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Governance and development

This summary has been archived and will not be updated, because the summarised document is no longer in force or does not reflect the current situation.

Governance and development

The European Union (EU) is proposing a more pragmatic approach to providing support for governance in developing countries, one that is based on dialogue and capacity building. The Union emphasises that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and advocates an individual approach tailored to the specific circumstances in each country.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the European Economic and Social Committee of 20 October 2003: Governance and development [COM(2003) 615 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The purpose of this communication is to define appropriate responses to the following different circumstances:

  • building institutional capacity and increasing the capacity of partner countries to take ownership of the process of drawing up and implementing programmes and appropriate reforms;
  • ensuring synergy and consistency between the EU's various instruments and policies in this area;
  • ensuring complementarity between, and coordination of, the different donors' activities;
  • helping to protect human rights and promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

The communication stresses the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and advocates an "à la carte" approach tailored to the specific situation in each developing country. For instance, the paper distinguishes between three different situations -- those of effective partnership, difficult partnership and a post-conflict situation -- and suggests that policy guidelines should therefore be laid down in the light of whichever of these scenarios obtains.

Effective partnerships

Like most donors, the Commission primarily gives support to countries that perform well so as to ensure that its aid is effective. In an effective partnership, the government concerned commits itself to development and good governance in accordance with objectives defined at inter-state level. Even where institutional capacity is lacking, the fact that the political commitment has been made is what counts.

Priority action has to include:

  • continuous and effective dialogue with the countries in question;
  • the reinforcement of democratic government, public participation and access to justice;
  • promoting human rights;
  • promoting greater transparency, making public institutions more aware of their responsibilities and more effective;
  • increasing the capacity of civil society to participate in the policy-making processes and debates.

The communication cites Mediterranean region countries, some African countries, as well as West European and Central Asian countries as examples.

Difficult partnerships

The Commission points out that the donors should not neglect more difficult partnerships, characterised by a government that lacks commitment to reducing poverty, to sustainable development or to good governance. In some cases where this is so development cooperation is partially or totally suspended. But the people in such countries are particularly vulnerable and should not be made to pay for the bad behaviour of their governments. When a country is isolated this risks promoting extremism and terrorism, not to mention the regional consequences. Leaving a country to fail will only make it more difficult and costly to put it on its feet again. All these factors militate against total abandonment. Donors should, instead, look for entry points from which to tackle the core of the problem, this frequently being poor governance and poverty.

Priority action should then take the form of:

  • humanitarian aid and food aid;
  • support for activities carried out by civil society;
  • dialogue with the authorities to enable exploration of the measures needed to move the situation forward towards a more effective partnership;
  • political initiatives at international or regional level aimed at finding a lasting solution to the difficulties or the crisis.

The communication gives North Korea, Angola and Bangladesh as examples.

Post-conflict situations

The communication notes that in a post-conflict situation public institutions either function poorly or are non-existent. In countries emerging from conflict the inclination to hostilities is often entrenched. It is estimated that 50% of countries in this situation are powerful belligerent nations. Where this is so, a rapid commitment from donors is needed.

Priority action should take the form of:

  • identifying the root causes of the conflict and whether there is a will to find a solution;
  • getting a reconciliation process under way;
  • establishing a link between emergency aid, rehabilitation and long-term development;
  • providing neutral humanitarian aid.

The communication gives Guatemala and Rwanda as examples.

Dialogue on governance: basic principles

A wide range of instruments is available for promoting governance whilst at the same time combating poverty and promoting sustainable development, e.g. humanitarian aid, support for building up transport, health and education institutions, support for administrative reform, combating corruption, maintaining peace and security, promoting respect of human rights and participation by civil society, trade promotion, support to enable the country to take ownership of reform programmes and budget support.

In view of the positive outcome of discussions with the Council and

Parliament, the Commission will pull these policy principles together into guidelines and draft a handbook as a guide to delegations on the consistent management of the governance aspect of the EU's cooperation programmes.

Overall framework

In the last ten years support for good governance has become one of the basic tools of the EU's development aid instruments and has become an integral part of the Commission's cooperation programmes.

There are several aspects to this approach. Whilst there is no clear definition of good governance, the term is generally taken to cover the fundamental interactions between the state and society, i.e. the rules, processes, and behaviour by which interests are articulated, resources are managed and power is exercised in society. The quality of governance therefore often depends on the state's capacity to provide its citizens with the basic services needed to reduce poverty and promote development.

The Cotonou Agreement includes a commitment to good governance and is therefore one of the benchmarks for other agreements between the EU and third countries. Regular dialogue and participation by non-state parties are features of this approach.


Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Governance in the European Consensus on Development - a harmonised approach within the European Union [COM(2006) 421 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Last updated: 14.12.2007