Press release: 1 budget. 7 years. 2 billion children: EU must invest in children to meet poverty reduction targets | Plan International Skip to main content

Press release: 1 budget. 7 years. 2 billion children: EU must invest in children to meet poverty reduction targets

20 June 2012

Investing in children in the 2014-2020 budget is critical if the EU is to meet its poverty reduction targets, according to international child rights and development organisation Plan.

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Key decisions on the EU’s next multiannual budget (MFF) will be taken at the General Affairs Council on 26 June and the European Council on 28-29 June.

“Amid the furore surrounding the future of the Eurozone, the importance of these negotiations should not be underestimated: the decisions made in the coming months will affect the lives of millions of people, not just in Europe but worldwide,” says Karen Schroh, Head of Plan EU Office. “The MFF will shape the future of EU development assistance, and our leaders must take their responsibility seriously.”

Child rights and gender in development cooperation

The MFF translates the EU’s policy priorities into financial terms. It is therefore the means by which the EU concretely follows through on the policy commitments it has already made on child rights and gender equality.

However, as it stands, there are significant gaps in the proposal on child rights, gender, health and basic education and in the current proposal for the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI), which is the main source of aid for developing countries, specific references to children and youth have been removed from the Global Public Good and Challenges thematic programme.

If child rights and poverty reduction commitments are to be met, children must be visible in the EU budget through clear, traceable budget allocations.

This means they must be identified as a cross-cutting theme of EU external action under the MFF, and a priority focus of both thematic and georgraphic programmes of the DCI.

Three recommendations on the EU’s 2014-2020 budget

To ensure the EU meets its poverty reduction targets and follows through on its commitments to promote and protect child rights and gender in EU external action, we are calling on the European Parliament and European Council to:

1) Ensure there are specific budget allocations to child rights, which must be mainstreamed effectively as a cross-cutting issue, including child-sensitive budgeting and indicators

2) Make gender mainstreaming a requirement in all financial instruments, with explicit commitment to gender assessments, gender-responsive budgeting and gender-sensitive monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, as well as ensuring specific budget allocations for gender

3) Ensure at least 20% of the DCI (thematic and geographic programmes) is earmarked for health and basic (primary and lower secondary) education, as well as in the European Development Fund.

Investing in health and education

We are calling for specific earmarking for health and basic education under the DCI, with at least 20% allocated to these key sectors, which have a provide multiplier effect in breaking the cycle of poverty.

As it stands, the proposal for the 2014-2020 budget backtracks on previous commitments to health and education, by earmarking 20% of DCI funding for “social inclusion and human development”. This places growth, jobs and private sector engagement as the first priority, and merges social inclusion and protection with employment and skills.

Access to basic services, employment and respect of the rights of specific groups, including children and youth, are all placed in the same basket.

“Allocating 20% of EU aid under the DCI to ‘social inclusion and human development’ represents a backwards step,” says Schroh. “Health and basic education are critical to meeting the targets set in a number of the millennium development goals and the EU will not meet its poverty reduction targets if it scales back its investment in these sectors. We therefore call on the EU to allocate 20% exclusively to these key sectors.”

Impact of EU aid

Between 2004 and 2009, EU aid has had a substantial impact in alleviating poverty in developing countries. For example:

  • More than nine million pupils have enrolled in primary education
  • More than five million children have been vaccinated against measles
  • More than four million births were attended by health personnel
  • More than 31 million people have been connected to drinking water and nine million to sanitation facilities

“When aid is used wisely, it has a catalytic effect in helping people pull themselves out of poverty and investing in children, especially girls, has been proven to have a disproportionately beneficial impact on poverty reduction.” adds Schroh.

“We know EU aid achieves results. Ultimately, investing in development is good not just for developing countries, but for the EU as well. Scaling back investment in development now would be extremely short-sighted.”

Editor's notes

For more information contact Louise Hagendijk, communications and media officer, on 02 504 6056 or at

The overall MFF proposal from the European Commission in June 2011 amounts to €1,025bn, which includes a large budget increase from €56bn to €70bn for heading four (Global Europe), from 5.6% to 6.8% of the total EU budget. The DCI would increase from €17.3bn to €20.6bn under this proposal.

Read our Policy Briefing on children and the MFF here.

Child rights and EU external action

The importance of safeguarding child rights is specifically referred to a number of legislative and policy documents:

  • Article 3 of the Lisbon Treaty explicitly recognises the promotion of children’s rights in internal and external affairs as an objective of the EU.
  • The European Consensus on Development (2005) identifies child rights as a cross-cutting issue which requires a mainstreaming approach.
  • The 2008 European Commission Communication, “A special place for children in EU external action” acknowledges the key role of children in development aid.

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