Oxfam: Our ‘red lines’ on securitisation and conditionality of EU aid

An Oxfam food box on display at the Aidex conference in Brussels, 2015. [Matt Tempest]

The EU is in the process of reviewing its entire framework for development cooperation, to incorporate the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. But there must be “red lines”, Oxfam told euractiv.com.

Natalia Alonso is Deputy Director of Advocacy, Oxfam in Brussels. She spoke to Matthew Tempest, EURACTIV’s development policy correspondent.

The timing of the EU’s review of its Development Framework for cooperation seems to be to align itself with the adoption last year of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change?

The EU is coming out with a package on what it intends to do to implement to SDGs, and another communication on what is going to be the next deal with African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) countries – the ‘post-Cotonou’ world. That is, the special arrangements that the EU has with the ACP states and the 28 member states, covering trade, development and political dialogue.

So this Commission’s tweaking of its thinking worries you that as well as incorporating the SDGs, as well as incorporating the Paris Agreement, it might also incorporate the “securitisation agenda” – just explain that?

Just to first say that we welcome the review – it’s a good time to update the policy. But we have identified a number of risks that are happening.

Firstly, the “securitisation of aid” – that means, development aid which is defined as an instrument to fight poverty and inequality, but ‘securitisation’ means that some of this funding might start going towards funding security activities. Although we don’t deny the needs to have those security instruments, we question why development aid that is supposed to be used for poverty eradication is diverted for that purpose?

Secondly, another risk is how development aid might be used in third countries to control migration as a “conditionality”, instead of serving the purposes of the people in need in those countries. Instead, it is serving the interests of Europe in blocking those people coming toward Europe. That’s definitely not the purpose of development aid.

Thirdly, is that aid should go for the people in need, so with the migration influence, we see a certain deviation of aid moving to ‘countries of origin’ or ‘countries of transit’, rather than where people really need it.

Fourthly, the role of the private sector. It has a role to play in promoting SDGs – but it’s not the magic bullet that is going to solve the gap we have in financing the SDGs. So it has to be quite clear what is their contribution. And one of their biggest contributions is in their own supply chain – much more distribution of wealth to their own workers. That would be a big contribution towards poverty eradication.

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We have a really obvious example of that ‘securitisation’ at the moment – Ethiopia. Which is a major recipient of EU aid, a major recipient of the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, but has just declared a state of emergency after 500 people were killed in protests in disputed circumstances.

Yes, exactly. Another example is Afghanistan – it was really ‘surprising’ timing between the agreement was signed between the EU and Afghan government about receiving back a number of Afghan people who were rejected for asylum, very closely followed by the Afghan conference on donor aid. We were really surprised to see that coincidence.

Well, you say coincidence. We were criticised by the Commission for a story saying Afghans would be returned after an area of the country was declared ‘safe’ – and, lo and behold, a few months later, it happened.

Exactly. Agreeing to have these ‘return’ agreements, whilst recognising the violence and the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse and worse.

A final question – if you look at the 17 SDGs, they include provisions on gender, on sexual and reproductive rights – for the first time, I believe. And yet within the EU’s 28 members, you have several countries which are socially conservative and staunchly Catholic – Ireland, Malta and Poland, namely – who oppose abortion, the pill, even family planning services. As we saw recently on the streets of Warsaw, even at home, let alone in development aid. How do you as Oxfam persuade them otherwise?

The overall consensus means a common position – it has two parts. On “principle”, it applies to the whole of the EU.

The second part, which was only affecting the European budget – we really hope that the reviewed consensus will be one document for the whole of the EU. How do you get an agreement on that? You negotiate, and you get a consensus. As  you do in many other policies, where it cannot be that an individual member state will be blocking.

I think there are different levels of intervention. And when the consensus is reached, it applies for everyone. And it should be like that – to have one voice with the EU speaking on development.

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