EUROPEAN FOREIGN POLICY SCORECARD 2016

Key elements of the international system

12 - International aid

Grade: C+
Unity 3/5
Resources 2/5
Strategy 3/5
Impact 2/5
Total 10/20
Scorecard 2015: B- (12/20)
Scorecard 2014: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2013: B- (11/20)
Scorecard 2012: B- (12/20)

European aid budgets are under financial pressure in the face of the need to deal with the refugee crisis

2015 was a landmark year for international development, at least on paper, as the UN General Assembly approved the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many EU member states claimed part of the credit for this new set of targets. Spain was an early advocate of sustainable development, for example, while the UK was heavily involved in managing the UN process (sometimes alienating developing countries with its heavy-handed interventions). The Irish ambassador to the UN played a central role in guiding the General Assembly towards a final agreement. Despite this, some EU members, including the UK, are concerned that the final goals (involving nearly 170 individual targets) are overly broad and vague.

European governments struggled to keep their aid spending steady, especially given the need to divert cash to refugee support. Belgium, Denmark, and Finland are among those that significantly cut international development budgets, although their spending was still relatively high. Italy and Spain tried to maintain levels of aid, having already reduced their spending during the euro crisis, but Spain cut back its programmes in Latin America to prioritise the Middle East and North Africa. France, which also made heavy cuts during the crisis, kept spending roughly level in 2015, although it is likely to cut again in 2016.

Other donors including Germany, Luxembourg, and the UK managed to keep aid spending high. It is notable that Bulgaria, although not a major donor, made a push to increase aid to the Middle East as part of its response to the refugee crisis.