Inflated development aid figures exposed

"Inflating aid figures with in-donor refugee costs does not help the least developed countries to tackle poverty and inequality," said Green MEP Heidi Hautala. [Dodo/Flickr]

New figures confirm that the European Union and its member states have consolidated their place as the world’s leading aid donor in 2016. But NGOs and MEPs say the picture is distorted and the aid figures are inflated.

Preliminary OECD figures show that Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided by the EU and its member states has reached €75.5 billion in 2016. This constitutes an 11% increase compared to 2015 levels.

Highest level to date

The EU’s assistance has increased for the fourth year in a row and reached its highest level to date, the Commission said in a press release yesterday (11 April).

In 2016, EU collective ODA represented 0.51% of EU Gross National Income (GNI), having increased from 0.47% in 2015. This is significantly above the 0.21% average of countries that are not members of the EU’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC).

Significantly, Germany, the EU’s largest country, has for the first time met its commitment to dedicate more than 0.7% of GNI to development cooperation.

MEP Neuser: 'Missed 0.7% target is eating away at Germany’s credibility'

Germany’s lack of investment in development cooperation is damaging the country’s credibility and is a catastrophe for developing countries, says MEP Norbert Neuser in an interview with EURACTIV.de, arguing that effective development aid could greatly reduce worldwide suffering and could have prevented the Ebola outbreak.

However other countries, including the Netherlands, dropped below this figure.

The downside

Finnish Vihreä liitto MEP Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA ) stressed that the increase was a result of some member states counting certain expenses associated with receiving refugees as development aid.

“The EU needs to find funds for both development and assisting refugees, and should not trade one against the other,” she stated.

“Before we congratulate Germany on joining the club of those few EU member states who have reached their commitment of 0.7% of GNI to development cooperation, it is worth noticing that over 20% of its official development aid is spent on receiving refugees. At the same time, aid directed to the poorest countries is in decline.

“Inflating aid figures with in-donor refugee costs does not help the least developed countries to tackle poverty and inequality. The EU and its member states must keep their promises to both tackle poverty and assist refugees, and should not be trading one off against the other,” Hautala insisted.

The ONE Campaign stressed that while statistics show new height in aid, the reality is that the world’s poorest lose out.

According to the NGO, nearly 2% of the 8.9% increase in global aid results from rising spending on refugees in donor countries.

The total amount of in-donor refugee costs rose steeply by 27.5% in 2016. This represents almost 11% of total aid, up from 9% in 2014-2015.

ONE’s Brussels-based Policy & Advocacy Manager, Valentina Barbagallo, stressed that too much aid was being spent in Europe rather than in the world’s poorest countries, adding that it was “deeply concerning” that, overall, aid to Africa fell by 0.5%.

“With the African population set to double by 2050, the EU must take steps to frontload investments for African youth now. In order to harness this ‘demographic dividend’, the EU must ensure its aid focuses on eradicating extreme poverty – particularly through investments in education, employment and empowerment  – and reaches the most vulnerable people, particularly in the poorest and fragile countries,” said Barbagallo.

“The European Commission is due to release the EU’s draft 2018 budget at the end of May, representing a major opportunity for the EU to continue to scale investment in development aid,” she added.