Placing dialogue at the core of the ‘Policy First’ principle

In the last two decades, international aid organisations and practitioners have been increasingly making use of policy dialogue as a means of fostering the long-term impact of reforms. Not incidentally, the EU’s own Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI) enshrines the ‘Policy First’ principle as the default approach to program its operations, be it in the form of budget support or innovative financing. But for this emphasis on policy to deliver results, the EU and EU Member States will need to reach out beyond their government counterparts and institutionalise meaningful, participatory mechanisms that make their policy dialogue initiatives more representative and legitimate. Situated in the middle-ground between politics and public management, policies seem to offer an ideal vehicle for promoting the culture of dialogue, favouring the kind of constructive and evidence-based debates that can nurture trust and mutual understanding amongst confronted actors in polarised societies.