Dear Commissioner Mimica, We are writing to express our concern about the growing pressure on international development assistance and proposals being considered at the OECD to change the rules on what constitutes Official Development Assistance (ODA). We are particularly worried about attempts to broaden the definition of ODA to cover additional in-donor refugee costs as well as defence, terrorism and security activities.

The necessary funds to support refugee response in donor countries must be found — and fast — to ensure their needs are met and their rights respected under international law. However, financing for donor domestic refugee costs must be additional to existing and promised aid. This is a matter of political will. Indeed, a start has already been made. The refugee crisis was one of the drivers behind the decision to increase the 2016 EU budget last week. Whilst some governments are looking to cut funding for poverty fighting programs in order to support refugees at home, the EU budget increases funding for both simultaneously and in doing so protects vital health, education and nutrition programmes, helping to prevent the humanitarian crises of tomorrow.

We have called for ODA reporting rules to be tightened, including by excluding in-donor refugee costs, to ensure a stronger focus on poverty alleviation. But there is a risk that the current discussion will instead trigger a race to the bottom as some donors try to widen ODA-eligibility in ways that weaken the poverty focus of aid. Attempts to broaden the definition of aid could undermine the significant progress we’ve made in international development over the past 15 years and should be rejected. The core aim of ODA – to fight and end poverty – should remain untouched.

Calls to broaden the definition of ODA are short-sighted and threaten the Global Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030, which world leaders signed up to at the U.N. General Assembly in September. We urge the European Commission to lead by example to avoid jeopardising past and future development progress. Aid must not be diverted away from the poorest countries to fund refugee costs at home or security and defence activities. We’re counting on you to champion aid and its core poverty-reducing role in the OECD Development Assistance Committee.