When development partners met in Busan, South Korea in 2011, one of their aims was to make aid more effective. The event launched the Global Partnership for Effective Development and Cooperation, underpinned by the principles of country ownership, focus on results, inclusive partnerships, transparency and accountability. The EU also committed to Joint Programming, where donors ensure they are targeting complementary sectors, such as education, health or infrastructure. Over three years later, this effort is well underway.

Joint Programming means a joint response (from the EU and its Member States) to the partner country's development strategy, built upon an efficient division of labour (including which donor should work in which sector) and indicative multi-annual financial allocations. The process is facilitated by the European Commission’s development arm, DEVCO, together with the European External Action Service.

The joint strategy is developed at the partner country level by EU Delegation and EU Member State staff to ensure that it provides the best possible response to the situation on the ground. This also allows close cooperation with the government, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders. 

It has so far begun to be implemented, at different stages, in more than 40 countries, including Bolivia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Mali, Senegal, Myanmar, and Laos


Children gather in Kere Kebele in Machakel Woreda in Amhara State of Ethiopia
Children gather in Kere Kebele in Machakel Woreda in Amhara State of Ethiopia


The EU has been calling for greater coordination in development planning since the 1980s but since the Busan meeting and thanks to the Lisbon Treaty changes there is now a vision for what Joint Programming looks like in practice. Common guidelines were agreed with the EU Member states. 

"We have committed, as EU and Member States, to more sector concentration, to be present where we need to be, to be having more impact in the actions we do,” said Lino Molteni, a Policy Officer for Aid Effectiveness at DEVCO.

A number of advantages are foreseen to this approach.

According to Mr Molteni, Joint Programming aims to “fill all the gaps and take out the overlaps from the actions of Member States”. This allows each to focus on the sectors where they can add the most value.

“The advantage of Joint Programming is to make aid more transparent and predictable, towards the government, towards the public in the country, but also towards national constituencies back in Europe.”



Joint Programming has the potential to lower transaction costs by increasing coordination among donors aiming at drafting a single response strategy to be used as the basis for donor bilateral agreements. More importantly Joint Programming may help to reduce fragmentation of aid thus improving its efficiency. Joint Programming may lower transaction costs for partner countries as well, as they have only one country analysis and response strategy to deal with for all EU development partners, a clear and coherent division of labour across sectors between them, and the timing of this is aligned to the national plan and its results framework.

Joint Programming may also lead to joint implementation of projects by donors and partner countries. This is happening, for example in one pilot project in Ethiopia on nutrition. A Roadmap (word 447 KB) for that initiative recalls that “Joint Programming is as much about analysis and planning as it is about the actual monitoring of its implementation.. Joint Programming identifies opportunities to work together so then these should be capitalised on.”


Find out more about these joint projects in Ethiopia:

Pilot joint actions in Nutrition and Health

EU Group: Nutrition in Ethiopia: Pilot EU+ Joint Programming


One of those responsible for leading the Joint Programming effort in Ethiopia is Fasika Kelemework, Monitoring and Evaluation Coordinator for the EU Delegation in the country. He recently told capacity4dev.eu that the principles of Joint Programming initially required some explaining.

“We need to really demonstrate to partner governments, not only in this case to Ethiopia, but to all partner governments […] the added value of the Joint Programming exercise. How is it going to reduce transaction costs and how is it going to improve the aid effectiveness agenda?” Indeed, it already does.



As part of the communication and visibility actions related to the Joint Programming exercise in Ethiopia, the EU+, which constitutes the EU Delegation in Ethiopia as well as EU Member States and Norway, jointly with the government of Ethiopia, has released a bi-lingual calendar of 16 months. This combines Ethiopian and European calendars and depicts the EU+ cooperation with Ethiopia in 16 different areas. On each page, the calendar briefly describes the government's priority policy, Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), and the various development activities financed by the EU+ as well as major achievements.

Some of the major areas of cooperation among the EU+ and Ethiopia, which have been highlighted on the calendar include: agriculture; food and nutrition security; environment and climate change; education; health; private sector, trade and investment; infrastructure and good governance.

For example, foreign investment is a priority under the Ethiopian government’s GTP, which is complemented by the actions of the EU Business Forum in Ethiopia where European businesses network with local authorities. Denmark, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Austria and Great Britain are all working to strengthen domestic and foreign investment in the country. 

Last year, the government, together with the EU+ published a Joint Cooperation Strategy for Ethiopia. This document is intended as an interim step on the road to a full Joint Programming strategy. Its objectives include:

  • articulating a common vision of development challenges and mutual priorities for EU+ support in support of the objectives of the GTP;
  • progressively aligning EU+ partners’ country strategies with agreed mutual priorities, paving the way for an EU Joint Programming exercise;
  • enhancing the quality of policy dialogue;
  • making EU financing more effective through a focus on alignment, harmonisation, managing for results (common results framework), predictability and mutual accountability.
  • enhancing the leverage and visibility of EU support to Ethiopia.

Learn more about Joint Programming, including guidance and examples, on capacity4dev.eu here: Public Group: Joint Programming.

To learn more about the principles behind Joint programming in the post-Busan context: Public Group on Aid Effectiveness


This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Lino Molteni and Fasika Kelemework with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team. Images from ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2013/Ose via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

Register or log in to comment

More ations