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Thematic global evaluation of European Commission support to decentralisation processes

European Commission. 2012. Thematic global evaluation of European Commission.

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ECDPM was part of the Particip consortium which carried out this evaluation for the European Commission, February 2012.


The Evaluation assesses the European Commission support to decentralisation processes worldwide over the period 2000-2009. During this period budget allocations rose from nil to 100 million EUR per year, 74% being implemented in Africa. Over this period the EU has developed a Policy framework in order to respond to the demand from partner countries and the emergency of local authorities as actors in development. EU support has been most effective at relative early stages of reform, in strengthening local governments’ management and administrative capacities, in promoting greater transparency in fund allocations from central to local level and in improving access to service delivery.

Subject of the evaluation

This evaluation assesses the European Commission support to Decentralisation processes over the period 2000-2009, namely its policy framework, its institutional capacities, the alignment to the national context and its programmes that aim to enhance local governance and improve service delivery.



The design for the evaluation was a multiple case study with literal replication. There were 8 evaluation questions, 22 countries were involved in a survey and 10 case studies were carried out during the field phase. Overall more than 4000 documents and publications were screened and analysed and 200 persons were interviewed either individually or in focus group discussions. The criteria for assessment were the five DAC criteria (relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability) along with EU specific criteria of coherence and added value.

Main conclusions:

The EU has developed, over these 10 years, a more comprehensive policy framework for direct and indirect support to decentralisation processes, particularly supportive of the role of local governments as stakeholders for i) improving governance and ii) service delivery. In this way the EU has been responding to a demand from partner countries’ reform agenda and the emergency of local authorities as actors in development. It is the overall conclusion of this evaluation that the EC support has contributed significantly to the two broad objectives. Substantial challenges remain and continued support is of utmost relevance, particularly in poor and fragile contexts. The EC has focused its assistance in strengthening local governments’ management and administrative capacities, in promoting greater transparency in governments systems for allocation of funds from central to local level, in improving access to service delivery and, to a certain extent, in development of decentralisation policies. EC support has been most effective in countries with relative early stages of reform and less in more mature decentralised contexts. The EC was less successful in addressing the central governmental level, lacking capacity for establishing an effective policy dialogue for comprehensive institutional arrangements, for supporting legal reforms and human resources management. The EC has had little impact also in upraising the participative profile of civil society and the quality aspects of service delivery. The main constraint towards stronger EU engagement at policy level has been the lack of dedicated human resources both in HQ and delegations, along with insufficient dissemination of documents and training events. EC programming has been increasingly aligned with partners countries’ contexts and demand, namely with the nationally owned development strategies, poverty reduction plans and decentralisation reforms. In terms of impact and effectiveness the use of different aid modalities has not proved a decisive factor; but efficiency has improved through increasing EC engagement in working with other donors through joint aid modalities and the introduction of new aid modalities. The EC has been proactive and leader in organising donors’ co-ordination. To ensure sustainability of interventions, it is necessary to align with partners’ countries owned priorities. All interventions have to be anchored to the political framework and to sectoral policies; the latter would also drastically increase coherence.

Main recommendations:

– The EU should exploit its potential added value and acknowledge decentralisation as part of Public sector reform. Addressing public reforms shall require the strengthening of an informed policy dialogue with a wide range of stakeholder (central and local), while recognising the need to embed support into the broader political context and of developing capacity to provide realistic assessment of the nationally owned strategies and context variables.

– The EU should develop clear intervention strategies to adapt to different contexts and maturity of reforms. The EU should give priority to strengthening partner countries’ monitoring and evaluation of the reforms.

– The EU should build upon its know-how on selected aspect of local fiscal reforms and exploit it further.

– The EU should develop more sectoral capacity in terms of dedicated Human resources, develop operational guidelines, disseminate information and organise appropriate training. Furthermore, EU should strengthen its internal capacity of internal knowledge management to ensure systemic internal sharing of results.

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African institutions and regional dynamicsDecentralisation