This post was written by Campaigns Manager, Claire Fourçans.
Last week was an important time for the future of development aid. Members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an organisation grouping together the world’s most advanced economies, met on Thursday and Friday to discuss what spending could be officially counted as development aid.
Although re-defining the boundaries of overseas aid is quite a technical process, and not the most gripping headline, it’s a very important decision that will have concrete consequences for the lives of millions of people who are living in poverty.
They decided to broaden which costs could be counted as aid; in particular, new security costs such as activities preventing violent extremism in developing countries. They also discussed whether more costs to meet the needs of refugees arriving in Europe should be counted as aid.
At ONE, we believe that governments must find the resources to meet the needs of those arriving at Europe’s borders – and fast – but the money used shouldn’t count as overseas aid. We also believe that development aid should be used to fight poverty and solve issues such as hunger and nutrition, tackling preventable diseases, and water and sanitation for all – not finance military and police activities.
The great progress that’s been made in the fight against extreme poverty over the past 20 years is being put at risk. The changes being discussed at the OECD could create massive cuts to the aid being delivered to support the people who are living in the world’s poorest countries.
Because of these facts we couldn’t let the meeting happen without letting leaders know about the voices of the more than 100,000 citizens who signed the #ProtectThePoorest petition – calling on them to provide for refugees without taking support away from those living in the world’s poorest countries. We asked to meet almost all members of the OECD who were gathered in Paris for this meeting and we got such a positive response!
First, we were lucky to meet the Chair of the Committee on Development Assistance, Erik Solheim. He welcomed the petition and said it was an “important input […] on how the money should be spent”.
— Erik Solheim (@SolheimDAC) February 16, 2016
We then handed in the petition to the Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium and State representatives of Austria, the Czech Republic, Finland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia. They all reassured us that, despite the important pressure of the refugee crisis on their budget, they don’t take money to meet the refugees’ needs out of their current development programmes. Instead they are sourcing the funds from other ministries’ budgets.
Although this is great news, we need to keep a very close eye on whether or not this will continue to be the case as the year goes on. Some other countries – including Sweden and the Netherlands – are already diverting existing or future development aid for use at home. The OECD members have agreed to standardise the current methods of reporting, without changing the existing rules. They will continue to discuss the issue over the coming months.
We will continue our campaign to make sure the world’s poorest are not losing out on promised aid. Sign the petition to show European leaders you are watching.