Select Committee on International Development Second Report


1. If European development assistance were properly targeted, it could make a significant impact on the reduction of poverty, the promotion of sustainable development, and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The European Community spends around $5 billion per year in Official Development Assistance, contributing nearly ten percent of the aid provided to developing countries by the members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's Development Assistance Committee. In 2000, the EC was the fourth largest donor of ODA, behind Japan, the USA and Germany, with the UK in fifth place (see Table 1).[3] European development assistance provided through the EC budget is funded in large part by Germany (24 percent), the UK (20 percent), France (16 percent), and Italy (12 percent).[4] In 2000/2001 the Department for International Development (DFID) contributed £709 million towards the EC's aid effort,[5] an amount which absorbed 25 percent of DFID's budget.[6]

Table 1: Major Donors' Net Disbursements of ODA in 2000

ODA Volume ($ billion)
United States
European Community

Data source: OECD International Development Statistics Online

2. With such a large proportion of DFID's budget being channelled through the EC, we are concerned—as other member states which make large contributions should be—to ensure that European development assistance is targeted appropriately and spent effectively on poverty reduction. But, we have no hesitation in supporting the principle of multilateral aid. We take the view that European development assistance can and must add value to what could be achieved by channelling the funds through the bilateral programmes of individual member states. A coordinated multilateral programme can deliver contributions from member states who might otherwise contribute little; prevent unnecessary duplication, inefficiency and the placing of unreasonable administrative burdens on developing countries; sustain a European-wide policy on international development; and push development into other areas of European policy. We agree with Clare Short's assessment that, "If we could drive forward a really coherent committed development agenda throughout the Commission it could be a fantastically powerful force for good".[7]

3. Parliamentary scrutiny—by national Parliaments individually, and, as we discussed with members of the European Parliament's Committee on Development and Cooperation, in concert—has a vital role to play in driving forward the reform process. The International Development Committee has inquired into the EC's development policies and practices on three previous occasions, providing a comprehensive account of past weaknesses and inefficiencies, and—with increasing levels of concern—urging the EC to reform its development assistance.[8] Following some earlier half-measures, the Commission eventually began a concerted process of reforms in 2000, to improve—as Mr Bonacci of EuropeAid put it—the quality, speed of implementation, and impact, of programmes.[9] The reforms are at an early stage; the key issue now is their implementation. We share Chris Patten's view that a lack of significant improvement by the end of 2004 would constitute failure,[10] and look forward to initial results this year. Ultimately, we are interested in on-the-ground impacts and improvements in the effectiveness of European development assistance and will continue to monitor this during the course of our overseas visits; this inquiry provides the Committee with an initial opportunity to assess whether the reforms are on track to produce these results.

4. In chapter two we set the context for, and provide an overview of, the reform process. In chapter three we examine the poverty focus of European development assistance, both in terms of policy and in terms of the allocation of resources. In chapter four our attention turns to the institutions and management of development assistance, looking in particular at the EuropeAid Cooperation Office. Finally, in chapter five, we draw together our conclusions about the effectiveness of the reforms of European development assistance.

3   Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) International Development Statistics Online. Back

4   Calculated from European Commission Budget for 2001. Back

5   This includes contributions to both the European Development Fund, and budgetised assistance. Back

6   DFID Statistics on International Development 1996/97-2000/01: Table 8 for EC Contribution; Table 2.1 for DFID External Assistance Programmes. Back

7   Q230 Back

8   Second Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1997-1998, The renegotiation of the Lomé Convention, HC 365; First Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1998-1999, The future of the EC development budget, HC 44; Ninth Report from the International Development Committee, Session 1999-2000, The effectiveness of EC development assistance, HC 669. Back

9   Q104 Back

10   Q214 Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 23 April 2002