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2. European Consensus on Development

EU development policy is largely governed by the European Consensus on Development (ECD) signed in December 2005. The document represents agreement among EU Member States, the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission on a common EU vision of development. The ECD is important as it committed the EU to increase the value of official development assistance to 0.56% of its GDP by 2010, although this amount falls short of the UN target of 0.7% of GDP by 2015.

Only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden have reached the UN target, although the EU as a whole aims to reach 0.7% of its GDP in aid by 2015. Some charities have claimed European governments have inflated the amount they have spent on aid by incorrectly including money spent on debt relief, foreign students, and refugees.

Half the additional aid agreed at the ECD will go to Africa - with a special focus on fragile states, countries with low numbers of donors and poor people in middle-income countries.

It has been agreed that the EU is primarily active in the following areas of development:

It will apply a strengthened approach to mainstreaming the followingcross-cutting issues: - democracy, good governance, human rights;- the rights of children and indigenous peoples; - gender equality; - environmental sustainability; - the fight against HIV/AIDS.

These focus areas are sometimes at odds with each other. There has been criticism from groups such as Amnesty International ( over EU budget support, under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument, to countries such as Algeria and Syria with questionable records on human rights and democratic government.

But along with debates about the quantity of aid reaching developing countries, questions regarding its quality, effectiveness and sustainable impact are increasingly being raised. There are a number of commentators who argue that aid in its current forms is counterproductive and creates a culture of dependency that does not promote growth.

Many point to China as a nation that has made huge developmental strides in just a few years as a consequence of its phenomenal shared economic growth, not as a result of aid. The Eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe has been particularly critical of the Union’s aid programmes, calling them inefficient, mis-targeted and too closely linked to economic objectives.

Others, whilst not going as far as advocating that aid is scrapped, are calling for increased accountability, transparency and better scrutiny of EU development programmes in the countries where they are designed to make a difference. The EU's fraud investigator – the European Anti-Fraud Office has uncovered examples of development assistance lost to corruption.

The EU says that given its leading role as a donor, in recent years it has been committed to improving aid effectiveness. The adoption of the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness in 2005 was due, in no small measure, to the strong input provided by the EU. The ambitious declaration is an international agreement to which over one hundred leaders committed their countries and organisations to improving the management and monitoring of aid. The current EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, has called for aid to be delivered more rapidly, to greater effect, and in accordance with humanitarian principles.

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