Development: EU policy is

Stefania Bianchi

BRUSSELS, Jul 1 (IPS) - The European Union development policy is ”inadequately geared” towards the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, according to a new report released Thursday.

Alliance2015, a partnership of six European development organisations says that although there has been a growing focus on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within the European Union (EU) in recent years, there is a ”big gap between policy and implementation, between theory and reality, and between rhetoric and results.”

The report '2015-Watch: The EU's contribution to the Millennium Development Goals' says that the bloc is failing to pursue the MDGs ”in practice”, and is calling for the EU's development policy to be adapted to achieve the goals.

”The gap is due to an overall lack of orientation towards poverty eradication in all stages of the policy process,” the report says, adding that the EU ”performs poorly in all specific sectors for the MDGs.”

The goals agreed by heads of state in September 2000 aim to reduce poverty, improve access to basic services, bring disease under control and ensure universal primary education by 2015.

A review on the progress of the goals will be carried out for the first time next year. The European Commission, the EU executive, together with the bloc's member states is the biggest provider of development aid.

The report says that the EU's contribution so far to the goals has been ”somewhat meagre.” In 2002 the EU committed 0.33 percent of overseas development assistance (ODA) to basic education and 1.53 percent to basic health.

The report says that the performance on gender in terms of real commitment is alarming. In the same year, only 0.22 percent of ODA was committed specifically to gender, the third of the goals, and 1.3 percent to general environmental protection -- goal number seven.

The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are urging the EU to agree a timetable to increase aid budgets beyond the 2006 commitments towards the long-promised goal to set 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) for aid.

Alliance2015 says transparency is also a problem. ”One of the biggest problems we have is finding out there where the money is spent and how its impact is evaluated,” Jaap Dijkstra, president of Alliance2015 said while presenting the report Thursday.

In the fight against HIV/AIDS, the report says that the EU results are ”slightly more encouraging”, with the EU's development policy achieving a ”more positive orientation” towards tackling the disease.

”A strong programme of action and targeted resources through the Global Fund have ensured a steady flow of resources towards the fight against HIV/AIDS, even if the EU effort might be considered insufficient, given the size of the global pandemic,” the report says.

The group says that one of the main challenges facing the bloc's development policy is the ”blurring” with security issues.

”We need to be clear about what poverty issues there are and clear about what instruments we need to tackle these issues,” said Paddy Macguinness from the Irish NGO Concern.

”We need to focus on poverty and not get it mixed up with security issues. We need to be faithful to the Millennium Development Goals,” he added.

In terms of funding, the group says that there needs to be ”new money” to achieve the goals and a reallocation of resources. It says that while police and army training in developing countries is important, the money should not be taken from development funds.

”Our fear is that money is disappearing into woolly security areas. It is a battle between security and the Millennium Development Goals,” Macguinness said.

”Since September 2001 politicians have a new agenda and they are shifting from one budget line to another. The development budget is vulnerable,” he added.

In order to prevent such discrepancies Allaince2015 is calling for the EU's development policy to be revised to reflect the bloc's commitment to the MDGs and to make the eradication of poverty is its ”primary aim”.

It adds that there should be proper monitoring and evaluation of the EU's impact on the MDGs, ”with an increased frequency of country evaluations.”

Responding to the report, the European Commission said the suggestion that there is a blurring between security and development aid is unsubstantiated.

”There is nothing to suggest that the budgets are being blurred.

Without peace and security there can't be development,” Jean-Charles Ellermann-Kingombe, spokesman for development commissioner Poul Nielson told IPS.

”That's why we're pushing for the Peace Facility in Africa and it's with the approval of African countries. We stand 100 percent by this.”

The Commission adds that ODA figures presented in the NGOs report focus on one year only. ”If you look at the European Development Fund for 2003 to 2007, 1.3 billion euros (1.5 billion dollars) has been programmed for education and 1.7 billion (2 billion dollars) for budget support for developing countries,” Ellermann-Kingombe added.

For health, the Commission says the average annual budget for some 100 developing countries was 625 million euros (760 million dollars) a year between 1994 and 2001.

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