EU Development Ministers just recommit to 40-year-old promises

(Luxembourg) EU Development Ministers have just recommited to an old promise made by donors back in 1970s, failing to provide any guarantees to poor countries that Europe is serious about getting back on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals, warns Oxfam.

While Ministers have recommitted to provide 0.7% of national income to developing countries by 2015, they have failed to agree any credible measures to ensure they catch up on this aid pledge. Ministers have not taken on board key proposals put forward by Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs in April such as setting up binding national legislation on aid. EU governments are €19 billion short of 2010 aid targets.

On a positive note, Ministers acknowledged, for the first time, the need for new sources to finance development and recognized that tax havens deprive poor countries of huge amounts of money. They agreed to explore ways to ensure more transparency from multinationals that will benefit both poor countries and European countries in recouping money that can be invested in the public interest in these tough financial times. Oxfam welcomes these good intentions, but warns that these principles will have to be translated into actions if they are to make a difference for the world's poorest.

EU Heads of State and Goverment, meeting in Brussels on Thursday, have the chance to rectify the Ministers' lack of determination to rescue the MDGs, if they want to hold their head high in September in New York, when world leaders will meet to discuss progress towards the poverty goals, five years away from the deadline.

Ariane Arpa, spokesperson for development agency Oxfam, said:

"With the economic crisis forcing a hundred people below the poverty line every minute, merely recommitting to a 40-year-old promise is nothing short of a scandal. EU Development Ministers have thrown cold water on efforts to get back on track to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and if this is not addressed, Europe cannot look credible in New York."

"It is now up to EU leaders to put a plan on the table to reach their aid commitments, in line with the European Commission's proposals, if they're serious about regaining the trust of the developing world, and their credibility on the global stage. Countries such as the UK and Belgium, which increased aid last year, are demonstrating that delivering on pledges to the poor is doable, if there is political will."

"Rather than using the economic recession as an excuse, EU leaders could seize the political opportunities arising from it. With a tiny tax on financial transactions, EU governments could raise billions for public services in Europe, as well as for development and climate change, at no cost for the tax payer.
Such an idea seemed impossible just a couple of years ago, yet now it is on the agenda, backed by countries such as France and Germany."

"The economic crunch in European countries pales into comparison with the impact developing countries face. By the end of this year, 64 million more people are expected to be living in extreme poverty. There could not be a worse moment for Europe to turn its back on the poor - or a more critical time for them to honor their promises."

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Slideshow: Campaigners call for EU to 'keep your promises' and hand over an MDG rescue package

Notes to editors

  1. EU member states are around €19 billion short of 2010 aid targets, according to the European Commission. Oxfam has calculated this money could save at least 3 million lives. It could pay for HIV treatment for 500,000 people, could provide services for mothers and newborns that would save a further 2.5 million, and could pay for child health interventions that would save a further 600,000 lives.
  2. CONCORD, the European Confederation of Development NGOs, launched last week its annual AidWatch report detailing the aid performance of each EU member state: ‘Penalty against Poverty: More and Better EU aid can score Millennium Development Goals’.
  3. European Commission, 21 April 2010: Getting the Millennium Development Goals back on track: a twelve points EU action plan
  4. In 2000, 189 world leaders adopted the MDGs, the first truly global effort to eradicate poverty. Five years to the 2015 deadline and despite some real progress, many of the most important goals - such as health and education - are in danger of being missed. On current trends 56 million children will not see the inside of a classroom by 2015. Each year 536,000 women die as a result of complications from child bearing: more than one a minute.
  5. Tax havens: according to the Global Financial Integrity program, developing countries lose around 1,000 billion dollars every year, which amounts to ten times official development assistance

Oxfam is an international confederation of 14 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change.

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