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Development diplomacy in the #EUGlobalStrategy: No slip of the tongue

11-05-2016

Helly, D. 2016. Development diplomacy in the #EUGlobalStrategy: No slip of the tongue. ECDPM Talking Points blog, 11 May 2016.

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Unless heads of State decide otherwise, the EU will have a new Global Strategy for foreign and security policy by the end of June. One of the building blocks of the EU Global Strategy (here referred to as EUGS for the sake of brevity) is development diplomacy. The latter, in line with the new 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development Goals, focuses on prosperity, human dignity and sustainability. Both the EUGS and the 2030 Agenda provide the opportunity to design a sound and effective EU development diplomacy. To achieve this, the EU and its Member States need to keep in mind three key principles.

First: Development is political

During our March conference in Rome on the role of development in the EUGS, Commissioner Stylianides stated: “humanitarian issues have political solutions”. I believe that the same can be said about development. Development is also about politics. This is why the EU needs to have negotiations and bargaining skills to handle power relations, as well as empathy and respect, when dealing with development matters. The use of the wording ‘development diplomacy’ will change mindsets, as it addresses more prominently issues of politics, interests and power.

The interlink between development and politics is visible in other instances. It is enough to realise that most of the refugees coming from Syria (but also from Palestine) are now landing in countries that are also facing various development challenges, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Hence, part of the solution to the ongoing political issue of refugee shocks has to be found in development responses.

On a global level we should not forget that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are also about accountability and governance. SDG #16 on inclusive societies is, in that sense, the most evident point of connection between the EUGS and the 2030 Agenda. The Global Goals will succeed if a proper monitoring and evaluation are voluntarily applied by governments. Here, once again, is another important connection between politics and development for the EU to take into account.

Second: The EU Global Strategy needs thoughtful wording

One striking example is the wording used around the issue of migration and migratory flows this year. Many experts and policy leaders have been wise enough not to use the term ‘migration crisis’ or to talk about their supposed root causes, but many others have not been so wise. The EUGS should avoid wordings like ‘migration crisis’ or ‘refugee crisis’. I would rather suggest the use of language that takes us away from alarmism and closer to a proactive attempt to tackle this challenge. Talking about building resilience to migration shocks seems to me more adequate – not to say promising.

Third and last: Consider the added-value of EU action on development-related issues

The EU is not a role model in many respects, but it certainly is in some policy domains. Its worldwide network of Delegations, that mix political and development work, is unique. These provide an ideal base for development diplomacy.


How, and how prominently, should development diplomacy feature in the EUGS?


While the EUGS is a good opportunity to try to have a shift in wording and approach to development policies by recognising more explicitly its diplomatic dimension, the question is not whether development diplomacy should feature in the EU Global Strategy. Rather it is how and how prominently it should feature.

A reference to the SDGs appears in an early EUGS draft document. Development diplomacy is also a driving approach to implement the EUGS by promoting European joint strategies at country level, as a follow-up to EU efforts on joint programming.


Economic diplomacy will have to work hand in hand with development diplomacy


It has already been said that linkages with other policies are crucial to ensure an integrated strategy. Trade is also politics, as we witnessed in Ukraine, and EU trade is an immense source of power. Therefore, economic diplomacy will have to work hand in hand with development diplomacy. Both should be mentioned side by side, considering the impact of global trade norms, free trade agreements, in-country support to business and private sector and support to European business overseas.

Earlier this year, during a EU seminar on Economic Diplomacy and Foreign Policy organised as part of the EUGS consultation process, Miguel Angel Moratinos differentiated between development diplomacy and Diplomacy with a capital D. The latter refers to the diplomacy that pivots around the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The interplay between these two kinds of d/Diplomacy has to unfold along a shared vision of what prosperity and human dignity mean.

The EUGS text will have to reconcile development diplomacy with security (and military) diplomacy by sketching out ambitions going beyond the current stalemate about using Official Development Aid for those EU activities that have military implications. What matters is that development and security efforts reinforce each other. For this to happen, a common diplomatic and political vision (adopted via Qualified Majority Voting if needed) is paramount.


Shifting towards European unity for development diplomacy: integrating visions.


Over the last six months, we heard each policy community wanting its so-to-say pet topic at the heart of the EUGS, while calling for EU coherence. As a matter of fact, the key solution for an effective EUGS is to combine visions and instruments. This can be achieved only if European political actors truly aspire to European unity. The search for European unity should become a priority that goes beyond the routinely mentioned need for coherence, that in many cases has been translated into a comfortable stagnation of each EU institution in its own field of competence, with DEVCO often keeping control of the purses’ strings. The latest stalemate on the use of development funds for security purposes and the hesitant implementation of the EU comprehensive approach to crises, debates on the use of development funds to manage migratory flows, internal tensions between development professionals and diplomats in EU Delegations or the distance taken by DEVCO with policy discussions on culture in EU external action are just a few examples.

I propose: let us revise our European expectations on coherence and unity – and the balance between the two – in the EUGS. The EUGS has to call for more unity (in addition to more coherence) but we should be realistic and aware that this call will not always be heard. This way, I believe, only the naïve will be disappointed if their ‘pet topic’ is not at the heart of the strategy. As long as priorities are well articulated and the overall guidelines rest upon the basis of a search for unity – away from each actor’s mere self-interest- the EUGS will be a success.

European unity towards development diplomacy will be achieved if those EU decision makers who are not specifically in charge of poverty eradication will take it seriously. Incidentally, poverty eradication is a universal prosperity issue that unavoidably has an impact on growth and on jobs. The EU Global Strategy has the potential to become a groundbreaking document if Federica Mogherini succeeds in gathering a convergence of visions around it in the College of Commissioners vis-à-vis Member States.

Efforts will thus have to be made during Cabinet-to-Cabinet talks on how to find adequate language to articulate development diplomacy with the other components of the strategy. If a consensus is found within the Commission, it will be easier to find it amongst Member States too. This would create proper conditions to open healthy discussions on a new European Consensus on Development. If Brexit votes do not derail the whole train.


The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.

Image courtesy of  Yanni Koutsomitis via Flickr.


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EU Development Policy and Practice#EUGlobalStrategyDiplomacyEuropean Union (EU)Europe