From the TUC

Europe needs to commit on aid

25 May 2015, by in International

Tomorrow, foreign ministers from across the EU will be meeting and will consider what to do about Europe’s pledge on overseas aid. For the first time, the British minister will be attending with a legal commitment to spend the UN recommended 0.7% of GNI (Gross National Income) on official development assistance. Hopefully, it will strengthen their hand to press their opposite numbers to up their game.

The TUC, which has backed the 0.7% target and helped persuade MPs in the UK to back the Private Members’ Bill that enshrined the target in UK law just before the election, wants to see the pledge turned into a binding EU commitment and a global fund, to increase the commitment of developed countries (Britain is the only G7 economy to meet the target.)

At the moment, according to the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, the UK is one of just four EU countries have met or exceeded the UN target set 40 years ago (Sweden, Luxemburg and Denmark spend more than us and reached the target before us) and the Dutch and the Finns are not far behind (0.64% and 0.6% respectively.) But the other 22 EU member states have yet to meet the target, including Germany at 0.41% and Poland at 0.08% – only just over a tenth of the target.

And now aid groups are concerned that the EU countries will drop the commitment the EU has already made to reach the target collectively by 2020. Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, says

“The people of Europe have a strong history of generosity and solidarity. The EU must therefore reflect the values of its citizens and lead the way when it comes to helping people in the poorest parts of the world. If the EU backs away from its aid commitments, this could seriously impact on other countries around the world signing up to ambitious agreements on sustainable development and finance at the G7 summit in June; and the Third International Conference for Finance for Development in Addis Ababa in July, which is widely expected to lay the groundwork for achievement of the global goals.”

The European Parliament’s development committee, chaired by Labour’s Linda McAvan, adopted a report urging Ministers to do the right thing in April. Portuguese socialist Pedro Silva Pereira, who wrote the report, said:

“Goals and targets mean nothing if they are not financed. The result of the vote is a sign that this House wants to send a strong political message about the future implementation and financing of the new global development agenda for the period 2015-2030. This report is an important contribution by the EP to the position of the EU in the July’s high-level conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, which must be a success for better serving post-2015 development policies.”

The report was endorsed by the whole European Parliament last week by 582 votes to 79, with 28 abstentions. We hope Ministers at the Foreign Affairs Council tomorrow will agree.