Evaluation of EC aid channelled through civil society organisations


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    While the participatory development agenda adopted by the EC in 2000 is gradually changing the operation of the CSO channel, the EC has not yet developed a clear and consistent strategy on how to use the CSO channel in line with its stated policy objectives. Moreover, the prevailing culture within the EC is not conductive to such strategic management of the CSO channel because of disincentives such as: limited political backing; the administrative priority towards disbursing funding, the financial control of aid and short term results; the lack of space to establish strategic partnerships with CSO; and institutional fragmentation at both the headquar ter and delegation level. The CSO channel has had positive effects at project level but questions remain about the sustainable impact of these activities. The added value of the CSO channel is not sufficiently used by the EC, while good practices are not underpinned by a coherent and consistently applied strategy throughout all EC external services.

    Subject of the evaluation

    This evaluation, covering the period 2000-2006, assesses the EC aid channelled through civil society organisations (CSOs). Over the period evaluated, the total amount channelled through Civil Society Organisations amounts to 5.3 billion €, and a clear increase of CSO channelling can be observed. All in all, 76% of total specified payments have been channelled through Northern CSOs and 24% through Southern CSOs.


    The evaluation does provide an overall independent assessment and identifies key lessons.


    The evaluation was based on 8 evaluation questions, relating to the five DAC evaluation criteria (relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, sustainability and impact) plus coherence and EC value added. The evaluation was carried out in 3 phases: 1) a comprehensive desk study; including the analysis of 33 questionnaires from EC delegations and a review of 22 Country Strategy Papers and 3 Regional SP; 2) field phase with 6 field missions to Benin, Cambodia, Georgia, Lebanon, Peru and Somalia with 6 case studies on specific issues; 2 focus groups and an analysis of the various instruments used to work with civil society ; and 3) a synthesis phase. The evaluators interviewed some 350 persons and analysed an estimated 500 documents.

    Main conclusions:

    1) The participatory development agenda, adopted by the EC, is gradually changing the use of the CSO channel but the participatory development agenda has not yet been fully internalised by the Commission. The EC still lacks a consistent, shared and institutionalised strategy to
    manage the CSO channel (across regions, sectors and themes)

    2 ) The added value of the CSO channel is not optimally used by the EC because the EC is not well-equipped to properly deal with the question all along the cooperation cycle, i.e. from the identification phase (“what added value can CSOs, in all their diversity, offer in a given context?”) to the design phase and related choice of implementation modalities (“how best to support CSOs to fully rea lise their added value?”).

    3) There is a mixed record with regard to results, impact and sustainability. Evidence has been collected of positive effects on a project level. However it is less evident to draw firm conclusions with regard to the sustainable impact of these interventions, particularly considering that broader processes of societal change require a longer time span to achieve results, valid questions can be raised on the likelihood of sustainable impact of aid channelled through CSOs.

    Main recommendations:

    1) A consistent chain of political support from top political players to middle management is required for an effective implementation of policy commitments.

    2) The EC should making more effective use of its political position and leverag e to stand up in the political dialogue with partner governments for respect of laws and agreements concerning civil society;

    3) The EC should enhance the quality of the partnership through improving dialogue with CSOs and through more adapted CSO support modalities.

    4 ) the EC should improve knowledge of Civil Society within its own institution and develop country-specific strategies to involve them better in order to improve the strategic programming of how to use Civil Society in cooperation . More realistic and effective implementation should be reached through management better adapted to the use of this channel and the focus should be on more systemic long -term impacts. 


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