Sumario: 26 March 2009, Brussels - Speech by José Manuel Durão Barroso, President of the European Commission, "The recession must not be used as an excuse for going back on our aid promises" at the CONCORD High Level Leadership Forum, Residence Palace
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It's a great pleasure to be with you today: not least because the timing is perfect - midway between the Spring European Council and the London G20 summit. And of course the focus of our discussions has to be how to manage this unprecedented recession into which the whole world has plunged.
I am particularly glad to have this chance to meet you as I am starting to hear that the G20 agenda will not focus sufficiently on the needs of the developing world.
I profoundly disagree.
Let me sum up in a few words the role of the G20: to coordinate the responses to the financial crisis and the instruments for revitalising the real economy; to preserve an open world economy; to press for an early and successful conclusion to the negotiations in the Doha development round; and to begin to overhaul international governance, in particular by making the international financial institutions more responsive and representative.
In other words: not to retreat from globalisation, not to de-globalise, but to re-globalise: to make globalisation work better. These issues are profoundly relevant for both the developed and developing world.
Because everyone is affected. We are all in this together. There are no safe havens. So in this global crisis we need a global approach and global solutions. Development is not part of the problem, but part of the global solution to the crisis. There can be no economic recovery without the developing countries. Our growth and stability is inextricably linked to theirs and vice versa.
There should be no surprise that the EU is taking this line. We have a strong history of solidarity with the developing world. Our promise - to help developing countries integrate into the world economy and to share the fruits of globalisation - is part of our DNA, a founding stone of the Commission's external policy stretching back many years.
And this promise means more now than ever. The recession must not, cannot, will not be used as an excuse for going back on our promises. The Commission has repeatedly pushed Member States to confirm, to reaffirm their promise to devote 0.56% of Gross National Income to Official Development Aid by 2010, and 0.7% by 2015. The preliminary Development Assistance Committee results for 2008 ODA show that Member States have done reasonably well, with the EU27 total at around 0.4% of GNI, up by a couple of basis points from 2007. We have repeatedly pushed Member States to show in multi-annual national timetables how they plan to reach their individual commitments in 2010 and 2015. Thirteen Member States have now adopted such timetables, which improve aid predictability and provide a political "ratchet" to prevent backsliding from commitments.
In the meantime, however, we also have to be very frank. I am deeply concerned that if anything, we will slip back over the next two years. Of course this is understandable at some level - it is the toughest period in my political lifetime for national budgets. Resources are already very tight and the room for manoeuvre is so limited. And other developed countries, with very few exceptions, are struggling even more than we are to reach the targets: although I refuse to make this an excuse. You cannot define the word "responsibility" by reference to others. Yes, we provide 55% of the world total ODA. Yes, we will call on others to do more. But at the end of the day, we must keep our promises.
So on 8 April the Commission will be putting forward a Communication to help the developing countries weather this crisis as a first reaction to the G20. The idea is to propose timely, targeted and coordinated actions for the European Union as a whole, to better leverage the impact of its development resources in the context of the global economic downturn.
We need to find new ways of delivering aid. This will mean re-examining all our different types of aid, not just official development aid, for some instruments are in fact better suited to stimulating private sector activity and provide greater leverage for official assistance.
We have to provide aid more effectively particularly in this time of crisis. For example, we are pushing for collective EU approaches to remedy aid ineffectiveness due to fragmentation and lack of coordination. Our estimate is that we should be able to spend 35 billion euros by 2015 more usefully. Indeed, you could say that this is the cost of non-Europe in development.
In times of crisis we have to provide aid more speedily. Time can be vital. For example simplify procedures for quicker disbursement. We propose to accelerate the frontloading of Community assistance in 2009 and 2010 for an immediate and counter-cyclical impact. As part of the 1 billion euro Food Facility, for example, the Commission will speed up the coordination of support to agriculture by committing more than 500 million euros in over 40 countries in the first half of 2009 and another 300 million euros in the second half.
In times of crisis we have to target aid better, for example on safety nets to protect the most vulnerable in developing countries. We should refocus priorities onto the stimulation of growth, investment, trade and job creation. For example: export credits - we need to kickstart trade, and while we are at it, we need to conclude both Doha and the Economic Partnership Agreements. Policy coherence is more important now than ever before.
For I believe we need to look hard at our framework for development aid, to ensure that it is properly suited to today's exceptional circumstances. The improvements we make today can have a lasting effect on development in the future.
Briefly, one final word on the climate change package. Although responding to the economic crisis in the developing world must be our development priority for this year, we cannot forget climate change. After our adoption of the "20-20-20 by 2020 package" at the end of last year, we are now focusing hard on the conference in Copenhagen. Of course a major issue will be financing an agreement. We are aware of the scale of the problem that the developing countries will face. The global financing requirements for mitigation are expected to be around 175 billion euros a year from now to 2020, with up to another 50 billion on adaptation.
Even by the standards of today's corporate bail-outs, these are very large sums of money. But I want to reassure you that Europe will assume its responsibilities and come forward with a proposal before Copenhagen, including on both direct government assistance and the vehicles for delivery of finance: we are working hard on the different models. But also I ask you for a little patience. The negotiations are just getting off the ground. Europe is not the only player: I make no apology for pointing out that on mitigation, our 20-20-20 offer is the only meaningful one on the table. So while Europe must - and will - come forward with a concrete and ambitious proposal on finance, the time is not yet ripe.
I want to leave plenty of time for discussion, so let me conclude by saying that we must keep hope alive in the developing countries. The last few years have seen enormous progress in terms of growth, poverty reduction, human development, governance and debt reduction. European support now in the middle of the crisis is essential, both in objective terms, and to avoid leaving developing countries the sense that they have been abandoned. We cannot undo the hard work of so many years. We cannot permit the current crisis to kill the hope that has started to spring in the developing world.