LONDON, Feb 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The world's biggest donors agreed on Friday to expand the definition of development aid to include limited forms of counter-terrorism measures and military activities or training, a move campaigners said could divert scarce funds away from the poorest people.
Funding towards activities aimed at preventing violent extremism can now be reported as development aid, provided they are "are led by donor countries and their primary purpose is developmental", the Development Assistance Committee, a group that oversees what can be counted as aid, said in a statement.
Activities that can now be reported as aid include education, efforts to support the rule of law and work with charities to prevent radicalisation, the 29-member group, which is part of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said after a two-day meeting in Paris.
Some limited forms of military training will also be eligible, provided they are done under civilian oversight, with civilian participation and have a clear purpose for the benefit of civilians, the communique said.
The committee stressed the financing of military equipment or services is "generally excluded" from aid reporting and that aid must not be used to promote donor countries' security interests.
The committee also said it would start tracking private finance flows as aid to recognise the importance of strengthening private sector engagement in development.
LESS MONEY FOR THE POOR?
Campaigners had expressed concern earlier this week that aid meant to help poor people in developing countries would increasingly be used to pay for security costs and hosting migrants, in particular in light of the European refugee crisis .
"We've embarked on a very slippery slope," Sara Tesorieri, deputy head of Oxfam's EU office, said in response to Friday's announcement.
"It is hugely disappointing to see governments taking steps to twist aid into a tool to advance their own security agendas."
The committee said it had agreed to work on ways donor countries could better respond to the current refugee crisis, with the aim of ensuring the costs of looking after migrants do not eat into aid budgets.
Faced with the substantial cost of looking after a record one million migrants who arrived in Europe last year, several governments have already diverted money from their development aid budgets to pay for hosting the new arrivals.
"These decisions run the risk that aid will benefit rich countries in the future instead of going to poverty reduction in developing countries," Jeroen Kwakkenbos, policy and advocacy manager at the European Network on Debt and Development.
Official development assistance (ODA) reached a record high of $137.2 billion in 2014, up 1.2 percent from 2013, but the poorest countries' share dropped by 9.3 percent, leaving them with less than a third of overall aid.
Adrian Lovett, Europe executive director of advocacy organisation ONE, said donors had failed to ensure that vital resources for refugees arriving in Europe are not taken from existing commitments to the world's poorest.
"By extending aid rules to include more peace and security costs, the OECD risks further eroding what is available for the poorest countries," he said.
(Reporting by Astrid Zweynert; Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org to see more stories)