The Liberia-EU relation and development cooperation. Another Western washed template?

Term Paper, 2020

29 Pages, Grade: 2,3



Table of Contents


Legal Aspects of EU Development Cooperation

Case Study
Outlining EU and Liberia relation
A postcolonial neocolonized world order?
New approaches: Is resilience the key in transcending powers?


Strategy and Recommendations



Since the EU has an expressed competence to conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements with Third Countries (TC), the EU developed a strong legal position and assigned responsibility in development cooperation (DevCo) and humanitarian aid. Hence, the EU concludes DevCo agreements with countries of the Global South like Liberia to promote sustainable development and eradicate hunger and poverty following the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. However, the EU’s DevCo is called into question because frequently the EU sacrifices important principles such as partnership or human rights to the domestic policy-driven goal of preventing migration movements towards Europe. Thus, the practices of development aid reproducing power imbalances like the loss of cultural identity and social capital are maintained through the new approach of DevCo which promotes equal partnerships but reinforces postcolonial structures. The aim of this paper is to analyze DevCo agreements between Liberia and the EU to examine the extent to which the EU development ‘aid’ policy maintains global power imbalances in Liberia. Therefore, this paper presents an advisory report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) for the European Commission to persuade the Commission to question its approaches in DevCo. In a first step, the theoretical framework including the legal aspects on which the EU’s development cooperation is based and the concepts of postcolonialism and resilience will be presented. On the basis of this conceptual structure the Liberia-EU relation will be investigated through focusing on the Cotonou agreement and the National Indicative Programme (NIP) between Liberia and the EU to analyze power imbalances.

While HRW cannot ignore the previous colonial relationship between Western nations and many TC with which the EU shares “development based” agreements, analyzing DevCo agreements between Liberia and the EU, the colonial past of Liberia and postcolonial structures which arose from it to maintain power imbalances between the Global North and Global South have to be considered. Since postcolonial structures reinforcing colonial structures in former colonized countries are omnipresent and therefore being implemented in DevCo agreements between Liberia and the EU to maintain the hegemony of the Global North to oppress the Global South, postcolonialism is a central concept in order to analyze the Liberia-EU relation. Moreover, the new leitmotiv of the EU’s Global Strategy in 2016--resilience, is important in analyzing Liberia-EU relation, too because according to the EU’s new bottom-up security approach, a state/society is defined as resilient if they are capable and able to recover from an internal or external crisis. By presenting a new bottom-up approach which decentralizes responsibility from a global to a local level and establishes neoliberal structures which do not enhance sustainable development but consolidate social, economic, ecological and political injustice, resilience has to be examined critically.

While promoting resilience seems to be an empowering concept of local communities and individuals which are invisible through postcolonial structures, DevCo agreements maintain power imbalances, symbolized through institutional mismatches and asymmetrical bargaining power, and enhance oppressing neoliberal structures.

Based on the insights gained, recommendations for action have been drawn up for the EU Commission regarding specifically the Directorate-General (DG) for International Development and Cooperation to create a bottom-up and sustainable approach moving away from development aid towards development cooperation and the 'values which are connected to it.

1. Introduction

The EU has a strong legal position in development1 policy. With Article 4 (4) TFEU the EU can conclude bilateral agreements with TC, giving it an express competence for development and humanitarian aid. The European Development Fund (EDF) is the European Union's main development cooperation instrument with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the overseas countries and territories and from a geographic perspective, the main budget supports areas and countries in the Global South. This report aims to answer the overall research question on “To what extent does the EU development ‘aid’ policy maintain global power imbalances2 in Liberia?”. The advisory report is prepared by HRW for the European Commission. More specifically, it is addressed to the DG for International Development and Cooperation. Its specific aim is to persuade the Commission to question its approaches. For this purpose, alternative proposals will be made, which will bejustified in advance.

In March 2015, the NIP between the EU and the Republic of Liberia was signed, in which the European Commission and the Republic of Liberia determined the general orientations for cooperation for the period between 2014-2020.

Libera is one of the most fragile states in Western Africa and has been exporting violence and conflicts for years (NIP, 2015, p. 9). After two devastating civil wars (1989-1996 and 1999-2003) and the fighting of the Ebola crisis in 2016, Liberia’s stability is still very frail. In accordance with Article 3. 2 (a) of the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement’s Annex IV, the European Union provides € 279 million in financial resources for the period between 2014-2020 to the Republic of Liberia. Hereby, the EU identifies four sectors on which it intends to focus. These include Good Governance, Energy, Education and Agriculture. Notably, promoting human rights is one of the core objectives of EU external relations and builds, alongside promoting democracy and other EU values, the framework in which the EU acts internally and externally.

However, critics, such as Eva-Maria Schreiber, member of the German Bundestag, argue that the current EU development policy towards Africa fails to promote sustainable development in these countries. Instead, the EU sacrifices important principles such as partnership or human rights to the domestic policy-driven goal of preventing flight and migration movements towards Europe. She argues that development funds are being misused to build outposts of ‘Fortress Europe’ on the African continent (Schreiber, 2020).

In this regard, the term postcolonialism is highly controversial but salient. The concept of postcolonialism criticizes the world’s asymmetrical power distribution through which the Global North oppresses the Global South by establishing colonial practices in former colonized countries to reinforce and maintain dependence and the Global North’s power domination. Popular postcolonial theorists such as Chandra Talpade Mohanty still insist that attributes such as the Third World and developmentalare widespread and maintain power structures. The use of such terms makes it impossible to give up the victim status that the West attributes to and imposes on the so-called developing countries. This leads to powerlessness on the one side and a powerful, desirable actor on the other side (Mohanty, 2003). While the concept behind it deals with inequalities between the Global North and the Global South, there are still critics who are disturbed by the term postcolonialism.

In order to critically examine EU development aid, the global power imbalance is called into question by the example of Liberia, by discussing which instruments legitimize the EU to promote its values in agreements with third parties. In accordance with its mission to defend human rights worldwide, HRW has decided to carry out a detailed examination of Liberia-EU relations. HRW is a world-leading, independent non-governmental organization committed to the protection and defense of human rights. Although we are originally an organization from the Global North, the experts at HRW include country specialistsjoumalists, lawyers and academics from different backgrounds and nationalities (HRW, 2020). We want to use our purview and years of experience to create legal and moral foundations for lasting change, as well as to demand justice and security for all people worldwide. In this regard, the concept of DevCo is considered as an alternative. José Antonio Alonso and Jonathan Glennie define DevCo as an activity that meets four criteria: it aims explicitly to support national or international development priorities, is not driven by profit, discriminates in favor of developing countries and is based on cooperative relationships that seek to enhance developing country ownership (Alonso & Glennie, 2015). Consequently, this paper views DevCo as a thinkable solution if certain criteria are met, such as basing approaches on scholars and knowledge of representatives from the targeted regions (Wa Muiu, 2002). Furthermore, DevCo needs to be reconstructed by constantly testing the approaches on who defines them and whether they are effective respecting the individual structures of each state.

Since the EU is an international entity, certain legal guidelines on DevCo have to be followed. Hence, this report carries out a detailed examination of the legal aspects. Furthermore, a critical confrontation with historical and current power relations is analyzed, through which post-colonized aspects will be emphasized. Lastly, these critical examinations of the EU DevCo will be situated within the context of “European Resilience”. The EU Global Strategy from 2016 uses resilience as its leitmotif which focuses on building local resources by enabling states to recover from external shocks (Wagner & Anholt, 2016). In other words, EU internal security is linking vis-a-vis this concept to sustainable development in third countries. Because it is one of the central concepts of the Strategy, resilience must be analyzed carefully. To critically monitor these obligations and keeping in mind that the wealth of the West is dependent on the grievances of the Third World, this report also explores how power imbalances are maintained by EU development aid through its value promotion, production of new dependencies and the perpetuation of old dependencies.

2. Theory

In order to analyze the EU’s DevCo policies with Liberia, the EU’s external relations law has to be examined to investigate what competences the EU has to promote DevCo with TC. Furthermore this paper analyzes which laws authorize the EU to act externally and sign agreements in order to ensure economic growth and human rights by implementing development aid agreements. Additionally, the theoretical framework of this research paper presents the concept of postcolonialism which critically analyzes the DevCo between countries and supranational institutions of the Global North, like the EU, and the Global South, for instance Liberia. The concept of resilience, which is promoted as the new leitmotif of the EU’s external actions by the EU’s Global Strategy (2016), is a fundamental security strategy of the EU which is central in examining DevCo. The introduced concepts will be applied to the Liberia-EU case study and help to illustrate and expose power imbalances. Though both concepts depart from different disciplines, both can be used to question and critically analyze the EU’s DevCo with Liberia as an example for EU DevCo with African states.

2.1. LegalAspects ofEUDevelopment Cooperation

Since the EU is an international entity, certain legal guidelines on DevCo have to be followed. All actions of the EU must match the common values, principles and objectives written in Articles 3 and 21 TEU. Moreover, the EU shall not act without the consent of the member states, laid down in Article 5(2) TEU forming the principle of conferral. Nevertheless, the principle of loyalty demandes the member states to align their actions with the treaties (see Article 4(2) TEU). The set of guidelines is provided by the treaties and imposes substantive requirements on EU external relations, even on DevCo.

EU DevCo has its origins in trade, which underlines the economic background of the policy field (Broberg, 2020). Through several changes over the years, DevCo became an EU express competence in 1992 and widened its scope from trade to aid (Broberg, 2020). Article 217 TEU is the legal basis of EU DevCo since it provides the EU with the competence to conclude agreements with one or more TC. During the convergence between both parties, the EU shall act according to the principles of the United Nations Charter, found in Article 21 TEU. Furthermore, Article 208 TFEU states that the EU’s competences shall stay within the framework of principles and objectives of the Union’s external action. Article 208 TFEU also involves the obligation of complementarity, also laid down in Article 4(4) TFEU, which furthermore states that the competence is non-preemptive. Complementarity is supplemented by coherence and coordination (Art. 210 TFEU). These three principles provide the framework both in the EU and in its member states, which can take action within the frame of EU DevCo. To ensure coordination, the Commission plays a key role in monitoring negotiations between member states or the EU and third parties (Broberg, 2020). It is expressed that the long term goal of DevCo shall be the eradication of poverty (Broberg, 2020).

The EU can conclude bilateral or multilateral agreements, with or without member states, with TC. Usually, the agreements are non-binding and can be seen as a guidance enabling further political talks and cooperation. Additionally, the EDF, funded by the member states, is a powerful instrument in EU DevCo. The EDF supports development projects through providing grants, loans, and budget support.

Recent developments between Liberia and the EU are found in the Cotonou agreement and the NIP. The Cotonou agreement was originally signed in 2000 with a revision in 2005 and 2010. Ultimately, the Cotonou agreement aims, aligned with the EU goals, to eradicate poverty. An additional aim, made through both revisions, is the promotion of criminal justice supported by the international criminal court. Overall, the agreement is based on four pillars, named mutual obligation, equality of partners, participation, and differentiation and regionalization. All efforts stated in the document are non-binding.

Unlike the Cotonou agreement, the NIP provides direct assistance to solve post-conflict situations. Projects target government, energy, education and agricultural sectors. Both agreements are discussed in detail later on. From the EUs perspective, there is a desire to increase the local resilience towards crisis since a stable society also decreases the overall threat to European values.

Included in both agreements, the human conditionality clause is used as an instrument to protect human rights. If one party in the agreement violates democratic principles or human rights, the agreement is suspended. Assuming that Liberia wants an accession to the EU, the country is highly motivated to protect and promote human rights within their borders.

2.2. Postcolonialism

HRW cannot ignore the previous colonial relationship between Western nations and many TC with which the EU shares “development based” agreements. In order to analyze DevCo between Liberia and the EU, the colonial past of Liberia and postcolonial structures which arose from it to maintain power imbalances between the Global North and Global South have to be considered. Though Liberia was colonized by the USA in 1821, the EU aligns with Western values like the rule of law or human rights which are represented and established by the USA and US-dominated world organization and institutions leading to a Western dominated rule based world order.

Postcolonialism emerged as a term used by historians after WWII to describe a chronological development of regions and states which were colonized and became independent before, during and after the Second World War. Postcolonial states arose in a post-independence period in various regions of the Global South which “appeared to be the decoloni[z]ation’s triumph over Western hegemony” (University of Porto, 2015, p. 2) but developed into the reinforcement of colonial structures by maintaining power imbalances expressed through the power domination of the Global North over the Global South. The study of postcolonialism began with Edward Said’s paper “Orientalism” (1978) which established the colonialist discourse theory by analyzing the power to influence the representation of a country and developed towards the use of the term postcolonial to refer to “political, linguistic and cultural experience of societies that were former European colonies” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2007, p. 168). While postcolonialism developed into an accepted theory among scholars, some scholars insisted that it has to be separated from the colonial discourse theory to advance postcolonialism as a distinct field of study. Nowadays, postcolonialism is a broad concept which is used across various disciplines like history, sociology or political science to analyze “the impact of European imperialism upon world societies” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2007, p. 169).

Though the study and concept of postcolonialism, which explains how power is distributed in the world and how development in the Global South is shaped by the Global North, has been accepted among scholars, criticism about the term post in postcolonialism is increasing. While the prefix post implies examining after colonial structures and societies, postcolonial studies do not only cover the post-independence period, they also critically investigate pre-colonialist, colonialist and post-colonialist structures and states as well as the emerging of neo-colonialism symbolizing a new form of colonialism which is defined by Kwame Nkrumah (1965) as the last stage of Western imperialism of countries of the Global North to exercise power in an independent but most of the time post-colonial state through economic and monetary means and influence economic development and political policies from outside (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 2007; Nkrumah, 1965). Therefore, the meaning of postcolonialism is broad and its limitations blurred. However, assessing that colonialism can be traced back to the Incas and continues towards the Indonesian Occupation of East Timor in 1974 until 1999, colonialism as well as postcolonialism are transhistorical which means they are “always present and always in process of dissolution in one part of the world or another” (Ahmad, 1995, p. 9). Hence, postcolonial structures reinforcing colonial structures in former colonized countries are omnipresent and therefore being implemented in DevCo agreements between the EU and TC like Liberia as well to maintain the hegemony of the Global North.


1 Development is generally seen ‘as a process in which individuals, through the design and use of many scales, increase their well-being by solving more collective-action problems more effectively’ (Shivakumar, 2005, quoted from Gibson et. al, 2005, p,10). Development cooperation, in the EU context, culminates in the eradication of poverty (Broberg, 2020).

2 Power imbalances can be described as asymmetric power relations between persons, institutions and/or states. There is an imbalance of power when one part of an alliance has more control or influence over the behaviour and actions of the other than vice versa (Girvan, 2007).

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The Liberia-EU relation and development cooperation. Another Western washed template?
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