Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scandalous lack of progress in the European Union’s development aid

Source: Concord Flash 51, April 2008

EU aid fell by 1.7 billion euros in 2007, according to OECD figures released in early April. CONCORD and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty have warned European governments that their failure will cost lives. The press took up the warning, with no less than 73 media organs publishing information from NGO sources.

As Olivier Consolo, CONCORD’s Director, explained: “Seventeen of the 27 European member states have not increased their official development assistance at all in the last year, and of these, 11 have actually allowed it to fall. The gap between promises and reality must be closed.” According to the OECD, EU aid fell from 0.41% to 0.38% of gross national income (GNI) in 2007. European governments are getting further from, not closer to, their 2010 commitments of 0.56% GNI for ODA, and have yet to set out how they will meet their aid targets.

Since 2005 there has been a serious lack of progress on genuine aid, in sharp contrast to the promises made by EU governments. Last year’s poor performance was largely due to the timing of debt relief deals, which have been counted as ODA in the past, thereby inflating aid figures and disguising the poor performance of European governments. This lack of progress on aid will impact hard on developing countries, which were counting on this money reaching the levels set in the Millennium Development Goals.

Most European donors inflate their official aid figures by counting debt relief, and funding to foreign students and refugees in European countries, as aid. In 2006, CONCORD found that EU governments had inflated European aid figures by nearly 30%. In 2006, 13.6 billion euros of reported ODA was in fact debt cancellation, primarily for Iraq and Nigeria, for educating foreign students in Europe and for housing refugees in Europe. CONCORD considers that this cannot be counted as genuine aid.

"A failure on the part of the European Union to meet its aid promises directly condemns the poor and marginalized in developing countries to a life of poverty. Already, in many poor countries, the verdict is that the Millennium Development Goals will not be met. This is a scenario the world can ill afford, and we demand action,"
said Marivic Raquiza, GCAP Asia Co-Convenor.

CONCORD and GCAP are calling on European governments to set transparent, binding timetables showing how they will meet their commitments to give more aid. Governments from the European Union should also take a lead at the High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra in September, and must set more ambitious targets to make their aid more effective. In particular, European aid must be more predictable, transparent and accountable.

“European donors are often less than transparent about the decisions that they take which affect the lives of real people in poor countries. They need to be more accountable for the effectiveness of their aid,” said Hussaini Abdu, African Governance Coordinator with ActionAid.

On 22 May CONCORD has launched an in-depth report analysing the quality and quantity of aid from EU member states to the developing world.

For more information contact Jasmine Burnley, Aid Watch coordinator


See also Euforic's newsfeeds on CONCORD and aid effectiveness