Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

By Hilary Jeune

Public services like health and education are one of the strongest weapons in the fight against inequality. They benefit everyone in society, but the poorest most of all. This is being recognised by the European Commission in its proposal for a new framework for EU development policy, which puts an emphasis on the need for ‘a stronger focus on human development’.
The proposed new European Consensus on Development states that ‘eradicating poverty in all its dimensions, tackling discrimination and inequalities and leaving no one behind will remain at the heart of EU development cooperation policy’. It further highlights key areas of human development such as ensuring universal health coverage, strengthening health systems, ensuring access to quality education and access for all to land and water.
This is a welcome statement, because to tackle inequalities, investment in human development needs to be at the heart of development cooperation. Public services mitigate the impact of skewed income distribution, and redistribute revenue by putting ‘virtual income’ into the pockets of the poorest women and men.
Recent EU decisions run counter to declared goals of Consensus on Development
However, recent EU decisions on development speak the opposite. Last week, the European Parliament and the EU member states formally signed off the EU budget for 2017. This EU budget, and the ones preceding it, all have one thing in common: less and less of the funds for development are going for investment into programmes that will support quality free health and education services, and to support for developing countries in removing user fees in health and education.
What little flexibility there was in the budget has been diverted to fulfil EU political commitments towards trying to stop migration to Europe, to increase border security and to fund the future EU External Investment Plan that supports private entities to provide public services. The figures speak for themselves: one budget line funding the EU’s external migration strategy was increased by 850% compared to last year’s budget.
EU needs to match good rhetoric with adequate funds
At the start of this multi-annual financial cycle, the EU committed to ensure that 20% of its Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) went to health and education programmes. This commitment seems to have been forgotten in the rush to push EU short-term security interests at the centre of development cooperation.
To ensure that the vision laid out in the Consensus proposal becomes reality, the EU needs to match the good rhetoric found in this framework with adequate funding, and it needs to reverse some of its recent policy decisions running counter to the goal of development cooperation, which is to end extreme poverty.


This blog is part of a series analysing the details of the proposed review of the European Consensus on Development. Read all our stories on the EU’s new development framework.

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