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5th Mar 2024

EU warns of 'instability, war' due to missed aid targets

The EU has failed to meet a self-imposed development aid goal for 2010, with large member states Germany and Italy well off target.

Both the European Commission and OECD released much-anticipated figures on official development assistance (ODA) on Wednesday (6 April), with the EU giving a record €53.8 billion in 2010.

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  • A woman in Darfur, Sudan, one area where EU aid has been targeted in the past (Photo: Notat)

The figure represents a rise of €4.5 billion on the previous year, but at 0.43 percent of the EU's gross national income (GNI), was below the 0.56 percent target set by EU countries in 2005.

As thousands of refugees continue to flee tough conditions in northern Africa for Europe, EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs warned that the bloc's current aid levels are ultimately unacceptable, despite the improvement.

"It is obvious that these events [in north Africa] should have a positive impact on the commitments of the Europeans in terms of development aid," Piebalgs said.

"If not, we will face the consequences: permanent instability, military conflicts, war."

Donations from EU governments in 2010 make the bloc the single largest donor in the world, but critics say a longer-term target to give 0.7 percent of GNI by 2015 in order to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will now be even harder.

Agreed in 2000 by world leaders, the MDGs are a set of development criteria which include the eradication of extreme hunger and improvements in health and education.

"2010 was meant to be the year of celebration ... Instead Europe has missed this year's aid target, having barely increased aid and lining up big cuts for the next few years - cuts that ultimately will cost lives," said Nicolas Mombrial of Oxfam International.

According to the OECD figures, large member states Italy and Germany gave 0.15 percent and 0.38 percent respectively of their GNI last year. G20 host France also missed the EU's overall target, giving 0.50 percent of its GNI to poor countries.

Austria, Greece, Portugal and Spain also slipped behind, although a substantial increase in Portuguese donations last year, despite its precarious financial position, drew praise from the EU's Piebalgs.

The Latvian politician is set to come forward with proposals later this year to ensure that European aid is better targeted at areas where is can be most effective.

"The EU can't work in every field," he told the Guardian newspaper. "[The proposals] will focus on less sectors, basically those making the biggest impact, such as agriculture, food security ... and climate change, providing support for clean energy."

Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates is among those pressing Europe and other regions of the world to increase their development assistance, meeting members of the commission and MEPs earlier this week as part of his Living Proof project to highlight the benefits aid can bring.

"Effective aid works: 2.4 million fewer children dying before their fifth birthdays in 2009 than in 2004; 46.5 million more children in school since 1999," said Eloise Todd from the Brussels ONE office, an advocacy organisation and partner in the Living Proof project.

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