JAES: We have a strategy, now we need a strategic partnership

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      The Joint Africa-EU Strategy (JAES) is quite the opposite of what Herman van Rompuy, President of the European Council, warned of in his now famous speech on the EU’s strategic partners. In the case of the JAES, a policy framework in place since 2007, the strategy is spelled out in Action Plans. Yet the process and political direction of the strategy could be optimized. The JAES is meant to be the EU’s strategy towards Africa as much as Africa’s strategy towards the EU. This concept would mean that the partnership reflects both partners’ priorities. This, of course, is quite a challenge. Just think of the difficulties associated with smaller scale decision-making that aims to incorporate mutual interest, as national parliaments for instance. Thus it is not surprising that the concept of a joint strategy, which all 82 institutional stakeholders welcomed enthusiastically in 2007, has disenchanted stakeholders over the past five years. The eight partnerships - the strategy’s thematic pillars - did not all advance to the same degree and some have stalled. In Europe, a “JAES fatigue”, has led to a review of the strategy among European stakeholders. Last month African and European stakeholders met for their fourteenth JAES’ bi-annual Joint Task Force meetings to discuss progress on the JAES and the way ahead. The public report of the meeting gives some indication of where we stand. Clearly, a joint strategy implies cooperation. Game theory underlines the principle of cooperation as the most successful strategy in a partnership. It is based on the assumption that if one partner takes advantage of the other most of the time, the other partner will also stop being cooperative – which will result in both parties gaining less than if they cooperated on a continuous basis.

      We have some joint priorities...

      Conceptually Africa and the EU are equal partners in the JAES. A lot of cooperative spirit thus is visible in the Joint Task Force meeting report. This concerns capacity building support in general but also other areas:
      Peace and Security Support to the African approach of mediation
      Governance and Human Rights Elections training programmes for media personnel
      Regional Economic Integration, Trade and Infrastructure Staff exchange between EC and AUC; Strategic roadmap for Pan-African metrology; Planned study on EU-Africa trade agreements
      Energy Soft governance issues; Data collection analysis
      Climate Change and Environment Training session for African negotiators; Side event at the next climate change conference
      Migration, Mobility and Employment Serious discussions about contested issues
      Science, Information Society and Space Partnership Research Grant Programme Progress on GMES and Africa Establishment of Living Labs Task Force and training Launch of AfricaConnect
      Legal Issues Recognition of different points of view; Identification of a shared commitment to fight impunity
                              Yet both partners could pay attention to the following issues to keep the spirit of long-term cooperation alive:
      Text from the JTF report Stakeholders could pay attention to the fact that…
      The plenary session was the occasion to start a joint reflection process on the JAES' priorities. The joint reflection process on the JAES implementing architecture should continue in order to prepare the next Summit in a timely manner and ensure that its outcomes will contribute to the deepening of the Partnership. There is an advance on the EU side who reflected since March 2011 already. Make sure that this advance does not dominate the joint refection process that involves both sides.
      Regarding Sudan, the work of the AU High Level Implementation Panel and thus of the AU was considered essential, the EU will continue its support to it. (…) The EU informed that it is to engage in a small-scale European Security and Defence Policy mission to improve the security of the Juba airport. The support of the African approach towards the crisis, mediation and confidence building has proven successful in the past. Make sure the ESDP mission does not turn into another “Bunia experience” that proves the capacity and coordination of European forces more than it is of value to the population concerned.

      ...and some sort of funding…

      Another feature pundits often point out as a shortcoming of the JAES is its lack of dedicated funding. Currently the JAES has is funded via seven different EU financial frameworks plus individual bilateral contributions from EU member states.  The European Commissions’ proposal for the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) for the 2014-2020 timeframe foresees 1 billion EUR for a Pan-African Programme  to make up for this limitation. This is different from the African Integration Facility requested by the African Union in 2010. The far from detailed Pan-African Programme proposal, as formulated in the current proposal, does not foresee any involvement of the African side in decision-making. Also, it would exist in addition to the current seven instruments. Even if agreed by the EU, the Pan-African Programme would only disburse funds from 2014 onwards. To bridge the gap until then, a JAES Support Mechanism of 10 million EUR is foreseen. Unlike dedicated long-term financing this support mechanism aims to cover such costs as for workshops or feasibility studies. It is not meant to fund the activities laid out in the Action Plan.

      …now we need political steering

      Yet the funding of the joint strategy is just one issue. My colleagues from ECDPM often have pointed out, like here and here, that the JAES’ crucially lacks a political roadmap to face political challenges such as limited ownership, weak political dialogue or technocratic focus. A complex construct like the JAES clearly needs discussions about technical implementation as those currently held during Joint Task Force meetings. And indeed there are some more new features visible in the JTF report:
      • Absence of any dialogue on the MDG Partnership
      • Proposal to establish a partnership on agriculture
      • Potential role of and cooperation with India in the Great Green Wall of the Sahel and Sahara Initiative
      • Potential involvement of the European Investment Bank and African Development Bank
      • A more systematic participation of the RECs
      Nevertheless, political steering of the strategy is the necessary pre-condition. In this regard it is worrisome that the JAES’ ministerial meetings, which are foreseen to take place on a bi-annual basis, did not take place in 2011 nor in 2012 yet. The Joint Task Force does not seem to address the issue either. In the Migration, Mobility and Employment pillar, the proposal for a ministerial meeting was even turned down. Yet to revive the enthusiasm and utility of the joint strategy to both partners, each of them will have to pay attention to the two main drivers of the strategy: political steering and long-term cooperation. Any joint strategy clearly needs strategic thinking about a strategic partnership. -- Simone Goertz is Policy Officer at ECDPM.   This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.
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