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Decentralised cooperation

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Decentralised cooperation

The European Union helps to reduce poverty in developing countries by laying down the administrative procedures for decentralised cooperation. Decentralised cooperation focuses on enhancing civil society's capacity for dialogue in developing countries to promote the development of democracy. These rules are replaced by the Regulation establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation as from 1 January 2007.


Council Regulation (EC) No 1659/98 of 17 July 1998 on decentralised cooperation [Official Journal L 213 of 30.07.1998] [See amending acts].


The new Regulation (EC) No 625/2004 amends the basic Regulation (EC) No 1659/98 on decentralised cooperation and extends it to 31 December 2006. The new Regulation introduces certain changes and more precise details to the basic text. It specifies that decentralised cooperation agents can come not only from the developing countries but also from the European Community, and adds other types of organisation to the list of partners. It also aims to promote civil society's capacity for dialogue to make its members more effective participants in the democratic process.

Operations and initiatives supported

The Community supports operations and initiatives undertaken within the framework of decentralised cooperation that focus on poverty reduction and sustainable development, particularly in situations involving difficult partnerships, by:

  • taking a more participatory approach to development, responsive to the needs and initiatives of the populations in the developing countries;
  • contributing to the diversification and reinforcement of civil society and democracy in the countries concerned.

In this respect, when assessing the projects and programmes proposed, the Commission has to consider the following factors:

  • the relevance, effectiveness and viability of the operations;
  • cultural and social aspects, aspects relating to equal opportunities for men and women, and the environment;
  • the institutional development necessary to achieve the operation's objectives;
  • experience gained from operations of the same kind;
  • particular needs of countries where official cooperation is unable to contribute significantly to the objectives of poverty reduction and sustainable development.

Priority areas of activity

The priority fields for operations are:

  • the development of human and technical resources, and local, rural or urban social and economic development in the developing countries;
  • information and the mobilisation of decentralised cooperation agents and participation in international fora to enhance dialogue contributing to the emergence of democracy;
  • support for strengthening the institutional capacities of such agents and their capacity for action;
  • the development of human and technical resources, and local, rural or urban social and economic development in the developing countries;
  • strengthening the networks of social organisations and movements campaigning for sustainable development, human rights, in particular social rights, and democratisation;
  • methodological back-up and follow-up for operations.


With a view to involving agents other than the usual non-governmental organisations, decentralised cooperation and financial support under this Regulation are open to all decentralised cooperation agents in the Community or developing countries, namely:

  • local authorities (including municipal authorities);
  • non-governmental organisations;
  • indigenous people's organisations;
  • traders' associations;
  • local citizens' groups;
  • cooperatives;
  • trade unions;
  • economic and social actors' organisations;
  • local organisations (including networks) which are active in the area of regional decentralised cooperation and integration;
  • consumer organisations;
  • women's and youth organisations;
  • teaching, cultural, research and scientific organisations;
  • universities;
  • churches;
  • religious associations or communities;
  • the media; and
  • any non-governmental associations and independent foundations likely to contribute to development.

Participation in invitations to tender and the award of contracts is open to all natural and legal persons of the Member States and of the recipient country with development experience. It may be extended to other developing countries. Such organisations must be non-profit making.

Financial provisions

The financial envelope for the period 2004-2006 is EUR 18 million. The maximum amount provided for per contract is EUR 100 000.

The original Regulation applied until 31 December 2001. It has been extended to 31 December 2006.

Financial support takes the form of grants and the annual appropriations are authorised by the budgetary authority.

The Regulation provides for financial contributions from outside the European Community. A contribution from the partners is sought for each cooperation operation. However, the contribution requested must be appropriate to the partners' means and the nature of the projects. Opportunities may also be sought for cofinancing with other fund providers, and especially with Member States.

All financing agreements or contracts concluded under this Regulation must provide for the Commission and the European Court of Auditors to conduct on-the-spot checks according to the relevant Community procedures.

Means to be employed when implementing operations

The instruments covered by Community funding for the implementation of operations under this Regulation include:

  • studies;
  • technical assistance;
  • information, training or other services;
  • supplies and works;
  • audits;
  • evaluation and monitoring missions;
  • investment expenditure (with the exception of the purchase of buildings); and
  • recurrent expenditure, such as administrative, maintenance and operating expenditure.

Supplies must originate in the Member States, the recipient country, other developing countries or, in exceptional cases, other third countries.

Role of the Commission in the implementation of operations

The Commission is responsible for appraising, deciding and administering operations covered by the Regulation.

It is also responsible for coordinating and ensuring the consistency and complementarity of operations. It may implement coordination measures such as:

  • the establishment of a system for the systematic exchange and analysis of information on operations financed or for which financing is envisaged by the Community and the Member States;
  • on-the-spot coordination of operations by means of regular meetings and exchange of information between the representatives of the Commission and Member States in the beneficiary country.

The Commission receives assistance with implementation from a committee including representatives of the Member States (the NGO Cofinancing Committee).

Annual report and evaluation

As part of the annual report to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of development policy, the Commission has to present a summary of the operations financed, the impact and results of such operations and an independent evaluation of the implementation of the Regulation, as well as details of the decentralised cooperation actors with whom contracts have been concluded

The Commission must also, on the occasion of NGO Committee meetings, inform the Member States of the operations and projects approved, stating their cost and nature, the recipient country and partners.


The basic Regulation is the latest of many Community measures that stress the importance of decentralised cooperation in the field of development. The principle was introduced in the fourth Lomé Convention in 1989 and was highlighted in Council Regulation (EEC) No 443/92 (repealed by the Regulation establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation as from 1 January 2007) on financial and technical assistance to, and economic cooperation with, the developing countries in Asia and Latin America. In 1992, the budgetary authority created a budget heading for the promotion of this approach in all developing countries.

The Regulation should be seen in the context of the participation of non-State actors (NSAs) in EU development policy.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 1659/98



Official Journal L 213 of 17.7.1998

Amending act(s)

Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 625/2004



Official Journal L 99 of 3.4.2004

Last updated: 29.06.2007