Agencies name and shame governments failing the poor
Aid agencies ActionAid and Oxfam, with Eurodad, the network of development non-governmental organisations, today launched a new hard-hitting report which names and shames European governments whose aid commitments, trade and debt policies are failing the poorest countries. The report comes on the eve of a meeting of the EU Development Ministers’ Council in Luxembourg where top of the agenda will be discussion on the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals.
The new report, EU Heroes and Villains, highlights the discrepancy between aid donors. Sweden already gives more than 0.7% of its national income in aid, the UN target for halving world poverty by 2015. In comparison the Italians are the most miserly, contributing just 0.17 per cent, Germany will not reach the 0.7 per cent target until 2087, and Ireland has just reneged on its commitment to meet 0.7% by 2007.
The report calls on the EU to commit to hitting the 0.7% target by 2010, but also urges donors to improve the quality of their aid. The Greeks give just one euro in fifteen to the poorest countries and Italy ties 92% of aid to Italian goods and services.
The agencies say London talks between rich nations’ finance ministers last weekend showed Europe can act together and bring other G7 members on board for a strong 2005 finance package to meet the MDGs. The report calls on the EU to go further and work with the G7 towards 100% debt cancellation for the poorest countries which now pay $100 million a day in debt repayments. It also contends that Europe has the opportunity to show leadership and act as a catalyst to pressure other stingy donors, such as the US and Japan, to push for a real breakthrough on aid this year.
Louise Hilditch, of ActionAid International, said: “As one of the world’s richest and most powerful trading blocs, it is unacceptable that EU countries’ aid, debt and trade policies are so far away from what is required to make poverty history. They are offering little more than crumbs to some of the poorest countries who receive less aid today than they did forty years ago from the EU."
Alex Wilks, of Eurodad, said: "Of the €295 billion owed by 52 poor countries, only €36 billion has been cancelled. European countries have the opportunity to show leadership in consigning poor countries’ debt to a thing of the past. Instead, they are dragging their heels and endangering the success of the Millennium Development Goals."
The agencies warn that as the Common Agricultural Policy continues to devastate livelihoods in developing countries, France remains an obstacle. It is blocking essential reforms which include an end to agricultural export subsidies. The report concludes that despite some small and tentative steps forwards, Europe has largely failed to make any contribution designed to make trade work for poor people.
Jo Leadbeater, of Oxfam, said: "We know today that unless we act now, 45 million extra children will die needlessly by 2015, because rich countries are failing to provide the necessary resources they promised. Europe can be the world leader in the fight against poverty. But for this to happen, we need to see concrete changes with an increase in aid, a joint effort on debt relief, and steps to make trade fair for poor countries."