The European Commission has officially launched the European Year of Development. But a report has revealed just how little European citizens understand development policy, despite broadly supporting it. EURACTIV France reports.
The European Year of Development was inaugurated on 9 January in Riga, the Latvian capital. Despite appearing as a top priority for the international community, it is still a subject of great ignorance among EU citizens.
According to a study on Europeans and development, carried out by TNS for the European Commission, 87% of those questioned said they had never heard of the European Year of Development before the survey.
More broadly, the study points out that European knowledge of development policy is, at best, flimsy.
The destination of the development aid provided by their own countries was largely unknown by the Europeans questioned. 46% had no idea of the destination of the aid, while 49% said they knew “a little” about the subject.
France is among the countries where this lack of knowledge appears to be most deeply rooted: 66% of the French citizens queried admitted to not knowing the destination of development aid, and 32% said they had some knowledge.
Strong support in principle
In spite of the lack of detailed understanding, European citizens show a strong attachment to development policy.
Almost two thirds of the survey’s participants (64%) believe that fighting poverty in developing countries should be one of the EU’s top priorities.
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Even today, with several EU member states experiencing a period of severe financial hardship, the majority of Europeans think that aid should be increased to meet the levels promised (52%) or higher (15%).
Scepticism from the French
While 78% of French people agree that it is important to help the populations of developing countries, this proportion is “among the six lowest across all EU Member States,” according to the study, and represents a fall of 9% since the last survey. France is not alone in this respect, as approval for development aid has also suffered a 9% drop in Belgium and Italy. Overall, 85% of respondents to the survey said they believe development aid to the poorest countries to be important.
Health a leading priority
The survey’s respondents placed health (39%), peace and security (36%) and education (34%) at the top of the list of issues they consider to be most important for developing countries, leaving gender equality (6%) and climate change (6%), both among the top priorities for the EU member states, far behind.