Public group: Political Economy in Practice

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Making Technical Cooperation More Effective: Mission Possible?

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EuropeAid Director General, Koos RichelleEuropeAid Director General Koos Richelle used the public launch of the capacity4dev.eu website to express his firm personal commitment to technical cooperation reform.

Technical cooperation reform is imperative and urgent, agreed Mr Richelle and Paul Engel, Director of the European Centre for Development and Political Management, in a special debate on the 16 October to mark the public launch of capacity4dev.eu, EuropeAid’s interactive tool to support the ongoing TC reform.

Mr Richelle told the audience of assembled press and interested stakeholders that an operational change is inescapable if donors like the Commission and European Member States want to exploit the available budgets for poverty alleviation to the maximum possible.

“There is squandering of money, there is too little coordination,” said Mr Richelle. “And I think it should be said out loud – if we want to make a difference as ‘Europe’ we have to reorganise the development business.”

In 2007, the European Court of Auditors produced a very clear report on how the European Commission delivers technical cooperation. That Court, which acts as external auditor for European Union spending, questioned if the way in which technical assistance is provided was really conducive for building capacities and reinforcing institutions in beneficiary countries.

Their 2007 report forced a period of introspection at EuropeAid, which subsequently launched the Backbone Strategy on "Reforming Technical Co-operation and Project Implementation Units" - an ambitious and comprehensive reform, launched in July 2008, to overhaul EC-funded technical cooperation.

Mr Richelle added that partner countries also carry some responsibility to ensure that donor nations are acting in the best interests of the partner country, and not the donor.

“If developing countries do not start to exercise ownership, then I’m afraid that everybody will go on with a supply driven approach,” said Mr Richelle.

While Mr Engel agreed ownership is key to successful capacity building, he warned that donors need to be careful of how they recognise and respond to calls for ownership. Often, donors are too eager to spend allotted cash in a misguided dash for results rather than taking the time to work with local partners to find a meaningful means of engagement, he said.

“It is a slow institutional change that [donors] have to effect,” said Mr Engel, “and that’s where things like this platform [capacity4dev.eu] will prove incredibly useful.”

Though Mr Richelle agreed in principle, he said this time has come to make decisive moves in the right direction. Not only because donors have promised time and again to do so (Paris Declaration, Accra Agenda for Action), but also because the debate on value for taxpayers money has intensified.

"The economic crisis will put official development aid levels under pressure. There is also a growing pressure on ODA for the financing of global public goods," said Mr Richelle. "The combination of both will lead to deep-digging debates on priorities and results in cooperation."

In 2005, external assistance programmes of the European Commission were valued at 10.4 billion Euros.

Tax payers deserve value for money, according to Mr Richelle. As such, failure to reform is unthinkable.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.