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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

Serious commitments, credibility and trust

Published 21st April 2010 - 0 comments - 1899 views -

Brussels – Earlier this week I wrote a comment about holding countries – and the people they represent – to account for the promises they keep in relation to development aid. What is apparent from a recent OECD report is that individual countries have fallen behind in meeting their commitments.

OK, so there’s an economic crisis on right now and it might be understandable that some of the EU’s 27 member states might be more reluctant to spend 0.7 percent of their gross national income (GNI) on aid by 2015 to meet the promises they made to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Public finances and budget spending have been shot to pieces in many instances (Greece and Spain for example). And all EU members must of course meet the Union’s economic strictures, especially if they are in the euro area. So in a way they are in a squeeze, from the electorate and the EU’s monetary area.

Below, I just give the raw, brutal figures of aid, as published by the OECD this month. Of course there is a lot more going on behind the Millennium Development Goals programme (including holding aid programmes, donors and recipients to good governance and transparency – but that’s the subject of another blog).

The key positive of this report is that: Development aid rose in 2009 and most donors will meet 2010 aid targets.

The OECD report on 14 April into official developement assistance shows that EU aid represented 0.42% of GNI. The EU as a whole remains by far the major global aid donor and this should not be forgotten.

However, total aid spending did rise. Members of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) contributed 0.7% in real terms (6.8% in cash and kind once debt relief is excluded). The actual sum is $119.6bn, representing 0.31% of DAC members’ combined gross national income. So Europe is ahead when compared on that basis.

However the combined net ODA of the fifteen members of the DAC that are EU members fell by -0.2% to $67.1bn, representing 0.44% of their combined GNI. As a group the 15 EU members gave 56% of the total aid given by the DAC members. Note, the EU’s figures for the full 27 members is 0.42% of GNI.

This year the DAC-EU donors agreed to reach a collective total of 0.56% of GNI in net ODA, with a minimum country target of 0.51%. So far eight EU members in DAC will surpass that goal. They are:

  • Sweden (world’s highest ODA as a percentage of its GNI at 1.01%)
  • Luxembourg (1%)
  • Denmark (0.83%)
  • The Netherlands (0.8%)
  • Belgium (0.7%)
  • UK (estimated at 0.60%)
  • Finland (0.56%)
  • Ireland (0.52%)
  • Spain (0.51%)

Those who are unlikely to reach the target are:

  • France (about 0.46%)
  • Germany (0.40%)
  • Austria (0.37%)
  • Portugal (0.34%)
  • Greece (0.21%)
  • Italy (0.20%)

To put this in perspective however, the MDG programme is working. Setting a goal has given countries an incentive to meet targets. Even if they don’t meet them, the trend is upward and that’s a good thing, is it not? To put this in perspective despite the various shortfalls against commitments, overall official development assistance increased by about 30% in real terms between 2004 and 2009, and is expected to rise by about 36% in real terms between 2004 and 2010, the OECD says.

Ahead of the release today of the EU’s 12-point Action Plan on how it is going to meet MDG promises here are some findings from the OECD report:

  • In 2009, the largest DAC donors by amount of ODA were the US, France, Germany, the UK and Japan.
  • Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden exceeded the United Nations ODA target of 0.7% of GNI.
  • Excluding debt relief and humanitarian aid, bilateral aid for development programmes and projects rose by 8.5% in real terms. Most of the rise was in new lending (up 20.6%). Grants increased by 4.6%.
  • In 2009, net bilateral ODA to Africa was $27bn, an increase of 3% in real terms over 2008. About $24 billion of this went to sub-Saharan Africa, an increase of 5.1% over 2008.  

 

Interestingly enough, soon after the OECD report, the EU Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, came out with a strong statement linking promises with credibility. This is a very important connection I have always found useful in questioning policies and promises, whether in development or in any other sphere I have reported on in the past.

Here is what Piebalgs said in his blog on 15 April:

“Do we want to show that we are serious about keeping our promises? I’m sure you’ve already experienced the situation where someone made you a promise which they did not keep. The result is that he or she just lost his or her credibility.   It is the same situation for the European Union.”

The man is right on the mark. He also added: “If we all do our share, Europe’s development aid policy will head for a comprehensive, coherent and fertile approach, where commitments are fully observed. This is about credibility, and trust.”

His solution? “ So, what can we do? First, I call on Member States to confirm that they are serious and committed to this goal. The economic crisis is a reality, and as we are only too well aware it seriously hit our own countries. But it can’t be an excuse, because think about it: it has hit developing countries much harder and these countries are by no means responsible for it.”

So if individual EU countries do not meet their commitments then one can then question them on the basis of credibility. This quality, by the way, is the old gold standard of journalism, which I myself follow. It is an adage that all we sell in the news business is credibility. I hold others to the same standard.


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