April 20, 2012

European Report on Development 2012: the EU’s role in promoting development-friendly natural resource management. A sneak preview.

Posted: 14:04 PM UTC

by Niels Keijzer on April 20, 2012

Water, energy and land belong to the most under-pressure resources today. This year’s European Report on Development, to be launched in mid-May 2012, focuses on these 3 key natural resources and analyses how the ways they are managed affect development objectives. The Report examines the constraints on each, the interrelationships between them and considers how water, energy and land can be managed together to promote economic growth in the poorest developing countries – growth that is both socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable. While the Report’s layout and formal launch are being prepared, this blog post, part of a series of articles by the Reports’ research team, provides a “sneak preview” or an appetiser for what the full report will have on offer.

The European Report on Development 2012, entitled “Confronting Scarcity” points to the urgent need to radically transform approaches to managing water, energy and land. Current methods often deal with these resources in splendid isolation from one another. Such a radical change is needed to satisfy the growing demand for water, food and energy without transgressing environmental limits or tipping points. It involves institutional change and joint implementation by the public and private sectors, both in the North and in the South.

The Report looks particularly at the roles of 3 different actors and what need to do in order to meet this transformational challenge:

  • The national public sector sets the regulatory and legal framework, uses public expenditure, coordinates and facilitates.
  • The private sector can respond by making its business models more inclusive and sustainable and by investing in sustainable outcomes.
  • The European Union (EU) can support poorer countries through internal policies on production and consumption, as a major trade and investment partner, as a major donor, and through contributions to global governance, as well as by promoting better policy coherence for development.

This ‘sneak preview’ blog post takes a look at the roles of the European Union. The EU has a major impact on the global management of natural resources and is responsible for one-sixth of the global environmental footprint. It is clear that if the whole world consumed as Europeans do, the pressures this would create for land, water and energy would spin out of control sooner or later.

First and foremost, the ERD’s main findings confirm that today’s institutions are inadequate to deal with water, energy and land (the WEL nexus) in an integrated and sophisticated manner. In light of this, the report strongly recommends that the EU should advocate for and support the international community in setting up binding agreements and regulatory frameworks to reduce emissions and promote the management of water, energy and land in a manner that is consistent with the goals of inclusive and sustainable growth. The recent EU Council’s response to the zero draft outcome document of the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development shows some promising signs of the EU’s readiness to do so, but the report puts forward additional suggestions and calls for more action to close the observed global governance gap.

In addition to backing or driving such global reforms, the EU and its Member States can help poor countries to achieve inclusive and sustainable and growth by using the full range of its policies, not only development cooperation. The EU has committed itself to promote Policy Coherence for Development, i.e. taking account of the interests of low-income countries within national and European policy processes (this is legally set in Article 208 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty). The European Commission, Council and Parliament recognise the need for joint problem-solving and the needs of low-income countries. The principle of Policy Coherence for Development should also inform the EU’s next budget for 2014-2020, the so-called Multi-Annual Financial Framework, and inform the design and implementation of key policies such as the Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the reform of the EU’s contested Common Agricultural Policy.

Besides the need for reforms of EU domestic policies affecting the management of natural resources beyond European borders, the Report will also look at the role of EU development cooperation. To modernize its development cooperation, the European Commission presented a policy reform proposal entitled “Agenda for Change” in late 2011. While this proposal may help to reorient EU development cooperation stronger towards inclusive and sustainable growth, there is need for further European efforts.  The Report’s water, energy, and land-nexus view suggests that the emphasis given in the Agenda for Change on sustainable agriculture and energy will also need interventions in the area of water. The EU Council of Ministers is currently in the process of discussing the EU’s proposals, and will adopt its political conclusions on the Agenda of Change by the time this Report is published.

I hope that this blog post will help wake the appetite of some of you, while other previews published on the official European Report on Development blog may appeal more to others with other culinary tastes (e.g. a closer look at large scale land acquisitions, the role of the private sector, etc.).


nk European Report on Development 2012: the EU’s role in promoting development friendly natural resource management. A sneak preview. Niels Keijzer is Deputy Programme Manager EU External Action at ECDPM.




This blog post features the author’s personal view and does not represent the view of ECDPM.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Seth Kaplan April 23, 2012 at 4:15 am

I disagree with the statement “The national public sector sets the regulatory and legal framework,” at least when applied to the fragile states.

Most water and land resources (and energy if sourced locally) is managed through non-state institutions in these countries. If you focus only on the government, you will miss 90 percent of the population.

And most private businesses in these places are very small and unlikely
to focus much on their “business models.”

Better to work with a hybrid approach that leverages local institutions in some form to achieve the results you seek.


2 Niels Keijzer April 23, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Thank you Seth for these comments and for emphasising that in fragile states the public sector for a variety of reasons does not (satisfactorily or at all) play the role that we have defined for it in this report.

Although this blog post did not have sufficient space to do so, the full report itself does look into the role of relevant non-stakeholders when it comes to managing water, energy or land. We for instance note that 69% of all land in Sub-Saharan Africa is customary common property, and also analyse concrete cases of interest and diverse ‘coalitions of interest’ that manage rural water in Ethiopia. In a more detailed blog post by one of my colleague authors for this report there is some more information (and a link to a Powerpoint presentation) when it comes to water resources: http://www.erd-blog.eu/blog/world-water-forum-2012-well-defined-rights-are-key-allocating-water-across-uses-and-sectors

I do note that the majority of the country cases that we analyse in the report are not internationally considered as fragile states, such as Kenya, South-Africa and Ethiopia, although we do for instance also analyse efforts to manage land ownership in countries such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

If you could perhaps share links to some examples of hybrid approaches in fragile states here then I think it would be quite interesting for other readers of this blog, as well as some of my co-authors, to contrast these experiences with some of the report’s findings?


3 Seth Kaplan April 24, 2012 at 12:41 am

I discuss hybrid systems in this post on Ghana:

and in this article on Somaliland:

I also refer you to the Africa Power and Politics Programme, which has done good work in this area: http://www.institutions-africa.org/.

Nonstate institutions for managing resources are important not only in Africa but across much of the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, and even parts of Latin America.

I would be happy to discuss more if you have an interest.


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