Wednesday, June 02, 2010

International Development: Europe can, and should, respond to the needs of those living in poverty across the developing world

By Jaya Ramachandran

Republished courtesy of
IDN-InDepth NewsAnalysis

BRUSSELS (IDN) - The 27-nation European Union and its member states contribute a lion's share of official development assistance (ODA) the rich nations give to the poor. For such programmes between 2007 and 2013, it has allocated 51 billion Euros. But a new report says that a bulk of the money is not being spent on achieving the goals the international community has set itself.

The latest 2015-Watch Report highlights the alarmingly low levels of EU aid being apportioned directly to areas including food, health and education. "More worrying is the fact that allocations are lowest when it comes to Sub-Sahara Africa."

The report -- launched at a European Parliament Hearing on June 1, 2010 – analyses the progress made and the challenges faced by the EU in the run up to the UN Summit on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September and towards the 2015 deadline.

Available facts speak for themselves. EC aid increased from 7.5 billion in 2005 to 12 billion Euros in 2009. However, the percentage of allocations to food decreased from 4% of total funding in 2005 to 1.5% in 2008, basic health from 4.7% (2005) to 1.3% (2008) and basic education from 2.7% (2005) to 1.1% (2008).

"These figures are disheartening and require explanation," said Europarliamentarian Gay Mitchell, who hosted the hearing. "To reach the MDGs we decided that 20% of aid should be for basic health and education and we reached that target for Asia and Latin America in 2009. In Sub-Saharan Africa especially we need to achieve these targets yet they appear to have plummeted to an all time low of 1.5% for basic health and education combined.ion."

Titled 'The EU’s Contribution to the Millennium Development Goals-- Keeping the Goals Alive', the report is the sixth in a series published by 'Alliance2015', a strategic partnership of seven European development NGOs working together to play their part in reaching the MDGs.

Alliance2015 cooperates at the programme level in developing countries and at the policy level in Europe. For the past seven years, a key focus of that policy work has been Europe’s development policies.

The report calculates that if all donors shared the responsibility for education and health equally, the European Commission, executive arm of the European Union, would have to increase funding from 605 million (latest figures) to 971 million Euros annually for education and from 460 million (latest figures) to 1.5 billion Euros for health to help close the financing gaps.


"The EU as the largest donor must lead by example," commented Birgit Dederichs-Bain from the German aid organisation Welthungerhilfe. "The Lancet, the European Court of Auditors and even the IMF (International Monetary Fund) have published research showing that capacity in health and education is a key problem which aid through General Budget Support does not resolve."

This capacity problem needs to be targeted directly, said Dederichs-Bain. "It is also very clear that political space is needed for counter-cyclical measures to protect the poor and to ensure they have access to basic social services. As the major aid donor the EU should give a strong lead on this in September in New York," she added.

Alliance2015 president Vagn Berthelsen says: "No donor wants to move first, meanwhile the health and education financing gap is hurting the poor. We urge the European Union to agree a legally binding target ensuring that 20% of all aid is allocated to basic health and education, and to strongly advocate for an international target at the UN MDG Summit. This way industrialised and developing countries will finally take joint responsibility."

Ten years since the MDGs were endorsed in 2000, the United Nations Summit in September 20-22 will be another historic moment, providing an 'MDG prognosis' based on what has been achieved and what remains to be done, says Berthelsen.

Ten years ago, world leaders agreed to take decisive action to combat world poverty in its different dimensions. Using time-bound and measurable targets, they agreed that by 2015:

- Poverty and hunger should be reduced by one half,

- Full primary education for all should be ensured,

- Gender disparity should be eliminated,

- Maternal and child mortality should be reduced by two thirds and three quarters respectively,

- The spread of HIV/AIDS and incidence of malaria and other major diseases should be halted,

- Environmental sustainability should be ensured,

- A Global Partnership for Development should be developed.


"Accepting that progress has been made, a single figure casts a shadow over all of our efforts, assessments, reviews and reports: In a world of plenty, 1.4 billion people continue to live in extreme poverty. This shameful fact is a compelling call to action. It calls on us all to breath new life into the Millennium Development Goals, to show ambition and to take action to ensure the goals are met and exceeded for every man, woman and child," says Berthelsen.

He argues that as the largest donor in the world, the European Union has a very particular role to play on the world stage and a very special responsibility to show leadership at the MDG Summit this September. The European Commission's 'twelve-point EU action plan' is valuable, but it is in its implementation that Europe must be steely and sincere. The stakes are high.

The action plan relates to ODA hike, aid effectiveness, fragile states and off-track countries, improving the impact of policies in key sectors, enhanced ownership, policy coherence for development, tax and development, regional integration and trade, innovative financing, climate change, fragility and security, and global governance.

"The next five years will be a time of real challenge for European and global development policy," says the European Commission in a communication of April 21, 2010.

It explains: "During the five-year period, the EU will need to deliver on its promise of 0.7% of GNI (gross national income) for ODA, and play its full part in ensuring that the MDGs are achieved. At the same time, the EU and the developed world will have to demonstrate their commitment to developing countries on climate change, turning promises into practical and effective action."

However, the coming years are also times of huge opportunity for the developing world, the Commission adds. "The achievement of the MDGs will give many countries a stepping stone towards a viable and growing economy. There are plenty of success stories on which to build. The emerging EU-Africa Partnership can build on the MDGs and provide a sustainable foundation for growth," says the European Commission.

Alliance2015 pleads for greater investment in basic health and education, larger focus on the MDGs in Europe's country programmes and more evidence of the impact of EU aid on progress towards these goals in order to inspire confidence in development policy.

Annual ODA action plans are needed at the level of the member states, while institutional arrangements in Brussels must respect the Lisbon Treaty and its obligation to ensure that poverty eradication is the primary objective. "This objective must guide Europe’s engagement with developing countries at all times."

The NGOs recall what UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in his 2010 report 'Keeping the promise: A forward-looking review to promote an agreed action agenda to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015': "Honouring commitments by the rich countries is a bulwark of global solidarity and a sine qua non for success in implementing the Millennium Development Goals in the low-income countries."

Europe can, and should, respond to the needs of those living in poverty across the developing world with genuine determination to deliver on its commitments, maintains Berthelsen.

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