EADI: This year’s first Bonner Impulse event on European Development Policies

This year’s first Bonner Impulse event, titled: “European Development Policies and Aid Effectiveness in light of the Sustainable Development Goals: Do we need a shared impact and evaluation agenda?” was held on 21 March 2017 at the Old Town hall, Bonn. Organised by the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) in collaboration with VENRO and the German Development Institute (DIE), the two-hour public event’s main aim was to discuss the role of development policy in a European context. Students, members of civil society organisations and scholars from research institutes and think tanks across Europe were among the attendees. In his opening speech, Bonn’s Deputy Mayor Reinhard Limbach, lauded the organisers for their engagement and proudly emphasized the city of Bonn’s standing in hosting events and institutions in the field of international cooperation, most recently with regard to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“I am happy that this joint and timely debate is taking place here. Our common aim for the SDGs needs to be about measuring effectiveness and working together to achieve our goals”, Deputy Mayor Limbach said.

While introducing the panellists the moderator of the event, Dr Mark Furness from the German Development Institute, asserted that the evening’s topic should be discussed often as much of European Union (EU) policy impacts developing countries. The three panellists of the event were Professor Jörg Faust of the German Evaluation Institute (DEval), Mikaela Gavas from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Dr. James Mackie from the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). Among the important points that were raised, Professor  Faust was adamant that the evaluation framework for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be improved. He also warned that as long as there is no predefined consensus about the future of the EU, there will be problems. Gavas observed that the aid sector has seen an increase of donors that operate outside the OECD DAC criteria. While this is good in that it means more development resources, it presents challenges for traditional donors because their bargaining power and established ways of working are affected. It could lead to fragmentation of aid delivery as well as transaction costs of coordination. Although she commended the EU for scoring high for efficiency and effectiveness in various aid reviews; Gavas mentioned two important factors that need to be addressed: the EU should define comparative advantage in a crowded market place and set clear priorities for its future work. In light of the SDGs, Dr James Mackie stressed the benefit of a universal agreement that is rooted in discussions of development actors at all levels. The SDGs are not about looking at development as something that happens in the Global South only, but that likewise and simultaneously must take place in the North.

The floor was opened to the audience to ask questions and add to what the panellists had said. Among the important concerns that were raised was the future of aid agencies in the aid sceptical world. One audience member urged academia to produce more research on critical issues such as migration and forge better links of academia, practice and policy makers. This issue was further discussed during EADI’s Annual Directors’ Meeting which followed on 22 March. Insights and recommendations of this debate will be published in a forthcoming DEval/EADI policy brief. In closing, Dr Furness left the audience with food for thought: with various current disruptions within the EU, what does the future hold for this regional giant?

Author: Nteboheng Phakisi

Source: Notification EADI, 30.03.2017