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Charities Call on EU to Boost Aid to World's Poor

A coalition of international charities has called on the European Union to step up its commitments to the world's poorest countries and warned it risks falling billions of dollars behind on its aid promises by 2010. For VOA, Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

In a report published Thursday, an alliance of 1,600 aid groups accused European Union countries of inflating the true sums the 27-member bloc spends on assistance to developing nations, and warned it would be billions of dollars short on its aid commitments by 2010.

Alexander Woollcombe is spokesman for Oxfam International in Brussels, one of the members of the coalition.

"We're very concerned that by the year 2010 there will be a 75-billion euro gap between what Europe promised in 2005 and what is likely to be delivered if current trends continue," he said.

EU countries have vowed to earmark 0.7 percent of their GDPs to development aid by the year 2015. They currently spend about half that amount.

The call by the NGOs comes as countries like China and Burma are grappling with the fallout of major natural disasters, while others like Somalia and Sudan are gripped by drought and warfare. Many other poor nations are struggling under rising world food prices. All the more reason, the NGO coalition argues, for the EU to agree to solid, yearly aid goals.

"The crises that we're seeing at the moment highlight the importance of having long-term, predictable aid to increase communities' resilience to all sorts of natural disasters we're seeing that are partly to do with climate change, but also to do with major disasters going on around the world," he added.

Still, Woollcombe said, the picture is not all bleak. Spain has dramatically increased its development aid in recent years and Britain has vowed not to include what the NGOs consider unrelated items, like repatriating refugees, in its aid budget. Overall, he said, Europe is ahead of the United States on a range of aid indicators.

European foreign minister are expected to review the bloc's aid policies next week, after EU officials themselves admitted Europe was falling behind on its commitments.