International Conference on Financing for Development

Department of Public Information - News and Media Services Division - New York
Monterrey, NL, Mexico
18-22 March 2002

20 March 2002


The European Union had never before had a common position on official development assistance (ODA), and the organization's agreement to define the issue was, therefore, timely, Poul Nielson, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, European Commission, said at an afternoon press conference today.

Noting that there was a link between ODA and foreign direct investment (FDI), he said they did different things, and more money was poured into the latter. However, only 3 per cent of FDI went to sub-Saharan Africa, and that was where ODA became important. Describing development assistance as an organized handshake, he said that giving it in an organized and predictable fashion meant that the recipient countries could count on it.

He also called for money to be made available as a peace dividend in Sri Lanka, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries emerging from conflict. Pointing out that ODA had never been as thoroughly discussed, organized and coordinated as it was today, he stressed the need for the Conference to set new targets. Hopefully, the remaining days would inspire an effort to define those new goals.

Also present at today's press conference was José Piqué, Foreign Minister of Spain, who reaffirmed, on behalf of the European Union, the organization's commitment to increase ODA from 0.33 per cent to 0.39 per cent. He reiterated its commitment to the agreements reached at Doha, as well as to continue working towards the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Responding to a correspondent who asked what the European Union, on one hand, and Spain, on the other, thought about progress in coordinating development assistance, Mr. Piqué said the policies of the different European countries should complement each other and generate synergy to become more than the sum of their parts. The European Union had made more of an effort in providing ODA, in absolute, as well as relative, terms, and was ready to continue doing so.

Asked why there was such a large gap between big contributors like the Netherlands or Sweden, and others like Germany, which gave only 0.06 per cent,
Mr. Nielson said tradition was part of the answer. It took time for a country to reach the higher levels. The gap also reflected the slow impregnation of a country's culture over many years. Official development assistance had only been discussed multilaterally in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and at the United Nations. It was the first time European Union member States had reached a common position.

Mr. Piqué told another journalist that it would be a mistake to see the European Union's vision as being opposed to that of the United States. The two were coherent and complementary.

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