlined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

3.3  Strategy

  A major obstacle to effectiveness is the lack of a coherent democracy promotion strategy. EC policy implementation remains fragmented and can be generally characterised as ad hoc, reactive (ie application-driven) and lacking in coherence. Whilst attempts in 1999 to improve coherence are acknowledged (the Council "Human Rights" Regulation 976/1999 and the Chapter B7-70 common guidelines), the underlying strategy remains limited to a "menu" approach, providing a list of institutional sectors from which the selection of democracy assistance activities can be made, be it strengthening parliament in country X or an independent media in country Y. The limitations and weaknesses of such "institutional modelling", involving an attempt to gradually transform the political institutions in other countries in the image of established democracies, has been clearly expounded by Carothers, with particular reference to US democracy assistance. 13

  Within the EC, research and reflection on democracy promotion strategies and the role of external actors appear to be urgently required. Such work could focus on at least three areas. First, the elaboration of different strategies for the range of different political situations encountered, at its most basic, a distinction between countries where governments abuse civil and political rights and where governments express a commitment (at least rhetorically) to democratic principles. Second, a greater emphasis on process rather than institutional end-points, for example, the facilitation of processes of democratic decentralisation or of enhancing political participation. Third, strategy at country level should be based on domestic authorship, with external efforts, focussed on fostering such internally-driven processes, for example, the encouragement of national democratic dialogue on political reform, bringing together key stakeholders, government and non-government. 14

3.4  Institutional Fragmentation and Management Reform

  Many of the deficiencies and incoherence of EC human rights and democracy assistance stem from the extraordinary institutional fragmentation and complexity that bedevil development co-operation efforts more generally. A related element of these bureaucratic constrains on effectiveness is the lack of transparency and accountability regarding Commission efforts in this field.

  Current management reform proposals deal briefly and somewhat confusedly with EC "political air". The management of "specific activities" such as human rights (and presumably democracy) and CFSP is considered separately. On the one hand, it is stated (correctly, in my view) that political sensitivity requires that programming and implementation be retained under the direct control of the lead DG. On the other hand, it is stated somewhat contrarily that "the possibility of externalising the management of the human rights budget headings should be explored".15

  Two sets of institutional reforms are suggested. First, there is the need for a single Democratisation Unit with responsibility for taking the policy lead in this field for all regions, inclusive of strategy papers, implementation and evaluation. 16 It could be argued that the best location of such a Unit would be within DG RELEX, given the inclusion of democracy promotion in Central and Eastern Europe. More fundamentally, however, all development co-operation programmes should be managed by the Commission's Development Directorate, not dispersed between DGs as at present. Second, there is a need to examine the Commission's own structures of governance and to engage in institutional reforms to achieve a greater degree of transparency and accountability. Indeed, the analysis of democracy promotion in EC external policy highlights the democratic deficit to be addressed within the institutions and structures of the European Union itself.

Dr Gordon Crawford

Lecturer in Development Studies, Institute for Politics and International Studies, University of Leeds

June 2000

1  Crawford, G (2000), "European Union Development Co-operation and the Promotion of Democracy" in P Burnell (ed.) Democracy Assistance: International Co-operation for Democratization (Frank Cass, London).

2  Most confusingly, budget line codes are subject to frequent change. Those given here were correct as of mid-1999.

3  This Regulation applies to financial measures with regard to human rights and democracy in developing countries only, whilst Regulation 976/1999 of 29 April 1999 applies to all other countries. (OJ 120/8, 8 May 1999).

4  Only part of B7-7070 (Asia) is covered by the guidelines, measures concerning China solely.

5  European Commission, European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, June 1995, p 5.

6  See Crawford 2000 op. cit., pp 101-14.

7  Ibid. Table 2, p 105.

8  Ibid. pp 108-14.

9  European Commission, Report on the Implementation in 1993 of the Resolution of the Council and the Member States on Human Rights, Democracy and Development, adopted on 28 November 1991, p 15.

10  Council of Ministers, EU Annual Report on Human Rights (11350/1999—C5-0265/1999).

11  European Parliament, Annual Report on International Human Rights and European Union Human Rights Policy, 1999, (A5-0060/2000).

12  P Alston and J H H Weiler, The European Union and Human Rights: Final Project Report on an Agenda for the Year 2000, (Florence: European University Institute, 1998), para 106.

13  T Carothers "Democracy Assistance: The Question of Strategy", in Democratization vol 4 no 3, (1997), pp 119-25.

14  The notion of national democratic dialogue is one being promoted by International IDEA, including in the context of ACP-EU relations. See International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, Dialogue for Democratic Development: Renewing the ACP-EU Partnership for the 21st Century, (Stockholm, International IDEA, 1998).

15  European Commission, Communication to the Commission on the Reform of the Management of External Assistance, p 15.

16  Such views are not unique, of course. Indeed, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has been pressing for such reforms, with the Lenz Report of December 1997 precisely entitled "on setting up a single co-ordinating structure within the European Commission responsible for human rights and democratisation", Committee on Foreign Affairs, Security and Defence Policy, 4 December 1997, Document number A4-0393/97, (Luxembourg, European Parliament).

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