New Generation of EC Framework Contracts Offers Agile Programming for European Development Aid

We are proud to announce that DAI has once again been named one of the main implementing partners for the European Commission (EC) 2018–2022 Frameworks contracts for international development assistance.

The Frameworks represent an agile development programming tool that enables the EC to quickly source and execute short-term research and pilot projects around the world. Unlike typical multiyear, donor-funded projects that work in a particular country or region—and can take more than a year to plan, bid, and launch—EC Frameworks contracts are capable of being designed, awarded, and deployed in a matter of weeks and can dispatch project teams to any country receiving development aid from the Commission.

DAI has a long history of supporting this unique contracting mechanism, dating back more than 20 years. Indeed, the challenging assignments and diverse technical work entailed under the Frameworks have accelerated our own learning and enriched our capabilities as a global development company. As we look forward to the next round of Framework assignments, we reflect back on our experiences and learning from this important facet of the EC’s external aid program.

A New and Flexible Development Tool

The EC Framework contracts have their origins in the early 1990s, when the Commission began helping Central and Eastern European countries prepare for accession to full membership in the European Union (EU). This pre-accession period demanded what was pioneering development work at the time: never before had so much support been needed for countries transitioning from highly centralized governments and economic regimes to open democracies and free market systems.

The central administrations of 10 countries seeking EU accession had to be overhauled and modernised, with some ministries disbanded and others created. In many cases, Soviet-style state-owned companies needed support to adopt new ways of thinking as they were privatised and shifted overnight from five-year, state-run production plans to dynamic, demand-driven markets. There was also a massive effort to re-draft laws and regulations in pre-accession countries to harmonize with EU regulations across a range of sectors and concerns, from agriculture and the environment to energy efficiency and consumer protection.

As the volume of this specialized work ballooned, the EC was almost overwhelmed by the administrative burden—at one point attempting to manage 10,000 contracts with individual consultants. Recognizing this approach as unsustainable, the Commission developed over-arching agreements called Framework contracts. Under the early agreements, each lot or sector was awarded to just one company, which was eventually expanded to three or four pre-approved Framework contractors bidding on assignments in a mini-tender. This allowed the EC to source experts for assignments in a matter of weeks rather than months and to more efficiently contract assignments by pre-qualifying bidding organizations.

DAI’s experience with Framework contracts began when predecessor company PE was selected for early assignments that included developing an energy strategy in Lithuania and analyzing the impact of coal privatization in Poland—projects indicative of the early Frameworks’ focus on public administration reform, privatization, and restructuring in neighboring countries applying to join the EU. However, the EC’s use of Framework contracts would soon expand to new frontiers.


Global Expansion and Diversification

In 2004, 10 countries—Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia—completed the formal EU accession process and in doing so became ineligible for external development aid. As a result, the Commission shifted the focus of its external aid from Europe to other parts of the world, with Framework assignments now emphasizing technical areas such as agricultural development and economic growth rather than post-Soviet restructuring. Over the years, DAI’s Frameworks Unit has adapted to meet these changing needs.

For example, the Frameworks allowed DAI to build new expertise in areas such as education and social development. Over the past 15 years, DAI has led assignments including curriculum development, financial planning for school systems, and evaluations of national education systems. The host countries for these assignments have ranged from the Middle East (Jordan and Iraq) to Africa (Ghana, Morocco, Sierra Leone, and Zimbabwe) and even Greenland. The diversity of the Frameworks projects also enabled DAI to develop a growing pool of trusted technical experts with a wide assortment of specializations, from veterinary doctors and meteorologists to criminal justice and cyber security professionals.

Since 2005, we have implemented more than 800 Framework assignments for the EC, valued at around €100 million, engaging 2,000 technical experts. Framework assignments continue to span the gamut of technical disciplines, from food security, economic growth, and governance to recent engagements related to human rights, migration, and climate change. Thanks in part to this breadth of expertise—complemented by our extensive work for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the U.K. Department for International Development, the World Bank, and other donors—DAI was awarded a presence on all six lots of the new EC Framework contracts.

Amplifying Learning

Our EC Frameworks portfolio has positioned DAI to serve both country-level EU Delegations and, at a  global level, the EC’s Directorate-General for International Development Cooperation. In turn, other European bilateral donors have entrusted us with important work: a multiyear monitoring and evaluation project for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark on its Business Sector Programme Support in Tanzania, for example; a smaller project for its Global Green Growth Forum; a study on public pension reform in South Sudan funded by a consortium of donors including Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Spain, and the United Kingdom. A Framework assignment we conducted to compare the EC’s external aid operations with those of four other bilateral donors led us to work with Germany’s development Bank, KfW, to carry out a similar comparative analysis of its and other donors’ best practices.

As a global development company, DAI is committed to capturing synergies and sharing knowledge across our projects. We are excited to leverage our cross-donor experience to better support the EC’s global development work, and we look forward to incorporating the lessons learned and best practices gained through our Framework assignments to benefit all of the organizations—and all of the communities—for which we work.