Europe, Africa fall short on development goals

Neither donor nor recipient countries are adhering to 2005 pledges on boosting development, a recent study says. [Julien Harneis]

Neither donor nor recipient countries are adhering to 2005 pledges on boosting development, a recent study says. [Julien Harneis]

While rich countries are often singled out for missing their development aid funding targets, a new report by the anti-poverty group ONE found that developing countries also fail to hold up their end of the deal. EURACTIV Germany and EURACTIV France report.

The ONE data report for 2014, “Fighting poverty and financing Africa’s future”, investigates Official Development Aid (ODA) contributed by G8 states and the European Union.

The report, published on Monday (6 October), measures where rich countries stand in their pledge to contribute 0.7% of Gross National Income to development aid.

“Official development assistance rebounded in 2013, but most donors have not made good on their aid commitments, and are not channeling a high enough proportion of aid to the poorest countries,” the report indicates.

The total proportion of rich countries’ GNI allocated to development aid reached only 0.29% in 2013, falling a long way short of the objective of 0.7% set by the United Nations. The European Union’s performance is above average, with 0.42%, but it remains well below the target.      

The figures for Germany illustrate a downward trend in ODA, which has become widespread across Europe since the 2008 financial crisis.

German development aid to Africa decreased by 13.9% in 2013, while funding for sub-Saharan Africa fell by as much as 17.4%. Overall German contributions to development aid have risen by 6.6% but the country’s development budget is currently stagnating at 0.37% of GNI.

France’s aid budget reduction of 3.3% between 2012 and 2013 places the country in the less impressive company of Portugal (-20.4%) and the Netherlands (-5.2%), neither of whom will achieve the 2015 objective of 0.7%.

Poorest countries neglected

The report criticises donors for only allocating one third of emergency aid to the poorest countries.

Overall in 2012, the donors of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee only dedicated 0.09% of their combined GNI to aiding the least developed countries, far below the UN’s objective of 0.15-0.20%. Only eight countries reached this objective.

The rules need revising

If development aid appears to not be a political priority of all EU member states, the report also singles out antiquated rules for the calculation of development aid for revision.

The report says that since 2008, one 6th of the total aid recorded by European countries (188 billion euros), has not been transferred to developing countries.

Donor countries have been known to record debt relief programmes, or even funds, used within the donor country itself, as development aid.

France, for example, records the cost of receiving foreign students and political refugees in its development aid figures. An estimated 28% of French development aid never leaves the country.

>> Read: FACTCHECKING: Does development aid go to developing countries? (in French)

In 2012, the United Kingdom recorded its pension payments to former colonial officers as development aid.

African countries also at fault

More surprisingly, however, the ONE data report also indicates that most African countries do not fulfill their own pledges.

Sipho Moyo, Africa Director at ONE, explained why it was important that recipient countries reserve a certain portion of their budgets for certain sectors especially relevant to development.

“The main goal of public expenditures in African states must be to dismantle extreme poverty. To do this, investment in agriculture is an important tool to create value-added chains as the basis for employment and sustainable economic business models. Investment in health is equally important to construct robust healthcare systems, so that crises like the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa are not allowed to take hold,” Moyo said.

Only 6 of the 43 countries south of the Sahara that were evaluated have adhered to their financing goals for the healthcare sector, the report says. Between 2010 and 2012, an additional $54.8 billion could have been mobilised if the countries had kept up with their healthcare pledges, ONE calculated.

From 2008 to 2010, only 8 of 41 countries in sub-Saharan Africa fulfilled their commitment to invest 10% of their national budget in agriculture. From 2010 to 2013, only one of 33 countries in sub-Saharan Africa contributed the pledged 9% of GNI to education. Only 10 countries reached the UNESCO goal to invest 20% of their national budget in education.

The education sector suffered the worst neglect between 2010 and 2013, with only one sub-Saharan African country out of 33 respecting its Dakar commitment to invest 9% of GDP in this sector.

But the report also points out that a “consistent and comparable” analysis of pledges by African countries is impossible due to “poor budget records” in most countries south of the Sahara.

Andreas Hübers, a political analyst at ONE, was critical of Germany's development aid record, as the country prepares to take over the G7 presidency.

"For years, the German government has been driving its development policy with one foot on the break. At the moment the 2015 development budget is only planned to receive €1.8 million in increases. If the Federal Government does not accelerate soon, the situation next year will become highly critical. As the host of the G7 Summit, Germany must take on a leadership role," said Hübers.

Hübers indicated the particular significance of adequate financing for verifiably efficient health programmes.

"The two most successful programmes, offering long-term guarantees on public health in development countries, are both under-funded by Germany. The Global Fund will sustain budget cuts of over one-fifth for the coming year. As host of the financing conference for the vaccine alliance Gavi, which has saved nearly 6 million lives to this day, Germany should now contribute €100 million, as a fair share according to its economic weight," Hübers said.

Reacting on the report, Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs wrote in his blog:

“For us, the report is a very valuable contribution to keeping track of ODA levels and driving the debate around future financing. For a second year in a row, the ONE Report also provides some very interesting insights into African domestic spending commitments.

In 2013 the EU and its Member States collectively invested €57 billion in ODA. This means we are back on a positive trend after two years of decreases caused by the economic and financial crisis. I am glad to see this reversal. The EU collectively kept its position as the largest ODA donor, with, once again, more than half of the total ODA as reported to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic and Co-operation and Development (OECD/DAC). Of course, we are still far from our collective target of 0.7% GNI for 2015.

Mobilising ODA is important for the developing countries that are most in need, and the EU remains committed to playing its part in this. We need to try and make better use of our resources, for example by focussing on countries and sectors in which we can really make a difference and by programming our efforts jointly.

Finally, let’s remember that aid is only one element of financing for development; international negotiations on a financing framework for the time after 2015 are starting as we speak. In our view we need to make full use of all resources available in the future, be they domestic, foreign, public or private. I look forward to ONE being an active participant in the upcoming discussions.”

In 2005, EU member states pledged to increase Official Development Assistance (ODA) to 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2015 and included an interim target of 0.56% ODA/GNI by 2010.

These were based on individual targets of 0.7% ODA/GNI for the EU 15 and 0.33% GNI for the 12 Member States which joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, according to the European Commission.

EU countries that were already at or above 0.7% ODA/ GNI pledged to sustain their efforts. The EU Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their commitment to reach the 0.7% target by 2015 at the European Council on 7/8 February 2013.

A Eurobarometer survey from October 2012, said that 85% of polled EU citizens believed that Europe should continue donating aid to developing countries.

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