Tuesday, 20 November 2012

EU: Balancing books on the backs of the poor

Leading NGOs call on EU leaders to protect EU development aid against short-sighted cuts ahead of this week’s special EU Budget summit. Cuts tabled last week disproportionately target EU development and humanitarian aid, a clear attempt to balance the EU’s books on the backs of the world’s poor. The latest negotiating paper being considered by EU governments to agree the EU budget 2014-2020 calls for aid cuts of up to €10.6 billion, compared to the proposals by the EU Commission & EU Parliament. Most affected would be the European Development Fund (EDF), the largest part of the EU aid budget that targets African countries. The EDF is facing a cut of 11% or €3.335billion while the overall cut is 7%.

In their attempts to reach agreement on the next 7-year EU budget, EU member states must preserve EU aid, a smart investment that represents just 6% of the overall budget, according to Concord, Oxfam International, Plan and ONE. In just six years, EU aid has made a lasting difference in the lives of millions and helped them out of poverty: 50 million people were stopped from being hungry, more than nine million children have enrolled in primary education, more than five million have been vaccinated against measles and more than 31 million people have been connected to drinking water. The positive results and effectiveness of EU aid have been cited by many independent reports. Reviews by institutions including the Center for Global Development and Brookings Institution, and the OECD have also ranked EU aid highly. Publish What You Fund’s 2012 Aid Transparency Index ranked the European Commission’s DG Development and Cooperation (DG DEVCO) 5th out of 72 aid organisations across 43 indicators.

Support for EU aid remains strong among European citizens. The results of a Eurobarometer survey released in October show that 85% of EU citizens believe that Europe should continue helping developing countries despite the economic crisis, while almost two thirds believe that aid to developing countries should be increased. It is telling that this support remains strong in Greece, Spain and Ireland – the European countries most affected by the crisis.

According to a report published last week by the Overseas Development Institute, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and ONE, looking at the economic impact of EU aid on donor and recipient countries, EU aid will also more than pay for itself by 2020. The research shows that as well as boosting GDP in sub-Saharan Africa and globally, EU taxpayers would recoup the funds for the world’s poorest with a 20% return on investment.

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