Lighten the Load
In a climate of crisis, aid has never been more important
On 14 May 2009, the 2009 AidWatch report Lighten the Load was launched. The AidWatch report highlights how EU member states performed on overseas development aid in 2008. The report finds that although the official figures provided by governments show that aid levels rose marginally between 2007 and 2008, some of that aid is not genuine aid, that much of the aid is of low quality, and that many EU member states are not on track to meet the commitments they have made to give 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) in aid by 2015.
The findings of the Lighten the Load report were highlighted at the Eurovision Aid Contest in Brussels on 18 May 2009.
Severely off track
In 1970, at the General Assembly of the United Nations, governments committed to giving 0.7% of their GNI in aid. In 2002 at a meeting in Monterey in Mexico, the EU as a bloc agreed to give 0.7% of their GNI in aid by 2015. While some individual countries such as Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark are already giving more than 0.7% of GNI in aid, the AidWatch report shows that the majority of EU governments are far from being on track to meet their aid commitments. This includes Italy and Greece, who both officially give 0.20% of GNI in aid, and France and Germany who both officially give 0.39% of GNI in aid.
The newer EU member states have set themselves the target of achieving 0.17% of GNI in aid by 2010, but only Cyprus, Slovenia and Lithuania are anywhere near achieving those figures. In fact, Bulgaria gives only 0.04%, Romania 0.07% and Poland 0.08% of GNI in overseas aid.
It is clear that even when looking at the official figures provided by EU governments, they are not on track to meet their aid targets andthat they are very unlikely to meet them by 2015.
Official figures are inflated
Unfortunately, the real aid figures are even lower than the official ones cited above. The AidWatch report shows that governments count non-aid items as aid in order to inflate their official aid figures. Out of the €50bn officially provided in aid by EU governments, €5bn is debt cancellation, €2bn are student costs and almost €1bn are refugee costs. These items are not genuine aid and distorts and glorifies the numbers presented by EU governments.
For example, about a fourth of the aid France and Germany claim to give are not genuine aid items. Without counting these items, their genuine aid levels are 0.30% and 0.28% respectively, meaning they are even further from reaching their 0.7% target by 2015. Other countries that inflate their aid figures heavily are Italy, Slovakia and Austria. In fact, Austria's genuine aid levels are less than half of the glossy figures provided by the government.
Quality of aid needs to improve
The AidWatch report highlights how aid can be effective when it is sustainable, long-term and characterised by genuine development motives. However, EU governments' often give aid that lacks transparency, that does not promote gender equality and lacks ownership by developing countries. Aid is also often given with strings attached, such as that part of the aid given needs to be spent on buying goods and services from the donor country. This seriously undermines the quality and effectiveness of the aid.
In the AidWatch report, European development NGOs recommend EU governments to
Meet their 2010 and 2015 genuine aid targets;
Ending inflation of aid budgets with debt cancellation, refugee and student costs;
Ensure that progress on aid commitments are carried out in tandem with systemic reforms of international financial and economic systems;
Ensure that EU policies on development issues are coherent, including those affecting aid, trade, climate change and food security.
Lighten the Load (Full report)
Lighten the Load (Executive Summary)
European governments U-turn on the poor as economic crisis grips (Press release)