Oxfam's EU Advocacy office in Brussels

EU development aid makes a real difference in the fight against poverty and inequality. But for seven years, the EU has failed to respect its own budgetary commitments on aid. In its long-term budget, the EU must take action to deliver on its promises, argues Oxfam’s Alessandra Croppi.

Over the past 30 years, extreme poverty in the world has fallen by more than two thirds. The number of children out of primary school has been nearly cut by half since the year 2000, and between 2000 and 2017, the maternal mortality ratio dropped by about 38 per cent worldwide. Much of that success is the result of development cooperation, and the European Union has been a key player in securing these results.


However, the EU is losing its edge. Just this week, it has agreed a 2020 budget that lacks ambition, and fails to deliver the resources needed to address widening inequality which threatens decades of development progress. In 2012, the EU committed to spending 20 per cent of development aid in its long-term budget, the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF), on education, public health and gender equality. These areas are proven to reduce inequality, and are central to empowering women.

But for all seven years of the current budget cycle, EU member states, the European Parliament and the Commission have failed to meet that goal.

According to the latest data available from the European Commission, the average amount of what experts call ‘human development’ funds reached only 16.8 per cent. To uphold its own commitment, the EU would have had to increase its 2020 human development spending by more than EUR 400 million.

The 2020 budget was the EU’s last chance to address the ongoing defecit – it is the last budget of the current MFF.

Now it’s time to learn from past failures. Beyond 2020, EU governments and the Parliament must put aside short-sighted policies of self-interest, and commit to a truly visionary long-term budget. They must agree on legally binding goals to ensure support for quality public service delivery in health and education, women’s empowerment and social protection; and they must provide sufficient humanitarian aid to meet the needs of people affected by crises and conflicts around the world.

Lastly, to ensure transparency and accountability, the EU should publish annual evaluation and implementation reports. This will allow civil society and other actors to track progress and identify gaps. With concerted and inclusive effort, the EU can still ensure progress towards achieving sustainable development.

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