The European Union’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) has a budget of €1.3 billion for 2014-2020, allocated to civil society organizations – primarily non-governmental organizations (NGOs) – for projects that further the “EU commitment to support and promote democracy and human rights in third countries.”

In June 2017, EIDHR published a mid-term external evaluation that seeks to analyze activity in the period of 2014-mid 2017 for effectiveness and to identify “lessons to improve current and inform future choices and to provide an overall independent assessment of the instrument” (emphasis added). The evaluators concluded that EIDHR is “effective” and “becoming increasingly efficient,” and that “EIDHR is largely fit for purpose and no legislative modification of the instrument or any delegated act to modify the annex is required until the end of the period.”

However, the evaluation suffers from a number of methodological problems that undermine these positive conclusions.

The evaluation acknowledges that “it is too soon to measure impact and sustainability” and that “The evaluation question on ‘effectiveness’ included ‘impact and sustainability’ in its title even though the evaluation is at the level of outcomes rather than impacts” (emphasis added). It thus appears that the mere level of activities conducted – regardless of their contribution to promoting EIDHR’s goals of democracy and human rights – is taken as an indicator of success: “Although it is difficult to measure effectiveness at this stage, the fact that activities and expenditure is increasing is an indicator that the EIDHR is on the right track when it comes to meeting its specific objectives” (emphasis added).

The evaluation additionally states that “confidential support amounts to around 9.13% of the overall EIDHR amount contracted over the period 2014-2016. Although the evaluators were provided with broad data related to this support, specific details are understandably kept confidential.” The evaluation provides no information as to how confidential beneficiaries are selected, by whom, according to what criteria, and whether checks and balances are in place.

Further compromising the evaluation’s credibility, over half of the “external stakeholders” consulted are funded by the EU, negating the review’s stated goal of providing an “independent assessment of the instrument.” Indeed, according to an annex that provides a comprehensive list of “Stakeholders Consulted,” seven of the twelve organizations listed as “external stakeholders/partners” receive EU funding – of these at least three have received EIDHR funding in the past year (see Table I below). One of these stakeholders, ProtectDefenders.EU, is in fact a project entirely funded by EIDHR.1

The evaluation also consults stakeholders from the European Parliament – the only EU institution with direct democratic representation. However, rather than consulting individuals from across the political spectrum, three out of four stakeholders are affiliated with the same political group – Greens/EFA (MEP Barbara Lochbihler; her assistant, Anne-Sophie Maier; and Raphael Fisera, a human rights and foreign affairs advisor to the Greens/EFA group).2

Similarly, the stakeholders listed under “Israel/Palestine” include the NGOs Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center [Association] in Palestine (DWRC), HaMoked, Breaking the Silence, Ir Amim, Adalah, and Hotline for Refugees and Migrants – all of which received EIDHR funding as of 2016 (if not more recently). Groups that do not receive EIDHR funding, including civil society representatives that might be critical of EU funding and/or foreign policy, were apparently not consulted. With the exception of the Israeli Ministry of Justice and USAID, all other stakeholders consulted in the region are from EU and/or Member States’ delegations and embassies.

In stressing “output” rather than actual impact and primarily consulting with a narrow segment of stakeholders, most of which have an obvious vested interest, EIDHR’s congratulatory mid-term evaluation fails to fulfill its mandate of independently assessing the instrument’s effectiveness.

Table I: EU-Funded Organizations listed as “External Stakeholders/Partners”

StakeholderEU Funding
Oxfam Novib2016: Estimated €8.8 million in EU funding according to the EU’s Financial Transparency System (FTS).
2014-2016: €411,861 EIDHR grant.
European University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation“EIUC has close relations with the European Union. It is financed by the European Union through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR).”
ProtectDefenders.EUThe “European Union Human Rights Defenders mechanism,” led by a consortium of twelve NGOs and entirely funded by EIDHR.
European Partnership for Democracy87% of funding in 2016 provided by the EU.
European Network of Political FoundationsCo-funded by the European Commission.
European Netwrok of National Human Rights InstitutionsCo-funded by the EU.
Cartooning for PeaceEU listed as main donor.