Setting the context and rationale of the SD English (en) Deutsch (de) español (es)français (fr) português (pt)

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This is part of the Structured dialogue: background paper about the Structured dialogue (SD)

Restarting the dialogue offers an opportunity for change in a world that has changed

In 2002, EuropeAid launched an informal dialogue process between the EC, European Development NGOs, members of the European Parliament and representatives of Member States. The key event of this dialogue with 4 parties (also known as Quadrilogue) was a seminar held under the Italian Presidency of the Union, in October 2003 in Palermo. It was a forum in which procedural and substantial issues on civil society involvement in EC development aid implementation were debated.

The so-called Palermo process proved its added value not only as a multi-stakeholder place for dialogue, by launching dynamic reflections on the way forward, but it also allowed to adjust aid implementation mechanisms to ensure greater efficiency and [Aid effectiveness| effectiveness]] . Jointly with other important developments -like the enhanced role of EU delegations-, Palermo contributed to the introduction of new aid instruments and of access to direct funding for stakeholders in the partner countries.

Since about a decade, important changes have taken place. Civil Society Organisations have grown exponentially worldwide and [LAs| local authorities]] have consolidated, manifesting themselves increasingly as relevant development and governance actors. EU member states and the EC have recognized this trend and embraced participatory approaches and innovative ways to support CSOs and LAs. On a global scale, a number of landmarks have been achieved (Millennium development goals, Monterrey, Paris, Accra, Doha conference) while increasing debates are taking place on the way the global architecture for external aid should be reshaped to increase relevance, [Aid effectiveness| effectiveness]]and sustainability of development interventions.

In a process supported by the EC jointly with several Member States, among other donors, the Accra Agenda of Action (AAA) has set a more inclusive framework where the role of CSO, LA and Parliaments is recognized; yet it requires further elaboration to improve consistency, since accommodating the requirements of the Aid effectiveness agenda and the participation of CSOs&LAs are not always easy to reconcile.

Against this background, the SD provides a concrete opportunity for change, by jointly identifying ways and means to improve the effectiveness of all actors involved in EC development cooperation; a critical requirement which needs to be seen as a shared responsibility among all the actors involved: EU Member States and the European Parliament as co-decision makers, the European Commission as policy developer and implementer, and ultimately, CSO and LA themselves, defining each actor's roles and responsibilities.

What are the objectives and expected results of the SD?

Conceived as a confidence and consensus-building mechanism – and not a negotiation process- the initiative aims at increasing the effectiveness of stakeholders involved in EC cooperation. Background1.PNG
It is furthermore an initiative with which the EC wishes to respond to the conclusion of several reports (CSO channel, CoA), to the request of CSOs&LA and of the European Parliament, in the frame of the AAA, by:

  • Reaching a mutual understanding and building consensus on the main challenges related to CSO & LA involvement in EC cooperation and,
  • Finding ways to improve the effectiveness of CSOs & LAs involvement in EC cooperation, to advance and strengthen partnerships and exploring ways to adapt EC modalities accordingly.

This overall goal finds its translation into specific objectives and expected results as follows: Background2.PNG Background3.PNG

Who are the actors involved?

The SD is conceived as a global dialogue process, which will bring together stakeholders from both the North and the South. Accordingly, the inclusion of Southern stakeholders has grown to be a high priority. On the Community side, it is important to note that the SD is a genuine EC process, whereby inputs from the three Directorate-Generals involved in the EU external cooperation are duly coordinated:

  • DG DEVELOPMENT, which is responsible for defining the global Commission's development policy and which is also in charge of programming EC aid to ACP countries.
  • RELEX, which contributes to policy formulation and manages relations with: European countries that are not EU members (or candidate members) and the rest of the world .
  • EuropeAid co-operation office, whose main mission is to implement the Commission’s external aid instruments, both those funded by the Union’s budget and the European Development Fund.

This current set-up, nevertheless, is most probably subject to change due to the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty , which will result in some significant transformations in the way in which the EU relates to the rest of the world (i.e. the Treaty foresees the creation of an EU diplomatic service – called the European External Action Service - EEAS).
The figure hereafter gives an overview of the European and other regional stakeholders involved (including internationally organised actors e.g.multinational and trade unions): Background4.PNG
In partner countries, the Dialogue will involve CSO&LA and EU Delegations (following the deconcentration process) and:


This was the "general contexct" of the Structured dialogue (SD)