Charities blame 'lack of political will' for EU aid cuts
By Benjamin Fox
The EU's economic crisis took the blame after figures published Wednesday (3 April) revealed that aid to the world's poorest countries fell for the second year in a row.
The statistics released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based economic club, found that aid spending among EU countries as a share of national income fell from 0.45 percent in 2012 to 0.43 percent, well below the 0.7 percent target pledged by 2015.
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The decline in spending, which is equivalent to a 4 percent cut in real terms, follows a 2 percent cut in 2011.
Aid budgets across a string of EU countries have been cut as part of national austerity plans.
The biggest aid cuts fell in Spain, which cut assistance by 49 percent to just 0.15 percent of its national income. Italy and Greece, also among the EU countries worst hit by recession in 2012, cut aid by 34 percent and 17 percent, respectively.
At the other end of the table, the UK is expected to join Luxembourg, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands in hitting the 0.7 percent target in 2013, having ring-fenced their aid budgets from cuts.
Eloise Todd, Director of the Brussels office of anti-poverty organisation One, said EU countries risked "reversing the huge progress on extreme poverty that has been made since 2000.”
Meanwhile, Catherine Olier from development organisation Oxfam, dismissed the idea that the crisis prevented countries from hitting aid targets.
"The fact that the UK has kept up its aid shows that other donor countries could stick to their pledges if they cared," she said.
She added: "It’s not an issue of money but of political will."
It is the first time since 1997 that development aid has been cut over successive years.
Despite the decline, the EU with its 27 member states remains the largest aid donor providing aid worth €55 billion, according to the OECD's Development Assistance Committee.
Commenting on the pattern of aid cuts from countries hit hardest by the economic crisis, OECD secretary general Angel Gurría said: “It is worrying that budgetary duress in our member countries has led to a second successive fall in total aid."
However, he took "heart from the fact that, in spite of the crisis, nine countries still managed to increase their aid."
Although EU leaders committed themselves to the 0.7 percent target in February, development spending is also set to be one of the big losers from negotiations on the EU's next seven year budget framework.
Under the spending levels due to start in 2014, €58.7 billion will be allocated to external aid, well down on the €70 billion proposed by the European Commission.