Building on the current momentum to address fundamental challenges
The SD is not launched nor does it evolve in a vacuum. On the contrary, it builds on the momentum reached by the current debates and discussions on the global architecture for international aid which have originated from the changes occurred in the international discourse on international development as well as from broader changes in the international context.
At the European level, the SD answers to the EC political commitment towards participatory development, which explicitly recognises CSOs and LA as drivers of change in governance and development processes. The SD also capitalises on the rethinking and reengineering efforts, which have gained momentum in the past years, as testified by the number of studies and evaluations, from a global, regional and sectoral perspective, recently conducted in the field of CSO & LA involvement.
A brief overview of the European “acquis” in matters of participatory development
- The EC established the first formal partnership with European development NGOs in the mid-1970 (creation of the NGO-Cofinancing budget line in 1976). At that time, the prevailing development model gave a lead role to the central State as the motor of development, leaving a marginal place for civil society, and relying almost exclusively on European development NGOs. At that time, the NGO-Cofinancing budget line was intended to improve the overall quality of EC development cooperation by facilitating the participation of European civil society, whereby solidarity ties would be promoted between Northern and Southern civil society organisations. The Decentralised cooperation budget line launched in 1992 opened the eligibility to other types of organisations; including local authorities.
- The Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000, was the first legally binding document which enshrined participation as a “fundamental principle” of ACP cooperation (article 2) and spelled out basic rules and modalities for this to happen in all spheres of cooperation (article 4-8). In addition Cotonou acknowledged the need for NSA (Non state actors) to be strengthened through Capacity building programmes.
- The principle of ‘participatory development’ was reaffirmed in the White Book on European Governance] as well as in other policy documents. The book underlines the need to strengthen dialogue with non-governmental actors in third countries when developing policy proposals with an international dimension.
- In 2002, the European Commission issued its EC Communication on the Participation of Non State Actors (NSA) in EC Development Policy (COM(2002) 598). Of paramount importance, the Communication came after a long reflection process between the EC, partner countries and CSOs. The aim of the Communication was to assist the implementation of the principles of Ownership and participatory approaches in development strategies by taking stock of practices concerning NSA involvement in developing policies and by clarifying expectations for their involvement in each stage of the process.
- In 2004, the Commission issued the document “ Guidelines on Principles and Good Practices for the Participation of Non-State Actors in the development dialogues and consultations”. Of internal use, the document provides concrete operational guidance for EU Delegations on how to engage with CSOs.
- In the first part of the European Consensus on Development (2005), which applies to all regions, the EC reiterated its political commitment to CSO participation of “all stakeholders in countries’ development and in the political, social and economic dialogue processes”; to “building capacity for these actors“; to “strengthen their voice” and to provide aid “through different modalities that can be complementary, including support to and via the civil society”.
- The Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI), which replaced the existing regulations from January 2007 onwards, contain specific provisions dealing with the role of NSA in development. The DCI also includes a new thematic programme for non-state actors and local authorities in development, of which the main objective is to provide capacity development (replacing the previous NGO Co-financing budget line). It is an “actor-oriented” programme aimed at capacity building through support to "own" initiatives from non-state actors (NSA) and local authorities originating from the EU and partner countries.
- In the realm of EC relations with LAs, also the European Consensus on Development refers to drivers of local development such as governance, Decentralisation, Civil society and Local authorities’ participation, and to country-led, participatory, decentralised and environmentally sustainable territorial planning and development.
- The EC's commitment to supporting decentralisation and local governance is also backed by several policy documents. The EC Communication on Governance and development (COM(2003) 615), the EC Communication on the EU Strategy for Africa: Towards a Euro-African Pact to Accelerate Africa’s Development (COM(2005) 489), the EC Communication on Governance in the European Consensus on Development (COM(2006) 421) .
- Another relevant document is the 2008 EC Communication on Local Authorities: actors of development (COM(2008) 626) which has a twofold purpose: (i) it seeks to recognize the importance of LA and decentralized cooperation efforts and; (ii) it attempts to draw out the first elements of a response strategy that shall allow capitalisation and maximisation of LA's experience as partners in development policy.
- Finally, the "Joint Commission/General Secretariat of the Council Paper on Democracy Building in the EU's External Action (SEC(2009) 1095) final of 27. 7. 2009" (Reference document, adopted by the Commission in 2009) is also a relevant document of reference. This paper is to a cross-pillar initiative on democracy building in EU external action, launched by the Czech and Swedish Presidencies in 2009. Its stated purpose is to increase the coherence, effectiveness and credibility of EU support to democracy building. It takes stock of the tools and instruments the EU has at its disposal for supporting democratic reform processes in third countries.