Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report




COM(02) 598

Commission Communication: Participation of non-state actors in EC development policy.

Legal base:
Document originated:7 November 2002
Deposited in Parliament:19 November 2002
Department:International Development
Basis of consideration:EM of 4 December 2002
Previous Committee Report:None
To be discussed in Council:No date set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested

The current situation and the EC's expectations

  2.1  The EC's Development Policy Statement of November 2000[5] recognises that ownership of strategies by partner countries, and wide-ranging participation by all segments of society, are key to successful development programmes and should be encouraged. Implementation of the Cotonou Agreement is leading to the increasing involvement of Non-State Actors (NSAs) in ACP countries.[6] Examples of NSAs include non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations and their representatives, whether from trade unions or employers' associations, business organisations, associations of churches, universities, cultural associations, media groups or the private sector.

  2.2  The Communication is a contribution to the broad policy discussion on this participatory approach. It aims to clarify expectations and focusses on strengthening the involvement of NSAs in the development process.

  2.3  The Commission notes that there has been increasing consultation with NSAs in connection with summits, such as in the run-up to the Doha World Trade Organisation meeting in November 2001, when their participation was particularly valuable to the Commission. The broad dialogue between institutions and citizens has also provided valuable input into the design and implementation of policies centred on the Millennium Development Goals and it has helped to promote good governance, democratisation and respect for human rights.

  2.4  In Latin America, a dialogue with NSAs has been conducted in parallel with the political dialogue at sub-regional, regional and, sometimes, national level. Under the MEDA programme,[7] NSAs receive structural support to build up capacity, and governments are encouraged to enter into dialogue with them. In practice, the Commission says, NSAs are gradually becoming key partners in EC development policy and implementation. About _1.4 billion of the _7 billion per year of EC official development assistance (20%) is being managed by or with NSAs.

  2.5  According to Article 7.1.b of the Humanitarian Aid Regulation (1257/96), in order to qualify for Community financing under the Regulation, NGOs are required to have their main headquarters in an EC Member State or in a third country in receipt of Community aid. Exceptionally, their headquarters may be in a third donor country. Those which work on a long-term basis with ECHO have to sign a Framework Partnership Agreement. The Commission notes that, although third-country NGOs are not eligible for direct funding from the European Community Humanitarian Office (ECHO), they play an important role. They have local knowledge and can provide an efficient link between the end of a humanitarian emergency, when ECHO funding is withdrawn, and the beginning of rehabilitation and development. The Commission invites them to play an even more important role in identifying needs in the field.

Improving the quality of the participatory approach

  2.6  The Commission suggests that the gradual transfer of resources and responsibilities to EC Delegations overseas (the "deconcentration process") will help to improve the quality of the participatory approach. Two important issues for Heads of Delegation are the lack of political will on the part of national governments to involve NSAs, and the poor capacity of the NSAs themselves. Heads of Delegation will, in future, play a central role in promoting and facilitating the dialogue between NSAs and the relevant authorities. They will also be expected to ensure close cooperation with EU Member States and international agencies. The role of the Headquarters in Brussels will be to provide support to Delegations by disseminating good practice and ensuring that policy is coherent.

  2.7  The Commission sets out what it sees as the respective roles of the northern and southern NSAs (i.e. in developed and developing countries respectively). It notes that the northern NSAs are moving from implementing projects in the south towards capacity-building, to enable their partners in developing countries to become more "active, credible and well-structured". The Commission comments:

"The challenge that northern partners are expected to address is to build on this progress and develop closer partnerships with their local counterparts, and move away gradually from direct intervention at operational level. The challenge for donors is to support this development".

The Commission's conclusion

  2.8  In order to ensure adequate consultation of and participation by NSAs, the Commission says that certain standards should be met. These include aiming to:

  • promote the involvement of NSAs in preparing strategy papers;

  • consult NSAs more systematically on Country Strategy Papers and throughout the programming process, as part of discussions with relevant national authorities;

  • involve NSAs in discussions on trade policies and economic cooperation;

  • ensure that different interest groups are represented; and

  • give NSAs time to prepare before consultations and to take their views into account.

  2.9  Finally, the Commission says that it plans to prepare guidelines for EC Delegations on NSA involvement in the development process. In addition, it will prepare a set of specific guidelines for the Delegations in the ACP countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific on implementing the participatory approach required by the Cotonou Agreement.

The Government's view

  2.10  The Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short) says that the Government welcomes the approach set out in this Commission Communication:

"It is in line with the UK Government White Paper Eliminating World Poverty: A challenge for the 21st Century which recognises the important role that the wide range of groups which make up civil society can play in the elimination of poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals".

  2.11  The Minister comments that the Government's own experience has shown that building up the capacity of civil society in "southern", that is developing, countries is crucial if they are to be effective in taking on an enhanced role. She adds that it is encouraging that the Communication recognises the importance of taking into account varying political conditions and of adopting specific approaches in response, as in its recognition of the changing role of northern (European) NSAs. She regards it as important that NSAs and southern governments are involved in producing the Guidelines for EC Delegations on NSA involvement in the development process and that these are fully translated into action on the ground.

  2.12  The Secretary of State then says that the Government does not, however, agree that EC humanitarian aid funding through ECHO should be restricted to funding NGOs with headquarters in an EU member state or exceptionally in a third donor country. In its view it should be possible to form partnerships with NGOs which are not based in the EU, when southern NGOs have the necessary capacity.


  2.13  Over the last few months the Government has been actively involved in discussions on the Communication and has "shared its own thinking" with the Commission on the importance of involving southern civil society. The Liaison Committee of European Development NGOs (CLONG) and the UK NGO network, British Overseas NGOs for Development, have both been consulted by the Commission and propose to put together a common position of European NGOs on the document.


  2.14  We note that the Government does not agree with one of the provisions of the Humanitarian Aid Regulation and ask the Minister whether it intends to press for the Regulation to be amended so that southern NGOs which are not based in the EU can qualify for EC humanitarian aid funding.

  2.15  It is clear that the document has aroused the interest of European and British NGOs. We ask the Minister to inform us if their analysis, and their subsequent common position on the document, results in any representations to the Government or the Commission that the policy proposed in it should be changed in any significant way.

  2.16  Meanwhile, we shall not clear the document.

5  (21703) - ; see HC 23-xxviii (1999-2000), paragraph 31 (1 Nov 2000). Back

6  African, Caribbean and Pacific countries which are signatories to the Cotonou Agreement. Back

7  The countries benefitting from the MEDA programme are Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey and WestBank/Gaza Strip. Back

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