European approach to poverty action crucial, says Dóchas

 

THE NEXT few months will be crucial to how Europe tackles the problem of global poverty, Irish aid agencies said yesterday.

Dóchas, the Irish association of non-governmental development organisations, used yesterday’s Europe Day celebrations to encourage the EU to take decisive action against extreme poverty.

“If we are serious about ending extreme poverty, we must get European countries to work together and the decisions to be taken in the next few months will determine whether Europe is ready and able to take on that task,” said Hans Zomer, director of Dóchas.

The “decisions” Mr Zomer referred to are the expected negotiations on the new multi-annual financial framework.

Sometimes called the financial perspectives, the framework sets out limits on expenditure for the EU and its departments, over a number of years. The current framework ran from 2007 and will end in 2013.

“The EU’s budget for foreign policy and the fight against extreme poverty is likely to come under pressure as negotiations start in earnest this summer,” said Mr Zomer.

“We would like to remind EU governments that the Lisbon Treaty, and indeed all major EU treaties since 1992, have put poverty eradication at the heart of what the EU is seeking to achieve,” he added.

The EU is currently the biggest donor of overseas aid in the world and just under 6 per cent of all its expenditure is spent on projects in countries outside its boundaries, a fact that Mr Zomer said keeps Dóchas highly interested in the policies of the EU.

“The members of Dóchas have expressed concerns about recent trends in EU discourse, downplaying the importance of social services and putting too much faith in the market to deliver international development,” he said.

He added that Irish aid agencies had expressed some fear about what the economic crisis would mean for future funding of aid projects.

“EU member countries are unlikely to want to increase their membership fees,” he said.

“In fact, countries like Germany, France, the UK and the Netherlands have already insisted that any increase cannot exceed inflation.

“That means that any new European initiatives to tackle unemployment, climate change or energy dependence will have to come from the existing budget, and will need a reshuffling of priorities.”