New law and new minister, what comes next in Italian development cooperation?

SUDAN-CHRISTIAN/CONVERTOn August the 28th the new Italian bill on Development Cooperation entered into force upon the publication in the national Official Journal, the new law is numbered 125/2014. While the debate and the reform process lasted over 20 years, the law should lead to concrete results in the next three/six months. So far the only visible sign is the change of the name of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Another major change has occurred from the date of publication of the law. Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini has been appointed to succeed Catherine Ashton as high representative and head of the EU External Action Service. It means that the Renzi’s government will soon appoint a new Foreign Minister that will be the first ever Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.


Political and media rumors say that the favorite for the seat in “Piazzale Farnesina” is the current vice minister Lapo Pistelli which has the merit of bringing the reform of development cooperation to its completion. But in recent weeks the names of some possible competitors begin to circulate. There could be a chain reaction due to the will of Matteo Renzi to change the Interior Minister Angelino Alfano. Such a dynamic could disadvantage Lapo Pistelli.

It is clear to everyone that the confirmation or the promotion of Pistelli would guarantee a faster route to the realization of a new system for Italian development cooperation.


But what is going to happen in the next six months?


“These reform is far from perfect” has outlined Marta Foresti, director of the politics and governance programme at the Overseas Development Institute, in a recent article published by the Guardian. Although most of the Italian civil society organizations has expressed appreciation for the new law, “some have already commented on the not so small problem of the finance ministry remaining fundamentally in control of the aid budget, while the foreign ministry leads on implementing development partnerships and setting priorities”.


“But the making of the new Italian development cooperation is just at the beginning as secondary legislation is needed to fix the working arrangements”, reminds Luca De Fraia, deputy secretary general at ActionAid, in a previous post published on this blog. “In fact, within 180 days of publication, the statute of the new Agency will have to be agreed, which in turn will pave the way for the appointment of the first Director; within 90 days, the national conference will have to come to life; the framework to operationalise the Italian financial institution still needs to be discussed. CSOs have put on the table their concerns, which include the right balance between the political leadership (the Minister/Deputy Minster + the diplomats) and the operational arm (the Agency)”.


Here are the most important steps in the next 12 months:


The National Council for Development Cooperation
The first practical effect of the new law is the establishment of the National Council for development cooperation that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation should finalize within ninety days from the date of entry into force (late November). The National Council for Development Cooperation is composed of the main public and private, profit and non-profit actors of international development cooperation, including representatives of the involved Ministries, regions and autonomous provinces, local authorities, the Agency, main civil society networks, humanitarian aid organizations, universities and voluntary sectors.


Setting up the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation
Before the end of February 2015, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation should adopt the statutes containing the operational rules of the Agency. By the same date should also agree with the Minister of Economy and Finance the staffing of the Agency, not exceeding two hundred units. The President Renzi should also appoint, on the proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and following a public recruitment procedure, the Director of the Agency for a four years term.


Management and reporting of the ongoing projects
The DGCS (Development Cooperation Department within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) continues to operate until the first day of the sixth month following the date of entry into force of Regulation (up to 1 August 2015). As from that date the responsibility for the implementation and financing of the operations approved and initiated are transferred to the Agency, which, in accordance with the new law, will exercise the rights and obligations associated with the interventions. The reporting of projects completed by August 1 will be followed by the DGCS applying the regulations in force at the time of the expenditure. (Elias Gerovasi)


Read the Law 125/2014 on Development Cooperation (English version)


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