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15th May 2021

ACP countries fear Europe may abandon aid pledges in wake of crisis

  • The 16th ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly's meeting ended on Friday in Papua New Guinea. (Photo: Wikipedia)

A meeting of European Union parliamentarians and their counterparts in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries has called on European and other developed countries not to let the global crisis hit development aid budgets.

As the ongoing financial turbulence causes European governments to turn attention inward, development aid budgets could be first in the firing line, they fear, and if developed countries such as Iceland or Hungary are hit hard, the global south will be hit that much harder.

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"The world financial crisis should not be used to justify cuts in development aid," demands a declaration by the 16th ACP-EU joint parliamentary assembly, which ended on Friday (28 November), after week-long deliberations in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

Twice a year, the assembly brings together 78 members of the European Parliament and 78 parliamentarians from ACP states - the grouping of developing countries that for the most part were once colonies of EU member state empires.

The Port Moresby Declaration calls on EU member states to honour their official development assistance commitments - 0.56 percent of gross national income by 2010 and 0.7 percent by 2015.

Long before the crisis hit, EU nations were already having trouble keeping their aid promises.

"Even before September, Italy was the worst performing member state in terms of keeping on track to development assistance, at 0.19 percent of gross national income spent on official development assistance [ODA]," Elise Ford the director of Oxfam's Europe office told EUobserver.

"And now its draft budget for next year, if the bill goes through, says they will cut ODA in half."

The International Labor Organisation estimates the number of workers living on less than one dollar a day may increase by 40 million and those living on less than two dollars a day could increase by more than 100 million as a result of the crisis.

And poor countries are still feeling the shocks of food and oil price increases, even if the latter have significantly subsided. Grain-price increases cost developing economies €255 billion last year – more than three times what they received in aid.

"There is a risk that recessions in rich countries will lead politicians to take the short-sighted approach of cutting aid. Given the tiny amounts of money involved compared to rich country economies, this would do little more than offer symbolic budget savings, but at huge human cost," said another Oxfam spokesperson, Gawain Kripke.

Aid to all developing countries last year was €82 billion. However, in recent months, the EU and US have mobilised multiple trillions - the US alone has spent €6.73 trillion ($8.56 tn) - in the to bail out their banks.

Trade pact

The joint parliamentary assembly also discussed the Economic Partnership Agreement, a trade pact, that the EU is currently negotiating with the Pacific region.

Outlining what he would like to see in the final agreement for Papua New Guinea and Fiji in particular, the European Parliament's key monitor of the trade talks, UK Socialist MEP Glynn Ford said any agreement must include progress on allowing export taxes for development purposes and adequate protection for infant industries.

He would also like to see intellectual property protection for traditional knowledge, and the opening up of public procurement only to the extent that is consistent with Pacific states' needs.

If the European Commission cannot accept this basis for further negotiation, said Mr Ford, then he would recommend voting No to the interim agreement.

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