Select Committee on European Scrutiny Second Report


COM(01) 231

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament: Building an effective partnership with the United Nations in the fields of Development and Humanitarian Affairs.

Legal base:
Document originated: 2 May 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 4 May 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: International Development
Basis of consideration: EM of 13 July 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set[71]
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared

The Communication

29.1 Relations between the UN[72] and the EC have grown into a "rich and diverse" but complex network of co-operation and contacts are strong. Both agree that collaboration should be strengthened and the Commission suggests that a start could be made by establishing a more effective partnership in their development and humanitarian work.

29.2 A global consensus has emerged in recent years on the fundamental objectives and strategies of development co-operation and the two bodies have established co-operation at the policy-making as well as the operational level. However, at the operational level this has been on a case-by-case basis, and as a result it has been unstructured and unfocussed and neither side has been able to draw maximum benefit from their co-operation. The Commission analysis is that insufficient internal co-ordination on both sides, different administrative cultures and institutional as well as regulatory obstacles are among the reasons for this situation.

29.3 The objective of the Communication is to ensure a better link between political commitments taken at a global level, policy and programme development and the preparation and implementation of projects. It proposes a strategy for building a more transparent, financially predictable and easily monitored partnership with chosen UN agencies, funds and programmes. These would be chosen for their ability to match the objectives and performance requirements of the EC as set out in its Development Policy Statement[73] and Humanitarian Aid Regulation.[74] The aim would be to strengthen the involvement of the EC in early consideration of policies.

29.4 The Commission argues that its internal reform process should help improve collaboration. In particular, the new standard framework for EC Country Strategy Papers should explicitly examine the opportunities for collaboration with other donors, and the new Financial Regulation which is expected to be adopted next year[75] should allow greater flexibility for the EC to co-fund programmes with other donors. In addition, following agreement in 1999 between the Commission and the UN, work is in hand to establish procedures which would make EC funding of UN programmes easier.

29.5 The Communication proposes that future activity to improve co-operation should be based on the principles of division of labour among donors, comparative advantage of UN activities and refocusing of EC development activities on a smaller number of areas, linked to poverty reduction and Community added value.

29.6 The Commission notes that the full support of Member States is required to meet the objectives set out in the Communication.

The Government's view

29.7 In an Explanatory Memorandum dated 13 July, the Secretary of State for International Development (Clare Short) says that the Government supports the objective of improving co-operation between the EU and the UN, in order to enhance the impact of both in contributing to the achievement of the International Development Targets (IDTs). The Commission's two criteria for structuring the improved relationship, those of poverty focus and UN added value/comparative advantage, are the right ones. She adds:

    "Increased Commission contributions to UN development funds and programmes that make an effective contribution to the achievement of the IDTs could be a good outlet for Commission funds that might otherwise be difficult to disburse, or which would be disbursed badly. At the same time they could help address the concerns frequently expressed by some UN funds and programmes about the level, predictability and stability of their funding. The [Commission] Communication highlights the importance of ensuring that the EU targets its funding of the UN, so that the money is used with best effect.

    "We would welcome moves towards collaborative development of the EC's Country Strategy Papers and co-financing of programmes (particularly on a sector-wide basis) with other donors. This is in line with the general trend towards more joined-up donor assistance through initiatives such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, the Comprehensive Development Framework, United Nations Development Assistance Framework and Sector Wide Approaches.

    "We therefore welcome proposals to address existing regulatory and administrative constraints on co-operation by recasting the Financial Regulation and creating a standard grant agreement.

    "EU co-ordination in inter-governmental processes is fairly well-established and aims for a collective European position wherever possible in order to maximise input. However, we retain the flexibility to agree to differ in some circumstances. In the funds and programmes, Member State are major donors in their national capacities and express their positions independently."


29.8 This initiative is to be welcomed. We drew attention to a high-profile example of poor co-ordination between the Commission and the United Nations in our report on the programme of assistance to Palestinian society which we have recommended for debate.[76] The European Court of Auditors commented that in the case of the European Gaza Hospital Project, the Commission did not take active responsibility in the early years of the project, other than by providing the funds, while leaving everything else to UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. This is such a notorious project that we are confident that the Commission will wish to ensure, in any future collaborative ventures, that it plays a much more active part in the monitoring, if not implementation, of the projects concerned.

29.9 We ask the Government to keep a close watch on the arrangements which emerge from this initiative, such as the standard grant agreement, so as to tie any European Community funds allocated to United Nations projects to formal requirements for close and effective monitoring.

29.10 We now clear this document.

71  Council Conclusions were adopted on 31 May 2001: See Council Press Release 8855/01, pages 18 to 21: Building an effective partnership with the United Nations in the fields of development and humanitarian affairs - Council ConclusionsBack

72  In this Communication, United Nations excludes the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation. A list of the bodies included is attached as an annex to the Communication. Back

73  (21291) 8333/00: see HC 23-xxii (1999-2000), paragraph 3 (21 June 2000). Back

74  Council Regulation (EC) No. 1257/96 of 20 June 1996. Back

75  (21749) 12598/01: see HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 11 (29 November 2000) and HC 28-xiii (2000-01), paragraph 5 (2 May 2001). Back

76  (22007) 14778/00; see HC 28-vii (2000-01), paragraph 4 (28 February 2001). Back

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