Select Committee on International Development Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 61 - 79)




  Good morning. Thank you for coming and giving evidence. When I look at the briefing for a day like today I feel that an NGO would make quite a lot of money out of producing a book with a guide to development acronyms, what all these things stand for, and words like "budgetisation", a kind of development dictionary. I suspect that today, and judging by the packed public gallery, this is going to be a bit of a conversation where I hope that in some way you can help us better understand this whole secret garden of what is actually happening in Europe; and how we ensure that it is a secret garden that is more widely understood. I think our impression is that the European Union is part way through the process of a period of reform. I think we would be interested in your impressions on—is it actually working? Colleagues will have a number of questions, but if at any time you feel there are bits we are missing out, please speak up. In a sense, the only questions we can ask are based on the knowledge we have; if we have not got the right bits of knowledge we may not be asking the right questions.

Hugh Bayley

  61. I would like to launch off with the poverty focus. I just wonder to what extent the NGOs you represent have seen a change in emphasis; a change in focus; a change in what has been funded by the EU since they adopted in policy terms a clearer policy commitment to poverty alleviation?
  (Ms O'Connell) Good morning. Thank you very much for the opportunity to come and talk to you. BOND, as you know, is a network of 230 NGOs. We cover a wide spectrum of organisations, and many of us in that group are very ardent EU-watchers—others are less concerned. They also are as puzzled about the acronyms as some of you may be. For those of us who have worked on EU issues for many years, we were very pleased when the EU agreed its new development policy at the end of last year, because for the first time we had a very coherent overarching policy statement that put poverty in the top line linked to questions of respect for human rights, democracy, equality between men and women and so forth. Up until that point the EU had a series of rather disparate policies on particular issues—for example, policies on health, education or trade—but this was the first time there was an overarching policy. Side by side with the agreement of that policy—which is a strong statement and we are happy with it, even though clearly we would have liked it to go further in some areas—there is a strong commitment to mainstreaming the issues that we have been working on for many years; which means through everything they do poverty has to be the top line; that they have to take account of issues to do with governance, how developing countries relate to their citizens, issues to do with democracy, environment and all these other very important issues. Side by side with the new policy came a whole reform process, and the reform process is still quite young. Many of us would argue that it is long overdue but, nonetheless, it is only now happening and it is only one year since the reform process started. To some extent it is too soon to say whether the policy and the practice has been significantly shifted, but there are many encouraging aspects. We have a good policy and there is a very clear commitment on the part of the Commission and the Member States to see that that policy is implemented. On the more practical side, and my colleagues will come in on that, the establishment of EuropeAid (which is the new agency dealing with all of the disbursement of the funds in effect, everything from agreeing the initial project design right through to implementation, monitoring and evaluation) that is a very positive thing. Of course, like all these positive things, there is always a downside. The downside in this particular case is that there is a split between DG Development, which is responsible for overall policy and strategy, and EuropeAid, which is responsible for the implementation. We have a concern there that the lesson learning and the feedback from practice to policy is maybe not as strong as it should be. In all development activities you have to have good policy to put into practice, but then you need also the feedback from practice back into policy, and that is one area of the reforms we are slightly anxious about. Another important trend that is happening right now, which we will go into in more detail if you like, is what is known as "deconcentration", which we would call in this country "decentralisation", from the centre i.e. Brussels to developing countries. The EU, as you know, has delegations in almost all developing countries as well as developed countries. There is a process which has just started of giving the delegations in developing countries greater authority and greater responsibility for administering/spending aid money. This process has just started. They have deconcentrated, decentralised, the first 22 of their delegations, and the plan is over the next three years to reach 86 delegations. This is, again, a very good thing because it puts the decision making much closer to developing countries. It means there is greater possibility for dialogue between EU delegations and the people concerned. It opens up the possibility of a lot more local staff, for example. But, as always, there is an issue about whether the delegations have enough staff; will they have the right staff; will they have expertise in poverty analysis, in social analysis and gender mainstreaming; will they be able to step outside their administrative functions to deal with the wider issues of poverty reduction? To sum up all those viewpoints: good policy; many things have been set in train for good implementation; but with all of it we have some qualifications and some questions.

  62. Before your colleagues come in, as I suspect they may want to, can I simply say that my colleague, Ann Clwyd, will run through with you a number of issues in relation to EuropeAid and the restructuring and deconcentration in a few moments. Can we keep the focus very much on whether the commitment to poverty allevation as an overarching goal is actually changing policy. In your evidence you give us a pie chart on page 6 which shows a split of where the money goes. As a result of a change of policy, which provides a sharper poverty focus, I would expect this pie chart to change. Could you give us any feel of the timescale over which the broad slices of the pie will decrease? What should we regard as good firm progress towards a clearer poverty focus in terms of growth areas and reductions? In practical terms, how quickly can these changes happen?
  (Ms de Toma) I have followed the budget quite closely over a number of years. This is a difficult question that we are grappling with as well. The present focus is still not satisfactory, as you can see. This pie chart was based on proposals by the Commission for the preliminary draft budget which was issued last April. Things have changed slightly now with Parliament voting the final budget for next year just last week. The main changes actually to the regional focus which I think you are interested in mostly are that more money has been allocated to Asia and Latin America—mostly as a result of the recent international crisis, I would say, especially regarding money to Asia. A lot of that money will be spent on Afghanistan and the neighbouring region. In terms of long-term changes and the poverty focus, we are quite frustrated about it, but the problem is not to do with the Commission though, it is broader. As you will know, the allocations to the regional envelopes are set out in financial perspectives—sectoral and regional budgetary ceilings—that the EU agreed in 2000, and covering the period 2000-2006. We can shift money around marginally now in the present period, but no major change will be able to take place before 2006 until the next financial perspective will be negotiated and will cover the next six years from 2006-12. These financial perspectives are obviously negotiated by the Member States with the European Parliament and with the Commission making proposals. For instance, the cooperation with developing countries in Asia has been set out in the regulation for cooperation with Asia and Latin America. They have been joined and now will be separated. This is up for renewal this year and, as I have said, they have decided to negotiate two separate regulations—one for Asia and one for Latin America. There is only so much we can negotiate in terms of financial allocations to Asia; because, although the regulation itself is up for renewal, the whole financial budget is still regulated by the broader financial perspectives. Again, it is quite frustrating because it is limited negotiation, limited space for manoeuvre. In the long-term what we are working towards is mobilising the political will within all the Member States to change the overall poverty focus in 2006, but not that much can be done before. We can work towards it, and that is what we are doing here.
  (Ms O'Connell) If I may add very briefly to that. As NGOs we are campaigning for 70 per cent of European Community aid to go to the poorest countries. We recognise that it may take four or five years to get to that point.

  63. What percentage is it now?
  (Ms de Toma) It is just below 50 per cent.

  64. Can I just ask one final question. I understand there is a kind of spring clean going on of the EU budget to reduce the number of individual budget lines, which they would argue would increase transparency. There is a worry that you could lose the guarantee of funding, you could lose protection for certain budget lines for instance on food security or human rights. What views do the NGOs have? Should we be specifically trying to protect items such as that? Can you use this process more generally to focus more of the budget in the short term on poverty alleviation?
  (Ms de Toma) Yes, I think you can. The whole problem with sectoral lines is that they have been, as you say, subject to this rationalisation process. However, these sectoral lines are not very big. They have been very useful to NGOs because they allow more flexibility in terms of disbursement as well, and in terms of actions, guidelines and projects that can be funded under these budget lines. For instance, a very effective and efficient budget line has been the reproductive health and HIV/AIDS budget line, which over the years has been very, very efficiently managed and has allowed NGOs to get funding for very innovative projects. That is not the case under regional budget lines. In fact, the whole point of having thematic lines is to allow these new innovative flexible projects to be implemented and then, if they do work, for them to be scaled up and included in the regional programmes. That is why we are fighting to keep these lines. They are politically important because obviously these sectoral lines are largely within the area of human and social development; and obviously politically it is important for the Commission and the Community to keep these lines and to ensure that funds are allocated under these lines. That is why the European Parliament has bravely defended these lines for years. In terms of the broader spring clean, as you call it, we feel that too much emphasis has gone into the rationalisation of these lines, i.e. cutting down the lines, we do not think that is to be called rationalisation. What we said, as I am sure you will have read in our paper, is that there are still a number of both regional and sectoral lines within the development budget Category 4 that have hardly anything to do with poverty focus. Just to mention next year's budget—allocations to Malta, Cyprus and Turkey amount to

20 million, and these are pre-accession countries that will come in with the rest of Eastern European countries, which now have a separate category as from 2000. Other lines—for instance migration, cooperation with industrialised countries, I can quote others—are still part of the development budget, and fisheries for instance which is important to some extent, and a lot of money goes into that. Over 100 million euros are allocated under these lines. In terms of spring cleaning I think rationalisation should be broader and not just focus as it has up until now on diminishing the number of lines.

Tony Worthington

  65. Could you take us through the arguments about budgetisation?
  (Ms de Toma) As you know, the European Development Fund is extremely important. Basically allocations to Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific countries, but specifically to sub-Saharan Africa which is one of the poorest areas in the world, come from the European Development Fund. In fact, I think it accounts for half the ODA disbursements of the EU so it is hugely important. At the moment it is governed by a different set of procedures because it is not part of the budget. Likewise, contributions to the European Development Fund are not regulated by a specific formula by which Member States make contributions to the budget. Contributions to the European Development Fund are arbitrary, in fact quite untransparent. We were just talking about it earlier. I have never come across a set of data giving specific contributions from the Member States. The problem there, as you will know, is that there is no parliamentary scrutiny over the European Development Fund, as there is for the budget, and that is the main problem. As Helen was saying earlier, we have had an overarching development policy but we did not have an overarching development fund under the budget. That has created enormous problems in terms of consistency and coherence of the budget, which is still quite bitty. I think it creates problems with the Commission itself when we ask the Commission to provide detailed information of how much is spent in different sectors for human/social development. They always seem to be unable to collate the data from different sources. There are different arguments. I guess the parliamentary scrutiny one is the most important and that would involve ACP countries as well—African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

  66. You are talking such commonsense, then why is it not happening?
  (Ms O'Connell) The Member States of the EU (who are always the most powerful body in the EU despite anything people might like to say about the Commission being autonomous and Parliament being powerful) have always had their own political agenda. They are the most powerful body, and it has suited the Member States up until now to keep funds for the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries under a separate agreement—first of all, the Lomé Agreement and now the Cotonou Agreement—and there is no interest in giving greater power over the total budget to the Commission.

  67. Has the British Government taken the same line?
  (Ms O'Connell) Yes, up until now the British Government is in favour of keeping the European Development Fund separate. That line might be shifting; but as of now the European Development Fund is separate. I have not seen any evidence that there is a shift towards putting it into the overall budget, which would make absolute sense; because running the separate budget lines all under separate headings and under separate agreements certainly makes reporting very difficult and makes transparency extremely difficult.

  68. Say we were curious about how money was being spent—what information could we get?
  (Ms O'Connell) You can get a lot of information but it may not make a lot of sense, to be honest.

  69. You would never have someone say, "It's none of your business?"
  (Ms O'Connell) No. It is possible through the Parliament and through the Member States to get access to any information you want; but it is very difficult to build up a whole picture. You get pieces of the jigsaw, and if you ask a question like, "How much are you spending on governance?" it is almost impossible to say because it is some here, some there, some over here, and you cannot do the very clear annual reporting that, say, DFID or other Member States are able to do. I think it is very important that the budgetisation of putting the European Development Fund into the main budget is pressed, and that is something I hope your Committee would take up.

Mr Robathan

  70. It seems a rather bizarre situation, I have to say, but I see exactly the sense of putting into one budget but obviously it is an historic thing. Given the criticisms of the general EU budget and disbursement made, that therefore poses the question: which is disbursed better, the European Development Fund or the general budget? Secondly, do you think parliamentary scrutiny of the general budget has been effective, given the criticisms of everybody, including yourselves?
  (Ms de Toma) I think in terms of disbursements under the EDF there have been problems as well. I know one of the things that DFID is working on is increasing disbursements. The problem there has been on the receiving end, in terms of absorption capacity of the beneficiary countries, so there is more work to do. I could not say which was better in terms of disbursements, whether it was the budget or the EDF. There are problems both ways. You have to look at the receiving end as well. In terms of parliamentary scrutiny, I think it has been successful. It always keeps the Commission on its toes and, indeed, the draft budget, let us say, and the final budget are always quite different. I do not know if you call that scrutiny or if you just call that parliamentary influence. Parliament is the final authority, along with the Council as well, on the budget. Over the years I think they have managed to maintain a poverty focus. If the European Parliament had not worked on the budget as it has then I think we would see a different budget.

  71. I thought you had just established that that was what the problem was?
  (Ms de Toma) Yes, but they have always made sure that money was allocated to social sectors. I have seen that over the years, even before we had an overarching policy. I think the poverty focus has been a priority within the Parliament for quite some time, even before it was made final.
  (Ms O'Connell) May I just add something on the European Development Fund. One of its strong points, coming under the Lomé Agreement between the EU and what was then the 71 African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, was the whole idea that the ACP countries would decide what they wanted to prioritise in terms of which programmes to fund, which programmes they wanted funding for, and then the EU would provide the money. There was that very important commitment and element of ownership by developing countries of which sectors they wanted to put resources into. That is an element which I think is quite important; it did not always work in practice. The developing countries did not always have the capacity to actually set a very clear, indicative programme for the five years in question. Nonetheless, there was that political point about ownership, which is important and is coming back around again in the new processes that the European Commission has established; which is Country Strategy Papers, where every developing country will write a Country Strategy Paper and that is meant to be consulted with civil society and with the private sector; which sets out through a process of consultation and discussion what the priority sectors are for the next five years and what they would like funding for from the European Community in particular. That is tied into the wider process of the World Bank and the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, which I hope we can get a chance to come back on later. At this point, there are some aspects of the EDF which are valuable and worth keeping, even when it is budgetised; but I think overall Costanza's point is right that there were implementation problems and disbursement problems with the main budget and the EDF, and also scrutiny problems.

Ann Clwyd

  72. Having been a member of a budget committee of the European Parliament on behalf of my respective committee, I wondered if you had any assessment of the role of development committee representatives on that budget committee; because, as you know, that process of agreeing the budget is a very intense one and takes place every year. It is up to the representatives of the individual committee to fight the corner for their committee on the budget committee. I wondered what your assessment was of the role of the development committee in that process; and also what is your own relationship with that development committee? How often do you meet them? What sort of interaction is there between you and them? I think parliamentary scrutiny can be much stronger in the European Parliament on matters like the budget than it is here. I am surprised that you take that view, almost as though that development committee had no impact in the budget process.
  (Ms de Toma) I have worked with the development committee for quite a few years and that is what I was trying to say earlier, that even before the overarching policy I think the development committee has always done a really good job in maintaining a poverty focus and fighting for human and social development. I think overall we have always had an excellent relationship with the development committee. We often meet with them as independent agencies and now as BOND as well. We are asked for our opinion always on the budget, and in fact we start working on the budget every year as soon as the preliminary draft budget is made available by the Commission and, as I said earlier, that is usually around April/May time. We prepare a position paper and we consult broadly here at the UK level and then we feed our position into a more general European position of European NGO platforms and networks; and usually the development committee takes that NGO position very seriously. This year, for instance, we worked very closely both with the rapporteur and with the shadow rapporteur across party lines, across nationality lines, very, very well; and they took on most of our suggestions which were generally maintaining poverty lines and cutting non-poverty lines, which are strange non-poverty lines that I mentioned earlier that still seem to be part of the budget. In terms of relationships with the budgets committee, that can be extremely frustrating. We have had a mixed relationship with the budgets committee. My personal view of the budgets committee has been that they are obviously quite obsessed with numbers, and so they should be, I guess, because they scrutinise the budget; but sometimes we feel that the quality of work that is being done with the development committee is somewhat lost and very much diluted in the budgets committee; but, then again, what can you do.

  73. How intense is the engagement of the development committee representatives in the budget process?
  (Ms de Toma) Very intense. Negotiation can go on for months and months.
  (Ms O'Connell) It is one voice amongst many. This relates to and reflects the wider political agenda of the EU where, despite what we might think, international development and poverty elimination is not the most important issue. There are big issues around enlargement, around monetary union and around the EU's own future and the whole discussions about constitution and so on, and common, foreign and security policy. When it comes to the crunch, development is not top of the agenda and, inevitably, it is not given the attention it deserves. One could argue that is not unique to the European Union. That development across the globe amongst the rich countries is not the most important issue. What we can hope for is, as a minimum, we get greater policy coherence so that anything the EU decides to do in other sectors, whether it is to do with its own affairs, security policy, to do with trade or with enlargement, do not undermine development and that, ideally, they should also promote development. Of course the big problem is the Common Agricultural Policy which is the one big area which has still to be tackled which does undermine development, as we know. It is one voice amongst many and it is one issue amongst many.

Mr Battle

  74. On budgetisation, you said that Member States' governments were not in favour of the budgetisation of EDF. Is there pressure from ACP countries for budgetisation? When I first worked on the background of Lomé I and Lomé II the ACP were not themselves that much in favour. Has that changed?
  (Ms O'Connell) The ACP are happy with the arrangement as it is now. To get a move towards budgetisation the ACP countries would have to be encouraged and have to be persuaded that they were not going to lose out. Having a discrete pot of money which is specifically for them and over which they have a certain amount of say and control puts them in a stronger position than maybe competing with a general budget alongside every other demand.

  75. If I could move on to the whole question of deconcentration, as it is called, and the Country Strategy Papers and working up the strategy papers. Delegation: as you mentioned in your opening comments about delegations needing the right staff, the right expertise for poverty analysis, could you say a bit more about that? There are 22 in the frame now, 86 to go—will they make it? What is your general view? Is it serious?
  (Ms O'Connell) Our general view is that deconcentration is a positive move for all the reasons I said at the beginning about putting decision making closer to the people concerned, opening up the possibilities of a much greater dialogue between the developing country governments and people and the EU delegates. The problem is that when it comes to our concerns around social sectors, around social analysis, around poverty analysis, around people-centred development, rights-centred development, these are not the issues that the European Commission has the greatest expertise in. One of the things we found out recently was that in the pre-posting training—of officials moving from Brussels to the delegations—the priority for training was all around administration and corruption. They are very important issues, but not by any means the only issues that they should be dealing with. We are worried that the spending of the money, and the quantities of money will take precedence over issues of quality. We would argue that at least in every region, if not in every delegation, you need to have serious expertise on poverty analysis, on social development; you need to be able to call on experts who are strong on issues of gender quality, strong on health education—the social sectors. There is very little evidence that is the case at the moment. Another issue is this whole business of policy evaporation between the top and the bottom. The good policies tend to evaporate and you get decisions made by people on the ground effectively following their own guidelines and their own idea of what the policy means in practice; and it is quite difficult keeping that tight monitoring between the policies that have been agreed and what is happening on the ground. You have a lot more space for individuals to pursue their own agendas; to interpret policy as they see fit. That is a concern of ours. The deconcentration process will go on. It has already started and they are pushing it through very quickly. A big issue is to do with how it is going to be funded. To set up strong delegations in 86 countries, fully staffed with up to 20, 30 or 50 staff takes considerable resources, considerable amounts of training and management. We are worried really whether the Commission has the funds to do a good job, and whether it is going to do adequate monitoring to make sure that the initial deconcentration works well, so they can learn some lessons there; and we are worried about the overall management of this process.

  76. If that is the delegations going out to the countries, what about within the countries—their engagement of civil society and NGOs locally in the drawing up of the country's strategies. Very often the World Bank send experts in to draw up the strategies that need not involve local people. Is that going to be replicated by the European Commission, or have they got a better idea?
  (Ms de Toma) Hopefully not!
  (Ms O'Connell) We were very hopeful when the Cotonou Agreement was signed. We were very hopeful about the whole process of the Country Strategy Papers. The principle is that developing countries own the process; they decide amongst themselves with their own citizens what the priorities are. There is full and adequate consultation with the private sector, with NGOs, with trade unions and other interested bodies. They would then, from that, agree what their priority sectors were. Of course, practice is far from perfect. What is happening in effect is that the drawing up of the EU Country Strategy Paper has now become absorbed within the wider World Bank work. The World Bank is saying to all heavily indebted low income countries, that they need to draw up a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. The principles of this are quite good; it is meant to be about ownership; it is meant to be about consultation; it is meant to be that developing countries themselves would set out what their national strategy is to reduce poverty; then donors would come together—the World Bank, the EU, bilateral donors—and they would fund the priority sectors. The reality on the ground is that very little genuine consultation takes place. Sometimes developing countries do not have either the will or capacity to consult widely. There is in some countries a hostility to consultation, and hostility to civil society; and in others there is a pretence of supporting civil society but in practice it does not happen. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for Bangladesh has been written and we understand it has been written in Washington and not in Bangladesh. The interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper for Angola is being written. There is some consultation. One aspect of that consultation was in June this year where the night before the consultation meeting NGOs and civil society members were telephoned and were asked, "Can you come to a meeting tomorrow to discuss this strategy?" Clearly that is not serious, it is not adequate, and I think as NGOs we have an important role to play. We work with partners in developing countries, so one of the things we are doing is making sure they know these processes are going on; that they need to get involved; that they have more staff, time and training to actually get involved more effectively. That is rather a long answer. In summary, what is happening now in terms of Country Strategy Papers and the World Bank is not good, but we are hopeful that over the next three or four years that it could improve dramatically and it could open doors for civil society in developing countries to have a much greater say about what they think is important, and which sectors (for example, health education, sanitation) which area they feel should be given priority for funds.
  (Ms de Toma) I think it is important to know that Commission delegations are not supposed to drive the process and drive the consultation. From their own guidelines, they say they are supposed to mediate the process and consultation between the beneficiary country government and the local civil society. I do not know whether it is just a way of saying, "We're not responsible for it". In a way I guess it is right, because obviously we would not want the Commission to lead and own the process as they have in the past. Neither would we want for the government to own and drive the process; it should be a joint consultation; but this is what they say they are. When we say we would like people in delegations with expertise in participatory methodologies who know something about civil society and NGOs, there could be external consultants, I guess, brought in to facilitate the process as well. They do not need to be there on a continuous basis. It could be a possibility, as Helen was saying, it looks from the first Country Strategy Papers that there has not been adequate consultation with them. Then again, the process has only just started. A lot of the time the problem is that civil society has not had time to organise itself or even NGOs. There is a lot of work being done at the moment in ACP countries to get civil society to organise itself in a forum under the Cotonou Agreement to create national and regional civil society platforms precisely to allow better consultation. A lot of work is being done on both sides and that is why we are hopeful that it will happen. It will take time. It is right for it to take time because if not it would just be mechanic consultation—just tick the box, civil society has been consulted.

Mr Robathan

  77. I want to ask about delegations. You mentioned delegations and their role. We in the last Parliament travelled quite extensively around various places. It was a concern of mine (and I will not put it any stronger because it would be rather rude) which was certainly shared by at least two former members of this Committee, that the delegations that the EU had in place in many very important developing countries, where they really needed a high quality of work, seemed to be rather more interested in the comfort of their posting. They wanted a comfortable life and that is quite understandable but there was not the dynamism and the determination to get things done which we might have hoped for. It was not just my impression. Somebody is nodding their head! Sleepy, let us put it that way.
  (Ms O'Connell) I would imagine if you visit many detached offices of the aid management offices of DFID you may find cases as well.

  78. But not like this.
  (Ms O'Connell) They do have a very good reputation. I feel it is part of the whole culture of the European Commission and the European Union that these delegations, up until now, have had a rather low level role. They had some responsibility for negotiating with the national government, and they had some responsibility for disbursing money; but quite often, when it came to an important decision or a controversial decision, the decision making was taken out of their hands and taken back to Brussels. I think their position was, as a minimum, unclear. They did not have the authority and the responsibility that they are now being given. I feel also they had several agendas. Up until now they had the agenda of having a EU presence in the country, which is more like a diplomatic or representation role. Then they have an agenda around trade and promoting or facilitating EU trade in the country. They have a cultural role and then, on top of that, they have a role to do with development. From my experience of meeting delegations, the development role was the one that was least important, or least clear, and certainly had fewer staff than other areas. They did not have full enough staff, or sufficient staff or the right expertise of staff to do a good job. I think these are the kind of issues that hopefully will be addressed in the future.

Ann Clwyd

  79. You mentioned, when you were answering Hugh's question, EuropeAid and you said there were positive developments as a result of setting the office up at the beginning of this year but there was also a downside. Could you go into some more detail about the positive and the downside, and whether the setting up of that office has clarified the relationship between DG External Relations and DG Development?
  (Ms de Toma) Generally speaking, we see the setting up of EuropeAid as a positive development of the reform process. It has clarified, I think, the relations (at least our relations) with the European Commission. At least we now have the whole projects cycle that Helen mentioned earlier, from the decisions on proposals to the implementation of the projects, managed by one unit, one office. That is better now from how it was before. It was divided between DG Development and the previous office, which was the common service. In terms of communication, as you know EuropeAid is managed by a board of directors, which is formed by the commissioner of trade, external relations, enlargement and also development and humanitarian aid. Hopefully that will help communication. I think the worry there is that this communication actually takes place, because although the project cycle is now entirely managed by EuropeAid and we now just deal with EuropeAid in terms of financing proposals and everything, the link between policy practice might still be weak. Now the Commission has a new policy of activity based management, that is budgeting according to existing resources in terms of staff and also financial resources for the management of the projects. That is why communication between the policy side of things and the practice side of things has to be even stronger than before if they do want to implement this activity based budgeting. We have probably not seen that yet in terms of the problems we had with this year's budget just in terms of the budget not really reflecting the priorities set out in the development policy statement. Hopefully this will change. When we asked senior officials in EuropeAid about the discrepancies they said that obviously it would take time to change the balance, so we hope to see that soon. In terms of the relative technical questions I do not know if Ruth wants to say anything.
  (Ms Coles) I was the previous Chair of BOND's Development Finance Group and as such I was also the UK representative to the European Funding Group which was part of the pan-European development network called the Liaison Committee. This group met principally with representatives of both EuropeAid and DG Development and continues to do so. It has in effect been asked by EuropeAid and DG Development to act as the main interlocutor between the European Commission and European NGOs. Certainly we have felt that EuropeAid is concerned with talking to us but in practice quite often leaves it very much to the last minute, that we are asked for opinions at a very late time and we are not given enough time to comment on policy.

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