On Wednesday 18th October, CONCORD launched its 2023 AidWatch report, ‘Bursting the ODA inflation bubble.’ The report analyses both the quantity and the quality of EU ODA, finding that although reported figures are at a record high, 22% of reported ODA did not meet the most basic criteria to qualify as such.

Blandine Bouniol, Deputy Director of Humanity and Inclusion Advocacy and Board member of CONCORD, moderated the launch. The event kicked off with keynote speeches from ONE campaign activists Desmond Situma and Winnie Nalubowa. Desmond Nalubowa emphasised the need to recalibrate the EU’s ODA to exclude inflated aid, to improve transparency and accountability, and to tailor ODA to address inequalities in partner countries. Winnie Nalubowa stressed the need for equal partnerships in which ODA responds to needs and priorities set out by partner countries.

Beyond Growth

Salvatore Nocerino, CONCORD’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor for AidWatch, then presented the findings of the report, outlining the sources of inflated aid and the main recommendations of the report to the EU: reduce ODA inflation and improve ODA’s contribution to economic development and welfare. The presentation also delved into the new methodology adopted by the 2023 AidWatch report with the aim of dissecting the official ODA definition to gauge the EU’s contribution to its overall objectives.

The first of the two panel discussions then got underway. The first panel discussion, ‘How much is really aid?’ aimed to address the proportion of inflated aid currently counted in ODA figures and potential means to reduce it.

Sylvie dos Santos, Head of Unit for Civil Society Engagement at Luxembourg’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained Luxembourg’s decision not to count in-donor refugee costs or climate financing as ODA, highlighting that this approach was a result of political will and a strong civil society driving this commitment forward.

Amaya Fuentes, CODEV-PI Delegate at the Spanish Permanent Representation to the EU, spoke about Spain’s recently adopted international cooperation law. The law aims to align Spanish international cooperation policy with Agenda2030, gives legal status to the 0.7% of GNI target for ODA, and strengthens the governance of the development cooperation system. 

Finally, Chiara Putaturo, Policy Advisor at Oxfam EU Office, highlighted the impact that inflated aid has on the EU’s credibility in partner countries. She also asserted the need to rethink the EU ODA system given it currently does not reach the people and communities that most need it as evidenced by AidWatch findings.

The second panel addressed the question, ‘How can the EU and its member states support change?’ and discussed possible reforms of the current ODA system in the EU. 

Frank Vanaerschot, Director at Counter Balance, stressed the fact that EU ODA is responding to geopolitical and domestic interests which undermine the human rights dimension of ODA, particularly in Global Gateway projects.

Beyond Growth

Haje Schütte, Deputy Director of the Development Co-operation Directorate at the OECD, emphasised the modernisation the ODA system has already undergone within the OECD DAC. He also underscored that the inclusion of in-donor refugee costs in reports of ODA was a point of major concern from the OECD DAC perspective and needs to be examined further.

Mikaela Gavas, Managing Director of the Centre for Global Development in Europe finished up the panel by discussing how to address the blurred boundaries between ODA and other spending to tackle global challenges. She also highlighted the need for the EU to optimise its current development finance in light of resource constraints in order to best serve partner countries.  

Some main takeaways from the events were:  

  • There is a need for political will and a strong civil society voice to bring about reforms to ODA.
  • The current ODA system is based on EU interests rather than priorities of partner countries; an effective system must align itself with programming and needs already identified by partner countries. 
  • Many Member States still fail to reach the 0.7% of GNI target for ODA, resulting in a major loss of funds going towards partner countries.

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