Malta can help developing countries by sharing its expertise on how to manage aid money or tap into the tourism industry, according to an expert on overseas development assistance.

Simon Maxwell, from Europe's largest think-tank on international development and humanitarian policy, said: "We often think about development aid as providing famine relief to starving people or helping farmers grow food, which are perfectly legitimate things to do. But there are other forms of aid.

"Malta has moved from being an aid receiver to a donor and can share its experience on managing aid with the countries it is out to help," he explained.

Mr Maxwell, a senior research associate of the UK's Overseas Development Institute, was in Malta recently to give a lecture on development aid as part of the Kapuscinski lecture series during which countries discussed development cooperation.

According to Malta's humanitarian and development aid policy, the country aims to help the poorest countries, particularly those of sub-Saharan and East Africa, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Mr Maxwell said such countries required assistance on two main levels: immediate social assistance that addressed famine and health issues among others; and longer-term assistance that sought to help countries rebuild their economy.

"Tourism can be a fantastic driver of poverty reduction. Ethiopia, for example, has a long Christian tradition and Malta could share expertise on how to manage tourist arrivals," explained Mr Maxwell.

Mr Maxwell added that developing countries needed access to markets to grow and European countries had to ensure they did not build a fortress of trade restrictions that stopped poor countries exporting to them.

The global recession had led to countries becoming more protective of their economy and this would have devastating repercussions on developing countries.

Europe could help countries like Ethiopia and Kenya by opening up its trade doors to their exported flowers or green beans, for example. But there are other threatening issues.

"Exporting horticultural products from Kenya to the UK causes about one per cent of our carbon emissions but creates a million jobs. We must not use climate change as another excuse to become protectionist," he cautioned.

"The world is becoming a complicated place where we have to deal with the repercussions of climate change, rapid urbanisation, the global recession and security treats... Collective action is the only way to deal with this multilateral challenge.

"We as Europeans need to make sure we build an effective Europe. With new presidents in the European Commission and Council the question is: what is the story they're going to tell about the world? The millennium development goals (MDGs) have to be at the centre," Mr Maxwell said.

The UN goals, agreed to by 189 nations, pledge to halve extreme poverty, halt the spread of AIDS/HIV and provide universal primary education by 2015.

Mr Maxwell went on to add that, given this global scenario, Europe - which provided 60 per cent of the world's aid - had to now work on maximising the impact of this aid.

There were two options. The first was channelling a bigger share of aid money through Brussels where it would be better coordinated. An alternative would be developing a code of conduct on how to work together to better spread out aid across countries in need.

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