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Development Work: EU – Australia Linkage …

  • July 22nd, 2012
  • Posted by EUEditor

development-aid-kids.jpgThe European Union as the largest single donor of international development aid, accounting for almost half of all international humanitarian relief, works to set a good standard of honesty and effectiveness.

This background report by Jane Schon, from Brussels, includes an outline of  the EU’s current international development action  — and a  growing relationship with Australia.

FACTS

The EU says it acts as an active and proactive player in the international development field; promoting “good governance, human and economic development, and conclusive and sustainable growth”, with in the background its policy of democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

refugee-camp.jpgIt will tackle universal issues, such as fighting hunger and preserving natural resources in developing countries.

Assistance, in the context of agreed schemes for cooperation, is delivered through a set of financial instruments (derived from the EU Budget and European Development Fund), focused on quality of aid and its effectiveness. In 2010, EU development aid totalled €53.8 billion (up €4.5 billion on 2009; A$5.27-billion, xe.com, 22.7.12) — 20% dedicated directly to social and human development, through eradicating poverty.

However, the intention is not to “swoop in and take over”, instead to offer expertise and advice, to help with building and keeping functional society. A successful intervention would be seen as a country in bad straits returning to a more normal situation through such internal processes – without aid having to be brought with the operation run from outside.

That approach shows that, despite vast investments in world aid, with a policy of having some presence in all developing countries, the EU does not see itself as being responsible for solving the world’s problems.

All 27 member states must agree on whether the situation in any country would warrant the deployment of time and resources for assistance. Before anything goes ahead, the government of the country in need must agree to assistance from the EU, through a dialogue between the two.

EEAS

The new sector of the European Union – the European External Action Service- helps in coordinating these developmental projects.

The EEAS is currently in talks with Iran over nuclear programs, led by the High Representative and Vice-President of the European Commission Baroness Catherine Ashton.

It believes it has been “influential” in Libya, Syria, the Balkans, and in the political transformations known as the “Arab Spring”.

On the ground, the EU continues to favour, in the great majority of cases,  donor coordination being led by the host county – the beneficiary country and its government have to remain in the driving seat.

SUCCESSES AND FAILURES

The EU has been responsible for funding thousands of development projects across the world- sometimes only needing small amounts of money to make big differences.

Recent successes include:

•    Helping 250 women in the Indian state of Gujarat to export handicrafts to Europe, North America and Japan.
•    Supporting a local firm in Belize to introduce sustainable logging and forest-management techniques.
•    Assisting farmers in central Cameroon to diversify production.
•    Training small firms in Uganda to share the cost of using essential business support services.

WHAT ABOUT CORRUPTION?

Such ‘missions’ are not always successful.

If there is misuse of aid provision or lack of “positive progression” with it, a new political dialogue is started; direct outside intervention may be authorised; and the program may be suspended.

The EU says that in certain cases it might continue to give aid to benefit the people of a country, but not though their country’s government, e.g. sending humanitarian and food aid through non-governmental organisations (NGOs). A past example was Zimbabwe, where the EU was unsatisfied with the standard of governance, following evidence of fraud in elections, gross human rights abuses, and deficiency in the of rule of law –  so it kept its representation there purely for humanitarian assistance.

RECENT TIMES

Most recently, the EU decided to reassess its assistance to upper middle-income countries. The new European Commission policy of “differentiation” aims to fine tune its development cooperation with these states, and introduces two significant changes: new aid allocation criteria, and differentiated development partnerships for different categories of countries.

A new financial framework which will run from 2014 to 2020, currently under negotiation, will propose that the EU should no longer attempt to assist countries which have significant resources of their own, that they can use to finance development. It’s been controversial move as it will apply to  countries that still have significant poverty levels, while not considered ‘poor countries’. The idea is to direct limited development funds to where these are needed most.

EU AND AUSTRALIA AS PARTNERS

While Australia is not an official Strategic Partner of the EU, it is considered to be “like-minded” sharing similar interests and goals – the two sides working like strategic partners, minus the label.

pacific-bora-bora-eu.jpgThey have been working cooperatively; both are members of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), the development assistance committee, and the Group of 20 leading economies (G20); at the United nations they work together in both regional groupings and political groupings.

reef-fishing.jpgWork has been started on a “framework agreement” which will set up legal architecture for their political relationship. It will define the areas of policy interest and oblige both countries to agree on the terms and conditions on how political dealings and discussions will take place; for example discussions on important issues of common interest, possibly getting down to the disagreements over duty imposed on luxury cars brought into Australia, or quotas on farm products going into Europe.

png-series-sept-oct-2004-040.jpgThe most unique aspect of the EU-Australia relationship is an agreement on Delegated Cooperation, meaning that they will give each other money, for use on defined purposes. Australia is the only country outside the European Union where this has been agreed to, after a series of assessments and audits of each other’s systems to determine reliability.

The agreement specifically allows both parties to work on the other’s behalf when delivering foreign aid; such as aid programs for Fiji done by the Australians, and EU delivery of aid on Australia’s behalf  into places like Southern Sudan.

It’s being called an arrangement of great common sense: Australia can offer expertise in the Pacific region, the EU has much better knowledge of Africa.

Pictures

eu-norway, eu, bottom image – EU Delegation Port Moresby, PNG.

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