EU leaders will miss a historic opportunity to keep their promises to the poor and end poverty (by committing to spending 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) on development assistance and half of aid on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), unless France and Germany step up.

The 2015 deadline for EU Member States to meet the aid pledges that they made 45 years ago, will be missed. EU countries have also failed decline the reversing trend of aid to LDCs with less than a third of EU aid going to the countries that need it most. This will jeopardise the agreement of a new set of global goals for sustainable development, which will be crucial for ending extreme poverty for millions of people and for whom development aid will be critical. These goals – also referred to as the ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ or ‘SDGs’ – are set to be agreed at the UN General Assembly in September this year – as a successor to the Millennium Development Goals which expire in 2015.

The EU, along with other rich countries, committed to spend 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance (ODA) at a UN General Assembly in 1970. This pledge was renewed in 2005, when EU Member States committed to reach the target by 2015. At the upcoming meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council on Development (26 May 2015), leaders will have the opportunity to ensure the pledge is still met by 2020 and to rebalance their aid budget towards countries that need it most. Some Member States have already met or exceeded the 0.7% target – Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and the UK. Two Member States, Belgium and Ireland, have expressed their commitment to allocating 50% of ODA to LDCs. But France and Germany are among a number of Member States which have not yet agreed on a timebound commitment to 0.7% ODA/GNI, nor providing half of their assistance to LDCs with providing 0.15% of GNI to LDCs by 2020 and 0.2% by 2025 as a bare minimum.

Seamus Jeffreson, Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of Relief and Development NGOs, says: “The people of Europe have a strong history of generosity and solidarity. The EU must therefore reflect the values of its citizens and lead the way when it comes to helping people in the poorest parts of the world. If the EU backs away from its aid commitments, this could seriously impact on other countries around the world signing up to ambitious agreements on sustainable development and finance at the G7 summit in June; and the Third International Conference for Finance for Development in Addis Ababa in July, which is widely expected to lay the groundwork for achievement of the global goals.”

The EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica has said, ‘I firmly believe that we should recommit to reaching the 0.7% target as a crucial contribution to securing an ambitious outcome to the post-2015 negotiations.’

The European Parliament, in its Financing for Development report which is being put to the plenary vote today in Strasbourg, ‘urges the EU and its Member States to re-commit without delay to the 0.7 % of GNI target for ODA, with 50 % of ODA and at least 0.2 % of GNI being reserved for LDCs, and to present multiannual budget timetables for the scale-up to these levels by 2020’.

Despite some positive signs from both France and Germany in recent years –French President Hollande has publicly committed to 0.7%; and Germany announced its highest ever increase in development aid during its G7 Presidency – overall commitment to a clear timetable for delivering 0.7% has been lacking from both countries. It is therefore crucial that all EU Members States commit to delivering more and better aid at the Foreign Affairs Council meeting on 26th May.

Civil society across Europe is calling for EU leaders to:
• Recommit to 0.7% by 2020 at the EU level, backed by timetables at the national level that show how and where countries are gradually increasing aid to meet 0.7% by 2020.
• Reverse the declining trend of aid for those countries most in need, by committing to provide 50% of development aid to the Least Developed Countries, with providing 0.15% of GNI to LDCs by 2020, and 0.2% of GNI by 2025 as a bare minimum.

This year, with major agreements on the UN agenda, it is critical that the EU doesn’t drop the ball by sending a message to the world that it has given up on ever fulfilling a pledge first made 45 years ago.

1) In 1970, the target for rich countries to provide 0.7% of their Gross National Income as Official Development Assistance was first agreed and has been repeatedly re-endorsed at the highest level at international aid and development conferences.