On June 25 and 26, the European Council, consisting of Heads of State of European Union members met to discuss issues relating to migration, security and defence. However, as the European Union is coming out of the financial crisis and with the new ambitious development agenda taking shape, another issue that needs attention is the pledge 15 EU countries made 10 years ago to dedicate a share of their national income through aid to some of the poorest countries in the world.
High income countries in the European Union and elsewhere committed themselves to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI) on Official Development Assistance at a UN General Assembly in 1970. This pledge was reaffirmed in 2005 when EU member states committed to reach their target by 2015. It was again reaffirmed in the Incheon Declaration agreed at the World Education Forum in May 2015 that urged “developed countries that have not yet done so to make additional concrete efforts towards the target of 0.7 per cent of GNP for ODA to developing countries”
Despite the deadline for the target being upon us, many aid-giving countries are still far from achieving it: Three countries which could be said to have been hardest hit by the economic crisis have not moved closer, or have even moved further away from the target since it was set. Italy, for instance, is only expected to give 0.16% of its national income to development assistance in 2015 – the same as it dedicated in 2004. Portugal and Spain are expected only to dedicate 0.17% in 2015.
Germany and France – the first and third largest economies in Europe – remain far off from reaching the 0.7% target as well, reaching 0.42% and 0.43% respectively. Some countries are setting a good example, however: the United Kingdom, the second largest economy in Europe, met the 0.7% target in 2013. Denmark, Luxembourg and Sweden have overtaken the target, giving more than the 0.7% target.
What does this mean in real terms? Failing to meet the 0.7% target has meant that there is a US$40.5 billion shortfall in development assistance compared to what would have been the case had the target had been met: Italy, Germany, France and Spain account for the majority of the shortfall (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Failure to meet the 0.7% target means large shortfalls in development assistance resources
Shortfall compared to if 0.7% had been met and expect ODA/GNI in 2015 for EU-15 countries
What would reaching the 0.7% target mean for filling the finance gap for Education 2030?
Recently, the EFA-GMR team calculated that there was an annual financing gap of at least US$22 billion between now and 2030 needed to provide equitable education in low and lower middle income countries from pre-primary through to lower secondary education. Our findings show that meeting the 0.7% target would raise an additional US$1.2 billion for education. This is assuming that they are allocating the same share of aid to basic and secondary education as was the case in 2011-2013. However, if donors met the 0.7% target, and at least 10% of aid was directed at basic and lower secondary education, $8.2 billion could be raised (Figure 2). Accounting for the amount EU-15 donors are expected to give to education in 2015, this would fill half of the annual finance gap for reaching key post-2015 education targets.
Figure 2: How much additional funding could be raised by the EU-15 donors meeting the 0.7% target and reprioritizing education in aid budgets? Additional resources that could be mobilized for basic education in low and lower middle income countries
Evidently, filling one half of the gap is not enough. However, the responsibility to fill this gap does not just fall on the EU-15 donors: the United States, Canada and other donors who have not reaffirmed their commitment to the 0.7% target must also contribute. New donors, including the BRICS, also have a role to play.
Education is central to the success of the Sustainable Development Goals due to be adopted at the UN Summit this September. As we have shown previously, targets set to reduce levels of poverty or child and maternal deaths cannot be achieved without investment in good quality, equitable education. Not only must donors meet their promises to increase aid, but they must ensure that their contributions are allocated to the most marginalized who are furthest behind. Prioritizing aid for pre-primary, primary and lower secondary education and directing it to the poorest countries most in need of international resources is mandatory if we are to make serious progress in meeting the ambitious targets set for education during the next 15 years.