After a decade of steady increases, EU development aid fell for the first time last year, latest figures from the OECD show.
Collectively, the bloc gave some 55 billion euros in 2011, down from the 57.6 billion the previous year. While some countries, like Italy and Sweden actually increased their contribution, Spain and Greece made big cuts – a sign Europe’s economic problems are hitting budgets hard.
The Commission’s development chief insists even in times of financial crisis, the EU must not forget the world’s poor.
“Look to what happens now in Mali, or what happens in Somalia, the situation in Sudan. Unfortunately, there is a billion people that live under the poverty threshold, and the worst is that the people are so vulnerable that any natural catastrophe, or war, completely destroys their livelihood.” EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said.
Future EU aid is also likely to focus on Africa instead of the world’s emerging powerhouses like Brazil and India, a trend which worries some.
Olivier Consolo, Director of the NGO Concord, said: ‘‘When looking at the poorest populations, today two thirds of the world’s poor live in countries that have strong economic growth. What you might call lower wage countries – the middle income countries. Even so, we are very concerned about the decline in European aid to these states where the majority of the world’s poor live today.’‘
The EU is the world’s biggest aid donor, followed by the US and Japan.