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The World’s Poorest Should Not Pay for the Security and Defense of Europe

Governments are considering diverting limited aid funds to security and defense, and may also increase the amount they use to cover refugee costs in rich countries

A large coalition of NGOs is calling for European leaders to protect refugees while ensuring aid budgets are only used for poverty eradication and sustainable development

OXFORD - Governments across Europe are planning to divert scarce development aid budgets to cover security and defense costs, anti-poverty campaigners understand.

Proposals that aid money can be used  for ‘preventing violent extremism’, police training and financing security costs are being mooted behind closed doors, and will be formally discussed at the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in Paris on February 18th and 19th.  At the same time, European leaders will be meeting in Brussels to discuss their migration response.

During the OECD DAC meeting, Ministers will also discuss increasing the amount of aid money that they can spend on receiving refugees in their own countries, a move criticised by development charities across Europe.

A coalition of organizations including BOND, Dochas, Global Citizen, Eurodad, ONE, Oxfam and Save the Children are calling on leaders to make sure the choices they make on aid in the coming months do not mean the poorest people lose out on vital public services like education or healthcare.

The coalition strongly urges European leaders to:

  • Ensure that the definition of what can be counted as Official Development Assistance (ODA), does not include any defense and security costs or in-country refugee costs.  
  • Include developing countries and non-governmental organizations in the process of modernizing ODA.
  • Ensure that refugees are afforded the protection they need.

There's something in the air...

Sara Tesorieri, Deputy Head of Oxfam’s EU office said:

“Development aid is meant to empower poor people – rich countries shouldn't be diverting it to fill their budget gaps or advance their security agenda. Europe must support building institutions that ensure democracy and respect for human rights so more people can overcome conflict and live in peace and security. But if donor countries divert more resources away from development, hundreds of millions of poor people will lose out.”

Jeroen Kwakkenbos, Policy and Advocacy Manager at the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), said:

“The aid budget is clearly a completely inappropriate source of funding for defense and security measures. Under flawed rules that exist at the OECD, aid can already be used for sizeable expenses in rich countries, such as refugee costs and overseas student costs. It has also been used to subsidize multinational corporations based in many donor countries. These new proposals could divert even more money away from the world’s poorest in order to serve the domestic and foreign policies of rich countries.”

Tamira Gunzburg, Director of ONE Brussels, said:

“European Leaders have the responsibility to meet the needs of refugees escaping insecurity, but it is important that this does not come at the cost of the world’s poorest. Last year, development aid hit a record high. However, support to the poorest countries fell by 4.6%, leaving them with less than 30% of overall aid. We can and must keep up support both to refugees and live-saving aid programmes. Pitting the plights of the world’s most vulnerable people against each other is not a just or sustainable solution."


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Oxfam International is a confederation of 13 like-minded organizations working together and with partners and allies around the world to bring about lasting change. Oxfam works directly with communities and that seeks to influence the powerful to ensure that poor people can improve their lives and livelihoods and have a say in decisions that affect them.

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