EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa: what should it focus on?

February 26, 2018

Signed in 2015 by 25 EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland, the EUTF for Africa (‘European Union Emergency Trust Fund for stability and addressing root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa’) is proposed to help address the root causes of destabilisation and irregular migration. In particular, it aims at promoting stability and economic opportunities and strengthening resilience in the most fragile and affected African countries (countries in North Africa, in the Sahel Region and in the Horn of Africa).


The awkward and perhaps vague name could be better understood if correlated with some data about the EUTF for Africa’s project.


3.1 million is the approximate number of refugees escaped from the countries covered by the Trust Fund by the end of 2014, representing 23% of the global total;


3.4 million is the refugees hosted by the same countries by the end of 2014, accounting 25% of the global refugee population;


2 billion euros is the total amount of the funds devoted to migration issues along the so-called ‘Central Mediterranean route’, 73% of those coming from the European Development Fund, 20% from the EU budget and 7% from member state contributions and other donors;


1.26 billion euros (63% of total share) are funds employed in the promotion of cooperation and development, while 


44 million euros (22% of total share) are money spent in migration management.


In the light of the figures above, the target of the European Commission’s (DG for International Cooperation and Development) becomes immediately clear. European funds, indeed, are intended to tackle irregular migration arisen from the increasing challenges of extreme poverty, political and economic crisis. Helping in ending irregular migration, the EU project should also contribute to the fight against smuggling of migrants and trafficking in human beings.




How it works


As a Trust Fund, the EUTF for Africa gathers together resources from European supporters in order to enable a quick and collective response to migrants’ emergency. For the EU contributions, the European Commission ensures that the specific requirements of the relevant legal bases are respected.

Going to technical issues, EUTF for Africa’s strategy can be summarised in the following four points:

  1. Establishing inclusive economic programs to develop greater employment opportunities

  2. Supporting communities’ resilience in terms of food security and of the wider economy

  3. Improving migration management in countries of origin, transit and destination

  4. Promoting good governance and conflict prevention.

The global strategy setting pertains to the Strategic Board. On the other hand, the Operational Committee, the second governing body, is responsible for the adoption and implementation of actions on the ground. Nevertheless, the latter process is fulfilled in cooperation with selected regional managers.

Among the guiding criteria for the implementation of the EUTF’s objectives, the European Commission provides for evidence-based geographic approaches. In addition, it facilitates dialogue through the establishment of local ownership and integrated coordinated approaches to tackle the causes of instability.


Evidence from the previous years: successes and failures


Two years after the formal constitution of the EUTF for Africa, complex questions about the effectiveness of the program were raised. In particular, the most wonder whether the fund allocates resources efficiently among policy areas, and whether the focus should be revisited or not.

According to an analysis conducted by Oxfam in November 2017, the instrument’s flexibility has generated both opportunities and risks.

On one hand, the study documented that effective responses to crises could benefit from long-term development and financial assistance. In this regard, we should recall that by the end of 2017, 146 programmes have been approved across the three regions for a total amount of approximately 2.4 billion euros. Moreover, according to the Oxfam’s analysis, the mentioned resources were reasonably allocated from a geographical point of view. Indeed, development cooperation projects (with 63% share of the funding) were mainly implemented in those countries of migration origin. Conversely, migration management and support for security forces were the main aid to countries of transit.

Under request of the EC, evidence of effectiveness in improving migration management is reinforced by the Research and Evidence Facility (REF)’s official reports. For instance, the 2017 report investigating migration between the Horn of Africa and Yemen recorded a slowdown of migration flows between 2016 and 2017. Still, the same report highlights a new migrants’ tendency to undertake alternative routes to reach Europe. Indeed, a growing minority of mainly Somali migrants are choosing to migrate to Europe via Yemen rather than taking the so-called ‘western route’ (through Ethiopia, Sudan, Libya and/or Egypt).

Nevertheless, insufficient checks and balances within the EUTF for Africa’s implementation raised concerns among different NGOs. Actually, EU has often been blamed of pursuing its own interests at the expense of migrants’ assistance and aid objectives. One of the most frequent critiques made to the EUTF projects is indeed not to be an exclusively humanitarian project, but to respond - without adequate transparency - to a European political sense of urgency to stop irregular immigration. However, we should remind that EUTF is intended to improve migration management in all its aspects: it targets not only effective return but also readmission, enhancing synergies between migration and development.

What should be assured, in order to support effective responses to crises, then, is a flexible but constant multi-year funding, easy to adapt and relocate. Given these features, the effectiveness of the Fund relies upon the precision of the measurements of successes. This could be easily done in the case of economic targets, while accurate tools should be developed when dealing with migration, human security and development.







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