Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

By Natalia Alonso, Deputy Director for Advocacy and Campaigns

The European Union is set to review its entire framework for development cooperation. This will define not only the development policy of the EU and its member states, but also how to ensure that all policies respect the EU’s international commitments. Today, the European Parliament is holding a consultation on the review of the European Consensus on Development, as it is known. Oxfam has a clear vision on the red lines that an improved policy should uphold.

It is indeed the right time to review the Consensus on Development: the EU has to cross-check its policy approach with the Paris climate agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations in 2015. However, Oxfam is also seeing certain risks in this update – and has therefore set out clear criteria that a review of the European Consensus of Development should fulfil.

The EU has always prided itself – and rightly so – on championing human rights as well as nurturing opportunities for the poorest and most vulnerable to lift themselves out of poverty and enjoy better chances in life. But recent trends in the EU policy making threaten the core objective of development cooperation – which is fighting poverty – by the instrumentalisation of aid for stopping migration, by a focus on private sector engagement with only limited safeguards, and by an increased securitisation of aid.

The EU’s migration response is one of the clearest signs of these trends. The EU is reshaping its foreign policy with the aim of stopping migration to Europe, including redirecting development aid towards migration control. This is alarming, because it means development aid will be replacing the interest of people in need for the EU’s own short-term interest.

By undermining its standards on aid, the EU’s legitimacy in other crucial policy domains – from tax transparency to climate change – would also likely be diminished. And at the same time, it would lose its standing to hold other countries to account on international commitments such as aid effectiveness or human rights.

In this context, Oxfam’s position on the review of the European Consensus on Development is clear: if the review integrates those values traditionally championed by the EU and keeps a demonstrated focus on fighting poverty and inequality, we will be supportive of the new Consensus.

But if the EU is ready to compromise its values, by allowing the instrumentalisation of aid for policy objectives that are contrary to these values, we will outright reject the review of the Consensus and advocate for leaving it unchanged.

Oxfam has drawn clear red lines that, in our thinking, a reviewed Consensus on Development needs to respect. Read our position paper to know the details.

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