The economic downturn exhibited across many European states has people concerned that Europe’s overall development support will constrict dramatically. While some countries have indeed had to initiate austerity measures, overall foreign aid spending among the European states remains vigorous, but with more emphasis on results and transparency.
A couple of recent public events support this premise. In a surprisingly upbeat speech given by United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell earlier this summer, he detailed his government’s commitment to international development, stressing how it was going to be “smarter about how we spend money, sharper in our focus, tougher in our approach and more inclusive in our partnerships.” The Secretary also highlighted transparency measures that will allow British taxpayers as well as the recipients of British aid open access to program evaluations, with results that can be easily interpreted and commented on by all.
The second event was the United States- European Union (U.S.-EU) High Level Consultative Group Meeting held in June. EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs and United States Agency for International Development Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah stated in a joint press release: “At a time of economic constraints, we are determined to deepen our cooperation to increase the impact of our aid and to ensure measurable results on the ground.”
The press release also detailed the new U.S.-EU joint work plan on Division of Labor, Transparency and Accountability. Like the U.K. Department for International Development, the U.S. and EU “will make user-friendly information about our development assistance available to all and promote transparency in multilateral institutions. We will strengthen evaluations of our development activities and we will rationalize who does what in agreement with our developing country partners.”
During these lean times, politicians have had to become more attuned to the demands of their increasingly sensitive constituents, positively affecting what hopefully will be a significant new era of development.
– By Michael Chommie, Director, PSI/Europe, Amsterdam