Apr 19 2012
Development Aid from EU must be maintained!
It has been recently been claimed that: ‘…the golden years of international aid commitment is over’.
Preliminary figures released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s development assistance committee, detailing aid flows to poor countries in 2011, might suggest so.
Global official development assistance dropped by $3.5bn to $129.4bn between 2010 and 2011, a 2.7 per cent decrease. This means that global levels of development assistance decreased for the first time in over a decade, if you exclude the effect of exceptional debt relief. Analysis by ONE, which looks at constant prices and excludes debt relief, shows that G7 members accounted for just over half of this fall. Japan and the United States each cut their official development assistance by over $1bn. Their cuts were partly offset by Germany and Italy reported increases from 2010 to 2011.
In June, ONE’s DATA report will show the EU’s progress towards meeting its commitments. This year it will also assess the quality of EU development assistance and analyse the European Commission’s spending as well as the proposed increases to development assistance in the EC’s budget for 2014-2020.
The reductions in aid are a clear cause for concern as it has been shown from experience how important sticking to aid promises is for some of the world’s poorest people. By reaching 0.7 per cent GNI spending from 2013 – the British government has promised to do so in its coalition agreement and is one of the few EU countries with such a clear plan.
The United Kingdom’s aid will put 15.9 million children in school and ensure 5.8 million mothers can give birth in a safe environment over the next four years. If this is what UK aid could achieve by remaining on target, imagine the impact if the whole of the EU keeps its 0.7 per cent promise.
Times are tough, and few are escaping the squeeze as the European Union begins to recover from the worst financial crisis, created by bankers, in living memory. Spain and Greece, two countries that have been hit particularly hard by the crisis, have cut their aid budgets drastically. But this does not have to be the case. Ireland, a country currently working under loan conditions from the International Monetary Fund and the EU, has seen only a small drop in aid, around 10 per cent of the size of the cuts made by Greece and Spain. And the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, reaffirmed Ireland’s commitment to 0.7 per cent with UK Prime Minister David Cameron during a recent visit to Downing Street.
The UK’s own figures are set to rise significantly in 2013 when the promised increase to reach 0.7 per cent is delivered. Meanwhile, Germany increased its aid in 2011 by $492m and it is critical that Chancellor Angela Merkel maintains her country’s strong record on aid in this year’s budget.
As Ireland, the UK, Germany and France have shown, this is not the moment to balance the books on the backs of the poor. This is an opportunity to ensure that every penny spent is done so in the most responsible and efficient manner possible. The quality and effectiveness of aid is more important than ever now that resources are scarcer – both to do more with less in poor countries, but also to justify the value of the money spent by wealthy countries.
Aid spending remains a tiny proportion of government spending – too small to make any serious impact on a country’s debt or deficit – yet pound for pound, euro for euro, it can achieve far more than any other budget line.
Europe has a unique leadership role on aid in the months ahead.
No other group of international donors have made such a significant commitment to increasing aid. Given that France, Germany and the UK are not only among the top five aid donors globally but also have such a strong voice in Brussels, they must show leadership in keeping the EU’s 0.7 per cent promise to the poor.
EU leaders will come together at the June European Council meeting to take stock of progress made towards their aid commitments, and this year – against the background of aid cuts from some member states – it will be more important than ever for Merkel, Cameron and the French president – whoever that is – to advocate on behalf of the world’s poorest and for a renewal of the EU commitment for development assistance.