Thursday, 14 May 2009

European U-turn on the poor as economic crisis grips

As poor countries face the full impact of the economic crisis, European governments are falling short by nearly €40bn on their aid promises, a new report from CONCORD, the European confederation of development NGOs reveals. As Development Ministers prepare to meet in Brussels next week, the 2009 Aidwatch report, Lighten the load: in a time of crisis, European aid has never been more important, shows that European governments will not meet their 2010 aid target until 2012 unless serious action is taken now. Many governments are still inflating their aid levels by counting money that does not reach poor people.

Official figures show that in 2008, Europe allocated 0.40% of its gross national income (GNI) to aid. However, the report shows that most European donors have provided misleading aid figures. Out of almost €50bn provided as aid in 2008, close to €5bn went to debt cancellation, €2bn to hosting foreign students and close to €1bn to hosting and repatriating refugees. Real European aid amounted to only 0.34% of collective GNI. Missed targets and non-genuine aid will mean poor countries will have missed out on nearly €40bn by 2010 – enough to increase the income of 380 million Africans living in absolute poverty by one quarter.

CIDSE, the international alliance of Catholic development agencies, member of CONCORD and contributor to the report, urges the European Commission to set the example stepping up efforts in EU development aid. CIDSE observes a consistent gap between the Commission’s stated objectives and policies, on the one hand and the reality of the implementation and resources actually devoted on the other. It also reckons the Commission needs to step up efforts on equality commitments, poverty focus of EC aid and aid effectiveness. “Europe can and must get aid right, it is a matter of justice,” Bernd Nilles, Secretary General of CIDSE, said. “Making aid work means hope, while failing to do so implies privation and grim perspectives for our future.”