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Open letter on #EUBudget2017: Don't cut EU aid

27 October 2016
Open letter to EU Member State Permanent Representatives, calling for a robust external aid budget dedicated to achieving the core aims of EU development cooperation and humanitarian aid.

#EUBudget2017: Don't cut EU aid

Dear Permanent Representative,

On behalf of Plan International, I am writing to express our deep concern over the significant cuts to external aid in the EU’s 2017 Budget, as proposed by Member States. We are also extremely worried by the shift towards funding migration management and security under the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), as proposed in the European Commission’s the Amending Letter on 17 October 2016.

The Council’s proposal to cut Heading 4, Global Europe, and particularly the DCI, runs contrary to commitments already made under the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 (MFF), as well as the ambitions agreed in the Sustainable Development Goals.

A strong EU development cooperation budget can help developing countries – and the international community – end extreme poverty by 2030

A strong EU development cooperation budget can help developing countries – and the international community – end extreme poverty by 2030, and is critical to the EU’s continued leadership and credibility in shaping sustainable development policy.

Plan International therefore urges EU Member States to reverse the proposed cuts to EU external spending – including aid to the poorest – to the tune of €105.2 million cuts in commitments and €70 million cuts in payments.

Accordingly, we call on EU Member States to:

1) Agree on a robust development budget in line with repeated commitments

External spending accounts for only 6% of the EU budget, yet it has a key role to play in reducing poverty and inequality globally – the primary objective of EU development cooperation, as set out in the Lisbon Treaty. An ambitious external aid budget is critical to ensure the EU meets its existing commitments to poverty reduction, including those agreed only last year in the Sustainable Development Agenda. The EU has also reaffirmed its commitment to provide 0.7% of GNI on Official Development Assistance by 2030. EU Member States must therefore support a development cooperation budget in line with this ambition.

In amending its own budget proposal to take account of new initiatives related to migration management, the European Commission has acknowledged the need for new commitments to be backed by robust budget lines. We urge you to reinforce other geographical and thematic budget lines within the DCI and European Neighbourhood Instrument to meet increased needs, as well as the EU’s bilateral and international development policy commitments.

2) Preserve the integrity of EU development cooperation and EU humanitarian aid    

There is a disproportionate focus on migration management and border control under the DCI and the European Development Fund in both the European Commission and the Council proposals. This not only compromises the integrity of development aid, which is meant to address poverty and inequality, it is also unclear whether such an approach will achieve the EU’s stated aims to “tackle the root causes of migration”. The purpose of development cooperation is to lift people out of poverty. Aid must always be planned and allocated in a way that best and most effectively serves this purpose, and geographic allocation of development aid must be in accordance with needs; a country or region’s potential to be a source of outward migration is not an appropriate criterion. Reinforcing other budget lines such as for human development, will safeguard the integrity of the instrument and reduce this disproportionate bias.

Humanitarian funding is meant to be principled and needs-based, going where there is most suffering. At present, it is being used to support political objectives. The EU should put forward a robust humanitarian funding line which corresponds to a growing level of need, including its fair allocation to forgotten crises. The EU must also ensure that new funding instruments and modalities are additional to, and not at the expense of, humanitarian funding lines.

3) Maintain commitment to spend 20% of DCI on Human Development

Under the current MFF, the EU has committed to spend 20% of development cooperation funding on human development. Channelling aid away from basic social services, particularly health and education, towards new initiatives including migration management, security sector support and private sector funding, jeopardises this commitment to support the development and sustainability of basic services in the poorest countries for the poorest people. The amount currently allocated to human development is insufficient to ensure that the EU will tackle the root causes of poverty and inequality. As such, greater commitments are required in order to reach the 20% benchmark.

At a time when 193 countries have agreed a roadmap to tackle some of the most challenging crises over the next 15 years, the EU cannot retreat from its global development role. The EU’s 2017 budget should reflect this commitment.

We therefore call on you to reverse the proposed cuts to EU external spending and enhance relevant budget lines within the DCI to ensure EU aid is spent proportionally and reaches those most in need.

I would be happy to meet to discuss these proposals in detail.


Yours sincerely,

Alexandra Makaroff

Plan International EU Representative