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Stagnating aid leaves “millions” of poor at risk

A new report says that the leadership of a handful of countries is “masking the failure” of the majority of European governments to deliver on their overseas aid promises. That is the main conclusion of a report by the leading charity, Oxfam.

The Oxfam report comes in response to the publication of new figures for overseas aid spending by EU-19 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Developmen  (OECD).

The figures cited by Oxfam show that total overseas aid spending has fallen by 0.5 per cent in real terms over the last year. For the EU-19 countries that are DAC members there has been an increase of 1.6% in real terms, and 0.42% of their combined GNI – the same as in 2013.

The EU governments on numerous occasions have committed to deliver 0.7% of GNI in overseas aid by 2015.

According to the data, French overseas aid has declined for its fourth consecutive year to 0.36 per cent of GNI from a high point of 0.5 per cent of GNI in 2010. Germany increased from 0.38% in 2013 to 0.41% of GNI. This was especially due to an increase in bilateral lending to middle income countries

Overseas aid spending by Spain remains in its lowest level since 1989 – since 2011 aid spending has been shrunk almost 50 per cent. Austria slightly decreased to 0.26% of GNI due to a decrease in contributions to multilateral agencies.

The Netherlands rose to 0.64% of GNI in 2014 but aid is decreasing in 2015 while Finland rose by 12,5% to 0.60% of GNI, reflecting an increase in bilateral aid and contributions to multilateral organisations.The UK has legally committed to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on overseas aid.

The Oxfam report comes in response to the publication of new figures for overseas aid spending by EU-19 by the OECD.

Hilary Jeune, Oxfam’s EU policy advisor, said, “In times of ballooning challenges for the world’s poorest, it is striking that European overseas aid has stagnated.

“This picture would be worse if it were not for the leadership of a handful of countries such as the UK, Sweden, Luxembourg and Denmark, masking the poor performance of the majority. Wealthy countries, such as France and Austria, have failed to uphold their commitments to the world’s most vulnerable people.”

“As flat overseas aid is also increasingly used to pay for climate preparedness and low carbon development in developing countries, it’s clear that Europe is using the same pot of money to pay for multiple purposes, and hence robbing Peter to pay Paul,” added Jeune.

“European governments first promised to deliver 0.7 per cent of their national income to support poor countries when Richard Nixon was President of America and the Beatles were topping the charts. In the 45 years since only a handful of EU countries have delivered on this promise. Yet with some one billion people still living in poverty and climate change posing huge new development challenges the need for overseas aid is greater than ever before,” said Jeune.

“This year the global community should agree ambitious new development goals and a new deal for tackling climate change. Europe needs to up its game and ensure the Finance for Development Meeting in Addis, Ethiopia, in July provides the money that is needed to tackle these multiple challenges.”

She goes on, “In Addis, EU finance ministers should demonstrate genuine leadership by being the first ones to re-commit to providing 0.7% of national income as overseas aid and outline how they will deliver on this promise including setting a clear timetable. They must also put new money on the table from their budgets and from new sources like financial transactions taxes and the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme to help poor countries cope with the devastating impacts of climate change.”

The report concludes, “Aid is vitally important. Between 2000 and 2012 overseas aid prevented the deaths of an estimated 3 million children under the age of five from malaria. In the next decade aid could help build health services needed to halt the spread of another Ebola-type outbreak. Aid can also help poor countries clamp down on corporate tax evasion and unlock billions of dollars to invest in tackling poverty and inequality.”

By Martin Banks