Europeans, development aid and the MDGs: 90% still support aid despite global recession - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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Europeans, development aid and the MDGs: 90% still support aid despite global recession

Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Posted on Th!nk3A special Eurobarometer report published yesterday by the European Commission, on the view of European citizens towards development aid and achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has revealed that 9 out of 10 Europeans continue to express steadfast support for overseas aid despite the economic downturn and long recession.

The results of the survey (#352), which took into account the opinion of 26,500 citizens from all 27 EU member states, were released just a week before world leaders meet in New York to review progress towards this set of eight UN goals aimed at drastically reducing poverty and hunger worldwide by 2015. The summit intends to examine progress made towards achieving the MDGs that all 27 EU member states have committed themselves to.

Since articles on such reports tend to be statistic-heavy, here are some of the most intriguing findings contained within the results:

Firstly, and most interestingly, two in three Europeans (64%) believe that the EU should honour or improve its promises to increase development aid to 0.7% of GNI by 2015 (breakdown: 50% believe EU should honour the commitment to increase aid and 14% would even go beyond this).

The effect of the economic crisis on peoples’ attitude to spending can be seen in the results as more respondents than last year would now opt for maintaining development aid at current levels (15% now, 8% in 2009). However, in spite of the current age of austerity, this support, shared by a vast majority of citizens regardless of the nationality, has remained consistently high: 89% find development aid ‘very important’ or ‘fairly important’, and of these, 45% said it was ‘very important’ – a respectable increase on the 2009 survey when 39% expressed this opinion.

In terms of cooperation in granting development aid: three quarters (76%) believe that there is added value in the EU countries working together in order to avoid duplication and ensure the aid is effectively spent.

When it comes to which EU country’s population is most supportive of development aid, Sweden (96%) comes out of top just ahead of Ireland (95%), Denmark (94%), Finland (94%), Luxembourg (93%) and then the UK (91%).

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, the biggest number of Europeans who consider development aid as not very important can be found in Slovenia (18%), Estonia (14%) and Bulgaria (13%).

When analysing the countries that are most supportive, it is hardly surprising the results correlate with those that boast greater personal involvement in helping development countries. In the latest survey the countries where people are more actively involved are listed as: Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Belgium and the UK.

Similarly, the EU countries where people are not involved personally in the process are those where public support is lowest: Latvia, Slovenia, Estonia and Romania.

But looking ahead it would appear development aid will remain part of the thinking of governments for many years to come as the 76-page Eurobarometer report reveals that the younger and ‘better-educated’ Europeans more supportive of development aid. As was the case back in 2009, these socio-demographic groups are more likely to see greater value in coordinating development aid projects and thus be supportive of continuing them.

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