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Brussels, 23 November 2011

Background: Special Eurobarometer 'Making a difference in the world – Europeans and development aid'

This special Eurobarometer gauges Europeans' views on the future of development cooperation in a time of far-reaching changes. As the world is going through times of economic uncertainty and austerity, it is most timely to ask Europeans if they still believe in international solidarity and help.

With the Arab Spring, movements for reform and democracy have swept an entire region and challenged political approaches of the past.

It is against this backdrop that 26,856 Europeans of the age 15 and above were asked 10 questions on aid and development cooperation in September 2011 in face-to-face interviews.

Below you can find country specific results and more detailed summary of the main results of the survey

Selected country-specific results

  • The countries that are most supportive of development aid are Sweden (97%), Cyprus (95%), Poland (92%), Luxembourg (92%), Germany (92%) and Finland (91%), where more than 9 out of 10 citizens think that aid is fairly important or very important. Cyprus, Germany, Sweden and Luxembourg witness an increase in the number of people who regard aid as 'very important'.

  • Overall support is the weakest in Hungary (75%), Bulgaria (75%), Estonia (74%) and Slovenia (71%). Decrease in overall support has been significant in Lithuania and Romania and Greece. Italy, Ireland, Spain, the UK and Malta have seen particularly strong drops in numbers of people who see aid as 'very important'.

  • The strongest support for increasing aid can be found in Luxembourg (80%), Sweden (79%), Austria (77%), France (70%) and Finland (70%). The highest percentages of people who suggest reducing aid are in Lithuania (28%), Cyprus (28%) and the UK (27%).

  • Support for linking aid with some conditions related to human rights and democracy is the highest in Cyprus (98%), Finland (92%), the Czech Republic (92%) and Slovakia (91%).

  • The Member States in which most respondents are willing to pay more for groceries or other products to support poor people in developing countries are the Netherlands (80%), Sweden (76%) and Luxembourg (74%). The highest percentages of people who would not pay more can be found in Portugal (73%), Hungary (71%), Bulgaria (71%) and Latvia (70%).

  • As regards regions most in need of aid, citizens in 6 Member States express particularly high preference for sub-Saharan Africa: Denmark (88%), Germany (85%), Belgium, Spain and Luxembourg (82%) and the Netherlands (80%). The Middle East and North Africa are seen as particularly important by the public in the Czech Republic (49%), Finland (48%), Cyprus (47%) and Greece (47%).

Main results of the special Eurobarometer

Europeans show solidarity even in times of crisis - 85% find development aid very important or fairly important. Out of these, 36% say development aid is very important. Since the last survey in 2010, the overall support for aid has decreased by 4 points from 89%. The strength of support has also diminished: While in 2010 45% saw aid as very important, the result was only 36%. Correspondingly, more people see aid as 'fairly important': 49% compared to 44% last year. The overall decrease cannot be read as a trend, since 2010 figures were higher than those of 2009: 84% percent of Europeans regarded aid as important at that point.

Support for development cooperation has dropped in particular in countries severely hit by the crisis, such as Greece and Ireland. However, there are also a few countries, in which the number of people who regard helping the poor in other countries as 'very important' has risen, like Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden. Even in the Member States with the lowest levels of support, a large majority of 70% or more of the population see it as very or fairly important to help.

European support for increasing development aid remains high at 62%. The EU has promised to increase its official aid to 0.7 of its gross national income by 2015 as part of its commitment to reducing poverty. 50% of Europeans believe this promise should be kept. An additional 12% believe the EU should provide even more funds to poor countries. When looking at the country level it emerges that in 25 Member States, a majority supports increasing aid. Only in Cyprus and Bulgaria a majority is in favour of freezing or reducing aid.

Europeans are in favour of conditions related to democracy, human rights and governance. When asked if the EU should require developing countries to follow rules related to these areas in order to receive aid, 48% respond 'yes definitely' and 36% respond 'yes, to some extent'. The strength of support varies between Member States but support for some degree of conditionality is above 70% in every country.

Europeans are in favour of linking aid to other European objectives. The examples given in the question were management of migration flows, access to energy and raw materials or trade opportunities. 35% answered that aid should 'definitely' be linked to objectives in such areas, 45% responded 'to some extent'. When looking at single Member States, the strength of support varies considerably but in each of the 27 countries large majorities of more than two thirds opt in favour of linking aid to other EU policy objectives.

One in two Europeans would pay more for products, in order to help people in developing countries (47%). 33% of respondents would pay up to 5% more for groceries and other products. 10% would be prepared to pay 6-10%; 4% would even spend more than that to help people. The other half of Europeans (47%) is not prepared to pay more money for fair trade products. The personal economic situation of respondents seems to have a big impact on this issue. In some of the more prosperous Member States preparedness to pay more reaches percentages of well above 70% (Netherlands, Sweden, Luxembourg). In countries that are going through economically difficult times, figures drop as low as under 25% (Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania). When looking at the socio-economic background of individual respondents, it emerges that 68% of people in managerial positions would spend more on development-friendly products, compared to 36% among the unemployed.

Europeans give clear priority to sub-Saharan Africa . A large majority of 70% sees sub-Saharan Africa as a part of the world that is most in need of aid in the fight against poverty. In a question that allowed respondents a maximum of three answers, North Africa and the Middle-East came second at 33%, followed by the Indian sub-continent (25%), the Caribbean (17%), South East Asia (16%), Eastern Europe (outside the EU), Caucasus and Central Asia (15%) and Latin America (15%). There was only little support for the Pacific and Oceania (6%).

Europeans believe that EU policies in several areas have an impact on development. When asked which policy area has the biggest impact on developing countries, no clear majority emerges: Respondents see trade and finance (18%), peace building (16%), migration (16%) and agriculture (14%), as similarly important. They attach less relevance to climate change (9%), environment (6%), energy (6%), and transport (1%).

Almost 80% of Europeans believe that the impact of EU aid should be improved by working closer with other governments. In a question that allowed up to two answers, respondents suggested developing countries (42%), other donor countries (36%) and emerging economies like China and Brazil (21%) as the main partners for working towards better results of aid. There is less support for cooperating with non-state actors, such as NGOs (15%), private companies (11%) or private foundations (9%).

Europeans support a number of ways to improve effectiveness of aid, without expressing strong preferences. Adopting common policies at EU level gets the strongest backing (35%), followed by more transparency (31%), avoiding duplication through better coordination (25%), budget support that is based on certain conditions (24%) and strengthening bilateral cooperation between EU Member States (19%).

Television is the main source for Europeans when they look for information on development. In a question that allowed multiple answers, 77% of respondents said they preferred TV, two thirds of which referred to TV news, one third to TV documentaries. Printed press is the second most important medium (47%), closely followed by the Internet (45%). Radio came last among the main media, at 19%. This question reveals a significant generational difference. Among 15-24-year-olds the Internet is the second most important medium for information on development with 68%, closely trailing TV (69%). Print media have less importance for the younger generation, with 37%.

For more information


Link to the full Special Eurobarometer report:

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