Making policies work

Policy into practice

ECDPM – A special animal

Development thinking is entering a new phase in an increasingly multipolar world. The aid business is gradually being replaced by new approaches to international cooperation, which focus on the pursuit of common interests. But international cooperation is not a level playing field – at the national, regional and international level we see the balance of power in resources, knowledge and capacity between partners is rarely equal.

Where new ‘rules of the game’ emerge, there is a need for policy and practice to meet these challenges with the tools and practices to match – well-informed dialogue, a variety of partnerships, institutional innovation and joint learning. While there are plenty of institutions that focus on informal dialogue, partnerships or research alone, ECDPM is a recognised broker and our ability to help translate policy into practice lies in our very specific approach – combining informal mediation, dialogue, capacity development, strong networks of partnership and reliable and neutral research and analysis.

See our Partners and Funding pages to see the extensive network and the reach of  the influence of ECDPM

As an institution, ECDPM is a special ‘animal’. It is not a research institute, a consultancy firm or an NGO. As a broker of information, we perform some of these roles, but articulates them in a way that gives them value beyond the sum of their parts. ECDPM’s specific focus on Europe and its relationship with Africa and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Nations makes it unlike any other institution.

As a ‘Think and Do Tank’ ECDPM does not just produce knowledge for reflection, but also focusing on the practice of international cooperation. Its about getting things done and getting results with stakeholders sharing ideas on the ground.

ECDPM’s key characteristics

  • Non-partisan and independent status, both financially and intellectually
  • High quality range of support and tailored policy analysis, with a clear niche and specialisation
  • Direct access to the real world of policy making
  • Continuing support to policy making with a focus on implementation
  • Long term engagement and specialisation in international cooperation, Africa-EU relations as well as Europe’s relations with countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP)
  • Strong partnerships and networks with different stakeholders and organisations.  We closely work with governments, multilateral organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

A special approach

ECDPM promotes a philosophy of informal mediation and dialogue not advocacy. ECDPM’s characteristic process approach is designed to build bridges between the EU and the developing world. We aim to get better informed policy making and stimulate reform by linking policy and practice.

A timeline of ECDPM work on fragility, peace, security and development

ECDPM’s ways of working are ingrained in a thematic approach to international cooperation. The developing world is where the major global challenges are most acutely felt and the availability of Common global goods like peace and security, international trade, financial stability and freedom from infectious diseases is more scarce.

Major transitions are underway that will set the dynamics of international cooperation for years to come. From managing scarcity of raw materials and water to promoting inclusive and green growth with a fairer distribution of resources to all – there is increasing integration between development cooperation and other policy domains, with a growing interdependence among countries, both developed and developing, and a wider range of global governance mechanisms at work.

A search is underway for a new development narrative ‘post-Millenium Development Goals’ – one that rethinks poverty reduction while addresses global development goals upfront

The challenges implied by these transitions are the foundations of our thinking and require new responses at all policy levels, including support for social justice, democracy, human rights and human security. With this in mind, ECDPM now works on 4 major thematic priorities that are essential in the current thinking on development to achieve a better system of international cooperation:

The four thematic ‘lenses’ of ECDPM


Reconciling values and interests in the external action of the European Union

We accompany the efforts in Europe (both EU and member states) towards an integrated, development friendly and more coherent external action policy.. read more

Promoting economic governance and trade for inclusive growth

We support the transformation of a global economic system that fosters social equity, poverty alleviation and sustainable development.. read more

Supporting societal dynamics of change in developing countries

We support initiatives and institutions within developing-country societies for inclusive, transparent and democratic systems of governance with mediation in post-conflict and fragile states.. read more

Addressing food security as a global public good

We support food security efforts at local, national, regional and institutional level without which the best health and education services cannot attain their objectives. Without a viable food and agriculture sector, social instability is never far away.. read more

As an independent facilitator and ‘knowledge broker’ we provide reliable and independent policy analysis and organise multi stakeholder meetings, which often under the ‘Chatham House Rule’, encourage frank and effective discussions. ECDPM systematically draws upon broad network of expertise and knowledge to build partnerships for positive change.

At small circle meetings, at the sidelines of conferences, over a coffee or at internal meetings – ECDPM is trusted because of our network, the quality of the work and our impartial approach. Through the special way ECDPM and its staff work, we aim to build a relationship of trust with policy makers and stakeholders. Our written output, though timely and comprehensive, it is only a small part of what we do. At a number of key moments, ECDPM has been ‘in the kitchen’, helping support the formulation of both policy and practice in Africa-EU and ACP-EU cooperation.

The majority of ECDPM events include multi stakeholder dialogues with senior officials (from Director-Generals, Directors, Heads of Units) civil society, private sector, think tanks  or meetings with senior experts recognised as leaders in their field with particular thematic or geographic responsibilities. As an independent foundation we are open to working with all and fully respect our independence. When organising meetings, we aim for inclusiveness in the policy process.

The dilemma of ‘impact’

ECDPM’s ‘impact’ is difficult to measure as impartiality is essential in our work, and brokering relationships often involves sensitive political considerations. We cannot formally acknowledge ECDPM’s true ‘impact’ on policy processes which are essentially the realm of states, multilateral institutions and professional bureaucracies.

However, ECDPM works across the ‘Policy to Practice’ cycle, in the long term. There are certain traces of evidence that our work bears considerable fruit.

ECDPM prefers to see itself as a facilitator and broker of information, enabling institutions to fulfil their own goals, rather than itself ‘impacting’ their direction. We hope that others emulate our approach while taking ownership over the process.

Over the coming months, ECDPM will outline the influence that it has had in putting the policy into practice in key fields of international cooperation for development, from broad subjects such as Africa-EU relations, to the more specific:

  • Africa-EU Relations
  • ACP-EU Relations
  • Supporting the African Union Commission
  • ‘Coordination, Complementarity and Coherence’ in EU External Action
  • Designing New Ways to Supporting Governance & Civil Society
  • Applying Political Economy Analysis
  • European Union External Action
  • Economic Partnership Agreements
  • Non-state Actors and Civil Society
  • Technical Assistance
  • Monitoring and Evaluation
  • Extractive Industries
  • Decentralisation and Local Governance
  • Climate Change and Development
  • Political Economy of Regional Integration in South Africa (PERISA)



    The uptake of ECDPM’s research is strong amongst key stakeholders engaged  in EU international cooperation. Our work is extensively cited by and referenced in a number of important and influential  documents including:

    • European Union Institutions
    • European Union Member States
    • Major economies outside of the EU
      (including the United States and Japan)
    • Emerging Economies and Donors
    • Major international multilateral organisations
      (such as the United Nations)
    • Major multilateral financial institutions
      (such as the World Bank and African Development Bank)
    • Major multilateral think tanks
      (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)
    • Major philanthropic foundations
      (such as the Gates Foundation)
    • Private sector organisations

    Many institutions have contacted ECDPM for informal advice or discussions on policy issues. ECDPM has over the years built a relationship of trust with key policy stakeholders across Africa and the ACP group of States. ECDPM publications have also been used and directly referenced by a number of these, including:

    • The African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and its Secretariat.
    • The African Union Commission (AUC)
    • Regional Economic Communities  (RECs)
    • African Development Banks

    Influencing debate

    ECDPM’s work and insights are  picked up by influential media outlets, such as:

    Supporting advocacy

    ECDPM shares the broad aims of improving international cooperation with many of our peers. We represent and respect the views of civil society and advocacy groups without necessarily defending their agenda. Influential actors in the European and African  policy community use ECDPM material, including organisations and networks such as:

    Beyond Europe, ECDPM is an active member of several North-South Networks such as:

    This is not however an exhaustive list. Please go to Partners and Funding to see our extensive network.

    Think tank cooperation

    As a ‘think and do tank’ ECDPM has strong links with other think tanks who have a strong relationship with their respective national policy makers. ECDPM works closely and consistently with our peers across Europe, Africa and the ACP states. We worked directly with or have been cited by a number of institutions such as: