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Brussels, 10 July 2009

The European Union confirmed its position as the world's leading development aid donor in 2008

The newly published 2009 annual report on the European Community's development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2008 shows that the European Union continues to be the world's leading development aid donor, accounting for 60% of world aid in 2008. The Commission alone committed EUR 12 billion, more than a fifth of the EU total. At the same time the quality and effectiveness of aid are improving, as are transparency and the monitoring of results.

In 2008 soaring food and energy prices and the global financial crisis tested the EU's ability to meet ongoing development aid commitments and deal with new needs. Despite these challenges, the 2009 annual report on the European Community's development and external assistance policies and their implementation in 2008 shows that EU aid has helped reduce poverty and promote economic development and democracy in the developing countries. The Commission committed EUR 12 billion in aid.

"In 2008 the Commission once again demonstrated its ability to react to crises in the flexible and appropriate manner that is the hallmark of its assistance. Last year, for instance, we pledged up to EUR 500 million over three years for Georgia, following the summer conflict, and we successfully set up the PEGASE funding mechanism in the occupied Palestinian territory. In response to the inflation in commodity prices, the EU set up a EUR 1 billion Food Facility. These examples illustrate the EU's capacity to establish innovative, effective and sustainable aid mechanisms, " explained Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the member of the European Commission responsible for external relations and the Neighbourhood Policy.

" In the past few years we have managed to deliver more development aid and to deliver it faster and better. Our development policy has been modernised with more effective implementing procedures. A better division of tasks has made it more 'European'. It has become more political and strategic, playing a significant part in the response to global challenges, be it the economic crisis, the food crisis, climate change or migration. Though sometimes criticised, development aid has never been more justified. It is in the common interest of both the developing and the developed countries. The crisis must not be used as a pretext for abandoning a strong and ambitious EU development policy. To do so would be a major and costly strategic blunder on our part, " added Louis Michel, the member of the European Commission responsible for development and humanitarian aid.

The Commission has continued its efforts to make its aid more effective by working more closely with other international donors and by simplifying its procedures. Considerable efforts have also been made to channel aid through national systems in order to strengthen ownership at local level and reduce transaction costs for the partner countries.

In 2008 the Commission also stepped up its efforts to mainstream such issues as gender, the environment, and the rights of children and indigenous people in the development process.

The full report is published in English and French. The highlights are available in 22 of the EU's 23 languages.

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