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Stepping up? Best practice in joint programming and prospects for EU joint cooperation strategies

Discussion Paper 183


Helly, D., Galeazzi, G., Parshotam, A., Gregersen, C., Kokolo, W., Sherriff, A. 2015. Stepping up? Best practice in joint programming and prospects for EU joint cooperation strategies. (Discussion Paper 183). Maastricht: ECDPM.

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In a more globalised and competitive world the need for more effective international and development cooperation has only become more urgent and consequences of inaction more apparent. To meet the recently agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) all actors including EU actors will have to ‘raise their game’ to work together better. The European Union’s institutions and services and its Member States, have the potential to have a stronger influence in international cooperation because of Joint Programming.

EU joint programming key figures in 2015

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With a more systematic adoption and application of Joint Programming documents in partner countries, as the result of Joint Programming processes, they could be even stronger. Rebranded as Joint Cooperation Strategies, Joint Programming would fit well under the 2016 EU Global Strategy and a revised European Consensus on Development matching the new global agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Despite a waning interest in the application of development effectiveness principles, Joint Programming could also help addressing long identified and persistent challenges in the external action of the EU and its Member States.

Profiling EU institutions and Member States in joint programming 

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Key messages

  • EU Joint Programming (JP) processes and their outcomes – Joint Programming Strategies – have the potential to give the EU and its Member States a more effective say in international cooperation and achieve greater development effectiveness. Yet the current application of Joint Programming is uneven and is stuck in the middle of a crossroads.
  • To drive joint programming forward the EU and its Member States need to do more homework at HQ on: 1) practical capacity 2) flexibility of instruments 3) institutional coherence 4) political interest. Practitioners ought to realise that: 5) personalities matter 6) JP is possible in fragile contexts 7) only timely engagement with national governments adds value and 8) collective EU political vision at the country level is necessary.
  • Renewed political impetus, high level leadership, prioritisation and the rebranding of EU Joint Programming into ‘Joint Cooperation Strategies’ is necessary to give new stamina to these processes, while keeping the exercise led at the local level with a clear eye on adding value.

Read Discussion Paper 183

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This paper was co-sponsored by the Netherland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Image courtesy of European Commission via Flickr.

ECDPM welcomes feedback on this paper, which in the first instance can be directed to Dr Damien Helly, Deputy Head of the Strengthening European External Action programme, who led the research process. 

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European external affairsEU AidEU Development Policy and PracticeEU Inter-Institutional Relations in External ActionDiscussion Papers (series)Joint programmingEurope