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Engaging Non-State Actors in New Aid Modalities

For better development outcomes and governance

January 2011

Vanheukelom, J, Bossuyt, J., Piñol Puig, G. 2011. Engaging non-state actors in new aid modalities: For better development outcomes and governance. (Tools and Methods Series, Reference Document no. 12). Brussels: European Commission.

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The EC and EU Member States have pledged to make aid more effective. They do so at a time when a stronger em- phasis is given to context specificity and better knowledge of in-country development actors and processes. It is an ambitious and demanding agenda, and some parts of that evolving agenda are more promising than others, particularly when a number of processes converge and actors work together. More specifically, this document integrates three such processes and builds on multiple inputs and experiences from a range of actors. It also provides guidance for a variety of EC practitioners to reinforce cooperation. In doing so, it intends to encourage or strengthen linkages between both actors and processes, so that aid efforts become more effective inputs to domestic development processes 

A first process relates to the EC efforts to apply and improve aid modalities that have been purposefully redesigned in support of effectiveness principles – in particular ownership, alignment and accountability. Such aid modalities include Budget Support (BS) and the Sector-Wide Approaches (SWAp) or the Sector Policy Support Programmes (SPSP). This document refers to budget support and Sector Policy Support Programmes as New Aid Modalities or NAMs. Budget Support is not merely the transfer of financial resources to the treasury of a partner country,but is an ‘aid package’ that also consists of policy dialogue, results in orientation and monitoring, as well as efforts to harmonise. As a package and as part of the new aid architecture, Budget Support aims to strenghten partner country ownership, alignment and accountability.

The second process is about EC initiatives to engage more effectively and strategically with Non-State Actors (NSAs). This is an integral part of the EU’s ‘participatory development’ policy. This policy puts NSAs central in development processes and seeks to make the ownership principle inclusive, enabling NSAs to contribute fully to these change processes. Experiences by the EC with participatory development point to the need and the possibil- ity to develop a better understanding of NSAs in their full diversity of roles, functions, and agendas. These experienc- es also warn against overly positive views and the necessity to recognise that not every non-state actor is a develop- ment actor. There are many un-civil NSAs.

A third process relates to the efforts to deepen the knowledge about the relations between state and society. Some donors, parts of the research community and some non-governmental organisations emphasise the need not to treat NSAs in isolation. It is argued that the focus should be on a broader variety of actors, and not just on ‘strengthening NSAs’ on the one hand and supporting state ‘capacity’ on the other hand. Development is an intrinsically context specific and political change process. New aid modalities precisely allow external development partners (whether donors, International NGOs, multilateral agencies etc.) to a) engage in new, more comprehensive and strategic ways with NSAs, and b) move closer to a partner country’s key state institutions including the budget and budgeting processes. In doing so, they affect the relations between state and society in multiple ways. There is also a need to sharpen the knowledge about how donors and other external players affect the relations between the state and citizens/non-state actors, about how institutions function and about the way in which politics help shape development outcomes.

This document both benefited from and contributed to these ongoing EC processes. The process to make budget support more effective – involving consultations and the development of new guidelines informed it. The authors, moreover, benefited from the ongoing Structured Dialogue (1) with civil society and local authorities. While doing so, they also provided inputs into the process of dialogue on more effective cooperation between the EC, EU Member States, civil society organisations and local authorities as well as the European Parliament. The EC also integrates a stronger ’political economy’ approach to its context analysis (for example in its guidelines for budget support and in the revised manual for Project and Programme Cycle Management (in preparation). This Reference Document may also contribute to operationalise the EC’s Governance Analysis Framework in sector operations, as well as to improve- ments to the division of labour and coordination (within the broader EU agenda on the Operational Framework on Aid Effectiveness leading up to the Fourth High Level Forum in South Korea, at the end of 2011).

Different groups of EC practitioners engage in these three processes, or are involved in managing and steering them. First, there is the group of practitioners who mainly specialise in working with and through NSAs. This is already a diversified field of practice. Secondly, there are the macro economic experts. A third category consists of practitioners or experts dealing with thematic programmes, including governance advisors, some of which work on cross-crutting issues. All these categories of practitioners don’t automatically speak the same language. So this reference document seeks to overcome this hurdle by bridging processes and different groups of practitioners. It presents a complex and challenging agenda, but in the various discussions with EC experts in the field and at headquarters, it was stressed that this agenda deserves attention and support. 

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European external affairsEU Development Policy and PracticePost-2015 Global Development AgendaPapersResearchAid effectivenessEuropean Commission (EC)European Union (EU)Non-state actors (NSA)

External authors

Gemma Piñol Puig