All for One or Free-for-All? Early Experiences in EU Joint Programming


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    Joint programming, an ambitious programming modality of the European Union’s (EU) collective development aid2, is being launched in the middle of an enduring economic and financial crisis in Europe. The EU is struggling with its global image while its aid is being put under pressure with member states’ governments also increasingly forced to show results of aid spending to their own national constituency. In such a context, joint programming it could be argued present some evident benefits: it is aimed at ensuring better coordination between the EU institutions’ and the member states’ development aid, thus reducing duplication and fragmentation of aid and increasing its effectiveness. Developing one country strategy document for the EU donors’ assistance can furthermore contribute to forging a more coherent and coordinated EU external action post-Lisbon – beyond the practical benefits of such, this sends an important political signal that the EU institutions and its member states seek to draw on their shared strengths and similarities in engaging with third countries. The initiative, already trialled in Haiti and South Sudan in previous years, is being implemented in a number of other countries with Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Laos and Rwanda as notable early examples, and will be replicated in over forty other countries during the next Multiannual Financial Framework (2014-2020).

    Joint programming is still in its initial stages, but is experiencing significant momentum since the last two years, which offers opportunities to assess the benefits and limitations of the initiative, test its added value and explore opportunities for stakeholders to shape the process. This Briefing Note looks at the rationale of joint programming, and what this means in practice at headquarters and country level, based on a limited number of interviews3 with key stakeholders and an analysis of key documents. It identifies incentives and obstacles encouraging or discouraging EU institutions and member states from engaging in it, with the caveat that the process is given shape by country conditions. An overview of the role and reactions of partner countries to joint programming is also provided. The note ends by pointing at the main challenges ahead for joint programming.

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