The European Union (EU) is a unique actor in the development cooperation field: it receives large contributions from its Member States, which makes it the biggest multilateral donor of Official Development Assistance (ODA) worldwide. In 2018 and 2019 the EU and its Member States continue to be the world's leading provider of ODA, with an overall amount of € 74.4 billion and 75.2, respectively. The European institutions alone remained the fourth biggest donor globally, with an indicative contribution of € 13.2 billion in 2018, following the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. The institutions placed fifth in 2019, having been surpassed by Japan.
Policies & funding
The EU institutions remain committed to promote SRHR in international cooperation and development policy. This is reflected in major policy documents, most notably the new European Consensus on Development revised in 2017. As the main policy paper defining a shared vision and framework for action in development cooperation, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Consensus reinstates strong commitment to SRH/FP.
Other key development policies that promote SRHR include the EU’s Gender Action Plans (GAP), which provide the framework to promote gender equality through EU and EU Member States external action. The third generation of this roadmap, GAP III, was published in the form of a joint communication in November 2020. It includes the promotion of SRHR as a thematic area for possible engagement, with specific objectives and indicators that are now extended to ‘informed decisions’, in addition to access to commodities. SRHR is moreover featured in key EU partnerships: the EU reaffirmed its commitment in its communication and Council Conclusions on a comprehensive strategy with Africa and has been vocal about keeping the importance of SRHR on the successor of the Cotonou Partnership agreement, which frames the relations with Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. A political deal on this new Agreement was reached in December 2020, and is expected to keep protecting SRHR.
The Joint Communication on the Global EU response to COVID-19 foresees additional funding to address addresses the humanitarian, health, social and economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. It specifically recognises that meeting SRHR needs is a key challenge that should be addressed. The Council Conclusions following this Communication clearly state that the EU needs to uphold its commitment in promoting, protecting and fulfilling SRHR.
In 2021, a new EU’s long-term budget or Multiannual Financial Framework will come to place. Under the new MFF (2021–2027), agreed on in December 2020, development cooperation will be funded by the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI). The NDICI is still under discussion at the time of writing. However, all three positions of the European Commission, the European Parliament (EP) and the Council that inform the discussions contain strong references to SRH/FP.
EU external funding for SRH/FP may be challenged in the coming years. The UK, a leading contributor of EU development budget and SRH/FP champion, left the EU in January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic may also bring in significant impact: despite the recognised escalation of SRH/FP needs worldwide, and reflected in the EU’s short-term response to the crisis, the longer-term ‘Next Generation EU Package’ does not include additional funding for development cooperation. While the NDICI was marked as a flagship programme to protect citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic, provide opportunities to the next generation, and preserve European values, and as such received an additional € 1 billion, this will merely be a reflow from the current European Development Fund (EDF). Refunds from the EDF automatically go to the EFSD+, an EU financial instrument that supports investments in partner countries, and therefore this reflow will not contribute to SRH/FP needs.
Total disbursed funding
According to the EU’s “2019 Annual Report on the implementation of the European Union's instruments for financing external actions in 2018”, the European Commission disbursed a total of € 13.2 billion in ODA, which is a slight decrease compared to the € 13.34 billion in 2017. From these, only € 19.94 million went to population policies/ programmes and reproductive health, which is significantly lower than the € 133 million from 2017 (to be noted that the EU also includes migration-related expenses under this category). Similarly, the € 571.08 million that was disbursed on health in 2018 is considerably lower than the € 730.56 million from 2017.
European institutions provide a significant amount of their funding for health to multilateral institutions through specific earmarked projects. The data on the extent of this support is not always forthcoming. UNFPA is a recurrent recipient of EU funding, having received around € 54 million in 2017. This includes amongst others support for the UNFPA-UNICEF Joint Programme on the Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/ Cutting, for UNFPA’s humanitarian work and for the UNFPA supplies fund. The EU has supported UNFPA’s Supplies Programme since 2012 and has renewed its commitment for the period 2018-2020 with € 25 million. Given that 20 million has already been disbursed in 2018, we can expect significantly lower amounts in the next 2 years. Other multilaterals that are also of relevance to SRH/FP include UNICEF and WHO.
Similar to 2017, the European Institutions continued disbursing funds for SRH/ FP projects through international NGOs or initiatives. At the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, the EC confirmed the launch of a € 29 million call for proposals focusing on adolescent SRHR early 2020.
The European institutions are the sixth-largest donor to the GFATM (Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria). Since its creation in 2002 the European Institutions have committed over more than € 2.6 billion, which accounts for around 5% of all contributions. For the period 2017 – 2020, the EC had committed up to € 475 million and in 2019 at the G7 summit it has pledged another € 550 million for the period 2020 - 2022. The European institutions disbursed more than € 202 million to the GFATM in 2017 and € 166.5 million in 2018, with € 10.14 million and 8.3 million being counted under the C2030E methodology as going towards SRH/FP, respectively.
Since 2015, the EC has been setting up different Trust Funds as new pooled funding mechanisms, which reflect how EU development policy has been increasingly influenced by migration and security issues. The EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, although mostly focused on migration, has some indicators that refer directly to SRH/FP. However, finding more information on disbursements under the trust fund to SRH/FP is difficult as SRH/FP is often only one of the sub-objectives without earmarked allocations.
The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, launched during the UN General Assembly in 2017, aims to eliminate violence against women and girls with an initial amount of € 500 million for targeted, large-scale investments. In Africa, Spotlight aims to eliminate sexual and gender-based violence, including harmful practices. The programme worth € 250 million is under implementation across Liberia, Malawi, Mali Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It will also include a regional component to scale up existing initiatives on fighting harmful practices and for joint activities with the Africa Union. In Asia, the Spotlight Initiative will contribute € 25 million on ending female trafficking and labour exploitation. An additional € 32 million are devoted to projects addressing gender-based violence in forgotten crises. In Latin America, the € 50 million national initiative focuses on ending feminicide. Both the Pacific and the Caribbean regional initiatives (€ 50 million each) focus on tackling domestic violence. In 2020, more than € 17 million of Spotlight Initiative funds have been accelerated and/or redirected to address violence against women and girls in the context of the COVID-19 response.
The EU is considered to have played a prominent role in shaping the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDGs, adopted in 2015. The European institutions have in several occasions confirmed their commitment to ‘lead by example’. At the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 for example, the EU reaffirmed its commitment to SRHR as stated in the New EU Consensus on Development. In addition, at that summit the EC has stressed the need for universal access to quality and affordable comprehensive SRH information, education and health-care services and committed to continuing to support women’s movements and other human rights defenders.
- Lisbon Treaty: The main legal EU Framework
- The New European Consensus on Development: ‘Our World, Our Dignity, Our Future’
- EU Negotiation Mandate for a Partnership Agreement between the EU and its Member States of the one part, and with countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States of the other part
- EU Gender Action Plan II – Annual Implementation Report 2017
- EU Gender Action Plan II – Annual Implementation Report 2018
- Joint Communication ‘EU Gender Action Plan (GAP) III – An ambitious Agenda for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in EU external action
- Presidency Conclusions on the Gender Action Plan (GAP) III 2021-2025 – An ambitious Agenda for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in EU external action
- Joint Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive Strategy with Africa’
- Council Conclusions on Africa
- 2018 Annual Report - On the implementation of the European Union’s instruments for financing external actions in 2017
- 2019 annual report on the implementation of the European Union’s instruments for financing external actions in 2018
- Council Conclusions on Gender in Development (2015)
- Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument
- European Parliament legislative resolution of 27 March 2019 on the proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument
- Communication on the Global EU Response to COVID-19
- European Commission, EU Aid Explorer
Updated January 2021
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