Parliament puts development aid objectives in the spotlight

Farmers sifting grain in Ethiopia. [David Stanley/Flickr]

The European Parliament has called on member states to honour their promise of dedicating 0.7% of gross national product to development aid by 2020. France hopes to sidestep binding time limits. EURACTIV France reports

MEPs adopted a resolution on 19 May, giving member states five more years to meet their official development assistance targets.

Though the resolution is not binding, it provides a firm objective. By 2020, the EU 28 must dedicate 0.7% of their gross national product (GNP) to international solidarity efforts.

Call to order

This objective originally dates back to the 1970s, and was reiterated by member states in 2005. Most have so far failed to reach the objective, despite the expiration of the initial deadline this year. Official development assistance from Union countries and institutions averaged just 0.42% of GNI in 2014.

A handful of member states have already reached the 0.7% objective: Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the United Kingdom. But the rest, including the EU’s biggest economies, Germany and France, are still a long way off.

>> Read: EU countries must honour foreign aid pledge, says Commissioner

Neither have the EU’s newer members been able to fulfil their more modest objective. Latvia, the Czech Republic and Poland have agreed to donate 0.33% of their GNI on international aid, “but none of them has yet reached this target,” the report states.

The S&D group’s rapporteur on the resolution, Pedro Silva Pereira, told MEPs in Strasbourg that “this resolution demands that the Parliament make a choice and it sends a message about the kind of leadership the EU should show. […] The EU must urgently renew its 0.7% objective”.

Addis Ababa conference

The European Parliament’s mobilisation has come at an opportune moment, ahead of the International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa this July.

EU member states will have to re-state their development commitments at this meeting. French MEP Louis-Joseph Manscour said “the Addis Ababa conference must galvanise the will of European countries to help the developing world”.

>> Read: Erik Solheim: ‘If the UK can commit 0.7% of GDP to development, so can France’

The Foreign Affairs Council will try to agree on a post-2015 development agenda and a programme of development financing at their next meeting on 26 May.

French NGO group Coordination SUD said “the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council dedicated to development will give leaders the chance to commit to reaching the 0.7% target by 2020”.

Member states in retreat

The ball is now in the member states’ court, but with budgets already strained, many are cutting development assistance. “As far as the timetable for reaching 0.7% is concerned: that is up to the member states,” the European Commissioner for Development Neven Mimica said. He added that “the economic realities” must be taken into account.

>> Read: MEP Pedro Silva Pereira: Austerity-minded countries are wary of providing more ODA

For France, the 0.7% objective is still on the political agenda, but the question of a target date is a sensitive one.

“We hope to see the 0.7% target renewed at Addis Ababa, but without a deadline. We have supporters on this issue, including the British,” a French source told EURACTIV.

To push the debate forward, the French government will advocate a more easily achievable target: dedicating 0.15% of GNI to the world’s poorest countries. A French source said “this is a more feasible objective”.


Aid to developing countries grew steadily from 1997 to 2010, according to OECD figures.

It fell in 2011 and 2012, as many governments took austerity measures and trimmed aid budgets.

Aid budgets rebounded in 2013. Five countries joined the Development Aid Committee (DAC) that year (Iceland, Poland the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia), and official development assistance commitments from DAC members reached an historic high. In 2013, almost €100 billion were spent on aid.


  • 26 May: Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels
  • July 2015: Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa
  • 25-27 September 2015: sustainable development summit in New York

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