Development and trade (in the multilateral context only)

79 - European policy on the Millennium Development Goals

Grade: C+
Unity 2/5
Resources 3/5
Outcome 5/10
Total 10/20

Major EU donors have been criticised for missing aid spending targets. EU efforts to fulfill the MDGs are complicated by a lack of guaranteed funding.

The UN’s September 2010 summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) focused attention on the EU’s development spending. There was considerable criticism of the EU’s overall performance in the first half of the year and OECD figures showed that some European governments, including Germany and Italy had reduced development spending in 2009. The OECD also concluded that limits to European development budgets throughout 2010 would reduce aid flows to Africa in particular. The release of the G8’s first accountability report in June showed that France, Germany and especially Italy were missing aid commitments set in 2005, although other member states, including the UK and the Nordic countries, have met their targets.

Foreshadowing the MDG summit, in April the European Commission launched a 12-point action plan to help get the MDGs “back on track”. In June, the European Council agreed a detailed action plan for supporting progress on the MDGs up to 2015. In the run-up to the September meeting, the Commission committed €1 billion to helping the neediest countries make progress on the MDGs. Aid NGOs welcomed this, but noted that this was not new money but rather previously unearmarked Commission development funds. More broadly, aid experts have criticised the EU for failing to back up its proposals for advancing the MDGs with a guarantee of necessary funding.

During the September summit, France and Spain emphasised their support for an international financial transactions tax, with the proceeds going to global development, potentially in the health area. Versions of this proposal enjoy support from other EU member states, and the European Parliament voted in favour of the innovation earlier in the year, but the US is wary of the proposal and some economists have queried its potential benefits. In the meantime, few analysts now believe that the world’s poorest states – especially those in Africa – can meet the MDGs by 2015.