The combined development budgets of the European Commission and EU Member States is enough to make Europe the single largest donor of overseas development aid in the world. Europe contributes over $50 billion per year, accounting for over half of all development aid internationally. However, a recent report by the UK Parliament argues that: “Too much EU development aid is going to middle income countries, like Turkey and Serbia, and not enough is reaching the world’s poorest people and poorest countries.” Is it time to re-think which countries get development aid from the EU?
We spoke to Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, and asked him about this and other topics. We began with a comment sent in to us by Joerg, who thinks that, whilst Europe does have a “historic responsibility” to contribute overseas development aid, “we could discuss which countries really need our help (e. g. I think China does really not need aid anymore).“
Commissioner Piebalgs agreed with him to a point, but argued that this shouldn’t be an excuse to shirk Europe’s responsibilities to the world’s poorest people:
Next, we had a comment sent in from Christos who argues that Western countries might be doing more harm than good in Africa and other parts of the developing world: “It is not the droughts that are ravaging Africa, it is institutions like the IMF that have burdened them with heavy loans (just like Greece now) and do not allow them to prosper… the best thing Europe and the West could do is step out, stop or scrap the IMF institution, delete all debts, and allow Africa to blossom on its own.“
Finally, we had a video comment sent in from Peter, who was sceptical of the idea of “green growth” or “sustainable development” for the developing world. Peter argued that “nothing is truly sustainable” on a planet with finite resources. How would Commissioner Piebalgs (who was previously EU Commissioner for Energy) respond?
What do YOU think? As China, India and other countries lift billions of people out of poverty, is it time to focus EU development aid only on the very poorest countries? Or is it important to remember that, even with Europe going through difficult times, it is comparitively a small amount of money being spent on development aid. Does aid do more harm than good, and should we instead focus on reducing the developing world’s outstanding debt burden and opening up our markets for their trade, to let them lift themselves out of poverty? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.
Andris Piebalgs is European Commissioner for Development.