MEP Tomas Tobé – Involving local governments to improve aid effectiveness

20 mayo 2020

The involvement of the local and regional level is crucial to achieve results in development cooperation, explained the chair of the European Parliament Development Committee Tomas Tobé during a webinar on Aid effectiveness organised this morning (20 May) by PLATFORMA with almost 70 participants.

“Development cooperation rises the need to do better and more with the resources that we have”, said the newcomer Swedish MEP who was appointed DEVE Committee chair last year. Speaking from his home country, the center-right MEP said he was “eager to challenge some old truth”, pledging for “a stronger voice for multilateralism” in the future development cooperation policy.

This call for a multilevel and multi-stakeholder approach is particularly welcomed since the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development appears as an overarching framework for development policies.

In his draft report on improving aid effectiveness and the efficiency of aid, the MEP acknowledges the role of local authorities as relevant players in partner countries. The report to be presented to DEVE Committee colleagues in September pushes the aid effectiveness issue up to the EU Agenda, which is commendable.

This morning, he reaffirmed that the EU Development policy should be designed and implemented in a clear frame, governed by multilateralism, rule-based environment, human rights, good governance and democracy. “There is an immediate need to move away from the old donor-recipient relationship,” he said.

He added: “Now we see that key issues like health, public transport or planning are on the top of the development agenda,” stressing that his report was written before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presenting the main points of his report, he focused on the need:

1/ to use the “EU toolbox” in a more strategic way, i.e. trying to move away from large scale projects, innovate with grants and budget support, microcredits and expertise from Members States. “By using all available tools, the EU can play an important role on leveraging benefits,” he said.

2/ to work with local governments to “prevent aid for being disrupted” and reach out more directly citizens. He invited PLATFORMA’s partners to be honest with the challenges ahead.

3/ to find a balanced way to work with the private sector: “In any case the private sector needs to be there if we want to achieve a sustainable development”, he said, stressing the need to mobilise additional funds, which goes with tightening the private sector’s obligations and increasing transparency.

4/ to improve the coordination between EU donors for a maximal impact on the ground, including all partners. “We need to start working as a real team,” he said, calling for coordination. He however acknowledged that the question of political leadership was at stake there. “Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we see that it is difficult to make everyone joining the #TeamEurope. Not everybody is on board. It shows that even at EU level, the political leadership needed for coherence is difficult. Coordination should be better.

Local governments should have the last word on the targets of development policy

The MEP’s intervention was followed by presentations from the European Commission Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD).

How to ensure a multilevel and tailor-made approach for aid effectiveness? That question has been addressed by Mr Laurent Sarazin, Head of Unit of DG DEVCO A2 Unit (Development Financing Effectiveness, Relations with Members States, European Commission), for whom it is crucial to further integrate and respect the aid effectiveness principles, especially ownership in the context of local governments.

Ownership for local governments implies that priorities are agreed between European partners and their counterparts at the subnational levels, with the latter having the last word to say when it comes to decide the targets and features of the development policy. Ownership is about to be inclusive and provide real political commitments to have a lasting impact.

This is why Mr Sarazin also called the European Parliament to go beyond with the #TeamEurope and include more local and regional governments.

(Check Laurent Sarazin’s full presentation)

Ms Rachel Morris, Policy Analyst at the OECD, has pointed out that the current situation is demonstrating how interconnected we are, both around the economic and the sanitary aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Local and regional governments are on the frontline to coordinate development cooperation policies and strategies promoting global resilience. With poverty rates that are going to rise to historical levels, subnational governments’ roles cannot be forgotten.

(Check Rachel Morris’ full presentation)

Several partners of PLATFORMA also gave local and regional governments’ perspective: Jessie Post for VNG International & UCLG-CIB Group, Javier Sanchez Cano for the Generalitat de Catalunya, Jean-Baptiste Buffet for UCLG and Magnus Liljeström for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR).

(Check Jessie Post’s full presentation on the CIB working group upcoming challenges)

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