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EU Calls for New Plans Past the MDGs

BRUSSELS, Apr 10 2013 (IPS) - The European Commission has unveiled a blueprint for global development aid and called on world leaders to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with an international aid framework based on sustainable and inclusive development tackling poverty at its roots.

While praising how the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had “inspired an unprecedented global movement for development,” the European Report on Development 2013 – an independent report commissioned by European states and setting out recommendations for the post-MDG aid agenda – said its replacement would need to go much further to provide help for poor nations.

Speaking at a conference in Brussels as the report was released Tuesday, European Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs said: “Efforts to end poverty in the post-2015 world must go hand in hand with sustainable development. It is vital that aid is used in the best way to make effective change.

“Aid alone is not sufficient. We need to look beyond just financing.”

The independent report was prepared by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM). The European Commission (EC) stresses that it is not a reflection of any policy it may have on post-2015 aid and is designed to add to current debate on global development aid.

Pedro Martins of ODI told IPS: “What the report is trying to do is to look at some of the things that are not being so widely talked about – sustainability, social inclusion, inequality – in the global development debate and give a voice on those issues. We don’t think it is the final answer, just a contribution to thinking.”

Piebalgs said though that the report “complemented and supported” the EC’s aid work.

The report identified a number of key failings with the MDGs which its authors say must be fixed in any future global aid programme.

The MDGs mask inequalities and omit some issues of key importance to development, including the need for productive employment, issues related to climate change, governance, migration, conflict, security and disability, according to the report.

It also criticised rich countries for not fully honouring MDG commitments and said that there was often a mismatch between national policy needs and MDG targets which meant that some aid was essentially squandered.

Third sector groups monitoring development aid and its effective use have previously been critical of the fact that in a bid to meet targets or specific aims projects have been undertaken which, while well-intentioned, have been poorly thought through and resulted in ‘white elephants’ or been virtually useless to the people who they are aimed at.

But its authors stated that, crucially, the biggest failure was that the international community had not reached an agreement on key issues such as climate change and trade, nor had it managed to create a stable and transparent international financial system.

Since the UN set up a High Level Panel (HLP) to draw up a successor to the MDGs, independent development aid groups and representatives of some of the world’s poorest countries have said that these issues are arguably the chief barriers to eradicating extreme poverty.

There is concern that states in Africa – one of the world’s richest continents in terms of natural resources, but its least developed – for example, are losing precious revenues as corporations manipulate tax regimes and use offshore financial havens as well as taking advantage of unfair royalty agreements on commodities to pay little or nothing in taxes and fees to governments.

Meanwhile, some of the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped nations continue to be blighted by environmental disasters robbing them of essential crops and foodstuffs and exacerbating existing problems.

Dr Shamshad Akhtar, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, speaking at the report’s launch, said: “The economic course adopted by some countries which has allowed them to become some of the most developed in the world has also led them to being some of the highest greenhouse gas emitters in the world as well.

“The economic development of some countries is indeed on a collision course with the need to protect the environment and climate in a sustainable way.”

The ERD clearly states that richer countries, such as those in the EU, need to extend collective action in all areas important to development, including drawing up international financial regulation, beneficial agreements in trade, helping deal with problems connected with migration, including improving conditions for economic migrants, as well as climate change.

They also say there is a need for a new understanding of poverty to address issues of relative poverty incorporating aspects of social inclusion and inequality.

By doing this, the report’s authors argue, global aid can grow to include a wider range of instruments than simply official development assistance – the main tool of the MDGs – and encourage the foundation of a new approach to development assistance.

However, Jan Vandemoortele, a co-architect of the MDGs and now an independent author and lecturer, warned that while it was quite right to look at including issues such as climate change, social inclusion, new definitions of poverty and others, it would be impossible to produce a global aid framework to satisfy everyone.

“It’s not possible to have a concise, global aid framework that is also completely comprehensive and that gives a clear list of targets while at the same time covering all the complexities of development,” he told IPS.

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