Winning the battle on aid spending means making smarter messages

development and aid, finance

Author(s):  Will Straw
Published date:  25 Jun 2012
Source:  Left Foot Forward

New figures out today show many European countries are reneging on their aid commitments to the world’s poorest countries. Britain is a noble exception, but avoiding a public backlash will require more than the unveiling of new logos (the latest wheeze from the Department for International Development).

The One campaign’s excellent ‘2012 Data Report: Europe’s Africa Promise’ shows that the European Union is falling behind on its commitments. At the 2005 Gleneagles summit in 2005 chaired by Tony Blair, the group of nations pledged to increase aid to 0.56 per cent of national income by 2010 and 0.7 per cent by 2015.

The EU is already €18 billion behind, and will need an extra €43 billion by 2015 to meet its target. The worst sinners are Germany, which has to find an extra €9.4 billion by 2015, Italy (€8.8 billion), France (€6.6 billion) and Spain (€4.8 billion). The UK is among the countries that are on track alongside austerity-hit Ireland and the Netherlands. Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg are the best performers.

The shortfall could not come at a worse time, since sub-Saharan Africa has been making rapid progress.

From 2005 to 2010, economic growth in the region averaged between 4 per cent and 7 per cent. Africa was home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Aid from Europe contributed to some of this progress, with more than five million children vaccinated against measles and more than nine million children given a chance to go to school.

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell appeared on Andrew Marr’s show yesterday to recommit the UK government to put its target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid into law and to unveil a new UK aid logo featuring a union jack. The government deserves credit for protecting the aid budget despite wider cuts, but they will need to do more to persuade a sceptical public.

Research from the Institute of Development Studies shows that even when people are informed about the amount spent per person annually on aid, there remains significant support for cutting aid in the short term.

IPPR has been working with the Overseas Development Institute to better understand public attitudes on aid and development, and how NGOs and government could improve the quality of their communications. Across four deliberative workshops in London, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Evesham, we discussed the issues with diverse groups drawn from the public.


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Will Straw, Associate Director for Climate Change, Energy and Transport