During a summit in Brussels last week (19-20th of June) , the EU’s presidents and prime ministers agreed an ‘agenda for action’ against poverty. The summit reiterated the Member States commitment to devoting 0.56 percent of thecollective national income to development aid by 2010, rising to 0.7 percent by 2015. As a result, aid should double to 66 billion euros (103 billion dollars) within the next two years, with half of the increase going to Africa.
The leaders also said that all of the EU’s 27 governments are “encouraged to establish their indicative timetables”, outlining how they plan to make good on pledges that most of them signed up to in 2005. Anti-poverty activists argued, however, that the ‘agenda for action’ is too weak and that explicit legally binding programmes for boosting aid are needed. Concord, a group that binds together most of the well-known aid agencies in Europe, complained that far from increasing aid, several EU governments cut the amounts they gave to the poor over the past year. Without a dramatic improvement, the EU is likely to provide 75 billion dollars less in aid than it had promised between 2005 and 2010, the group estimates.
“A number of European governments have shown real commitment to keeping their promises on aid by setting timetables on how it should be delivered,” said Jasmine Burnley, a spokeswoman for Concord. “But the majority are dragging their feet. This lack of commitment from some is pulling down the performance of Europe as a whole and compromising the EU’s credibility on development.” The EU’s leaders argued that the United Nations Millennium Development Goals for dramatically reducing the most extreme forms of poverty by 2015 can be attained in all of the world’s regions “provided that concerted action is taken immediately and in a sustained manner.”
Kumi Naidoo, chairman of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty suggested that the EU had produced little more than a political statement, which may yield few tangible results. “The agenda for action was designed to demonstrate Europe’s leadership on poverty reduction,” he said. “But the absence of annual timetables to guarantee timely aid provision really weakens it. We know that a lack of predictability in aid flows can severely impact on the poor by making it impossible for governments to pay teachers, nurses and other vital professionals.”
Pledges made to Africa are being broken, the organisation suggested. France’s assistance to sub-Saharan Africa fell by 66 million dollars between 2006 and last year, for example. Desmond Tutu, the South African bishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner, wrote the introduction to the DATA study, stating: “Intentions are one thing, follow through is another, and I am deeply worried that France, Germany and Italy are not going to keep the promises they made to Africa in 2005, because then all of Europe will be behind.”
Gordon Brown, UK Prime Minister, has pressured the EU to fulfill the aid pledges made to Africa as the G8 has delivered only a seventh of the financial assistance promised at the Gleneagles summit three years ago.