11 May 2007

More Broken Promises

European AidFor the second year in a row, more than 1,800 development NGOs from 27 EU countries have compiled a report showing that European governments are artificially inflating the amount of foreign aid they claim to be donating to poor countries.

At least one third of all European aid is in fact "inflated aid" that does not deliver any fresh resources for poor countries and does not directly reduce poverty. This includes:

  • Nearly €11 billion (£7.5bn) of debt cancellation — €8bn (£5.5bn) of which went exclusively to Iraq and Nigeria
  • €1.6 billion (£1.1bn) spent educating foreign students in Europe, and
  • €1 billion (£700m) spent housing refugees in Europe.
Counting just genuine aid, the European Union spent just 0.30% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid in 2006, missing its target of 0.39% by about a quarter. So much for talk of an ethical foreign policy! Western governments, our own included, could begin with a little more honesty and integrity at home, and improve transparency in their aid reporting.

Three years ago, a Foreign Policy Centre report entitled Moral Brittania? Evaluating the Ethical Dimension in Labour's Foreign Policy examined how far reality had matched Robin Cook's famous 1997 promise to formulate "a foreign policy with an ethical dimension." It argued that such a policy need not involve the sacrifice of national interests, warned against "presidential" foreign policymaking, and suggested being a pivotal power may require the UK to distance itself from the US. Not a bad read while the media obsesses with Blair's legacy.