Poverty reduction cannot be achieved without a government able to serve the public interest effectively by being accountable to its citizens and respecting the rule of law. The EU’s approach to governance takes into account its political, economic, social, cultural and environmental dimensions.
On 9 December 2008, the EU decided to give 16 developing countries duty-free access to its market for around 6400 tariff lines, under the EU's special incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GPS+). This provides an important incentive to developing countries to ratify and effectively implement a broadly defined set of international standards in the fields of human rights, core labour standards, sustainable development and good governance.
For the period 2007-2013, the EU’s action in this area is financed through two types of instruments:
- the implementation of the policy at national and regional level is supported by geographical instruments, such as the European Development Fund (in the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries), the Development Co-operation Instrument (in Latin America, Asia and South Africa), and the European Neigbourhoud & Partnership Instrument (in the neighbouring regions),
- the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, which can grant aid where there are no development cooperation links and intervene without the agreement of the governments of third countries. Another characteristic of this instrument is that it works with, for and through civil society organizations.
The EU’s support to partner countries on the road to good governance is tailored to their specific situation, especially in case of fragile states. The Commission follows two main strategies:
- it supports specific interventions in the key governance areas,
- it promotes the mainstreaming of governance in other areas of co-operation.
The key governance areas are:
- support to democratization and the promotion and protection of human rights;
- support to local ownership of governance reform processes, as these cannot be imposed from outside. This is done mainly through dialogue between the EU and its partner countries, involving all relevant stakeholders: government, civil society, political movements, parliaments and local authorities;
- promotion of justice and the rule of law, mainly to improve the functioning of the justice system and facilitate better access to justice for all citizens;
- empowerment of civil society and non-state actors;
- reform of public administration: EU support focuses on strengthening the capacity of governments at national, regional and local level to deliver adequate public services to the people. Assistance is also given to enhance transparency and accountability and reduce corruption. Often decentralisation is a key element in order to deliver more efficient services to local populations and promote democratic governance;
- assistance to put in place policies to combat corruption and prevent conflicts.