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Brussels, 13 September 2010

Background: 9 out of 10 Europeans express steadfast support for development aid, says a special Eurobarometer

The special Eurobarometer 'Europeans, development aid and the Millennium Development Goals' aims to gauge the public commitment to development aid in view of the on-going economic crisis and in the light of the upcoming High Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in New York (20-22 September). The Summit will examine progress towards the attainment of the UN poverty eradication initiative known as Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): an initiative to which all EU 27 Member States have committed themselves.

Main results of the special Eurobarometer

Europeans care - 89% find development aid very important or fairly important. Out of these, 45% say development aid is very important: this is an increase on the June 2009 findings when 39% thought it very important.

Previous surveys had registered a difference in attitude between old (EU15) and new EU Member States (EU 12). This initial divide is clearly shrinking: general support for development aid is almost identically high in both groups. The intensity of support, however, remains stronger in EU15: here, 47% believe that aid is very important, as compared to 40% for EU12.

European support for increasing development aid remains high at 64%. Exactly half of the respondents believe EU should honour the EU commitment to increase aid and 14% would even go beyond this. Yet the severity of the economic crisis seems to be reflected in the results: more respondents than last year would now opt for maintaining development aid at current levels (15% this year, 8% in 2009).

42% of respondents see poverty as the biggest challenge facing developing countries: this shows the sensitivity of European citizens to the Millennium Development Goals – which are about halving poverty by 2015- even if the term 'Millennium Development Goal' may not be well known to them. In spite of natural disasters in recent years, climate change is only seen by 7% of Europeans as a major threat to developing countries.

Regarding personal commitment to helping developing countries, 42% are in favour of the idea: however when asked if they contributed on a voluntary basis only 4% could say they did voluntary work related to the theme, whilst 26% said they give money towards different causes.

27% see the United Nations as best placed to help developing countries: the World Bank and the EU institutions come second and third respectively, at 19% and 17%. Respondents in EU12 are significantly more likely to name the EU as the most relevant actor than in EU15. While the EU as a whole is the largest international donor, it is not necessarily perceived as such by European citizens.

38% consider that cooperation between Member States and the EU institutions definitely brings added value when it comes to donating aid; overall, 76% feel this is the case to a greater or lesser extent. This would seem to reflect a strong backing of the EU development policy approach adopted by both Member States and the EU institutions and enshrined in the European consensus on development. When comparing answers for EU15 and EU12, it emerges that at 78%, support for cooperation is somewhat higher in the old Member States than in the new ones (70%).

When asked which European Union policies have the most positive impact on developing countries, 43% gave equal importance to the issues of trade and finance and peace building. Only 18% saw climate change as significant:

Selected country-specific results

The countries that are most supportive of development aid are Sweden (96%), Ireland (95%), Denmark (94%), Finland (94%), Luxembourg (93%) and the UK (91%). Cyprus and Romania have seen the sharpest rise in this category since 2009. The biggest number of Europeans who consider development aid as not very important can be found in Slovenia (18%), Estonia (14%) and Bulgaria (13%).

The promise to increase aid to 0.7 of GNI by 2015: Sweden, Denmark, Luxembourg and Finland show the highest support (60% and higher). Bulgaria is the only EU country where those who would not keep the European aid commitment outnumber those who would keep the promise.

When asked about the added value of EU cooperation in development aid, the highest scores are found in Sweden (94%), Luxembourg (89%), Spain (89%) and Denmark (88%). Support for cooperation is the lowest in Lithuania (54%), the Czech Republic (55%) and Slovenia (58%).

When looking at personal involvement in helping development countries, the Member States fall into three categories:

  • Countries where people are actively involved: Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Belgium and the UK.

  • Countries where people are supportive but not involved: Cyprus, Greece, Bulgaria, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia, Germany and Slovakia.

  • Countries where people are not involved: Latvia and Slovenia, with high proportions also in Estonia and Romania.

The EU is seen as the
best-placed organisation to provide development aid in Cyprus (31%), Romania (30%), Luxembourg (28%), Poland (27%), and Portugal (20%). In six countries, the EU does not make it into the group of the top three best-placed actors: the UK, Slovenia, Italy, France, Hungary and Spain.

Younger and better educated Europeans more supportive of development aid
: As in 2009, two socio-demographic groups are more likely to see high value in development cooperation, namely younger respondents – and, coinciding with this, students – and those with a high socio-economic status in terms of occupation and education.

The survey

The Special Eurobarometer 352 'Europeans, development aid and the Millennium Development Goals' was carried out in the 27 EU Member States in June 2010. 26,500 citizens were interviewed face-to-face about their views on MDGs.

Questions of the Special Eurobarometer 352 'Europeans, development aid and the Millennium Development Goals'

Q1. In your opinion what are the two biggest challenges facing developing countries : poverty; the economic crisis; food; health issues; water; poor governance; education; civil unrest/conflict; climate change; migration flows; energy

Q2.In your opinion is it very important, fairly important, not very important or not at all important to help people in developing countries?

Q3. How would you describe yourself in relation to helping people in developing countries : you are a volunteer in an organisation helping developing countries; you give money to an organisation helping developing countries but you are not an active volunteer; you are in favour of helping developing countries without being a volunteer or giving money yourself; you are not involved in helping people in developing countries; you are opposed to giving help to developing countries

Q4 Which one of the following actors do you think is in the best position to help developing countries : the UN; the World Bank; the EU; the USA; China; Japan; your own country

Q5. The European Union has promised to increase the level of its aid towards developing countries; given the current economic situation which of the following propositions best describe your opinion: we should decrease European aid to developing countries beyond what is already promised; we should keep our promise to increase aid; we should not increase the levels of aid even though it has been promised; we should reduce aid as we can no longer afford it

Q6. Do you think there is added value in EU Member States working together on helping developing countries?

Q7 Apart from financial aid, which of the following aid policies have a positive impact on development countries : trade and finance; peace building; agriculture; migration; environment; energy; climate change; transport

Development aid in the European Union

The EU as a whole – European Commission plus Member States – is the world's largest development aid donor, helping people in need across the globe spending on average nearly €49 billion annually.

The Commission's development funds are currently channelled through its Directorate-General for Development and implemented by DG AidCo – EuropeAid: both departments are under the responsibility of Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. The aid is dispersed via budget support and specific projects.

Link to the full report:

Website of DG Development:

Website of EuropeAid (AidCo):

Website of Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs:

Eurobarometer Website:

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