The EU Trust Fund for Africa: A new EU instrument to accelerate peace and prosperity?

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    EU Trust Funds have been recently set up to deliver more flexible, swift, comprehensive and effective joint EU support in response to emergencies, fragility and other thematic priorities. Yet, expectations need to be managed, with regards to what impact can be realistically achieved with a little extra cash.
    EU Trust Funds (EUTFs) are a young add-on to the EU’s external action instruments. Their creation responds to the EU’s will to deliver more flexible, swift, comprehensive and effective joint EU support in response to emergencies, fragility and other thematic priorities. EUTFs allow contributions from Member States (and other private and public donors) to be leveraged and to pool large amounts of funds. They are designed to increase the EU’s global political visibility and to enhance control over risks and disbursements. EUTFs are to be directly managed by the European Commission, or in the case of emergency trust funds, through delegated cooperation to third parties such as partner countries, international organisations or EU development agencies. To date, three EUTFs have been created: the Bekou Trust Fund for the Central African Republic, the Regional Trust Fund for Syria (Madad Fund) and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa. Although they are quite different in scope, objectives, funding and governance arrangements, they all share the aim of addressing the root causes of conflict and instability and assisting conflict-affected countries and communities in the transition towards resilience and development. As the EU’s migration and refugee crisis aggravates, pressure on the EU to deliver results is quickly increasing, but there may be a need to manage expectations and bring realism back to the table when discussing EUTFs. This article focuses on the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

    The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa

    The EUTF for Africa was set up at a record speed and formally adopted at the Valletta Summit, held in November 2015. The rationale is to help leverage change in African countries, reverse government practices associated with emigration and to promote tighter Africa-EU cooperation on issues of migration control, return and readmission. Originally, the EU Trust Fund was intended to finance the EU’s Sahel Action Plan adopted in April 2015. As the refugee crisis unfolded, the Trust Fund’s focus shifted towards bringing stability and addressing the root causes of destabilisation, displacement and irregular migration in Africa “by promoting resilience, economic and equal opportunities, security and development and addressing human rights abuses”, in three vast and very different regions: the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and Lake Chad, and North Africa. To achieve these objectives, four broad types of interventions can be funded by the Trust Fund: 1)     Economic programmes, with a focus on employment creation, particularly for youth and women, and the reintegration of returnees; 2)     Resilience projects, geared to improving food security and to providing services for local communities and refugees; 3)     Migration management, including fight against irregular migration and smuggling, return, readmission, international protection and legal migration; 4)     Governance and security, including interventions in the fields of rule of law, security and development, border management and conflict-prevention systems. The Africa Trust Fund rapidly mobilised €1.8 billion, drawing massively from the European Development Fund (EDF) - mainly reserves and regional programmes. The expectation was that EU Member States would match it with an additional €1.8 billion. However, to date Member States have been slow to sign up, with a shortfall of some €1.7 billion as of January 2016 of the originally envisaged €3.6 billion. In a context of general austerity, some Member States find it hard to mobilise additional funding; others claim that European Development Funds diverted to the Trust Fund, should already be counted as Member State contributions.

    Matching the EU’s migration, security and development objectives

    A large portion of the EU Trust Funds initial resources are funded by EU aid instruments, meaning that the EU will need to comply with ODA DAC reporting requirements. However, given that other finance sources, such as DG Home budget or EU Member States, also contribute to the EU Trust Fund, all activities financed by the Africa Trust Fund may not have to comply with DAC’s definition of ODA. The Commission’s Directorate for Development and International Cooperation (DG DEVCO), will hold a veto power as Chair of the Trust Fund Board, which could help mitigate a risk of diverting aid from development purposes - a concern expressed by some NGOs and African officials interviewed.  A closer look into the description of activities for the first pipeline of projects (Horn of Africa) suggests a strong focus on the Valletta Action Plan’s priority domain No 1: “Development benefits of migration and addressing root causes of irregular migration and forced displacement”, which falls under ODA’s current definition. The boundaries between stability and development are not always clear-cut. Funding border, security and irregular migration management activities can also have a positive impact on human development trends. Development effectiveness will depend on the rationale for choosing and designing interventions: is it the EU’s fear of irregular migration or is it the EU’s commitment to sustainable development?

    Will a little extra cash generate sufficient prosperity to curb migration?

    African leaders complained that the amount of money to be channelled through the Africa Trust Fund was inadequate, particularly in light of the EU-Turkey mammoth deal exchanging €3 billion (with a focus on immediate humanitarian support) against stemming the flow of refugees from the Middle East to Europe. But the Africa Trust Fund needs to be put in perspective. The EU and its Member States provide more than €20 billion in aid annually to African countries, with the objective to promote long-term development. If we look at the 11th EDF national indicative programmes (2014-2020) and the Agenda for Change policy priorities, we can see that the EU is already supporting focal sectors that contribute to inclusive and sustainable development, and which in principle are relevant for addressing root causes of instability and the lack of opportunities that compel some people to leave their country. These include sustainable agriculture, food security and/or building resilience, and promoting good governance, state and peacebuilding. The 11th EDF allocates €1609 million for Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda combined, representing around 11% of the total allocation to national programming. Funds channelled through the Trust Fund to these countries represent an average of 8.5% of the total allocation to these countries (national programming and trust fund combined), this amounts to nearly 15% in the case of Somalia, and only 2% in the case of Uganda. Of course, this relatively small additional funding can be very important if wisely used (for instance by targeting key regions) but the expectations are also incredibly high, and may not easily fit into the EU’s ‘results agenda’. Tackling ‘the root causes of irregular migration’ is a lengthy, non-linear, unpredictable process, depending on many more contextual factors than support from financial and technical development partners; yet the narrative around the Africa Trust Fund suggests that aid can buy partner countries’ cooperation (cf. in readmission and strict border management), and hence curb migration flows to the EU. However, all available political economy studies highlight the need to understand the dominant political and institutional forces and factors that constitute the incentive environment for governments to take up reforms, and that indicate that the potential for outside actors to shape and influence this environment is usually limited (an example is the EU’s Governance Incentive Tranche).

    Development effectiveness principles should still apply

    From a perspective of aid impact and development effectiveness, several questions should be raised when discussing the Africa Trust Fund.
    1. Criteria for prioritising regions and countries. Significant resources may be allocated to supporting countries that fall under major African migration routes and reintegration measures in communities of origin. While this makes sense in terms of fulfilling the Africa Trust Fund’s mission, it potentially conflicts with the EU’s commitment to target aid in the poorest areas most in need. Migration experts have pointed out that irregular migrants coming to Europe do not always come from the poorest countries, regions or communities and suggest that, in the past, aid allocations have favoured countries and areas of origin, especially from where migrants reach Europe, and not necessarily developing countries which host large refugee communities. It is thus worth monitoring in which thematic and geographic areas the aid will be spent.
    2. Confusion between short-term (humanitarian) needs and long-term (development) objectives. While the refugee crisis is a humanitarian emergency in its own right that requires immediate attention, immediate results cannot be expected from supporting long-term development objectives that supposedly will address the root causes of instability and displacement. It is thus also unclear why the Trust Fund is framed as an emergency one. Compared to the European Development Fund procedures, the Africa Trust Fund holds the advantage of allowing swift decision-making and flexible implementation procedures, but this does not necessarily mean achieving results quickly. Pressure to show results within a short time frame may create a bias in favour of programming that allows a rapid disbursement of funds.
    3. Respecting country and regional ownership. So far, there is little evidence that African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries or institutions, let alone civil society, have been involved in designing this Trust Fund or will have a say on the allocation of EDF funds channelled through it. Our research also shows that Regional Economic Communities in Africa had little margin of manoeuver to resist the EU’s decision to allocate EDF funds to the Africa Trust Fund, particularly from regional indicative programmes. Although official documents state that “national and local authorities will be consulted in advance, with priorities and projects submitted to the Strategic Board and the Operational Committee, in order to ensure local ownership”, many issues remain to be sorted out, as little guidance is given on how to involve partners from the region. Compared to the formal co-management rule underpinning the Cotonou Agreement and the EDF, the governance arrangement of the Africa Trust Fund allows for less formal oversight and a loss of formal control by partners, potentially with a loss of ownership on how these funds are spent. It is thus key to involve and hear the voices of regional and national authorities in the board, management and operational planning meetings of the EUTF as has for example been the case with the smaller Bekou Trust Fund.
    4. Effective uptake of evidence-based research.The EU and EU Delegations face resource constraints and in past programming processes did not show the best track record concerning the use of political economy and other analysis, nor on taking up policy relevant recommendations from evidence-based research. The Horn of Africa window of the EUTF has included a dedicated Research and Evidence Facility assuming that the Trust Fund will have “much greater impact by ensuring information, experience and lessons learned are used to influence programmatic, policy and decision making”. The objective is to fill knowledge gaps about the causes and drivers of instability and feed this knowledge into operational, programming policy and political practice. This is a welcome innovation, which hopefully will also be included in the other two regions concerned, yet the challenge to ensure the effective uptake of the Research Facility outputs.

    Still missing: a sense of realism

    EU leaders are confronted with an unprecedented human tragedy that is putting at risk the EU’s integration project, putting policy-makers under pressure to find an urgent solution. The EU Trust Fund for Africa has created great expectations, and although it is premature to know whether this Trust Fund will deliver better results than alternative instruments, a sense of realism may need to be brought back to the table. The colossal amounts of EU aid spent in productive sectors in Africa over the past 40 years have without a doubt made a significant contribution to economic and human development in these countries but they have not prevented people from migrating. Additional funding channelled through a new flexible instrument can improve the situation for refugees and prospective migrants and can – if used wisely – promote trajectories towards more prosperity and peace. Yet, expectations need to be managed, with regards to what impact can be realistically achieved with a little extra cash. The programmes and activities funded by the Africa Trust Fund alone are rather unlikely to make a significant difference in accelerating peace and prosperity in Africa, and quickly and effectively addressing the drivers of displacement and irregular migration. This article draws from previous ECDPM research on EU Trust Funds, and in particular from ECDPM’s paper by Volker Hauck, Anna Knoll and Alisa Herrero Cangas: EU Trust Funds – Shaping more comprehensive external action? (Briefing Note 81). Maastricht: ECDPM. About the authors Alisa Herrero Cangas and Anna Knoll are Policy Officers for the Strengthening European External Action Programme at ECDPM.  
    This article was published in GREAT Insights Volume 5, Issue 1 (February 2016).

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