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Filip Kaczmarek

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IPSnews: EU Needs to Tell Itself More About Development

EU Needs to Tell Itself More About Development
By Daan Bauwens

BRUSSELS, Sep 1, 2011 (IPS) - There is increasing political will now for a globalised strategy for the European Union to raise awareness about development, experts say. But at the same time, the European budget for education on development issues remains strikingly low.

The European Union lacks an explicit strategy on development education, experts said at a first ever hearing on the subject at the European Parliament on Tuesday. The event was organised by the EU Parliament’s Development Committee.

Most European states already have national policies on development education. Recently, Spain, Portugal and the Czech Republic set up strategies to ensure greater public engagement in development matters. The UK currently does not have a national strategy as the current government revises its policies on awareness raising.

The European Commission and the member states annually spend 30 million euros on development education. "This amount is specifically dedicated to education projects in Europe by civil society and local authorities. That includes formal education activities in schools, non-formal activities with youth organisations and awareness raising campaigns such as the Clean Clothes Campaign," says Tobias Troll, advocacy officer at the Developing Europeans' Engagement for the Eradication of global Poverty (DEEEP), the development education programme of CONCORD, the European Confederation of Relief and Development NGOs.

According to Troll, the EU’s development education budget is not used to fund activities aimed at fundraising, promotion of aid or publicity for organisations. Several politicians said at the meeting of the Parliament's development committee that they would support actions to increase awareness on development issues.

Polish member of the European Parliament (MEP) Filip Kaczmarek said development education "strengthens the support to active engagement at the local and global level to promote justice, human rights, and sustainable development."

Development Commissioner Andris Pielbags said the EU should "step up its efforts not just to achieve general support for development, but also real engagement on the part of our citizens. I believe we can have a real impact on attitudes and perceptions, and I am willing to support actions that strive to achieve just that."

According to the latest European Commission’s ‘Eurobarometer’, real engagement among European citizens is very low: although 89 percent of all Europeans attach a high value to development cooperation, only four percent actively engage in it through volunteering.

Also, the money spent on development education remains low. According to a recent report by AidWatch, a group of civil society aid experts across the 27 EU member states, this year the EU and its member states combined will spend 53.82 billion euros on aid. Of this, the European Union institutions provide close to 13 billion euros. But only 30 million euros from this budget is spent on development education.

"Compared to the important amount spent on development aid to overseas countries, European citizens do not have a large amount of money spent on informing them about development," Daniel Puglisi, communications officer at CONCORD, tells IPS. Tobias Troll at DEEEP agrees: "The funding is not enough: for the 2007 call for project proposals only 39 out of 343 applications were selected. Every year, many very positively evaluated projects have to be rejected due to lack of funding."

Currently, only 0.38 percent of the European Commission’s official development assistance budget is spent on development education. The United Nations, as well as several NGOs ask for at least 3 percent.

"Despite the high support for development policy there is still a lack of understanding about global issues," Daniel Puglisi adds. "Clearly more can be done to engage EU citizens in the story behind global inequalities." According to Rili Lappalainen, CONCORD board member and one of the Parliamentary hearing's panelists, "getting European citizens to be more aware of global issues is fundamental; they need to know the story behind immigration, poverty and global inequalities." (END)

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