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The European Consensus on Development

The European Union is the world's foremost donor of development aid, accounting for 55 % of the total. However, the effectiveness of European aid can and must be increased through renewed efforts to improve coordination and harmonisation. This statement presents a shared vision to guide the EU's activities in the field of development cooperation, both at Member State and Community level. It also sets out the concrete action to be taken to implement this vision at Community level.


Joint declaration by the Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on the development policy of the European Union entitled "The European Consensus" [Official Journal C 46 of 24.2.2006].


On 20 December 2005 the Presidents of the Commission, Parliament and the Council signed the new statement on EU development policy, the "European consensus", which, for the first time in fifty years of cooperation, defines the framework of common principles within which the EU and its Member States will each implement their development policies in a spirit of complementarity.

Part One: the EU's vision of development

This first part of the declaration sets out the objectives and principles on the basis of which the Member States and the Community commit themselves to a shared vision. Since the chief objective is to reduce poverty worldwide in the context of sustainable development, the EU is seeking to meet the Millennium Development Goals, to which all the UN member states subscribe, by 2015 namely. These goals are:

  • to eliminate extreme poverty and hunger;
  • to achieve universal primary education;
  • to promote gender equality and empower women;
  • to reduce child mortality;
  • to improve maternal health;
  • to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;
  • to ensure environmental sustainability; and
  • to set up a global partnership for development.

It also takes the view that the fundamental objective of poverty reduction is closely associated with the complementary objectives of promotion of good governance and respect for human rights, these being shared values underpinning the EU. The fight against poverty also implies achieving a balance between activities aimed at human development, the protection of natural resources and economic growth and wealth creation to benefit the poor.

The common principles of development cooperation activities are ownership and partnership, in-depth political dialogue, participation of civil society, gender equality and an ongoing commitment to preventing state fragility. Developing countries bear the primary responsibility for their own development, but the EU accepts its share of responsibility and accountability for the joint efforts undertaken in partnership.

The EU has committed itself to increasing the aid budget to 0.7 % of gross national product by 2015, the shared interim goal being 0.56 % by 2010; half of the increase in aid will be earmarked for Africa. It will continue to prioritise support for the least-developed countries and the low- and medium-income countries. Resource allocation will be guided by objective and transparent criteria based on needs and performance. The principle of concentration will guide the Community in all its country and regional programming. This means selecting a limited number of priority areas for action.

The quality of aid will be of the utmost importance for the EU, which will ensure the monitoring of its commitments to maximise aid efficiency, notably by setting concrete targets for 2010. National ownership, donor coordination and harmonisation, starting at the field level, alignment on recipient-country systems, and results orientation are core principles in this respect. More predictable aid mechanisms will be strengthened so as to enable partner countries to plan efficiently.

The EU will promote better coordination and complementarity between donors by working towards joint multiannual programming based on partner-country strategies and processes, common implementation mechanisms and the use of co-financing arrangements. It will also foster consistency in development policy in a wide variety of areas.

Part Two: implementation of Community development policy

Community policy and the policies of the Member States in this field must complement each other. The added value of the Community's policy comes from its presence worldwide, its expertise in dispensing aid, its role in promoting consistency between policies and best practice and in facilitating coordination and harmonisation, its support for democracy, human rights, good governance and respect for international law, and its role in promoting participation in civil society and North-South solidarity.

Development cooperation is a major component of a broader set of external measures which must be consistent and complementary. The programming documents - country, regional and thematic strategy papers - reflect this range of policies and ensure consistency between them.

To meet the needs stated by partner countries, the Community will concentrate its activities in the following areas:

  • trade and regional integration;
  • the environment and the sustainable management of natural resources; infrastructures;
  • water and energy;
  • rural development, agriculture, and food security;
  • governance, democracy, human rights and support for economic and institutional reforms;
  • prevention of conflicts and of state fragility;
  • human development; and social cohesion and employment.

The Community will strengthen mainstreaming in relation to certain issues involving general principles applicable to any initiative and which call for efforts in several sectors. These include democracy, good governance, human rights, the rights of children and indigenous peoples, gender equality, environmental sustainability and the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The type of aid provided will be tailored to the needs and context of each individual country, giving preference, where conditions allow, to budget aid. The Community's approach will be based on results and performance indicators. Most Community aid will continue to be provided as non-repayable grants, which are particularly suitable for the poorest countries and for those with a limited ability to repay.

Community assistance and the quality of the aid provided have improved as a result of the reform of external aid initiated by the Commission in 2000. Further improvements will be made in areas such as information systems and there will be further devolution to the delegations. The Commission will take account of the lessons learned from the evaluation of European Community development policy adopted in 2000 and will ensure that the European Development Consensus is put into practice in Community development programmes in all the developing countries.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 21 June 2007 - Annual Report 2007 on the European Community's Development Policy and the Implementation of External Assistance in 2006 [COM(2007) 349 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In 2006 the EU allocated EUR 9.8 billion to official development assistance (ODA). The year was marked by major changes in the way the EU manages its development cooperation, including the decision to pay particular attention to policy coherence for development, the adoption of regional strategies reflecting the EU's main priorities, the simplification of the external aid instruments (in particular the creation of the financing instrument for development cooperation and the instrument for democracy and human rights), the setting up of a framework for increasing the effectiveness of aid and improvements to the way in which results are evaluated.

Commission Communication to the Council and the European Parliament of 22 June 2006 - Annual Report 2006 on the European Community's development policy and the implementation of external assistance in 2005 [COM(2006) 326 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

In 2005 the EU committed itself to doubling its current level of ODA by 2010 and spent EUR 6.2 billion in terms of delivery of development aid. In its annual policy strategy for 2005, the Commission's development objectives were to review and scale up the EU contribution to the Millennium Development Goals and to launch an EU water facility. The Community and the Member States also signed the Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness (pdf) and a new tripartite development policy statement (the European Consensus on Development) was endorsed.

The particular priority for 2005 was Africa, with the revision of the Cotonou Agreement, the implementation of the peace facility and the drafting of an EU strategy for Africa.

Last updated: 28.11.2007