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About the Author

Ahmed ElAmin
Journalist (Brussels, Belgium)

I started my life as a hack covering development projects for street children in Brazil; ended up teaching at a high school in Botswana; barged around the Kalahari reporting on local development projects for a magazine and also covered business stories for AFP; wandered around Southern Africa, Europe, and India; worked for a newspaper on the health and Native Canadian beat in Canada before heading off to Bermuda to cover finance and the reinsurance market; co-founded an online publication on offshore finance while living in a village of 700 people in Languedoc; drank a lot of wine; moved to Montpellier to cover the food and drink industry when the dot.com boom and the publication collapsed; drank a lot more wine covering that sector in France and Spain; and somehow ended up in Brussels working for a private communications company. At least the beer is good.

Post

Kicking ass on development aid

Published 21st April 2010 - 0 comments - 3277 views -

Brussels - The 12-point EU action plan published today on the Millennium Development Goals set out how the 27 individual EU countries can meet the promise of the group to ensure the EU provides 0.7% gross national income (GNI) for aid by 2015.

For this announcement I was actually expecting each of the 27 members to publish how they were going to meet the goals. Instead, we will have to wait for them to do so. The EU’s Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, is giving member states until September this year, just before the MDG Conference, to “establish realistic, verifiable annual action plans for reaching individual targets (0.33% of GNI for the Member States that joined the EU since 2004; 0.7% of GNI for the other EU countries, while Member States which have achieved that target commit themselves to remain above that level)...”

Countries will be required to submit such action plans to an EU accountability review based on their annual action plans and the Commission’s monitoring report. He then asks the European Council is then asked to hold an EU-internal ‘ODA Peer Review’ and report the results.

The other 11 points of the action plan is pretty general and predictable. Here they are as slightly amended from the publication:

  • Working together in a coordinated (aid efficiency) manner at the EU scale. Piebalgs estimates this will save about €3 to €6 billion a year and even beyond;
  • Doing more and better for the poorest (reallocate fundings to off track and fragile countries, starting with Haïti);
  • Improving results and targeting the key sectors for gender, education, health and food security;
  • Working in partnerships (EU Africa partnership, Millennium Development Goals Targets in national strategies);
  • Acting in coherence: use other EU policies for Development from Trade to migration to food and climate change;
  • Help national funding to work (tax for development, promote good governance);
  • Strengthen regional integration and trade for growth and jobs (Aid for Trade, EU Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund;
  • Support initiatives on innovative financing with high revenue potential that can benefit the poorest;
  • Use the EU's €2.4bn a year "fast-start" funding commitment for climate change as a test for aid effectiveness and coherence;
  • Launch a new plan to address conflicts situation and make development and security work better. No development without and not security with out development;
  • Support a stronger weight of developing countries in the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, and the UN reform for more effective agencies.

I suppose the ones that can be measured are the support for developing countries to have a stronger voice in the World Bank and IMF. Interestingly Piebalgs seems to also support a tax for development. That will not go down well with quite a few member states. I for one believe that the idea of a global development tax is unworkable and unpalatable (to be argued in a future blog, but let me know what your thoughts are on this).

The action plan is issued in the form of an official Commission Communication.  What does that mean in ordinary language? A Communication is an official statement of policy proposal by the Commission. It does not have any legal basis (as far as I know), but in general it serves to bring member states to the table, so as to speak; hence the use of words like “Member states will be asked...”and “should”.

Will member states now voluntarily submit their action plans to meet the goals? Communications, when they do not outline plans for a legal directive, can have the force of a good kick in the ass to get countries moving on certain issues. Let’s call it a moral force. But we will have to now wait and see if Piebalgs can make the 27 governments show and tell. In a previous comment, I extracted from an OECD report that at least five EU countries are meeting the 0.7% target: Sweden (world’s highest ODA as a percentage of its GNI at 1.01%); Luxembourg (1%); Denmark (0.83%); The Netherlands (0.8%); and Belgium (0.7%).

This year at least four will meet intermediate commitments of 0.51%. They are the UK (estimated at 0.60%); Finland (0.56%); Ireland (0.52%); and Spain (0.51%).

What are the Millennium Development Goals?

Here they are in graphic form as published today and the progress, or lack of, in meeting them:

Millennium Development Goals: Progress or lack of?

 

In his press conference today, Piebalgs singled out child mortality and maternal mortality as the two main areas where there was lack of progress. As you can see, fragile states, a new word in the development lexicon, have gone backwards in reducing maternal mortality. In fact, half of mothers in poorer countries die either during pregnancy or within seven weeks of giving birth. Child mortality has fallen by 28%. But the target is 66%.

Here for the record are the Millennium Development Goals as summarised from a fact sheet by the UN:

  • MDG 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day; achieve full and productive employment and decent work
  • for all, including women and young people; halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.
  • MDG 2: Achieve universal primary education:  Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere are able to complete a full course of primary schooling.
  • MDG 3: Promote gender equality and empower women: Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015
  • MDG 4: Reduce child mortality: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate
  • MDG 5: Improve maternal health: Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio; achieve universal access to reproductive health.
  • MDG 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases: Have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS; achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/AIDS for all those who need it; have halted by 2015 and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases.
  • MGD 7: Environmental sustainability: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources; reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss; halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation; by 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.
  • MDG 8: Global partnership: Develop further an open, rule based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system; address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states; deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt; in cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries; in cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially ICTs.

More information:

Press release: EU 12-point action plan for MDG

Communication: A twelve-point EU action plan in support of the Millennium Development Goals (PDF)

Press conference video announcing the action plan (21 April 2010):

 


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