Europe about to make critical choices for Development

20/04/2011 at 11:39 am 3 comments

Aid volumes

In April, the OECD published the final figures on rich countries’ development aid programmes. They showed that, despite the economic crisis, the world’s richest countries spent $ 128 billion on Official Development Assistance (ODA). And it confirmed that the EU countries are the biggest donors.

But the figures also showed that the EU missed its own targets on aid:

The OECD’s figures showed that Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK had all met their targets for 2010. But poor progress by major European economies, France, Germany and Italy meant the bloc’s collective targets were not met.

Aid Objectives

At the same time, European leaders are trying to move the goal posts on aid. The recent EU Green Paper makes the case that aid, rather than on social services, should focus on promoting economic development.

CONCORD, the European NGO Confederation for relief and development, believes that for growth to be beneficial for human development, it has to be sustainable and inclusive, addressing inequalities with a special emphasis on reaching the poor and marginalised and vulnerable groups. It says that pro-poor growth is based on decent job creation, functioning health systems able to deliver universal and quality care, universal access to education, a productive agriculture, and democratic governance. CONCORD argues that economic growth “should be seen as an instrument, not a goal, of development. It must form part of every development strategy”

The future of European cooperation

But it is probably fair to say that what occupies the minds of EU leaders most is how they are going to finance the future of the EU itself: the “Financial Perspectives” are the negotiations about the EU’s overall budget.

The current agreement, under which just over 1% of European GNI (1.048%) is spent through the EU’s institutions, dates from 2006 and comes to an end in 2013.

The economic crisis means that EU member countries are unlikely to want to increase their membership fees. In fact, countries like Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands have already insisted that any increase cannot exceed inflation.

That means that any new European initiatives to tackle unemployment, climate change or energy dependence will have to come from the existing budget, and will need a reshuffling of priorities – in particular the Common Agricultural Policy and the Structural Funds, which together account for four-fifth of the EU’s budget.

The Lisbon Treaty made development cooperation a distinct EU policy area, with its own, explicit objectives. In the current Financial Perspectives (2007-2013), this policy area sits in the “Europe As A Global Partner” envelope, which accounts for some 6% of the total.

And that budget is likely to come under pressure as negotiations start in earnest this summer.

Time for NGOs to start pointing out that the EU aid budget is a cheap way for EU members to attain their aid promises. The OECD, which in April showed so clearly that Europe failed to honour its promise in this area, does count EU aid as part of member countries’ ODA contribution.

So an increase in EU overseas aid can help many EU countries reach the targets they set for themselves. Isn’t European cooperation wonderful?

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The EU Green Paper: EU development policy in support of inclusive growth and sustainable development – Increasing the impact of EU development policy is available here

Entry filed under: EU, Overseas aid. Tags: , .

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