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NZ a "Woeful" Last on World AIDS Spending List

Aid agency disappointed at NZ's woeful efforts on global AIDS

Aid Agency World Vision expressed its disappointment today at New Zealand's poor showing in a recent survey of spending on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The survey, released ahead of next week's International AIDS conference in Bangkok, ranks New Zealand dead last of the 22 OECD countries. New Zealand contributed an average of just US$1.5 million per year between 2000 and 2002, outstripped even by tiny Luxembourg with a population of less than half a million people.

The survey shows that Ireland, a country with a similar population to New Zealand, gave US$24.5 million per year, or more than 16 times New Zealand's contribution. Luxembourg gave more than four times as much, at US$6.9 million per year.

"It's just not good enough," said Simon Duffy, policy analyst for World Vision New Zealand.

"The New Zealand Government has signed up to a number of global compacts committing us to fighting AIDS globally, but it's not living up to its commitments.

"New Zealand made a commitment to helping when we signed up to the Millennium Development Goals. We did it again when we supported the resolution of the UN Special Session on HIV / AIDS.

"But as a country we seem to be incapable of taking AIDS seriously as a global issue. New Zealand is not contributing anywhere near its share to global co-operative efforts on HIV/AIDS like the Global Fund, or the WHO's 3 by 5 initiative that plans to make drug treatments available in developing countries.

"NZ AID is the government body with responsibility for fighting global poverty, and the Millennium Development Goals are embedded in its founding documents, but NZ AID doesn't yet have a strategy for tackling AIDS. AIDS will be addressed in NZ AID's new health policy, which is now long overdue. This health strategy will need to deal with broader aspects of AIDS such as the economic impact, orphans and the vulnerability of girls and women."

Mr Duffy says the New Zealand Government's recent small increases in spending for the Pacific region are very necessary and are very welcome. "But they are not likely to have lifted us off the bottom of the OECD table, and are certainly not keeping pace with increases in funding from some of the major donor countries."

Next week's conference in Bangkok is an opportunity for experts to get together and share their experience and strategies. Among them World Vision will run training sessions on supporting communities to help orphans and other children impacted by AIDS.

"It's very frustrating for an organisation like World Vision, when we see every day the havoc that HIV/AIDS is causing in the communities we work with in Southern Africa. It's undermining everything we do, and seriously threatening our decades-long development work," says Mr Duffy.

World Vision was also critical of New Zealand's small aid budget, which received a nominal boost in last month's budget, but remains at less than a third of the agreed OECD target of 0.7% of Gross National Income.

"I'm embarrassed when I talk to my colleagues in Africa and Europe, to have to admit that New Zealand is among the lowest contributors in the OECD - not just on HIV/AIDS but in all development funding," says Simon Duffy. "It doesn't correspond with the image New Zealand likes to portray of the responsible, caring global citizen. The argument that there are no votes in overseas aid doesn't wash, especially when you consider that New Zealanders have contributed NZ$2.7 million in this year's 40 Hour Famine. We have serious global responsibilities, and HIV/AIDS will affect the whole world."

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