Over the last decades, Cyprus has evolved from an aid recipient to an aid donor country helping those most in need in the developing world. However, despite getting off to a good start, going above and beyond its overseas aid target for 2010, Cyprus is now falling behind on its commitments. We hope it gets back on track and puts development at the heart of Europe’s external action under its six month EU presidency, kicking off this week.
Undoubtedly, Cyprus takes up the presidency in a context of economic uncertainty, both for Europe and the country itself. As a small nation of barely one million people with severe economic problems of its own, Cyprus will need to work hard to make sure that it is equipped to face the demands of the coming months.
There are, certainly, a set of upcoming political opportunities at EU level that Cyprus should grasp. We’re talking about action that Europe could take to help poor people tackle climate change, address food security and make sure deadly food crises, like the ones that struck East and West Africa, are a thing of the past.
>> Climate change: Addressing money gaps
First, the EU must fulfil its promise to help poor countries adapt to climate change and develop in a low carbon way. As part of the “fast-start finance” package agreed in Copenhagen in 2009, the EU pledged €7.2 billion to help fight climate change in developing countries between 2010 and 2012. When that pledge runs out at the end of this year, all that will remain is a lofty and distant target for 2020 – a target that will never be achieved without intermediary goals for the seven-year gap between 2013 and 2020. Innovative sources of finance, such a tax on financial transactions or revenues from the EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS), could be a solution.
At the next UN climate change talks in Doha at the end of the year, Europe must have a strategy ready to address this funding gap.
>> Food security: Reforming the EU’s flawed biofuels policy
Second, the EU must tackle increasing food insecurity across the developing world. Counter-productive EU biofuels mandates are diverting food from the stomachs of the hungry to the fuel pumps of the wealthy. The demand for biofuels is driving up food prices and encouraging land deals which deprive communities of vital land and water.
The Cypriot EU Presidency must use upcoming policy discussions to reform EU biofuels policy, and ensure that no new binding 2030 targets for renewable energy in transport are considered. Cyprus has the chance to lead the way in making sure that a renewable future for Europe does not come at the expense of millions of families in developing countries struggling to feed their children.
>> Aid that can prevent future food crises
Third, the EU must do more to protect people from the dire effects of chronic poverty. The large-scale food crisis that has recently broken out across the Sahel region of West Africa proves that there are deep flaws in the EU aid system. We hope that the Cypriot Presidency will use the public, political and media attention focused on this crisis to lead the way in developing long-term strategies that will make sure the world never sees a famine like this again.
Ensuring enough emergency and long-term development aid under the new EU budget (2014-2020) will be crucial.
>> Accounting Directive: Making companies pay their fair share
Finally, Europe must take bold steps in finalising the so called “Accounting Directive” that the European Commission put forward in October last year. This directive obliges multinational companies active in the extractive and forestry sectors to report how much money they are paying governments in the developing world for use of their natural resources: a huge step in the fight against corruption.
We hope that Cyprus will use its presidency to push this directive forward, so citizens in resource-rich countries no longer have to suffer in poverty whilst political elites prosper. They need the ability to ensure that the money that governments make from their country’s resources benefits the many and not just the few.
Let’s hope that Cyprus will deliver the success it is capable of.
Click here to read more about Oxfam’s policy recommendations to the Cyprus EU Presidency