Saturday, January 25, 2020

A wake-up call for aid watchers

The European Commission is pushing to allow aid to be used to fund military activities in developing countries. The proposal runs counter to a consensus decision by OECD members to prevent development assistance funds from being used for such purposes.

The EU move should be a wake-up call for civil society and others who believe that the main purpose of Official Development Assistance should be to focus on poor groups. 

Across the donor community, development policies are now being aligned with the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. This is a necessary and important process. But the SDG agenda applies to all countries, rich and poor, and covers a wide range fields.

It is natural that some adjustments are made about what aid should cover as a result of this discussion. There is, however, a danger that all kinds of rich-country interests, including security and anti-migration initiatives, are now creeping under the broad SDG umbrella, and reaching into the aid pot.

Funding military activities and rich countries’ efforts to keep migrants away from their borders should not be among the tasks for ODA funding.

ODA money is a limited resource. It should be sheltered to make strategic investments to provide food, education, health and social services, and to mobilise private capital for job creation, to mention a few priority tasks.

Civil society and others should take active part in this strategically important discussion, which may well shape EU aid for the next decade and beyond. It is too important to be left to EU bureaucrats and a few politicians negotiating behind closed doors.