UK Parliament committee reviews EU aid

Children in Sri Lanka wave little flags of their country and the European Union. Only 46 percent of EU aid goes to low-income countries, according to a report by the U.K. Parliament's international development committee. Photo by: EuropeAid

Is the European Union spreading its aid “too widely”? Does it need to reduce the number of its recipient partner countries further? The U.K. Parliament’s international development committee thinks so.

In a new report on EU development assistance, the House of Commons’ International Development Committee acknowledged the advantages of providing U.K. aid through EU channels, including the multilateral bloc’s wide reach. The committee also noted the improved performance of the European Commission over the past decade and welcomed its proposed Agenda for Change policy.

But the committee also pointed out several disadvantages: high administrative costs, risk of fragmentation because of numerous institutions involved, cumbersome procurement process and too many recipient countries. The report further noted only 46 percent of EU aid goes to low-income countries — a fact the committee said is “unacceptable.”

The U.K. Department for International Development should press the European Union to reduce the number of its recipient countries further, implement procurement reforms and put more emphasis on value for money, the committee said. DfID should also urge the European Union to divert funding away from higher middle-income countries to support more of the world’s poorest states.

The report’s recommendations were largely supported by leading European nongovernmental organizations. Concord, in a statement emailed to Devex, welcomed the report’s contribution to aid policy debate while Oxfam said it supports the call for better targeted EU aid.

Oxfam, however, disagreed on the committee’s proposal to reopen the debate on the definition of overseas development assistance — a move it described as “counterproductive.”

Meanwhile, EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs said he has already proposed shifting more aid to low-income countries. U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell also highlighted ongoing EU aid reforms and defended the bloc’s support for higher-income countries like Turkey, which he said is in line with EU and U.K. national interests.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributes to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.