EU aid drops in 2011, global recession blamed
By Lénaïc Vaudin d’Imécourt | Wednesday 04 April 2012
Development aid from the European Union and its 27 member states dropped in 2011 for the first time in 15 years, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The EU institutions have decreased their grants to developing countries and multilateral organisations by 6.4% in real terms compared to 2010, totalling US$12.6 billion. The 27 EU member states have also reduced their official development assistance (ODA) contributions to 0.42% of their combined GNI, down from 0.44% in 2010. “This decrease reflects fiscal constraints in several DAC (Development Assistance Committee) countries, which have affected their ODA budgets,” the OECD says in its annual report on global aid donors.
According to the report, all but three EU member states – Germany, Italy and Sweden – have provided less aid in 2011 than the previous year. The biggest cuts were made in Greece (-39.3%) and Spain (-32.7%), while Italy recorded the highest increase of 33%, “because of an increase in debt forgiveness grants as well as an upsurge in refugee arrivals from North Africa”.
Still, the Commission says that “with €53 billion of development aid in 2011, the European Union and its 27 member states remain the world’s biggest donor, providing more than half of global official aid.”
The EU is not the only one responsible for the 2011 cuts, as 16 out of the 24 members (EU; 15 EU member states; Australia; Canada; Japan; Korea; New Zealand; Norway; Switzerland; and the US) of the OECD’s DAC have reduced their aid contributions in 2011, totalling US$133.5 billion – or 31% of their combined GNI. “Major donors’ aid to developing countries fell by nearly 3% in 2011, breaking a long trend of annual increases,” the OECD notes. This is indeed the first recorded drop since 1997. Within total net ODA, aid for core bilateral projects and programmes has shrunk by 4.5% and the least developed countries (LDCs) have seen a fall in ODA flows of 8.9% in real terms to US$27.7 billion. However, while bilateral aid to sub-Saharan Africa was also reported to have dropped, a raise of 0.9% to the entire African continent was recorded “as donors provided more aid to North Africa after the revolutions in the region”.
“Development aid is both solidarity and an investment to make the world safer and more prosperous,” said Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. “I therefore call on member states to reaffirm their commitment to achieving the goal of increasing ODA to 0.7% of GNI by 2015,” he added.
But “continuing tight budgets in OECD countries will put pressure on aid levels in coming years,” the organisation warns, while development NGOs voice their concerns over the statistics. NGOs have indeed accused the European countries of “turning their backs” on the world’s poorest. Olivier Consolo, director of Concord, the European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, urged European countries not to “turn their backs on the over three billion people living on less than US$2.50 a day,” while accusing said countries of “cutting aid faster than their economies are shrinking”.
Catherine Olier, Oxfam’s EU development expert, called the cuts “inexcusable”. In 2005, the EU pledged to increase development assistance to reach 0.7% of GNI by 2015. However, Oxfam warned that at current rates of progress, donors will not hit the 0.7% target for 50 years. “And the picture is even bleaker than shown by these figures with Spain having already announced further drastic cuts and with the Netherlands, which currently meets the 0.7% target, also debating further cuts,” a press release read.
According to Jean-Louis Vielajus, president of Coordination Sud, a French development NGO federation, some major donors are cheating on their aid commitments, only increasing them the year before international targets. “In 2010, France increased its aid to 0.50% of GNI to appear as a good donor that is meeting the EU aid target,” he said. “Now, in 2011, it has decreased aid to 0.46%, the same as in 2009.”
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