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Italian Development Cooperation Reform

 

On 29 August 2014, the new Law “General Rules Governing International Development Cooperation” (Italian Law 11 August 2014, no. 125), definitively approved by the Italian Senate on 1 August 2014, came into force. On the one hand, the new law aims to systematically update the overview of the system, 27 years after approval of Italian Law 49/1987 on Cooperation for Development, by reorganizing the actors, instruments, modes of action and standard principles which, in the meantime, have evolved in the international community; on the other hand, it aims to bring the Italian Development Cooperation system in line with the prevailing models in EU partner countries. The new law defines a new "governance architecture" for the development cooperation system, whose coherence and policy coordination will be overseen by the Inter-ministerial Committee on Development Cooperation (CICS), a task force made up of the ministries responsible for development cooperation activities.

The new law lays out cooperation goals for poverty eradication, reduction of inequalities, affirmation of human rights and dignity of individuals - including gender equality and equal opportunities -, for conflict prevention and in support of peace processes. The law provides for the adoption of a three-year programming and policy document for development cooperation to be approved by the Council of Ministers upon receiving the opinions of the competent parliamentary Committees, by 31 March each year. The Parliament's powers of control and guidance, executed through the opinions expressed by the competent Committees, also extend to the regulation framework for the statute of the Italian Agency for International Cooperation in the process of being established and for the re organization of the Ministry's structure.

On the domestic front, development cooperation policies contribute to outlining shared migration policies, including through the immigrant communities present in the country; on the foreign front, ownership of development processes by beneficiary countries is specified in the new law as one of the premises for effective aid, which cannot be employed for military goals, not even indirectly. Regarding multilateral aid, the law affirms the principle of harmonization of national cooperation policies with those of the European Union, whereas, regarding territorial partnerships, it recognizes the possibility for Regions and other local authorities to launch development cooperation initiatives with other local bodies with equivalent territorial representative power. Humanitarian emergency actions approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation are also part of public assistance to development.

Development Cooperation is defined as an "integral part of foreign policy", meaning that it will be the responsibility of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the person of the delegated Vice Minister, to ensure harmonious and coherent running. Resources, which are currently distributed to different ministries, will be easily traceable through a dedicated Annex to the budget. Italian Law 125/2014 also defines a new management structure, providing for the establishment of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation. The Agency, a model currently in use in all main European countries, answers the need strongly felt by cooperation actors which has been put forth in parliamentary reform proposals. It will lay greater value on already existing professional roles and attract new ones; thanks to increased flexibility, it will also allow use of the most innovative cooperation strategies, which are incompatible with the present legal set-up.

For very costly interventions (over 2 million euros), the Agency will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a specific Joint Committee. Finally, the reform envisages the participation of the Italian Parliament, which exercises powers of guidance and control on the three-year programming document, and of the National Conference, a discussion and consultation body, which will provide a stable forum of exchange between public and private actors.