Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

By Natalia Alonso

This week, the European Commission has presented its vision for the future of the EU’s development policies. The proposed new framework is a good piece of work, which now has to be translated into reality. The proposal ticks nearly every single box civil society organisations could imagine – but there is still a risk that EU member states water down the proposal, and that concrete action looks much different from this vision.

The Commission’s proposal for a new European Consensus for Development is putting the eradication of extreme poverty and inequality at the centre of all action for the EU institutions and member states. This is a bold statement – and it is needed in a context where EU governments are trying to make development policy work first and foremost for their own agenda, and not for the people in need.
It also reflects the opinion of a majority of EU citizens: nearly three quarters say tackling poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU’s main priorities.

More than just development policy

At the same time it is a first step to implement the EU’s international commitment to the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are strong promise for people all over the world, both in rich and in poor countries. They are also about much more than just traditional development policy.

This is why the new Consensus is not only a framework for development policy, but for a big range of EU policies. It entails a review of all current and future policies to make sure they respect the people and the planet we live on. Climate and energy policies for instance must make sure people don’t go to bed hungry; tax policy must support the goal that poor countries can raise sufficient domestic resources for development; trade policy must ensure opportunities and benefits for both sides, not only for the global North.

EU must revise its migration response

The new Consensus also means that the EU must revise policies which clearly contradict the development framework. This is most evident for some elements of the EU’s response to migration, which primarily serve the EU’s own agenda instead of helping people lift themselves out of poverty.

There are many examples. The proposed Partnership Framework puts the goal of stopping migration to Europe before human development and makes European aid conditional to it. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa presents a risk of engaging African governments mainly to outsource border control. And the External Investment Plan does not seem to have guarantees for efficient and effective development cooperation.

Concrete changes for people in need

It is now up to the EU as a whole – EU institutions and member states – to translate the new development framework into reality and prove that European policies can make a difference, serving people in need.

The litmus test for this ambitious vision is not abstract policy analysis, it is the question of how this policy and its proposed instruments are supporting people to change their lives, from a woman farmer in Burkina Faso becoming more resilient to climate change, to a land rights activist in Peru safely defending his community.

Analysing the details of the EU’s new development framework

Over the coming weeks, we will be analysing the different elements of the proposed new European Consensus on Development. We will run a series of blogs analysing issues such as the use of development aid to trigger private investment for development, the coherence of climate change and energy policies with development aims, the need for tax transparency to strengthen governance, the role of budget support in fragile contexts, a conflict-sensitive approach in development practice, and the importance of small scale agriculture.


Our analysis of the European Consensus on Development in detail:

(This list will be updated with new blogs when they are posted)



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