The EU approach to development effectiveness

The EU approach to development effectiveness

What is development effectiveness & why is it important?

Development aid is a limited resource, which needs to be spent as effectively as possible in order to achieve results.  Better policies in developing countries, coupled with improved aid allocation mean that aid is more effective today at reducing poverty than ever before. International aid increasingly acts as a catalyst to spur the change needed to create conditions in which people in developing countries are able to raise their incomes and live longer, healthier and more productive lives. Though development outcomes are very much dependent on developing countries themselves, the EU is committed to doing its utmost to help alleviate poverty, strengthen national resilience and empower local communities through more effective delivery of aid. How successful the development community is in helping societies respond to complex and multifaceted challenges will depend on its ability to draw from best practices, and to make continual improvements in the way assistance is designed, allocated, managed and implemented.    

What is the EU doing to advance this?

The European Commission's commitment to improving aid and development effectiveness through development cooperation is reflected in its endorsement of key international agreements.  These include the 2005 Paris Declaration, the 2008 Accra Agenda for Action, the 2011 Busan Outcome Document and the 2014 Mexico Communique.   The key principles of development effectiveness, defined in the Busan outcome are:

  • Country ownership

  • Transparency and accountability

  • Focus on results

  • Inclusive development partnerships

Following the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011, the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation (GPEDC) was established.  The European Commission plays an active role in GPEDC and the Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) represents the EU on the Steering Committee.  GPEDC is a unique global multi-stakeholder forum, which brings together all actors relevant for development cooperation, including traditional donors, developing countries, emerging economies, civil society, local government, philanthropic foundations and the private sector.  GPEDC works to make progress on the commitments made in Busan as part of a shift from aid effectiveness to wider effective development cooperation.

The second High Level Meeting of the GPEDC will be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 30th November – 1st December 2016. It will bring together high level participants to discuss the role of effective development cooperation in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and in this context achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As we move forward towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and follow-up on the broad range of means to achieve them set out in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, the effectiveness of development cooperation will be more important than ever.  Our ambitions are higher than ever – we need to ensure all resources are used as effectively as possible to reach our collective goals.


The European Union has defined a number of priority areas for development effectiveness, which were articulated in the "EU Common Position for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness".  In these EU Council Conclusions, commitments were taken to make progress in the following areas:

  • Establish an EU Transparency Guarantee to increase accountability and predictability, strengthen democratic ownership and improve development results.
  • Implement joint programming at the country level to reduce aid fragmentation and promote harmonisation.
  • Strengthen delivery, accountability, measurement and demonstration of sustainable results.
  • Commit to a new approach to situations of conflicts and fragility.
  • Deepen Public-Private engagement for development impact.


Significant progress has been made in all these areas:

Transparency:  A specific commitment was made in Busan to "make the full range of information on publically funded development activities […] publically available" and to "Implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation".  The establishment of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) has been a significant step forward towards meeting these commitments.  The main aid spending departments of the European Commission (DG DEVCO, DG NEAR, DG ECHO and the Foreign Policy Instrument) all publish data to IATI on a monthly basis. The European Commission has been rated "Good" in the most recent Aid Transparency Index, published by the NGO Publish What You Fund.  A specific transparency portal, EU Aid Explorer, has been developed, to provide easy access to detailed information on our activities. 

Joint Programming:  Reducing donor fragmentation through EU Joint Programming is a major EU flagship initiative for development effectiveness and one of the Global Partnership Initiatives. It relates to the joint planning of development cooperation by the EU and its Member States as they work together to deliver technical and financial assistance. Since 2011 Joint Programming has been considered in 55 partner countries. Among its main deliverables, a total of 25 joint strategies are either being developed or are currently in place (including drafts). An effective tool for improving coordination, Joint Programming strengthens the coherence, transparency, predictability and visibility of EU external assistance. It improves mutual trust and knowledge of EU and EU MS development cooperation programmes. Implementing Joint Programming at the country level leads to more effective division of labour and reduced aid fragmentation.

Results:  The EU Results Framework, launched in March 2015 was developed to strengthen our ability to monitor and report on the results achieved, enhancing accountability, transparency and visibility of EU aid.  EuropeAid now reports yearly on results which the EU helped to achieve in partner countries through EU funded projects and programmes.  Commissioner Neven Mimica has said: "This is a big step forward as we are improving accountability towards EU citizens, as well as beneficiary countries and to other donors. It also means that the EU becomes even more transparent".

Conflict and Fragility:  The New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States was launched at the Busan High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in 2011and stands as a key framework for achieving resilience and development results in fragile and conflict-affected environments and for meeting the commitment to ‘leaving no one behind’. It also provides a unique platform for political, economic, and social reforms in fragile and conflict-affected countries by strengthening dialogue between national authorities and development partners and by including civil society. Through the New Deal, development partners are committed to supporting transitions out of fragility which are locally driven, locally owned and locally led.

The European Commission has been at the forefront of the New Deal implementation in a number of pilot countries (Somalia, Central African Republic) and is an active member of the International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding, which supports implementation of the New Deal.

More information on EuropeAid's policy on fragility and conflict or join the Public Group on Fragility and Crisis Situations on Capacity4dev.

Public-Private Engagement:  The global debate regarding the implementation of the post-2015 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals highlights the importance of an engagement framework between the public and the private sector in order to mobilise the combine critical mass of financial and non-financial resources needed. This new approach is reflected in the recent EU Communication, "A Stronger Role of the Private Sector in Achieving Inclusive and Sustainable Growth in Developing Countries". The Communication proposes an engagement framework conditioned by specific principles and criteria, to further complement the development effectiveness principles and enhance the private sector's role as the key actor of economic growth and job creation, formal or informal, from farming and local micro-enterprises to corporate and global value chains. In this context, the Communication also proposes 12 concrete actions in areas where the Commission believes it can add value and effectively complement actions by Member States and other development partners. These address better regulatory environments in partner countries, business development and access to finance, especially for job-creating micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the formal and informal sectors. 

More information on EuropeAid's policy on private sector engagement.

The progress of the EU and all Member States in implementing development effectiveness commitments has been assessed in the reports "The Busan Commitments: An Analysis of EU Progress and Performance" and "Effective Development Cooperation: Has the European Union Delivered?"

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