In 2002 and again in 2005 European Union governments committed to substantial increases in the amount of aid they give to poor countries. According to official figures most European countries are living up to their aid promises. But European citizens should hold their applause.
European governments continue to make misleading claims about their aid figures: nearly one third of Europe’s reported Official Development Assistance (ODA) was not in fact genuine aid.
Many European governments are exaggerating their progress by inflating their aid figures with debt cancellations, particularly to Iraq and Nigeria. They are also chalking up as aid their spending within Europe on refugees and foreign students’ education. In 2006 these non-aid items accounted for €13.5 billion, almost one third of European ODA.
If non-aid items are deducted from official figures, European governments missed their collective 2006 target of giving 0.39% of gross national income (GNI) as aid, providing only 0.31%. Official figures show that Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain missed the individual minimum 2006 target outright. And once non-aid items are deducted, this report shows that France, Germany and Austria also failed to reach the marker.
The worst culprits for inflating their aid figures are the French and Austrian governments, with more than half of their ODA consisting of non-aid items.
Our analysis also shows that Italy and Germany are guilty of similar practices: Italy inflated just less than half its ODA, while Germany inflated more than a third of its ODA.
Several countries continue to outperform their peers with high overall levels of aid. These include Sweden, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Denmark. Other countries show encouraging signs of rapid increases in aid levels. Ireland’s aid levels rose by one third in 2006. Spain and the UK also made significant progress. All of the above countries inflate their aid figures, however, and this report outlines what further steps they need to take.
If European governments do not improve on current performance, poor countries will have received €50 billion less from Europe by 2010 than they have been promised. 1 This is money that is needed to help the 1,400 women in poor countries who die every day while giving birth due to the lack of adequate health care. It is also needed to help the 4,000 children who die each day from diarrhoea and to help put 80 million children, mostly girls, into school. Europeans have a moral imperative to deliver on their aid promises with genuine resources. There is no time to waste.