Promoting policy coherence: Lessons learned in EU development cooperation

How have the EU and its member states promoted policy coherence for development so far? And how can policy coherence help to cope with the cascading effects of climate change?

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    Policy coherence for development, or PCD, refers to the need for multiple policies from different sectors to work in unison rather than in opposition to each other, if international development is to be achieved. In Europe, the argument for PCD was based on the recognition that EU efforts on development cooperation were often contradicted or undermined by other EU policies, both internal as much as external, to the extent that the EU was effectively taking back with one hand what it had given with the other. In some severe cases, the EU was even taking back more than it gave. Thus for instance, while on the one hand the EU was funding development projects to support agriculture production projects in Africa, on the other, its trade policies and domestic agriculture subsidy policies in Europe were encouraging the dumping of cheap subsidised food on African markets thereby undercutting local producers competing in the same markets. The impact of European development aid was therefore being negated by its trade and agriculture policies.

    This note first outlines how the concept of PCD developed in European development policy circles and what measures the EU and its member states took to promote policy coherence since it was first written into the EU Treaty in 1992. The practical experience gained over these nearly 30 years is of course of wider relevance in good policymaking and not just in development cooperation. This became particularly apparent with the agreement on the UN’s 2030 Agenda in 2015 that saw the introduction of the new concept of PCSD or policy coherence for sustainable development that recognised the wider relevance of policy coherence across the whole integrated policy package of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The note will also cover this latest, global chapter in the history of efforts to promote policy coherence and see how the EU has responded, notably with the Better Regulation package of the Juncker Commission and in the work on the Von der Leyen Commission Green Deal. The note will conclude with potential lessons on promoting policy coherence for EU policy-making for coping with the cascading effects of climate change.

    This brief is part of the CASCADES project.

    Cascading climate risks: Towards adaptive and resilient European societies – CASCADES project (2020-2024)
    The four-year CASCADES project will analyse the cross-border impacts of climate change for Europe, identify critical risks and explore potential solutions.
    17 February 2020
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    This paper is part of the CASCADES project.