|Author (Person)||Harding, Gareth|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.5, No.1, 7.1.99, p8|
|Content Type||Journal | Series | Blog|
A LACK of coordination between member states is hampering the EU's efforts to combat poverty in developing countries, claims a major new study to be published later this year.
The report, drawn up by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), a leading UK think-tank on development issues, concludes that although all EU countries have signed up to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's goal of halving the number of poor by 2015, they do not share a common strategy to achieve it.
While Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK have poverty reduction as their overall objective, France and Spain have no strategy to speak of, and Germany and Italy see it as just one priority among others.
The study acknowledges that most development agencies have increased their commitment to tackling poverty during the 1990s. But, according to its author Aidan Cox, "some agencies are miles behind and their commitment to poverty reduction only rests at the level of rhetoric".
Moreover, he adds, even when countries have national strategies, the policies on which they are based are often "plucked out of the air and based on tradition rather than where the biggest poverty reduction bite could come for your money".
His report states that, on average, only about one quarter of European bilateral spending is clearly linked to poverty reduction and claims that this money is often wasted because of duplication, a failure to understand countries' specific needs and a lack of dialogue with local partners.
The picture is not much rosier at EU level, through which almost 20% of member states' aid is channelled.
A recent OECD report warned that while the reduction of poverty was one of the Union's stated aims, this commitment was not reflected in the allocation of its aid resources.
In a review of the bloc's aid policy, the Paris-based organisation claimed that the EU allocated a lower proportion of its resources to the world's poorest countries than most other donors. Furthermore, its share has fallen in recent years as more and more development funding is earmarked for the countries of central and eastern Europe bidding to join the Union.
Last month, UK Development Minister Clare Short said it was "truly appalling" that the EU gave only 53% of its €5.67-billion aid budget to poor nations in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 75% a decade ago.
OECD figures show the extent of the EU's about-turn from funding the world's poorest nations to those in which it has a greater geo-strategic interest. In 1986, the top five recipients of EU development aid were Ethiopia, India, Sudan, Senegal and Egypt, whilst ten years later they were Morocco, Egypt, Bosnia, ex-Yugoslavia and Tunisia.
Short believes the reason for the shift is political. "The rhetoric says poverty but the reality is 'we're worried about North Africa, bung them some money', and the effect is unprincipled application," she said.
As EU governments prepare for the final phase of their negotiations on the Union's budget for the next six years, the UKis pressing for an overhaul of EU aid spending to ensure more money goes to the poorest countries. Council of Ministers sources say that Nordic countries and the Netherlands are supporting London's demands.
Whilst welcoming the European Commission's latest attempts to focus on a reduction in privation, the OECD bluntly states that "lip service to the poverty goal will no longer suffice".
Cox agrees and says the Commission "is not one of the most effective poverty reduction donors". This is due to a lack of staff and a failure to gear projects to local needs.
In order to meet the ambitious poverty reduction goals EU governments have signed up to, the ODI urges both the Commission and member states to create more specific strategies to help the poor and to target spending at primary public services such as schools and hospitals.
European development groups are also pressing for the new EU budget to make a clear distinction between aid to the poorest countries and other developing nations.
Preview of a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
|Subject Categories||Politics and International Relations|