Every so often the European Commission reviews and rethinks its development policy. It’s generally a good thing to do, especially when it asks others to offer their views as to how EC development aid can help bring more people out of poverty. In October 2010 The Commissioner for Development, Latvian Andris Piebalgs, launched a paper and asked organizations and citizens alike to offer their views on how the Commission should shape development policy over the next few years. With the EU being the world’s biggest aid donor, this is an important question.
ONE’s response was to try and pinpoint real opportunities in Brussels and beyond in 2011 to make a real change to the poorest in the world. There are two glaring opportunities in particular – the first one being the EU’s 7-year budget. All EU governments put money into the collective pot for the overall EU budget, and a portion of that is used for development. Whilst there is pressure on all areas of spending as Europe looks for money to bail out its struggling Member States, it is in our long term economic interest, stability and security to do more to help the poorest, not less. That’s why we must ensure that the debates that will take place over the next 18 months on the EU budget prioritise effective spending on health, agriculture and the poorest communities.
The second huge opportunity is the push to get similar rules in Europe to those in the US that oblige big multinational oil, gas and mining companies to publish the payments they make to governments in countries in which they operate. You would think that information would be available somewhere – but believe it or not these companies are not obliged to publish the amount of money they give to governments. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this lack of transparency is perhaps more than a little questionable. Simply opening up that process will give the general public the ability to know who is paying what money to whom. In developing countries, it means civil society can track how much money should be going into government coffers. And in all countries, we can be better informed about which companies are doing the right thing and make our consumer choices accordingly. We are pushing for these legally binding measures to be implemented as widely as possible. We have an inkling that there is a chance to make this happen at the EU level. We’re working on it, but over these next months ONE members will be crucial in helping make it a reality.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
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