European Union spending on overseas development aid decreased in 2017 for the first time in 5 years, showing the bloc is neglecting its commitment to fight poverty across the globe, a new report from European development confederation CONCORD reveals.

The CONCORD AidWatch Report 2018 shows how despite the EU collectively remaining the world’s largest aid donor, the total amount of development aid actually spent overseas by both EU countries and institutions fell nearly 3 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.

The percentage of aid spent on migration control, securitisation and private sector investments – known as ‘inflated aid’ – rose to 19 percent in 2017. This diverted much needed funding away from helping people to rise out of poverty, and prioritised non-development projects that primarily served the self-interest of the EU and its member states.

At the current rate of progress and once inflated aid is discounted, the EU would not achieve its target of spending 0.7 percent of gross national income on overseas development aid until 2057 – 17 years after its self-declared target of 2030.

The report also questions the EU’s commitment to support the world’s least developed countries.

The EU has committed to spending 0.15 percent of its collective gross national income on the countries that need it most by 2020, but remains far away from reaching this target. The marginal increase seen in 2017 is appreciated, but a larger and more concerted effort is needed for the EU to demonstrate genuine commitment to eradicating global poverty and fighting inequality.

Only four countries met the 0.7 percent goal in 2017 – Denmark, Luxembourg, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Germany, left the ‘0.7 Club’ due to a 0.04 percent drop in its reporting on refugee costs.

The need for the EU to guarantee its continued commitment to fighting poverty and tackling inequality worldwide, and in turn meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, is particularly acute given that negotiations on the future EU budget are ongoing.

It is imperative that both EU countries and institutions prioritise the rights of people living in poverty, make sure aid is truly effective and adhere to the principles of successful international development by cementing these concepts into any future decisions on development aid spending.

Terre des Hommes is a member of CONCORD (Confederation for Cooperation of Relief and Development NGOs).

Picture: A girl from a village in Bangladesh affected by flooding. ©Tdh / François Struzik