> Home > About the 3Cs initiative

Left menu

  • Welcome
  • Folder
  • Folder

    Ongoing Studies

    In this section, you will find information concerning the six ongoing evaluation studies. In time, their full reports will be available for download from here.

  • Folder

    3Cs Defined

    During a workshop that was held in Brussels in 2003, the European Union's Heads of Evaluation Taskforce agreed upon definitions for each C. In this section, these definitions are shown.

    The Community's competence in the field of development co-operation was only established in law by adoption of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The Treaty created a constitutional basis for development co-operation policies, and formalises the existence of a European development policy functioning in liaison with those of Member States, while recognising their interdependence. It revolves in essence around aspects of the so-called "3Cs", while distinct concepts are also inter-related. However, the Treaty is not always clear or free from ambiguities.

  • Folder
  • Folder

    Organisations involved

    In this section of the website you may find information on the different organisations which are involved in the 3C evaluation initiative.  

  • Folder

    Community of Practice

    In this section of Three-Cs.net, you may get more information on the current community of practice around coordination, complementarity and coherence. You may also view more information on the consultants who are involved in the six studies.

    If you have been working on the 3C's and would like to be included in this list, please contact us. In line with the purpose of the website, any reports/publications that have resulted out of your work have to be publicly available.

  • Folder

    News and Events

    In this section you will find recent 3C related news and events - these items complement the ones which are included in the 3C Newsletter


About the 3Cs initiative About the 3Cs initiative

The Heads of Evaluation for External Cooperation of the EU Member States and the European Commission have initiated a series of evaluation studies with a view:

• To explore and assess the role played by the Maastricht Treaty precepts, coordination, complementarity and coherence (3Cs), in the European Union's development co-operation policies and operations; and
• To determine how far these have been applied in practice and with what impact.

The series of evaluations is not a goal in itself; it is expected to produce evidence, lessons and recommendations to strengthen the quality and effectiveness of European development assistance.


The European Union has a long history in development cooperation. In the Maastricht Treaty the Union's principles for development cooperation were summed up in the so-called ' 3Cs ': complementarity, coherence and coordination.

The 3Cs relate to critical factors in the effectiveness of development cooperation of the EU Member States and the European Commission, and are similar to the principles of harmonisation and alignment which feature centrally in undertakings and initiatives such as the Paris Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals. The 3Cs adhere to the manner in which the increasing amount of Official Development Assistance should be programmed and managed, stressing the need for donor countries to coordinate and optimise complementarity between their efforts; for development cooperation to fully correspond to development plans formulated and owned by developing countries; and for ensuring that public policies of donor countries are consistent with and also contribute to achieving the goals of development policies. The relevance of the 3Cs for development becomes even clearer if one considers some examples of the problems that these principles are supposed to counteract:
- Domestic policies of the European Union and its Member States should not compromise or work against the successful implementation of development policies; This includes both intended and unintended consequences of policies.
- The Member States and the Union share important competences in the field of development cooperation, which may be exercised alongside each other. But does this mean that in some cases donors should leave certain activities to other donors who are better in doing it?
- Each year, Tanzanian government officials have to prepare about 2,000 reports and receive over 1,000 donor delegations. Opportunities for coordination are more than clear.
- How can coordination between donors be stimulated when there are clear incentives for donors to promote their individual efforts and projects in order to show the tax payers of their respective countries that their money is being used effectively?

The evaluations

The Heads of Evaluation Services for External Cooperation of the Member States and the European Commission (EU-HES) have selected the following six areas for evaluation of the degree of European coordination. Together they well represent central areas in development cooperation, and crucial areas for coordination between European actors.

For each evaluation there is a lead agency together with various active partner agencies. This set-up of the evaluations allows for a decentralised management and emphasises joint learning instead of formal decision-making procedures.

More information on the six evaluation studies can be found in a special section on this website: Ongoing Studies

The 3C Task Force:

To coordinate the implementation of the above six studies, the Group of EU Heads of Evaluation Services established a Task Force for the 3C Initiative in which the European Commission (AidCO and ECHO), the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Czech Republic and Poland actively participate. The chair (Sweden) of the Task Force is supported by a small Secretariat (EC, Belgium, Netherlands).

The Task Force aims to promote wide dissemination of 3C evaluation results amongst policy makers, agency staff, practitioners and experts from countries within and beyond the European Union. In order to reach these different audiences, a learning- and dissemination strategy has been designed by the ECDPM, gravitating around a specially designed website dedicated to the final products of the six evaluations