EC aid objectives

Key questions ¦ Background ¦ Recommendations ¦ Post your comment

Key questions

Given the lack of common agreement over the priorities and objectives of EC aid, a major question is, ‘effectiveness to what end?’ The impact and effectiveness of aid can only meaningfully be assessed once this question is answered. Key questions related to EC aid priorities and objectives are:

  • Do people agree on the added value of EC aid, and does the practice of EC external assistance reflect this? Comment
  • How can the EC manage competing stakeholder demands in its aid delivery? Comment
  • Against which objectives should EC development cooperation be assessed? Comment
  • How can we deal with the possible gap(s) between stated and actual objectives? Comment
  • How should we trace the actual impact of EC aid? Comment

What is your opinion on these key questions? Do you have additional suggestions? Share your views.


What should be the main aims of EC development cooperation, and how to prioritise among them? There is a lack of agreement on the objectives and priorities of EC aid, and especially on the hierarchy among the different objectives formulated in the various development policy frameworks and instruments. This confusion about the primary objectives of EC aid is reflected in proliferating and overlapping policy frameworks. The different development priorities among EU Member States and the European Parliament further complicate the picture.

This situation results in tensions over the weight of the poverty eradication objective within the broader policy mix. Even the EC’s various Services and Directorates directly involved in external relations have differing interpretations of the “poverty eradication” objectives enshrined in the EU Development Consensus. The EC is often criticised for the criteria it uses to allocate aid, as being insufficiently targeted on poverty eradication. Others assert that the apparent lack of a clear poverty focus could be the result of delegation of certain policies by EU Member States tot he EC (for instance, the EU’s neighbourhood and pre-accession policies).

Finally, even key underlying concepts such as “poverty eradication” are subject to confusion and discussion. What is meant by “impact on poverty reduction”, and how this is achieved? Are we looking for direct impact on the poorest groups, which implies a focus on traditional poverty reduction sectors such as health or micro credit, or for a more indirect (longer term) impact on national economic development – which leads to overall poverty reduction but which implies a broader policy mix? How does the poverty reduction focus fit with a wider policy mix in EC development cooperation?

Please consult the initial discussion note for an in-depth discussion of these issues. You are invited to comment


The following recommendations on EC aid objectives were made during our interviews with key groups of stakeholders. For an overall list of recommendations, click here.

  • Focus aid more on poverty reduction:
    • Understand better and agree on the relative importance of different objectives such as poverty reduction, economic development (Comment);
    • Use the MDGs more systematically (Comment);
    • Understand poverty better in its distinct forms and features: chronic, according to vulnerable groups, in fragile country, etc. (Comment);
    • Understand poverty as a process, not just quantifying assets (Comment);
  • Understand better and agree on key concepts in development cooperation (Comment);
  • Get all EU Member States and the Commission to work with common objectives, country strategies and a unified delivery mechanism (Comment).

Share your recommendations.


One Response

  1. 1. Add value to EC Aid: This add value depends on the accessibility of aid, be it aid for Trade or through EDF, or through intenational agency. Another approach EC can take is to direct aid to recepiants, rather than using third party delivery agent.

    2. Stakeholder Demand: EC must have already set up a body to directly vet and distribute aid to stakeholders, especially in embassies around the world. This they can interact directly with the people they provide aid for.

    3. Aid Objectives: There are numerous objectives EC can direct its aid towards, but the basic (macro) ones include: i) Environment and ii) Development. Environment can be through the programs (research, etc) aimed at sustaining environment and strengthening climate change objectives; ii) Development can be through improving marketing systems to facilitate trade, capacity building, awareness programs, etc

    4. Stated and actual objectives: This will only work if the EC through its Embassies get grass-root information from stakeholders in receiving countries. Example: i) EC > Embassy > stakeholders > beneficiaries > stakeholders > Embassy > EC. ii) EC > Embassy > Foreign Affairs Officer (of recipiant country) > respobsible Ministry (Education, Agriculture, Works, Health, Connerce/Investment, etc) > primary stakeholders (farmers, schools, communities, etc) > responsible Ministry > Foreign Affairs Office > Embassy > EC

    5. With the involvement of Recipiant Governemnt Stakeholders, the assessment of benefits and impact can be easily identified.

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