EEAS in Indonesia: It is logical to exit health programmes in middle income countries

development health aid

Local health community in West Bandung Regency, Indonesia. [Henriette Jacobsen]

In middle income countries, the EU will in the future focus its development aid efforts in fewer sectors. In Indonesia, this means that health will not be a priority, though the country still has huge problems with the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, where the help of the Global Fund will not be enough. But concentrating EU efforts makes sense, says Franck Viault.

Franck Viault is head of cooperation at the Delegation of the EU to Indonesia. He spoke to EURACTIV’s Henriette Jacobsen in Jakarta, Indonesia. 

How is the EU’s development aid spent in a middle income country like Indonesia?

There has been a drastic change after 1 January this year in terms of development cooperation for middle income countries, like Indonesia, in the sense that the agenda for change in the EU on development assistance around the world, we focus on the poorest countries. There has been a shift. We are not preparing any country strategy paper on Indonesia’s development now. We are moving towards another type of cooperation: a more equal partnership.

We still have massive programmes in Indonesia, mainly focusing on education, good governance with a new programme in the justice sector and we are in the public finance management and anti-corruption. We are also in the forestry area with a fight against deforestation and climate change. We are also involved in human rights, of course, with promotion and support for capacity building of civil society organisations.

Nevertheless, we have the Global Fund on Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis, but it’s not a contract we are managing here. It’s a big world-wide contract which is managed in Brussels with France and Germany. From what we know, Indonesia is a good example of a country where progress is gradually made in the health sector.

We are meeting with the Global Fund from time to time. There are still health problems in Indonesia, but we work with the government is going well. Since it’s a large country, there’s a lot of autonomy in the provinces and regions, but when you visit the health posts, you feel that you are very far from Jakarta.

HIV/AIDS is still a big problem in the eastern part of the country. They can’t make progress there even with the help of the Global Fund, if the health system isn’t strengthened.

How much is Indonesia receiving in development aid from the EU, compared to the rest of Southeast Asia?

That’s a very difficult question to answer because we know what we manage… the programme we had from 2007-2013 was by far the largest in South East Asia. During those seven years, we had grants exceeding €400 million, in all the fields that I mentioned, with more than two-thirds of the grants going to the educational sector.

Now the amount is going to decrease slowly. Programmes are being implemented. We don’t have new large commitments. So we will contribute, with around €60-70 million per year.

How long has the EU had development aid programmes in Indonesia?

For around 30 years. We didn’t have health programmes from the start. In the beginning, the delegation focused on agriculture and the environment, but then we realised that Indonesia also needs support when it comes to education and health. In 2004, we set up the first project on community health.

Since you are saying that the EU does not need to help Indonesia anymore, what have been your achievements over the years?

We have to concentrate our assistance and do proper work with our donors. This is what we have done in the past. We cannot normally be in more than three sectors, following the Paris declaration on aid effectiveness and all the subsequent meetings and agreements. It has been decided that donors should concentrate their assistance on a few sectors. For example, we are an important donor within the education sector jointly with Australia, the US, Asian Development Bank and The World Bank, but we cannot be in all sectors. That would also be too complicated for the government. We cannot have a dialogue with 25 different development partners. In addition to us, you also have the individual member states within the Global Fund, where 50% of the funding is coming from EU member states.

It is difficult to say what we have achieved. We have a programme with UNICEF mainly focusing on nutrition, maternal and child nutrition. This is also a regional programme, but we have roughly €4.5 million spent in Indonesia on nutrition so it’s not really health, but the health posts and local clinics are implementing the programmes.

When will Indonesia exit the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI)?

They are not going to exit the DCI. You have the geographic funding and the thematic funding. They will continue to receive the thematic funding, but it is mainly not targeted the government except via the Global Fund. In our previous Multi-Annual Financial Framework (MFF), Indonesia had by far the largest country programme on development aid in the region, just ahead of Vietnam and the Philippines.

If you now look at EU development aid cooperation in South East Asia, Myanmar is by far the largest recipient, followed by Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Laos. But Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are not going to receive bilateral assistance anymore. They will continue to receive from ‘here and there’ programmes and projects from what we call global challenges.

In addition to that, we have our support for human rights, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, and this will continue. This will support local authorities.

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