Documents considered by the Committee on 25 January 2017 Contents

2New European Consensus on Development

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the International Development Committee

Document details

Communication from the Commission: Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development—Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future

Legal base

Department

International Development

Document Number

(38306), 14773/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 740

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

2.1The EU and its Member States collectively have become the world’s largest providers of development aid. In 2015, they accounted for more than half of global Official Development Assistance (ODA).4 The Government recently re-stated its commitment to the multilateral system of development aid, and as such the UK’s interests in EU policy in this area are likely to be engaged well beyond the UK’s exit from the EU itself.

2.2In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (see “Background” for more information). As a consequence, the European Commission has now proposed a new Joint Declaration on a “European Consensus for Development”, to be adopted jointly by the Council, Parliament and Commission. It would replace a similar Declaration dating to 2005.5

2.3The purpose of the new Consensus is to provide both the EU institutions and the Member State Governments with a framework for a “common approach” on implementation of the 2030 Agenda in the EU and national development assistance policies. The Commission also explicitly reiterates the EU’s collective commitment to contribute 0.7 per cent of its GNI to Official Development Assistance.

2.4As the Minister of State (Lord Bates) notes in his Explanatory Memorandum:

“This will be a key document that guides EU development policy for a number of years to come. As one of the world’s largest development and humanitarian donors, we have an interest in how the EU will implement the 2030 Agenda, and in securing a framework which reflects UK priorities.”

2.5The Minister goes on to welcome the “strong link” between the Consensus and the Sustainable Development goals. He also provides a helpful summary of the Commission’s proposed areas for action, which include: further efforts to reduce poverty; ensuring environmental sustainability; seeking to foster economic growth in developing countries, including through preferential trade deals; supporting developing countries in maintaining or achieving peace and stability; improving the availability of food and clean water for impoverished communities; and promoting access to education (see Background for more information).

2.6We consider that the Commission’s Communication is a timely proposal to update the 2005 European Consensus on Development in the light of the United Nation’s new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Overall, the areas of action identified by the Commission appear to be well-aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

2.7However, we are concerned about the lack of an assessment in the Minister’s Memorandum of the implications of the UK’s exit from the EU for the Government’s development policy. Ensuring the closest possible alignment of the UK’s and EU’s priorities in development policy at this stage could make it considerably easier for the Government to participate in coordinated multilateral efforts after the UK’s exit from the EU. We also note that the Prime Minister’s speech of 17 January did not rule out continued UK financial contributions to “some specific European programmes”.

2.8In terms of the EU’s priorities for development assistance, the trade-development nexus—which featured prominently in the Government’s recent Development Reviews—appears much less pronounced in the Commission text.

2.9The Reviews also noted pointedly that the UK’s forthcoming exit from the EU will allow the Government to “[open] markets to the world’s poorest people”. This implies heavily that EU trade policy is acting as a barrier to development, whereas the Commission concludes that “the EU has a strong record in opening its markets to least developed countries”. This discrepancy is worth closer scrutiny, particularly in view of the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences which includes duty- and quota-free exports for the least developed countries.6 The implication seems to be that the UK will adjust its non-tariff (regulatory) barriers for exporters in developing countries. However, we have not seen any detail about which countries or markets are the intended focus of the Government’s efforts in this area.

2.10As part of the EU’s implementation of the SDGs, the Commission is looking to increase the use of Joint Programming of development initiatives, linking the EU’s activities with bilateral development projects undertaken by individual Member States. On a case-by-case basis, such joint actions may well have added value. However, we agree with the Minister that participation by Member States should be flexible and voluntary, so as not to constrain their ability to pursue a national development policy in line with their own priorities.

2.11Moreover, the Commission’s own evaluation of Joint Programming was not concluded prior to the publication of the Communication. We consider that the outcome of this evaluation exercise should be taken into account during the Council’s consideration of the draft Joint Declaration, ensuring that the final text reflects its conclusions. We would welcome reassurance from the Minister that outcome of the evaluation will be carefully analysed before the UK endorses, by means of a Joint Declaration, any call for a further “enhancing” of Joint Programming.

2.12For the above reasons, we retain the document under scrutiny, and draw it to the attention of the International Development Committee. We also ask the Minister to inform of us any changes made to the text of the Consensus well before its adoption as a Joint Declaration, and to provide us with further information on the following:

Cooperation and coordination after Brexit

Development and trade

We do not consider responses to these questions would impinge on Brexit negotiations.

Monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

Full details of the documents

Communication from the Commission: Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development: Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future: (38306), 14773/16 + ADDs 1–3, COM(16) 740.

Background

2.13The EU and its predecessor organisations have been active in the field of development cooperation since 1958, when the first European Development Fund was established. In the intervening years, the EU and its Member States have become the world’s largest providers of development aid. In 2015, they accounted for more than half of global Official Development Assistance (ODA).

2.14The EU’s current high-level approach to development policy is set out in the 2005 European Consensus on Development, which was agreed by the European Commission, Council7 and Parliament8 as a Joint Declaration. The Consensus provided a common vision to guides the action of the EU, both at its Member States and Community levels, in development co-operation.

2.15The 2005 Consensus is aligned closely with the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals, which set 8 objectives for 2015 (notably the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; promoting gender equality; improving maternal health, reducing infant mortality and combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and malaria; and achieving universal primary education).

2.16In September 2015, the United Nations adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The aim of the SDGs is to respond to new economic, societal and environmental trends that shape the need for development assistance, such increasing urbanisation in the developing world; shifting levels and geography of poverty; increased numbers of refugees; and population growth which is placing public goods, such as water and energy, under stress.

2.17The SDGs are noticeably broader in scope than the Millennium Development Goals. They cover not just the eradication of poverty and concrete objectives related to health and education, but also economic development, conflict resolution and climate change. The 2030 Agenda has five priorities, under which the SDGs are clustered: people (eradication of poverty); planet (protecting the environment and tackling climate change); prosperity (economic development); peace (resolution and prevention of conflict); and partnership (international cooperation).

Proposal for a new European Consensus on Development

2.18A review of the 2005 Consensus conducted by the European Commission found that the objectives of the European Consensus, such as poverty reduction, sustainable development and the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had “generally been integrated by the EU and the Member States in their development policies”, and progressively adapted to its priorities and principles. According to Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD/DAC) peer reviews, the Consensus was a “major strategic success”.9

2.19The Commission is now proposing to update the 2005 “European Consensus” in light of the UN’s 2030 Agenda. It argues that achieving the SDGs, with their broader range of objectives compared to the MDGs, requires a greater degree of coordination between EU and Member State development cooperation policies. The purpose of the new Consensus is therefore to provide both the EU institutions and the Member State Governments with a framework for a “common approach to development cooperation”, taking into account the 2030 Agenda.

2.20The Commission’s proposal for a new Consensus places the SDGs at the heart of European development policy, in much the same way that the Millennium Development Goals are at the heart of the current Consensus. The proposal identifies numerous “areas for action” linked to the SDG’s “5 Ps” (people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership). It also explicitly reiterates the EU’s collective commitment to contribute 0.7 per cent of its GNI to Official Development Assistance.

2.21The Minister in his Explanatory Memorandum provides a helpful summary of the Commission’s proposed areas for action, which include: further efforts to reduce poverty; ensuring environmental sustainability; seeking to foster economic growth in developing countries, including through preferential trade deals; supporting developing countries in maintaining or achieving peace and stability; improving the availability of food and clean water for impoverished communities; and promoting access to education.

2.22On using trade to assist in development, the Commission says:

“Development cooperation will support the implementation of the provisions in trade agreements relating to trade and sustainable development. Coordinating aid and cooperation programmes better in these areas will allow the EU to use the opportunities and leverage a closer trade relationship to promote this value-based agenda towards our trading partners”.

2.23Under the “Partnership” heading, the Commission calls for enhanced “joint programming” of EU and Member State development cooperation initiatives at country-level, to make interventions more effective and to reduce overlap.10 Joint Programming (JP) is the process whereby the EU and its Member States (as well as other interested parties) jointly plan development cooperation in a partner country.11

Our assessment

2.24The Commission’s Communication is a timely proposal to update the decade-old European Consensus on Development in the light of the United Nation’s new 2030 Agenda. Overall the areas of action identified by the Commission appear to be well-aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Some elements of the proposal deserve closer scrutiny.

Cooperation and coordination after Brexit

2.25In 2015, £1.33 billion—or 11 per cent of the UK’s £12.14 billion expenditure on Official Development Assistance in that year12—was channelled through its contributions to the EU budget and to the European Development Funds.

2.26After the UK’s exit from the EU, the Department for International Development will presumably take on responsibility for managing the majority of these funds, which are currently managed by the Commission. However, it is clearly a possibility that the UK will seek continued cooperation with the European Commission and EU Member States on development assistance. Indeed, the Department’s own Multilateral Development Review of December 2016 states categorically that the UK will “continue to be a committed supporter” of the multilateral system.13 The Review also notes, in passing, that “the UK’s decision to leave the EU will have implications for DFID’s future partnerships with the EU (…).”14

2.27In her speech of 17 January 2016 on her priorities for Brexit, the Prime Minister discussed the UK’s budgetary contributions to the EU.15 While stating that the UK, having left the Single Market, would no longer “be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget”, she went on to say:

“There may be some specific European programmes in which we might want to participate. If so, and this will be for us to decide, it is reasonable that we should make an appropriate contribution”.

2.28In our view, this leaves open the possibility of continued UK participation in, and contributions to, EU development assistance programmes post-Brexit. However, the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum does not address whether such continued structured cooperation is being considered after the UK’s exit from the EU.

Development and trade

2.29The Department for International Development published its Multilateral Development Review and Bilateral Development Review on 1 December 2016.16 It is not clear from the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum whether the priorities put forward by the Commission in the new Consensus correspond to those of the UK Government as set out in these Reviews.

2.30In particular, the Government’s Bilateral Development Review very clearly sees development as part of a trade strategy, with development assistance being “embedded” in the UK’s wider external commercial policy. The Review also implies that EU trade policy has acted as a barrier to development for the least developed countries when it says that leaving the EU will present an opportunity for the UK to “free up trade with the world’s poorest”, and that the Government will use its post-Brexit trade policy to “[open] markets to the world’s poorest people”.

2.31By contrast, the Commission Communication calls for development and trade policies to be “coordinated”, but not for the former to be embedded in the latter. The Commission also appears to contradict the Department’s assessment when it says that “the EU has a strong record in opening its markets to least developed countries”.

2.32These potentially different approaches to the role of trade in development policy is not referred to in the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum. Given the Government’s emphasis on the trade-development nexus, the Government may want to address this before the Commission’s text is formally adopted by the Council and Parliament as a Joint Declaration. It is also unclear, from both the Explanatory Memorandum and the Department’s Development Reviews, for which countries or markets the Government sees particular opportunities to lift EU-imposed trade barriers, whether tariff or non-tariff, as part of its post-Brexit development policy.

Joint Programming

2.33Under the “partnership” heading of the SDGs, the Commission proposes that the EU and its Member States should “enhance joint programming in development cooperation in order to increase their collective impact by bringing together their resources and capacities”. Joint Programming (JP) is the process whereby the EU and its Member States (as well as other interested parties) jointly plan development cooperation in a partner country.17

2.34The Minister rightly highlights that any intensification of JP should be flexible and voluntary, so as not to prejudge the ability of individual countries to pursue their own bilateral development policy as they see fit. We agree that it should also allow for the inclusion of non-EU partners. Safeguarding such flexibility would be an important objective for the Government if it intends to continue cooperating with the EU in this area after Brexit.

2.35The European Commission’s Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DG DEVCO) committed in 2015 to an evaluation of the Joint Programming of development assistance undertaken so far.18 Although originally due in September 2016, it does not appear to have been completed.19 We are seeking reassurance from the Minister that outcome of this evaluation will be carefully analysed before the UK endorses, by means of a Joint Declaration, any call for a further “enhancing” of Joint Programming.

The Government’s view

2.36The Minister of State (Lord Bates) submitted an Explanatory Memorandum on the Communication on 8 December, emphasising the importance of the document:

“This will be a key document that guides EU development policy for a number of years to come. As one of the world’s largest development and humanitarian donors, we have an interest in how the EU will implement the 2030 Agenda, and in securing a framework which reflects UK priorities.”

2.37He adds:

“The proposal for the new Consensus is linked explicitly to the EU’s recently-published Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy, as well as the SDGs and their ‘5 Ps’ (People, Prosperity, Planet, Peace and Partnership). The proposal notes that the new Consensus should respond to current global challenges, including shifts in the nature of poverty and inequality, protracted crises, chronic fragility, environmental problems, as well as taking into account new development actors and innovative solutions.”

2.38Turning to the substance of the Commission’s document, the Minister welcomes the “strong link” between the proposed new Consensus and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. He continues:

“The UK is supportive of the proposal’s emphasis on prioritisation being decided at country-level. As noted, it is important to engage at regional or local level in some contexts, and that each country bears the primary responsibility for its own development. This entails taking a differentiated approach to poverty eradication—working with emerging economies, civil society, and private sector actors where required—whilst ensuring throughout that ‘no one is left behind.”

2.39Finally, Lord Bates expresses some concerns about the emphasis on Joint Programming and monitoring of progress towards the SDGs made specifically by the EU and its Member States:

“It will be important to ensure that any Joint Programming is kept voluntary and flexible, tailored to the country context, and allow for the inclusion of both EU and non-EU partners. Whilst it is important to monitor progress against the SDGs, this should not create unnecessary burdens; any monitoring at EU-level should not duplicate other processes via the UN framework.”

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see in respect of the 2005 European Consensus on Development: (26737) 11413/05, Communication from the Commission on a proposal for a Joint Declaration on the European Union Development Policy: HC 34-xii (2005–06), chapter 8 (30 November 2005), HC 34-v (2005–06), chapter 3 (12 October 2005).


4 See for more information this press release by the OECD.

5 The 2005 Joint Declaration can be found here.

6 See for more information the Commission’s fact sheet on the “Anything But Arms“ initiative, which includes a list of beneficiary countries.

7 General Affairs and External Relations Council of 21 and 22 November 2005.

8 European Parliament Resolution of 15 December 2005.

9 Commission Staff Working Document SWD(16)387, “Assessing the 2005 European Consensus on Development“ (November 2016).

10 Article 208 TFEU requires the EU and its Member State to have development policies which “complement and reinforce each other”.

11 For more information on Joint Programming of EU development cooperation, please refer to Annex II of the EU Common Position for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (14 November 2011).

12 For more information refer to the DfID publication “Statistics on international development“ (November 2016), p. 8 and p. 42.

13 DfID, “Multilateral Development Review“ (1 December 2016), p. 5.

14 DfID, “Multilateral Development Review“ (1 December 2016), p. 40.

16 DfID Press Release, “Reviews set out UK vision for an open, modern development system“ (1 December 2016).

17 For more information on Joint Programming of EU development cooperation, please refer to Annex II of the EU Common Position for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness (14 November 2011).

18 Commission Roadmap, “Evaluation on Joint Programming“ (September 2015).

19 See footnote 12 in SWD(2016) 387.




27 January 2017