TEPSA Brief: “Development impact in a geopolitical landscape: challenges and opportunities of Global Gateway”, Ugo Armanini, Mario Esteban, Iliana Olivié, María Santillán O´Shea

The aim of this brief is to explore the challenges and opportunities entailed in the Global Gateway initiative, partly designed as a response to China’s BRI in a geopolitical context. We also offer a series of recommendations in order to enhance the Global Gateway’s development impact, geostrategic potential, innovative capacity and possibilities as a platform for coordination and coherence.

Despite the crises of recent decades, the aid given by donors from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has kept up a steady rate of growth, surpassing historical records every year, with European Union (EU) aid at EUR 70 billion annually. Added to this are the redoubled efforts of emerging donors, notably China, through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the recently launched Global Development Initiative (GDI).

In parallel, the global development agenda has shifted from a rather technical and technocratic perspective on development aid, focused on achieving a series of local-level social goals (specified in the Aid Effectiveness Agenda and in the Millennium Development Goals) to another, broader perspective that acknowledges the challenges of development in all their breadth and complexity, expanding their scope to the economic, climate, environmental, political, institutional and security dimensions (all of which are given explicit manifestation in Agenda 2030).

Thus, both traditional and emerging development aid are increasing while the challenges and goals of development are multiplying. The necessity of supplying a development financing agenda that transitions ‘from billions to trillions’ is giving way to the creation and strengthening of mechanisms and instruments that increase public (refundable aid, blending) and private development funding (guarantees, public-private partnerships for sustainable development). Such is the case with the EU Global Gateway initiative, launched in September 2021, aimed at – according to the European Commission – underpinning the role of the EU in the world order by presenting its multiple pre-existing development efforts as part of one common and coordinated strategy, thereby responding to the rise in the worldwide presence of China, especially in sectors related to infrastructure and digital connections.