Development is about the individual. It is not a billion people who are starving, it is 1000 000 000 individuals. The stomach that goes hungry in a developing country is the same as the stomach in our own family. To turn away from an individual is to take the shame and the responsibility.
Back in 2000, we made a commitment to the world’s poor that we would step up our efforts in the fight against poverty, signing up to specific time-bound and measurable targets to improve education and health, protect the environment and reduce hunger. But donors are failing to live up to their promises, and EU countries are no exception. The facts speak for themselves, but it’s time for EU leaders to start listening. With five years remaining, we are off track on all eight Millennium Development Goals, slipping ever further behind our targets amid the competing concerns of the global economic crisis. The clock is ticking, and millions of lives are in danger.
The EU remains the world’s largest donor of overseas development aid (ODA), but we are falling some €20bn short of our spending commitments. Despite emptying their pockets to the tune of trillions of dollars bailing out banks, the majority of governments are well behind the 0.7 per cent GNI earmarked for ODA. These targets must be met, there is no alternative. We must invest in the future.
Now is not the time for half measures. EU governments must have the guts to deliver on its development promises, and take the lead in proposing an ambitious rescue package at this week’s summit at the United Nations.
The United Kingdom has always played a leading role in the European Union on development aid, and the current government needs to live up to the results of the previous one. With the UK being one of the only Member States set to meet its financial commitment, we have a moral obligation to encourage the European Union as a whole not to break the promises it made to the poorest people. Even though Nick Clegg is attending, David Cameron still needs to demonstrate that the political will exists to put pressure on colleagues and explain this simple notion: yes, times are hard, and the promises were made during better ones, but it is a percentage to which we are committed, not a sum. 0.7%: this key-figure, though minimal, could save millions of lives.
We do not need another Copenhagen. Now is not the time for foolish indecisiveness. We need someone to step forward when no else will.
The European Parliament and the European Commission have adopted very similar positions on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and should work as incentives for the European Council to adopt an ambitious rescue-package.
EU Governments must be ambitious; member states must be brave. The EU must renew its efforts towards the millennium development goals by reaching a united position and taking the lead in proposing new, results-orientated, additional, transparent and measurable commitments. Failing to meet our MDG promises will mean a death sentence for millions. The EU, including the UK, must not have that on its conscience.