In early 2013, the European Parliament commissioned several studies on aid coordination; the starting point being that a ‘Non-Europe’ implies a cost –or different types of costs– for the Union as a whole.
The Elcano Royal Institute has contributed to these studies with an analysis on the benefits and costs of the aid coordination initiatives implemented so far. The Institute has challenged the ‘orthodoxy’ of the aid effectiveness agenda: coordination initiatives may have proliferated but they do imply administrative costs while they have not necessarily triggered results in terms of joint work or donors’ specialisation. Moreover, it goes beyond the technical point of view on this issue by taking a political economy approach on the costs of donors’ lack of coordination –the political cost of Europe as a fragmented donor instead of a global development player–.
In this research paper, we (with the participation of Rafael Domínguez) explore the coordination initiatives and results —the costs and benefits of coordination— in a specific EU development partner country through a case study on Morocco. The paper also identifies the main obstacles to coordination: different administrative procedures, diverse institutional architectures and the resistance of leading donors to abandon or share flagship aid programs.
In order to overcome these obstacles, we propose a more political and realistic approach to donor coordination: (1) a more nuanced approach to the coordination agenda and indicators; (2) greater incentives for delegated cooperation; (3) a focus on member states’ internal institutional limitations to aid coordination –and not just inter-state problems-; (4) an enhancement of the political role of the EU Delegation in the field; (5) the promotion of a single local counterpart and strategic framework in the partner country; and (6) the implementation of more selective and progressive, rather than maximalist, coordination targets.
With the input of this paper and other contributions from the EU members, the European Added Value Unit (EAVA) of the European Parliament has recently published a report on ‘The Cost of Non-Europe in Development Policy: Increasing Donor Coordination between EU Donors’, which has also given way to a legislative initiative for increased coordination. We are really happy to see that several of our recommendations as Elcano’s analyst have been adopted, such as a more nuanced and differentiated view –rather than a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach– on aid coordination.
(*) The study is also availble at the EU Bookshop.