More talking than acting

Published: 05 December 2010

Greece accepting international aid, Ireland soon as well (let’s hope that others won’t follow them), they are pushed to get their budgets low. So how can they help other countries when they don’t have enough for themselves?

“Not having a deficit and still reaching the objective of spending money at development aid isn’t contradictory,” says Catherine Ray, spokesperson of Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development. But let her say this to Greek or Irish governments that are trying to cut budgets in every possible area... And so she hurries up with another argument for development aid, more practical: “We have to tackle terrorism, migration – those issues are closely related to poverty in developing countries. Spending money today means spending less in the future.” This seems already more rational, but again, what would reply her people that are trying to find a job in a state with a 23% unemployment rate, like it’s in Latvia, home country of Andris Pieblags?

It’s more than clear that most of the EU countries won’t be able to reach the objective they set themselves at the G8 summit in Gleneagles in 2005: raise aid budgets to 0.56% of GNP by 2010 and 0.7% by 2015 (for „new“ EU members only 0,33%). There are only four EU countries that have reached this aim already in year 2009: Sweden and Norway with more than one procent of GNP and Luxemburg and Denmark. Other ones are far behind (France 0.46, Germany 0.35 and Italy only 0.16%).

One could explain this neglecting of promises with the unexpected economic crisis, but such pledge has been actually made already long before 2005. For the first time it was adopted in 1970 in a General Assembly Resolution of the United Nations. Then again in March 2002 at a UN Conference in Monterrey, Mexico. So it seems that we have mouths fulls of promises, but action is far behind the words.

„Unfortunatelly we cannot force the states to keep their promises,“ says Ray. There is no binding legislation on development assistance funding. Therefore the states can talk and talk and the only thing that might harm them if they break their pledge, is that they will be marked red in statistcs. But does anyone really care about it? Since such statistics haven’t brought anything new for 35 years? And that’s when we are optimists and expect that someone will read those statistics. Most of the people don’t even now about them.

So in the nearest future the content of the 21. article of the Lisbon Treaty will probably continue to be theoretical ideals: „The Union shall foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty“