European Union

The European Union (EU) is a major source of funding and technical assistance for data and statistics in developing countries. Strengthening partner country capacities to produce and disseminate statistics is part of the EU’s overall capacity building activities. It prioritises reliable statistics for macroeconomic management, project management and the evaluation of objectives. The EU supports statistical capacity building primarily in countries in Eastern and South East Europe, Europe’s Southern Neighbourhood, and sub-Saharan Africa.

With annual disbursements of USD 66 million (Figure 1) and an average of more than 50 distinct partner countries each year, the EU is among the most important sources of official development assistance (ODA) for data and statistics.. Strengthening partner country capacities to produce and disseminate statistics is part of the EU’s overall capacity building activities. It emphasises reliable statistics for macroeconomic management, project management and the evaluation of objectives. Support focuses on statistics for key economic and social indicators, which are often needed as performance indicators in budget support programmes, as well as on trade and fiscal statistics. Social statistics are particularly relevant for the EU in the context of its support to African countries.

Eurostat, a Directorate-General of the European Commission, is the main implementing agency for statistical capacity development on behalf of the EU. It engages in technical assistance in the context of the EU’s enlargement policy, the European Neighbourhood Policy (under the responsibility of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations) and the EU’s development and co-operation policy (under the responsibility of the Directorate-General for International Partnerships). Programme and project examples include:

  • In the context of the EU’s enlargement policy, Eurostat provides support in the frame of the Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance programmes to candidate countries and potential candidates – the Western Balkans and Turkey. Part of the support is managed by the EU delegations located in the countries concerned, with which Eurostat co-operates closely.

  • In the context of the European Neighbourhood Policy, Eurostat co-operates with countries of the EU’s eastern and southern neighbourhood to allow a gradual convergence towards harmonised and comparable economic and social data as well as to increase compliance with European and international standards. The regional Statistics Through Eastern Partnership (STEP) programme is one of the instruments to achieve this objective.

  • In the context of development policy, Eurostat is committed to sharing values and practices with third countries and partner institutions, in particular across Africa. To support them in building statistical capacity to produce good quality official statistics, Eurostat has an active programme of co-operation in Africa, the Pan African Statistics Programme.

  • Eurostat also has an active programme of co-operation with international organisations (e.g. the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund [IMF] and the World Bank) and closely follows global statistics and data support initiatives.

The EU’s official development assistance (ODA) for data and statistics often aims to foster participatory development and good governance. According to OECD data and research,1 the largest share of resources are dedicated to strengthening general statistical capacity building (39%) followed by economic statistics (15%). In line with its focus on neighbouring regions and actual and potential candidate countries, the EU disburses a large share of its overall support to countries in Eastern and South East Europe, Central Asia, and Africa (including North Africa). Partnerships with African countries, including countries in sub-Saharan Africa, have grown in recent years. Between 2017 and 2019, about 40% of the EU’s support for data and statistics was channelled through multilateral organisations.

In its support to data and statistics, the EU aims to ensure high-quality support and the sustainability of results. For this to happen, it views the following as key:

  • Political decision makers need to understand official statistics. Their role in and importance for guiding national policies is essential. This has to materialise in both vocal support and the allocation of adequate human and financial resources to producers of official statistics.

  • Beneficiaries’/partners’ ownership of technical assistance is key; hence, programming should be based on jointly identified and agreed needs.

  • Regional programmes to countries in similar situations have additional value in terms of intensive exchange of experience and peer learning.

  • Coherence of international co-operation activities is key to maintaining relevance and avoiding overlap and duplication of efforts.

As a result of COVID-19, Eurostat realised that many projects and project components could be conducted virtually. A reduction in physical activities – travel, accommodation, meetings, etc. – would both save financial resources and could help spread project activities among a larger group of beneficiaries. This would also be in line with European and global environmental protection efforts.

According to OECD data for the 2017-19 period, 73% of the EU’s ODA to data and statistics aimed to boost participatory development and good governance as a partial or principal objective, 25% aimed to support gender equality and 17% to help protect the environment (Figure 2). In particular, the EU supports general statistical capacity development (39%), economic statistics (15%) and agricultural statistics (8%).

The European Union supports data and statistics in the countries of Eastern and South East Europe, the Southern Neighbourhood, Africa, Latin America, and Central and Southern Asia. Key partner countries between 2017 and 2019 included Côte d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Serbia and Niger (Figure 3 and Figure 4). Regional programmes in Europe and Africa accounted for 9% and 4% of the EU’s total ODA for data and statistics, respectively.

Over 2017-19, 70% of the EU’s ODA to data and statistics can be allocated to specific countries, of which 40% were disbursed to low-income countries, 24% to lower middle-income countries and 36% to upper middle-income countries (Figure 5).

The regional composition of the EU’s ODA to data and statistics has changed significantly since 2010, with a larger share allocated to low- and lower middle-income countries, especially in Africa, and through regional and multilateral initiatives that are not allocable by country (see Figure 4, Figure 5 and below). The share allocated to African countries increased from 28% in 2010 to 48% in 2019. Similarly, the share of the EU’s country-allocable ODA allocated to fragile contexts increased from 41% in 2010 to 62% by 2018.

In 2017-19, 86% of the EU’s ODA to data and statistics in developing countries was provided in the form of project-type interventions, about 10% in the form of budget support and the remainder in the form of experts and other technical assistance (Figure 6). The share of project-type interventions has increased significantly since 2010 mostly at the expense of technical assistance. There has also been an increase in support to data and statistics via budget support modalities.

The EU frequently channels a large share of its ODA, around 46%, directly to public sector entities – mostly in recipient countries (Figure 7). For instance, in Rwanda, a key partner of the EU, support to projects led by the National Institute for Statistics have been funded via a recipient-executed multi-donor trust fund (as part of the second component of the EU’s Accountable Economic Governance Support programme). Established in 2007 and co-funded by the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the United Nations, the basket fund has been identified as effective in ensuring alignment with Rwanda’s priorities as identified by the National Institute for Statistics in its National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (Sarwar, Samman and Greenhill [2018], “Good practices for sustained financing of national statistics”).

Between 2017 and 2019, support channelled through multilateral organisations accounted for nearly 40% of the EU’s ODA to data and statistics (Figure 7). It entails co-operation with a wide range of multilateral organisations, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and United Nations agencies, on various data- and statistics-related projects, for instance,


← 1. The analysis in this profile is based on official data reported by members to the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System. It is published under the responsibility of the OECD. OECD analysts mined the database using a text search with manual curation. Where relevant, members contributed additional data to fill gaps. Please see the methodological annex for further details on the data analysis.

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