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 The Big Issues: Reports by commitment

Integrating principles of social development

Guggi Laryea; Mirjam Van Reisen

The Resolution on Human and Social Development (1996) and the Resolution on Integrating Gender Issues in Development Co-operation (1995) represent steps by the European Community to incorporate the ideas of the Beijing and Copenhagen conferences into policies of the Community and Member States.

European development co-operation policy 

To say that the European Community's development co-operation policy is at its most crucial conjuncture is no overstatement.  In the face of economic globalisation and structures such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Community is embracing policies of liberalisation to adapt to a new economic landscape.  Strengthening co-operation with Latin America and Asia is seen as encouragement of free trade as well as boosting the Community's global economic presence.  Further adding to the flux in development co-operation policy is a redefinition of the Community's political and security interests in the post Cold War world order.  Relations with Central and East Europe have an added importance due to the imminent extension of EU membership to Central and Eastern European countries.  Better relations with Mediterranean countries are also perceived as crucial to the political and economic security of EU member states.

Amidst these new developments is the re-examination of the EU's most established arm of development co-operation - the Lome Convention with the ACP countries.  The Convention is set to be reviewed, if not totally overhauled.  Negotiations will begin shortly following the end of a series of consultations organised by the European Commission - the body responsible for implementation of Community policies - to rectify what is perceived by many as a Convention that is delivering less than its potential.  Integration of the human and social development principles that are fundamental to equity could be the element that strengthens the Convention.  Yet this concept does not always sit comfortably with the liberalisation policies that the Community is considering.

As stated in the previous Social Watch, one of the more conspicuous omissions in the Commission's green paper (a paper intended to inspire debate on the Lome Convention) were human and social development (HSD) principles.  This is in spite of the EU Council resolutions on HSD and gender.  The Commission itself has identified HSD as the contributing factor in the difference between development in sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia[1].  While both regions were at par in terms of macro-economic figures in the early sixties, South East Asia with its then better social development policies has gone on to prosper while development in sub-Saharan Africa has all but stagnated.  Thus, HSD's absence in the green paper begs the question of whether the Commission and EU Member States seriously intend to implement their own policies in this area, especially given the intended shifts in economic policy.

The European Commission's progress on human and social development and gender integration

Concerning the more recent HSD resolution, it is difficult to measure progress in implementation as no progress report has yet been published.  However, the Commission's Directorate for Development, DG VIII, produced a paper last year on human and social development [2] pointing to the Commission's current policy in the area.

The document acknowledges the gravity of the problem of poor human and social development and the vital role of investment in this sector.  It states priorities as: 1) human empowerment, defined as increasing the range of human choice.  This entails democracy and good governance, the promotion of civil society, and empowerment of women; 2) the expansion of employment and the productivity of work, which emphasises, among other things, equitable access to assets such as skills, land and credit; 3) health and the development of the environment favourable to health; 4) education and training in terms of both access and quality.

To translate this policy into practice, the paper calls for a number of actions that are echoed in the HSD resolution.  These are:

A) Integrate HSD into the core of macro-economic policy design.  This involves, inter alia, that: all macro-economic policies take account of effective poverty assessments; at least 20% of ODA be allocated to basic social programmes by 2002; high accordance be given to social indicators in assessing development; and, developing countries be encouraged also to allocate at least 20% of their budget for basic social programmes.  It implies a change in donor conditionality with more emphasis on criteria related to efforts and achievements in poverty alleviation and HSD.

B) Improve effectiveness of support for HSD through increased coherence in policy of the different components of HSD, co-ordination with other donors in this area, and the establishment of sectoral development policies that combine policy aspirations and intentions of partner countries with financial resources.

C) Integrate human and social development into other policy areas as “mainstream” policy so that HSD becomes the driving force within every development co-operation programme/project.

It is evident from the paper that the Commission has, in theory at least, adopted the ideas of the Council resolution as policy.

Gender Integration

The Commission issued a preliminary progress report on the implementation of the gender resolution in August 1997.[3]   This report will be followed by a more comprehensive progress report in December.  The preliminary report details implementation by the Commission's Directorates for External Relations with the Southern Mediterranean, the Middle East, Latin America and Southern Asia - DG IB - and DG VIII.

Policy and project design in DG IB.

DG IB has decided to integrate gender issues in development policy in the following pilot countries in the five regions covered by its mandate: South America - Peru, Paraguay; Central America - Nicaragua; Maghreb and Mashrek - Morocco, Occupied Territories, Jordan; South Asia - India, Bangladesh; South-East Asia - Vietnam and the Philippines.

For this task, the DG IB Gender Desk recruited for each region a European consultant specialised in gender and development to provide short-term expertise to advise on gender integration at strategy and policy level, in programming within projects, in implementation and preparation, and in the context of poverty co-ordination with member states.

Gender policy is yet to be integrated into the main policy frameworks.  The 1996 MEDA* Regulation, the principal framework governing relations with the Mediterranean, contains no reference to gender policy.  The 1992 ALA Regulation for the Asian and Latin American (ALA) countries includes minimal reference to women in development.  According to the progress report the gender desk is set to press for better integration of gender issues in the next regulation.  Gender consultants are working on identifying strategies for implementation in the pilot countries.


With respect to integration of gender policies in projects and programmes, all programmes will employ gender expertise for their design.  Projects and programmes are also required to pass a gender impact assessment test according to the mandatory procedures established by the director general in November 1994.  A review of implementation showed that in Asia and Latin America, 51% of all projects from the period January 1995 to June 1997 used the gender impact assessment form.  Out of these only 11% registered as women specific, 39% as gender integrated and 23% as gender oriented.  In Mediterranean (MED) countries only 22% of projects used the gender impact assessment form.  Out of these, no projects scored as women specific, 36% scored as gender-integrated and 43% as gender improvement.[4]  On top of this, the Commission concedes that the gender assessment test itself may need improvement.

Policy and Project Design in DG VIII

In DG VIII, the main initiative has been to assign one person within each unit as a gender focal point in order to strengthen two-way information between the gender desk and each unit and to better integrate gender considerations into all DG VIII policy.  Other initiatives are: a) an initial review of on-going and planned development interventions and studies to analyse gender sensitivity and provide recommendations for improving the integration of gender; b) follow-up and advice by gender experts available to all operational and technical services in Brussels; c) short-term missions of gender experts to thirteen different ACP countries; d) modification of planning and monitoring tools used by the Commission under the European Development Fund (EDF) and the budget line financing; e) thematic studies on a few important sectors in order to identify gender awareness and sensitivity.

The progress report expresses optimism that gender issues will be given more prominence in the forthcoming Commission orientation document for discussion on the ACP-EU relationship than they were given in the green paper.  Since the resolution was adopted, the Commission has also made the effort to integrate gender issues into key policy documents on HIV/AIDS and North-South co-operation.  Emerging issues such as financial liberalisation and financial sector reform have also taken account of gender.  The Commission's project cycle management manual will be revised in 1997 and 1998 and will include participation from the gender desk.

A gender checklist (questionnaire in EU terminology) based on OECD/development assistance committee (DAC) criteria has been developed to be used for all mainstream financing proposals.  A review of 57 projects from June 1995 to April 1996 indicated that only 25% used the checklist.  In addition only two of the 57 could be described as addressing women as part of the target group or specific to women.  The period from May to October 1996 saw a marked improvement with 80% of projects annexing the checklist.  However the number of projects identified as Women in Development (WID) integrated or WID-specific remained small.  The WID manual is to be revised to make it more consistent with the new policy framework.  A review of procedural checkpoint in DG VIII for monitoring and implementation of the 1995 resolution is planned for 1997-98 [5]

Training and staffing in DG VIII and DG IB

Training of gender staff in accordance with the resolution has been plagued with two major problems - staff shortages and the revolving door syndrome caused by the use of short term consultants.  By the Commission's own admission, this has considerably hampered training as staff have found very little time to organise training sessions.[6]  Despite these problems, there have been no changes in staffing policy, with the DG VIII relying on its gender focal points in each unit while DG 1 assigned only one person in each of its three directorates.

Other Activities

Slow progress has been made on the integration of gender into co-ordination initiatives in a number of pilot countries - Peru, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali and Mozambique.  At the 1996 gender experts meeting, experts agreed to concentrate initially on one or two countries only.

Other actions required of the Commission by the gender resolution have occurred such as the annual meetings of member-states’ experts on gender.  The Council has invited the Directors-General for Development Co-operation from the Community and the Member States to meet informally to examine implementation of the gender resolution.  However, to date, this meeting has not taken place.

With regard to financial resources, the Commission pushed a draft regulation through the EU Council that establishes a legal basis for budget line sensitisation.  Strictly speaking, this line exists only for sensitisation work, but it has also been used on occasions for other gender projects.

Beyond development co-operation, the Commission adopted an overall policy on gender integration and implementation of the Beijing conference.  The Directorate responsible for social affairs is in the process of mainstreaming gender into all Commission commitments and policies.

The Commission's strategy papers for national programmes for ACP countries

The National Indicative Programmes (NIPs) are programmes agreed between the Commission and ACP countries.  Prior to negotiations on the NIPs, the European Commission prepares so-called “strategy papers” which serve as the agreed on position from the side of the Commission. Indeed, hey represent the Commission's attempts to translate its development policies into action barring objections from recipient ACP countries.  These strategy papers were produced after the Social Summit and the Beijing conference.

One can assess NIPs for their HSD and gender perspectives at two levels - their appraisal of development and their strategies for intervention.  Assessment of Ghana's development mentions HSD components such as health and education.  However, apart from stating that "women bear a disproportionate share of the burden of the poor", statistics are not gender disaggregated[7].  No indicators are employed to measure human empowerment and there is over- reliance on traditional macro-economic indicators.

Assessment of Burkina Faso's development prospects includes some use of HSD indicators but lacks a gender perspective[8].  Poverty alleviation is said to be the main thread running through the strategy, with the primary objective being to promote human resources and to assist private operators to boost production.  The strategy states that women's objectives will be given special attention, but there is little evidence of this. 

The assessment of Zimbabwe, in turn,  incorporates major HSD components such as health and education.  But the different roles of men and women do not feature[9].  The strategy's overall objective is given as the reduction of poverty and sustainable development.  The focal points are health, education, renewable natural resources and agriculture.  Although the programme clearly focuses on some HSD components, consideration of gender is not integrated into the ideas and proposals.  An important feature of the programme, however, is a section stating that criteria for co-operation depend on the Zimbabwean government's commitment to HSD principles.

Gender integration

All member states stated that they considered the resolution to be of great value.

The following table shows a summary of the initiatives carried out by countries in order to implement the resolutionŃ

Table 1

Austria and  BElgium Created a gender unit with an expert
Finland Carried out training courses on gender
Portugal Created a questionnaire on gender to be included in the project
United Kingdom Declared to be addressing gender issues in all its aid activities as well as supporting other donors on initiatives to enhance women's empowerment
Germany, France and Luxembourg Stated that the ideas of the resolution had been integrated into all policy and design of projects
Sweden Reported that it had long-standing policy that went further than the resolution
Greece and Italy reported that no action had been taken so far

 On the other hand, difficulties reported about inplementation were: for Austria and Finland, the need for further sensitisation to change attitudes, Italy and Ireland cited difficulty in measuring the integration of gender policy while Greece and Luxembourg cited problems with resources.

A question on whether a system was in place for monitoring progress of gender policy and implementation as required by the resolution produced a less varied response.  Most countries replied in the affirmative but did not detail what their system entailed.  Only Italy specifically stated that no system had yet been developed.

As for the availability and adequacy of financial and economic resources for this implementation, although the majority stated they possessed both, the following statements were also made:

Table 2

United Kingdom, Denmark and Finland voiced concern over human resource deficiencies
Italy and Luxembourg stated that their present resources were not adequate to effectively carry out the resolution

 The HSD resolution

Again all member states considered the resolution to be of great value.

Nevertheless,  progress with regard to their implementation shows situations that are somewhat different:

Table 3

Austria, Finland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Sweden Said that the principles of the resolution were long-standing development policy, thus no additional action was required after the resolution was adopted
Germany and France Stated that efforts had been made to integrate principles into all policy design and implementation.
Greece and Italy Stated that no action had been taken


On difficulties of implementation Finland and France cited problems with sensitisation while Greece cited a lack of resources

Responses on whether HSD had been moved to the core of macro-economic design and implementation of development programmes may prove to be the most difficult to decipher given the different interpretations of the Council's request.

Table 4

Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal Stated that they did not work on the macro-economic level
Germany Reported that partner developing countries decided on macro-economic design and project implementation in line with the resolution’s call to grant developing countries ‘ownership’ of their own development projectes.
Austria, Belgium, Denmark, United Kingdom and Sweden Clearly provide affirmative, detailed answers to the question
France, Italy and Spain Cited progress made in the area through the use of HSD indicators, etc.

Questions on the 20/20 principle also proved to be extremely problematic.  Almost all the member states cited the lack of a clear definition of basic social programmes as an obstacle in providing the exact percentage of ODA allocated to these programmes.

Nevertheless, different points of view emerge with reference to the aid as embodied in the Resolution

Table 5

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Portugal Considered the principle, to a varying degree, a valuable guideline
Denmark and Portugal Objected to its use as a rigid conditionality for aid to developing countries
Finland Expressed its hesitancy towards all forms of quotas.
Sweden Rejected its use as a guideline, claiming it to be too constraining

On the other hand, it is worth remarking that none of the member states provided the exact percentage given to basic social programmes but Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal stated that they were very close to the 20% mark or exceeded it.

The availability of resources also presented an heterogeneous picture:  While Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden declared that they had the financial and human resources to carry out the resolution while the other states expressed varying degrees of doubt.  Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Sweden all stated that they had specialised staff on HSD.


[1] Human and Social Development (HSD) and European Union Development Co-operation, European Commission Staff Working paper October 1996

[2] ibid
[3] Integrating Gender Issues in Development Co-operation    Preliminary Progress Report 1997 European Commission Directorate General IB, August 1997
*Financial and Technical Measures to Accompany the Reform of Economic and Social Structures in the Framework of the EU-Mediterranean Partnership
[4] ibid, p 9
[5] ibid, p 10
[6] ibid, p 12
[7] 8th EDF Programming   Strategy Paper   Ghana, The European Commission, 1996,  p 1-5
[8] Strategy Paper   Burkina Faso, The European Commission, 1996, p 1-3
[9] Zimbabwe - Draft National Indicative Programme, The European Commission, 1996 p 10-12



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