There is no magic bullet to eradicate world’s poverty, that’s why we should talk about development to see what works and what doesn’t. But many aid sceptics often use arguments that have nothing to do with the facts. So, what are facts and what are lies?
Fact 1: EU development aid is for the poorest countries
No development money is going to Russia, Iceland, Croatia and other European countries.
The definition of aid is decided internationally by the OECD. All OECD members agreed on the scope of what is official development aid and on recipient countries. European or other developed countries are obviously not among the recipient countries, so any funds given to them do not count into the target of 0.7 of national income dedicated to aid.
At EU level, development policy often suffers from being mixed up with EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood policy. These are two very different policies, with different objectives and different Commissioners (my colleague Štefan Füle is in charge of Enlargement and Neighbourhood). The EU supports Turkey or Serbia, because the EU member states gave those countries official EU candidate status and charged the European Commission to work with them on their behalf. This is division of work and pooling of resources. We invest in them under pre-accession assistance to prepare them for membership. This is also considered as a good investment, which directly benefits our own stability and security, and can create business opportunities and jobs.
Fact 2: EU aid is transparent and properly managed, with strict control procedures
EuropeAid is under higher scrutiny than any other EU donor. It follows a clear chain of control and is audited by external auditors and the European Court of Auditors. Not only did the independent Court of Auditors confirm that EU aid is efficient and transparent, but also NGOs and Member States repeatedly give us a high ranking. The last UK’s DFID Multiannual Aid Review ranked the EU main aid instrument as being very good value for money.
Fact 3: Member States are fully involved in EU aid spending
All EU member states have a voice on how EU aid is spent; their representatives sit in committees approving aid programmes and are regularly consulted.
Fact 4: EU aid is adapted to changing realities
Commissioner Piebalgs announced last year that EU aid would be fully focused on the poorest countries and on delivering even better value for money. This means the EU will cut bilateral aid to a number of countries such as Brazil, China, Argentina, Thailand and India. We will focus on fewer sectors to deliver high impact aid. These sectors will address the most urgent challenges of our planet, i.e. food security, access to energy and human development.
Fact 5: Channelling national aid through the EU has a strong added value
A study showed that if we coordinate better; we can gain up to €5 billion for aid. By acting jointly, the EU can weigh in as a single and more powerful actor on a range of issues where national action offers less impact and less scope. This also means that resources can be pooled and used together on a broad range of policies and instruments. Overall, the EU’s comparative advantage over national action is based on its global field presence, its wide-ranging expertise, its supranational nature, its role as facilitator of coordination, and to the economies of scale.
Fact 6: EU aid works
EU aid is saving lives and is helping to build a better future of the next generation. Here are some examples: We connected 32 million people to drinking water, enrolled more than 10 million children in primary education and provided access to electricity to more than 600,000 families. We also helped helped to immunise more than 5 million children against measles and provided antiretroviral combination therapy to around 800 000 HIV-infected patients thanks to our work Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
And how much did it cost? €2 a month; this is how much each EU citizen gave to foreign aid last year. Is this too much, in order to help people who don’t have enough food, access to electricity or access to hospitals?
Fact 7: EU citizens support development aid
84% of EU citizens support development aid and 62% are in favour of increasing aid to 0.7 of national budgets. These are the results of a survey carried out by one of the largest and independent poling companies in Europe. 26,856 Europeans were asked in person about their opinion.
Things can always be improved and development is based on a mix of ingredients, so we should carry on the debate to find out the best solutions. Development is a risky business but we need to do all we can to make it work better for the benefit of world’s poorest people and for our citizens.