Latin America and the Caribbean Receive £31m in Aid from EU
This month, Christos Stylianides, the European Union’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, took a trip to Colombia to witness the country’s current upheaval and the overflow effects of its neighbor, Venezuela’s sunken economy.
Latin America and the Caribbean, regions infamously known for their political instability and famously known for their abundance of natural resources, is one of the world’s most disaster-prone regions.
Stylianides visited Bogota in order to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Stylianides also went to Quibdo, an indigenous area that has been affected by violent outbreaks over land disputes and passed through Cucata, a border town serving as a entry point for the mass amounts of fleeing Venezuelans. According to the United Nations, over one million Venezuelans have relocated outside of the country, making it the largest displacement of people in Latin American history.
With many Venezuelan refugees pouring into Colombia, the nation has further toppled its chain of growing challenges.
To name a few, hospitals are overcrowded, rates of homelessness have spiked, and last year, Colombia’s economy grew at a sluggish rate of 1.8 percent, the slowest since the global financial crisis. The nation is struggling to succeed while handling a vast humanitarian crisis along with fallen oil prices that hamper government revenue.
On March 17, a day after Stylianides’ visit to Colombia, Stylianides announced that the European Union will give £31m in aid to Latin America with the following statement:
"The European Union's commitment to support Latin America is stronger than ever. Here in Colombia, our new EU funding will help on two fronts: addressing the humanitarian consequences of the decades-long conflict in the country and helping reinforce the region's preparedness and response to natural disasters. We have also announced new funding for those affected by the crisis in Venezuela: supporting those in need is a priority for the EU."
According to the European Commission, “the funding announced [on March 17, 2018] is part of an overall humanitarian aid package for the region, with €6 million going for Colombia. A further €2 million will go to those people affected by the crisis in Venezuela … The funding includes €6.9 million for food assistance, disaster risk reduction and support to those affected by violence in Central America … €3 million will support disaster risk reduction activities in the South American region .. €5 million is for emergency food assistance in Haiti, with a further €6.3 million going for risk reduction in the country. €2 million will support disaster risk reduction and resilience interventions in the Caribbean.”
Why does the European Union care about Latin America?
Two words: entangled economies. Data from the European Commission reveal that the European Union had over $235 billion dollars in bilateral trade with Latin America and the Caribbean, making this tropical region its third largest trading partner, only behind the US and China.
In order for the European Union to maintain its strong trading system, it must make sure that its trading partners have high productivity and stable economies. The current turmoil spread across Latin America and the Caribbean decreases workers’ productivity, disrupts the nation's economic growth and the quantity of exports.
For example, Colombia recently ended a 50-year civil war with the guerilla rebel group known as FARC. Although humanitarian goals have been achieved, it is costly for the government to integrate the members of FARC and its captives, back into society. These crisis-related expenditures decrease the amount of money that the government could otherwise use to support economic growth, such as by offering tax cuts to businesses or cutting healthcare costs.
In addition to stimulating economic growth and reducing poverty, foreign assistance also spreads European influence throughout the region and enhances the reputation of the EU. The £31m humanitarian gift is expected to combat hunger, reduce disaster risks and support Venezuelans as well as all those affected by violence.