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Development: Too Many Donors Spoil the Aid
Written by David Cronin, IPS   
BRUSSELS, Jul 16 (IPS) - An excessive number of aid donors is hampering efforts to make development assistance more effective, a new study has found.

After examining European Union aid to Cambodia, Mozambique and Peru, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London calculated that these countries have to deal with 15-17 bilateral donors from the EU, as well as the European Commission. The figure is even higher if bodies representing regions like Catalonia in Spain or Flanders in Belgium -- both of which have offices in Mozambique -- are included.

Andrew Lawson, head of the ODI centre for aid and public expenditure, said that while some progress has been made, progress to improve the effectiveness of EU aid "has been slow" over the past two years.

He argued that a specific body may need to be established to address how there can be a better division of labour between aid activities undertaken by the EU's executive, the European Commission, and the Union's individual governments.

Although a code of conduct on reducing duplication of aid work has been drafted in the past year, there has historically been a profound resistance on the part of many EU governments to give the Commission greater powers in development aid.

"This is a conundrum and there are no straightforward answers," Lawson told IPS. "One of the difficulties for harmonisation is that the Commission does not feel empowered. It cannot say: 'Ireland, you stop working on health' or 'Holland, you stop working on education'.

"With division of labour, nobody wants to be the one to take the first step. But somebody needs to take it."

The ODI's report was commissioned by the European Parliament's development committee. The institute examined the performance of EU development assistance since the 2005 Paris declaration on aid effectiveness. That international accord committed donors to ensure that aid activities are better coordinated and that they are aligned with the national priorities set by recipients.

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