Friday, 4 April 2008

EU development aid cut in 2007 unacceptable, Michel and Schiltz say

According to Reuters news agency, development aid from the European Union's 27 countries fell last year. EU aid amounted to €46.1bn ($72bn) in 2007, down about €1.7bn from 2006, officials said, adding that other major donors had also failed to fulfil their pledges. "2007 was a serious failure for financial aid to development," EU aid and development Commissioner Louis Michel wrote together with Luxembourg's aid minister Jean-Louis Schiltz, in a letter (>>> full text). "The major donors - EU member states, United States, Canada and Japan - failed to fulfil their financial pledges," they wrote ahead of the annual publication of world aid figures by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Aid relief from major donors had grown in previous years thanks to debt relief packages for countries such as Iraq and Nigeria.

The EU prides itself as being the world's largest aid donor. "The EU is still the biggest donor in the world, with Official Development Assistance amounting to €93 per citizen," the official said, adding aid was equivalent to €53 per person in the United States and €44 in Japan. But Michel and Schiltz said last year's cut in Europe was unacceptable. "These €1.7bn could have contributed to changing people's lives," they wrote in the letter, which was also published by a number of European newspapers. The EU executive estimates that the amount could have financed 4,500 schools or 1,200 hospitals.

"It is time for Europeans and other major donors to act," Michel and Schiltz wrote. As part of the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, EU member states pledged to allocate 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to development assistance by 2015. Aid reached 0.38% of the bloc's GNI last year, below the EU interim target for 2006 of 0.39% - which the bloc did fulfil in 2006. EU states should make multi-annual plan to increase their aid, the letter said.

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