Critically assess the European Union's role as the world's largest donor of development assistance, are there any ethical obligations attached to this role?

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Historically, the European Union (EU hereafter) has from its very beginning at the signing of the Treaty of Rome given consideration to the provision of development assistance. Unfortunately, countries receiving development assistance have until recently done so more on the basis of historical ties than on the basis of need, originating from French and British colonial ties. Many of the seemingly laudable and altruistic aims of the Yaoundé and Lome conventions failed to materialise in practice. Consequently, Lome IV saw a more acute focus upon economic and political conditionality (Holland 2002:44). This study will focus on the EU's relations with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states reflecting the EU's own priority in the ACP states as recipients of development assistance (over Latin America and Asia), and how the context of the 1990s affected this priority. There are several ethical factors that must be taken into account by any donor of development assistance especially in giving genuine and fair consideration to the needs of the recipient states whilst putting aside agendas of self-interest.

Of particular interest is the notion of political conditionality, and the fact that some occasions the EU has operated a system of double standards. Ultimately, the EU patchwork of development assistance to developing nations has rendered the assistance less effective than it could have been. However, the Cotonou Agreement represents an opportunity for the EU to set an example to the world in the donation of development assistance, making sure the ethical standards are set for other donors to follow.

The historical context of development aid in the EU reaches back to the Treaty of Rome negotiations. France's concern for its colonial territories is the main reason any concept of development assistance was included. Under article 131 of the treaty "association" was given to those countries...