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The European Union and Policy Coherence for Development: A Norm Maker in the OECD-DAC?

Joren Verschaeve, Sarah Delputte & Jan Orbie

The European Union (EU) is generally considered to be a norm taker, rather than norm maker in international development. At the multilateral, European and implementation level, the EU typically adapts norms originating from other donors, especially the Bretton Woods Institutions, into its own policies (Baroncelli, 2011 ; Farrell, 2012; 2008). However, the case of Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) seems at first sight an important exception to this rule. Not only did the EU internally manage to set up highly ambitious PCD targets, it also continues to place the issue prominently high on the international development agenda. Therefore, this paper takes a much closer look at the issue of PCD and wonders why and how the EU is able to put its stamp on the international agenda with regard to this particular topic. In doing so, we focus on attention to the OECD-DAC given the forum's long and well-established track record on PCD. Through a combination of semi-structured interviews with DAC officials (Paris, July 2012; October-November 2013) and document analysis (OECD archives), we found that the EU indeed can be considered a norm maker when it comes to PCD. While the DAC made several attempts, often with limited success, to mainstream the concept throughout the early 1990s; the EU more placed PCD at the heart of the DAC's renewed mandate as well as the OECD's development strategy. This success can be attributed to (1) the EU's strong track-record on PCD, especially in comparison with other DAC members; (2) the pro-active role of a number of EU Member States (e.g. Sweden, Finland, Denmark), which supported the Commission's efforts ; and (3) the EU's strong position within the OECD-DAC, especially in comparison with its status within the Bretton Woods Institutions.

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