With COVID-19 exacerbating global inequalities, MEPs want EU funding and policy to focus on helping partner countries recover from the pandemic.
On Wednesday 23 June, MEPs endorsed a report on the role of the EU’s development and humanitarian assistance in addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The report demands substantial new EU funds to help developing countries to fight the direct and indirect consequences of the pandemic – with a primary focus on the swift and equitable global rollout of vaccines. In particular, MEPs stress that safe vaccines should be made easily accessible and affordable for all, insisting health workers and the most vulnerable people should be given priority. Despite the EU’s positive contribution to the global response to the pandemic, MEPs highlight that funds currently earmarked for this purpose have been reallocated by the Commission from existing funding streams. In endorsing the own-initiative report on Wednesday, MEPs call on the EU to focus funding and policy planning on helping partner governments in developing countries rebuild and strengthen their health, education, and economic systems. Funding and policy should concentrate on essential support to communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – refugees, migrant workers, and pastoral farmers.
Two-decades-long decline in poverty reversed
In requesting additional EU investment in the fight against COVID-19, MEPs highlighted the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on women and young people, pointing to the rise in gender-based violence, and pandemic-related restrictions on life-saving sexual and reproductive health and rights services. What’s more, the pandemic is set to push an estimated 47 million additional people into extreme poverty by 2021 – a reversal of a two-decades-long decline in extreme poverty. The report was adopted by 443 votes in favour, 40 against, and 209 abstentions.
The Development Committee adopted the report, by co-rapporteurs Hildegarde Bentele (EPP, DE) and Norbert Neuser (S&D, DE), on 19 April 2021. COVID-19 is a global pandemic affecting every country in the world, but its economic and social impact has been felt most strongly in developing countries. The pandemic has greatly exacerbated the existing debt problems of developing countries, undermining their fragile health systems as well as their governments’ efforts to mobilise sufficient resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In April 2020, the European Commission launched the “Team Europe” initiative, and has so far allocated more than EUR 850 million to the initiative to support EU partner countries in the developing world.