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Millennium development goals: time to shift gear - 21/04/2010

African man using EU flag as cloak © EC

Recommendations on how EU countries can meet their pledges for fighting hunger, poverty and disease.

EU countries should spend more to help the world’s poor, the development commissioner says, urging them to draw up annual plans for increasing development aid and using the money more effectively.

The plans should be realistic and verifiable, Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in presenting EU recommendations on how countries can meet the development goals adopted by UN member states a decade ago.

The commission recommends countries submit their new plans before this year’s UN summit on development goals. World leaders are expected to make new commitments to fighting hunger, poverty and disease at the meeting in September.

“Europe must remain the main and most credible leader in the fight against poverty,” he said. “We have to respect our promises of more and better aid.”

The EU is the world’s largest aid donor, accounting for more than half of all official development assistance.

After a big in increase in development aid in 2008, EU spent less in 2009, when the financial crisis kicked in, causing the worst recession in decades. Collectively, member countries provided €49bn in assistance to the world’s poorest countries – about 0.4% of the bloc’s gross income. EU countries have pledged to increase aid to 0.7% of gross income by 2015.

Other EU recommendations - summed up in a 12-point action plan - include innovative financing methods and more action against tax evasion in the developing world.

The main millennium goal – adopted by UN countries in 2001 – is a 50% reduction in the proportion of people worldwide living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day. By that definition, the share should shrink from 42% to 21% based on 1990 poverty levels, the agreed reference point.

In 2005, the world seemed well on its way to achieving the poverty goal, despite big disparities between regions and countries. According to World Bank figures, 1.4 billion people - 26% of the global population - were living in extreme poverty at the time.

But since then the economic crisis and higher food and fuel prices have plunged millions of people back into poverty. And despite gains in several areas, progress on other fronts – including hunger and sanitation – has been slow.

China has made the most gains. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the regions lagging most behind.


EU action plan to support millennium development goals

More on EU development aid

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