New Donors, New Partners?

Written by | Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

Clare Castillejo (Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales el Diálogo Exterior)

There are more and more players in the field of development assistance that the EU needs to reckon with. China, India, Brazil, South Korea and South Africa are actively taking part in development cooperation all over the world and they are facing competition from Western powers. The European Union is one their main arch rivals, which, at the same time, sees a huge potential in the development assistance as far as closer diplomatic contacts with these fast developing countries is concerned. Forging an effective cooperation in this area, however, seems to be a very difficult task.

Firstly, one can argue that the EU’s relationship with the world’s two most populous countries is rather complicated. Not only do China and India adhere to different values and, as leading advocates of the principle of non-interference into internal affairs of the states they cooperate with, both tend to concentrate on economic aspects of development assistance, they also inadequately communicate with EU representatives, who consequently do not have a clear idea about the former’s strategies in this area. This so-called ‘trilateral’ approach deeply exacerbates the distribution of development assistance, as can be seen in the examples of Nepal or Mozambique.

Brazil is an important player in the fight against world hunger and poverty, whose former president, Lula da Silva, outlined the country’s ambitious global policy at the beginning of this millennium. To that end, Mozambique turned out to be of common interest for both the EU and Brazil, where both sides cooperated on a sustainable bioenergy growth project. As far as Africa is concerned, another welcome aspect is South Africa’s increasing support for EU’s policies, particularly as the former has taken on the new role as a staunch supporter of democracy, good governance and a peacekeeper all over the continent, which effectively brings it closer to the Union’s fundamental values. When dealing with the EU, both regional powers – Brazil and South Africa – are trying to be forthcoming and accommodative, particularly when compared with China and India, though both still remain rather cautious vis-à-vis Brussels.

Nevertheless, the EU’s most valuable partner is South Korea that has been actively engaged in the development assistance, particularly in the field of special education, since 2009 when the country became a member of the Development Assistance Committee within the OECD. Thus, it is Korea that can help the EU establish closer relations with the above-mentioned powers that have for the time being preferred to keep some distance. Brazil, South Africa, China and India are trying to create a certain counterbalance to the economic dominance of the Western world and are striving for a more effective cooperation of countries in the “poor South” that could compete with the “rich North”. The medium-to-long-term strategy of the European Union to establish closer cooperation with these countries will thus not be plain sailing.

(The study can be downloaded here)

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