The future of EU aid. The New Federalist

2000 was a year of victory for the world of development. 189 countries has agreed on reducing the plague of extreme poverty by focusing on eight interconnected and measurable targets– The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) due to be met in 2015 (such as access to food, basic education, health care, gender equality…). The European Union  also largely contributed to this international effort: a recent report by Alliance 2015 recalls that Europeans’ funds to development has increased through the years: “from US$ 11.2 billion in 2005 to US$ 15.4 billion in 2009”.

Thanks to the MDGs, impressive progresses have been made – thus not overshadowing remarkable failures. With the deadline of 2015 approaching fast, the European Union has been reflecting on post-2015 development. How should it be shaped? What conclusions can be drawn from the MDGs?

On February 27th 2013 The European Commission unveiled a long-waited communication entitled “A Decent Life for All: Ending Poverty and Giving the World a Sustainable Future” where the Commission develops novel and innovative guidelines to post-2015 development – even if lots of issues remain to be discussed. This article will detail some of them.

“We all live in one world”.

Firstly, following the reflections at the UN Level, the report underlines the necessity to break from the MDGs´ philosophy – which gave the impression that global challenges were only to be found in developing countries. On the contrary, as Andris Piebalgs (EU´s current Development Commissioner) puts it: There will be no more North-South divisions, which I believe are outdated. You can call Latvia as much a North country and a South country. And you can call the same any other EU country. And China is also a North country and a South country. We live in one world”.

Consequently, the Commission chose to establish basic living standards for all – a common “floorthat should be ensured in every country by 2030, including areas such as democracy, rule of law, governance or public health. Eradicating poverty is here regarded as a complex and multidimensional task requiring a response to numerous global challenges at the same time.

Linking poverty reduction and environment

Out of the eight MDGs, only one concerned climate change and environmental issues. The Communication from the European Commission is now reversing this course. Efforts to eradicate poverty should go hand-in-hand with sustainable development.

Together with the Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, Piebalgs declared that “We are completing our joint vision today by confirming that we will bring together also the financing tracks for sustainable development and poverty eradication”. Therefore, the Communication recognizes that it is highly doubtful to reduce poverty without trying to tackle climate change, natural disasters, biodiversity losses or the degradation of oceans – elements that the Rio+20 Conference had brought into light in 2012 and that the new development strategy of the EU wishes to integrate.

Rethinking financing

The Commission also recognizes – between the lines that financing could be problematic, with EU aid likely to be diminished because of budget austerity. As a result, the Commissioner Piebalgs calls for pooling together the different sources of aid.

Examining the multiple sources of aid (private, public, domestic, international), the Commission recommends that aid financing should be considered as a whole – with clear policy objectives and results – regardless of its origin. Middle-income and emerging markets are also requested to take a greater share of the international development efforts. Better coordination and transparency is also demanded from donors.

In one word, the Communication is definitely a major breakthrough for development assistance. However, it still needs to be concretized into concrete policies and action.