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


Caucuses of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from the United States and the European Union held a joint press conference today in Monterrey entitled "Official Development Assistance Offers of the European Union and the United States".

Lotta Valtonen, of the Service Center for Development Cooperation, said that, although the Conference was broad in scope, discussions in the past few days in the European Union and the United States had focused largely on official development assistance (ODA). In the Monterrey consensus, governments said that ODA played an essential role and was critical to achieving the development goals.

Also in that consensus text, countries recognized that a substantial increase in ODA was needed to achieve them, yet no concrete commitment to increase ODA levels had been made in the document, she said. The absence of concrete commitments for achieving poverty eradication had undermined the relevance of the whole consensus.

Now, the European Union announced that it would raise ODA from 0.33 per cent to 0.39 per cent in 2006, and the United States announced that it would raise its ODA by $5 billion during three years, although that was somewhat unclear, she said.

Speaking on behalf of the European NGO caucus, Novib-Oxfam, Caroline Wildeman said that the ODA commitment made by the Union was "face saving and inadequate" at a time when there was agreement on the Millennium Development Goals to halve extreme poverty by 2015, achieve universal primary education, and attain a two-thirds reduction in child mortality rates, among other things. Her caucus regarded the European Union's decision as a "last minute" exercise to avoid coming "empty handed" to the Conference. The problem was that that undermined the United Nations process.

Time-bound targets to reach the 0.7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) for poverty reduction should have been part of the Monterrey consensus, she said. Monterrey was not a donor conference, but a United Nations conference. Although welcome, the extra aid money could not hide the weakness of the Monterrey consensus. Indeed, the resources necessary to reach the Millennium Development Goals went far beyond the extra money that would eventually be available in 2006.

She said that was far too late to be able to reach the goals set by the United Nations by 2015. Indeed, if current spending trends continued, 56 million more children would have died by 2015 that would have otherwise survived had the Millennium Goals been reached, and 5 million children would still be out of school.

Aldo Clieri, from the Center of Concern in Washington, D.C., said he was concerned about the unilateral United States proposal to raise ODA levels, and he also shared the concern about the unilateral European Union approach. If those and other countries had been committed to their goals, that should have been stated in the Monterrey consensus, instead of coming with those announced at the last minute.

In the case of the United States, he said, the proposal to raise ODA levels starting in 2004 and beyond could be terminated by a mere change in Administration or Congress. He was also concerned about the size of the proposed increase. Even with today's announcement that there would be a 50 per cent increase in ODA over the current amount, that was still a small share of GDP that still fell far short of the amount needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

He said he also had concerns about the conditions attached to the money provided by the United States. Those had related to good governance, human rights and the rule of law. His concern was that the criteria were so subjective they could be used for political purposes. Regarding the global campaign against terrorism, aid could be used for geo-political military goals rather than for development goals.

The remaining condition, Mr. Clieri said, were tied to countries putting in place sound economic policies -- a code word calling for free market reforms or integration into the current world trading system. And, there was no sense yet about how some new agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO) would affect the economies of developing countries.

Asked whether civil society had really found its place in the Monterrey consensus, Ms. Wildeman said that civil society had an important monitoring role. If it did not hold governments accountable to the promises they made at the international level, the Monterrey consensus could remain a "paper" document.

June Zeitlin, Women's Environment and Development Organization, New York, shared that concern, and added that, in terms of civil society's participation at Monterrey and during the preparatory process, representatives had made their views known, but that was not exactly effective participation or insurance that their voices had been heard.

Ms. Wildeman said it was very difficult to get their voices heard because the key negotiations were being held behind closed doors. There was no official space where governments were negotiating a text, since that was already completed, and the plenary was no place to get their issues on the table. "We had no access at all," she added.

To a question about about whether 11 September had influenced ODA, she agreed there was a link between poverty and terrorism, but insisted that that was not one-dimensional. Poverty did create instability and a domestic unevenness that could lead to terrorism. So, from that aspect, it could be expected that the rich countries would contribute to poverty eradication.

Invited to speak from the floor, Florence Deacon of Franciscans International, a United States-based NGO, said that there was a very clear connection. September 11th had been a wake-up call to those folks who had not had a broad world vision. Although people might say that poverty did not cause terrorism or crime, hopelessness set up a series of conditions, which bred those tendencies.

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