Code of Conduct on Complementarity and the Division of Labour in Development Policy

With a view to improving the performance of European Union (EU) cooperation policy, the Commission is proposing a voluntary Code of Conduct for better division of labour between the EU donors in developing countries. The Code is based on eleven principles designed to reduce the administrative formalities, to use the funds where they are most needed, to pool aid and to share the work to deliver more, better and faster aid.


Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 28 February 2007 entitled "EU Code of Conduct on Division of Labour in Development Policy" [COM(2007) 72 final - Not published in the Official Journal].


The present Communication proposes a Code of Conduct to enhance complementarity and the division of labour amongst EU donors (Union and Member States) in developing countries. The Code of Conduct was adopted on 15 May 2007 by the General Affairs and External Relations Council and the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council. On that occasion, the Council amended certain points of the Commission proposal, in particular adding an eleventh principle to the ten principles proposed.

Donors frequently concentrate on the same countries and the same sectors. This leads to a significant administrative burden and high transaction costs in the beneficiary countries, diffuses policy dialogue, reduces transparency and increases the risk of corruption. Some countries, on the other hand, are almost ignored by donors.

The Code of Conduct defines the operational principles of complementarity in the field of development cooperation. In the absence of an internationally recognised definition of complementarity, the Commission defines it as the optimal division of labour between various actors in order to achieve optimum use of human and financial resources. This implies that each actor focuses its assistance on areas where it can add most value, given what others are doing.

The Code is based on good practices from the field and was drafted in collaboration with Member States' experts. It builds on the principles contained in the Paris Declaration on the effectiveness of development aid (ownership, alignment, harmonisation, management by results and mutual responsibility) and on the complementary objectives and values stressed in the European Consensus.

The Code proposes broad guidelines which establish the principles of complementarity in development aid. In particular, the Code consists of eleven guiding principles:

The Commission believes that this Code of Conduct will enable the Union to play a driving role on matters of complementarity and the division of labour as part of the international harmonisation and alignment process (Paris Declaration).

Successful implementation will largely depend on the role of the Commission delegations and Member States' field offices. In addition, its implementation is to be the subject of annual monitoring based on sampling of relevant country cases, a revised EU Donor Atlas and the Development Report.

The Code of Conduct is an ongoing document; it is to be reviewed regularly on the basis of the lessons learned from its implementation and the monitoring of the results.


The objective of promoting the division of labour in EU development policy is not new. In 1995 and 1999, the Council had already adopted Resolutions on complementarity between the Community development cooperation policy and the policies of Member States. Then the Statement on Development Policy of November 2000 was an attempt to achieve operational complementarity between the Commission and the Member States on the basis of areas of added value for Community assistance. However, this approach gave rise to political and operational difficulties. In 2004 the EU decided to draw up an operational strategy towards complementarity the result of which is the present Communication. In addition, this commitment to enhanced complementarity has become a central element of the European Consensus and the Aid Effectiveness Action Plan.

Key terms used in the act

Last updated: 27.10.2011