Denmark has an excellent track record of commitment and expertise when it comes to helping the world’s poorest. Onlookers have good reason to hope that Denmark will make sure that the EU remains ambitious in its development and humanitarian goals and keeps its promise to place poverty eradication at the heart of EU external action.
No doubt the current context is bleak: the financial crisis has left a $65 billion gap in poor country budgets. Aid flows are down and, in the meantime, climate change is putting millions of people at risk of hunger and homelessness.
Against this background, over the next six months, as Oxfam, we expect Denmark to champion EU policy on these three fronts – these are feasible and time-bound recommendations:
EU budget 2014-2020
First, enough money must be earmarked for development and humanitarian assistance in the new EU budget for 2014-2020. The EU as a bloc must live up to the commitment made to provide 0.7% of national income to poor countries by 2015 – right now it stands at an unacceptable 0.4%.Denmark has a key role to play in pushing for the delivery of aid primarily through budget support – that is directly to government coffers- which is one of the best ways of providing predictable and long term assistance.
New sources to raise funds the people and the planet
Second, Europe must move forward on finding new sources of revenue to finance the fight against poverty and climate change.
A European tax on financial transactions would be a fair, practical and popular way to raise as much as €210 billion for public goods. We hope that the Danish EU Presidency pushes for an agreement on a European FTT at the EU leaders’ summit in March. Europe must put the interests of the poor people of the world ahead of the financial sector that caused the current economic mess.
Likewise, a fair carbon charge on international shipping would mobilise a large amount of money to help poor countries adapt to climate change and develop in a low carbon way. Money to help poor people cope with climate impacts must not come at the expense of funds promised for schools and hospitals.
From January 2013 onwards revenue from the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will also be a promising new source of money for climate action. The EU must re-commit itself now to setting aside at least 50% of the money raised through the ETS to finance the fight against climate change and help poor countries cope with its devastating effects.
Third, the EU must put an end to irresponsible speculation through market regulation. Excessive and damaging speculation on agricultural and food commodities can lead to higher food prices that endanger the lives of millions. Likewise, EU renewable energy targets increase the demand for biofuels produced from food crops, fuelling land grabs in developing countries and threatening food security for the poor as food prices go up. Denmark must push the EU to minimize the damage its biofuels policy will have on food security and land rights in developing countries.
To prevent another devastating food crisis such as that in the Horn of Africa, the EU must commit to tackling the root causes of vulnerability and make sure that humanitarian aid is rapidly followed up with long-term investment towards sustainable development.
An EU development policy that cuts corners on and fails to take into account the broader problems that breed poverty and insecurity across the globe would be inconsistent with the stated aims and priorities of the Danish EU Presidency.
Our expectations are high.