Eurozone crisis leads to drastic cuts in development aid

 

A new report published today shows that European development aid has fallen for the first time in a decade, a potentially devastating consequence of the eurozone crisis at a time when one million West African children face a life-threatening hunger crisis.

Fourteen countries in the European Union slashed their development contributions in 2011, analysis by the advocacy group ONE shows, with those worst-hit by the economic crisis cutting aid budgets by up to 40 per cent. Overall, EU aid to the poorest countries fell 1.5 per cent from 2010 – a drop of €767m – even as the eurozone was handing multi-billion euro bailout packages to struggling economies.

“Those bearing the brunt of Europe’s economic crisis include some of the world’s poorest people,” said Adrian Lovett, ONE’s executive director for Europe. “As austerity bites across Europe, we can now see the impact it is having on life-saving aid programmes.”

Cuts to aid budgets could not come at a worse time. A hunger crisis in swathes of West Africa has reached a “tipping point”, Save the Children has said, with 1.5 million people – including one million children – in urgent need of help. The children’s charity also warns that up to six million more people worldwide could go hungry as a direct result of the global economic crisis.

But in Europe, governments are preoccupied with their own floundering economies, and this is having an inevitable knock-on effect. Greece, which has received €240 in eurozone cash since 2010, has seen its aid budget decrease by nearly 40 per cent, the figures from ONE’s annual data report show. Spain, which received a €100bn loan for its banking sector this month, cut overseas development aid by nearly 30 per cent.

Mr Lovett said that the €100bn handed to Spain represented five times the amount that the EU had fallen short on its 2010 aid pledges to Africa. “It underlines how modest the figures are,” he told The Independent.

While he conceded that cuts to aid were expected from countries like Greece, which is suffering a humanitarian crisis on its own doorstep, he said other European nations should make sure they meet – and ideally exceed – their commitment to steadily increase overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP in 2015. He pointed to struggling Ireland, which received a €85bn bailout in 2010 yet managed to protect most of its aid budget. Germany and the UK are also on track to meet their commitments.

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said Britain remained committed to meeting its aid pledges. “Countless lives will be put at risk if rich countries start to shirk their responsibilities to the poorest,” he said. “Cutting aid is short-sighted and only serves to damage our own national interests as well as the lives of the very poorest.”

With more budget meetings of Europe’s leaders looming and pressure on them to further tighten the purse strings, Mr Lovett said they will be urging states to ring-fence the €51bn budget currently set aside for aid.

But charities are warning that the neediest are already being side-lined. Ahead of last week’s G20 summit in Mexico, Save the Children calculated that six million people would go hungry by the end of 2013 as a direct result of the crisis. Reduced aid is not the only culprit: trade and investment from Europe is also decreasing because of the crisis.

Save the Children pointed to the World Bank’s worst case scenario projection, which said that if major economies such as Spain and Italy defaulted on their debt, the global knock-on effects would mean that economic growth would fall in developing countries and up to 33 million people around the globe could go hungry.

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