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Old money & false promises for tsunami countries?

Wednesday January 5, 2004

Oxfam International: Old money & false promises
for tsunami countries?

Rich countries urged to deliver full package of aid, trade and debt for tsunami countries

As donors and politicians prepare to gather in Jakarta, Indonesia for the world summit for the tsunami disaster, international agency Oxfam warned them not to repeat the mistakes of the past and instead to commit to a comprehensive package of aid, debt relief and trade concessions for the countries affected by the tsunami disaster.

Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand said: “Rich countries must follow the public mood of generosity and compassion and deliver a radical set of proposals that will bring rapid relief and reconstruction to the millions of people whose lives have been ripped apart by this tragedy. We must ensure we don’t repeat mistakes of previous humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Liberia, and elsewhere where donors have either failed to deliver the aid quickly enough (or at all) or delivered aid at the expense of other disasters.”

The agency, which is working to bring help to over 320,000 people in the disaster area, welcomed the initial pledges of NZ$2.8 billion in humanitarian aid but stressed that this is only the start of a long road of rehabilitation and reconstruction for the region.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday, Oxfam called for the following actions in response to the tsunami crisis:

Aid: Fully fund the UN appeal with every single pledge turned into real aid. The UN Flash Appeal to fund relief and reconstruction following the earthquake in Bam only received $25.2 million of the $46.4 million. UN OCHA (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) should be bolstered with both authority and increased funds so that it can take a lead role coordinating all of the UN agencies during humanitarian emergencies. Aid should also be given in the form of grants not loans, not tied to the interests of the donor government and given over a five-year period. Finance for the tsunami crisis should be new money and not diverted at the expense of the millions of people suffering from other humanitarian crises such as Darfur or Congo. The implication is that the New Zealand aid budget should be increased – currently New Zealand provides only 0.24 percent of Gross National Income, one of the lowest in the OECD, and well below the agreed target of 0.7 percent GNI.

Debt Relief: The debt burden of the countries affected by the tsunami totals $428 billion and last year Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand paid out $28.5 billion on debt repayments. Oxfam is calling for an immediate debt moratorium for all the countries affected and a review of conditionalities of existing loans. A task force should also be set up to review how all existing debt can be cancelled. However, generous debt relief for the tsunami countries should not come at the expense of the poorest countries, which may benefit from a 100 percent debt relief package later this year, nor should it be included as aid money.

Trade: The Sri Lankan and Maldives economies are very reliant on clothing exports (which provide 50 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP). Given this, Oxfam is urging the EU and US to help the Sri Lankan and Maldives economies and reconstruction by opening up their markets to textile imports, which have just been badly hit by the end of the Multi Fibre Arrangement on January 1, 2005.

Ambition: The tsunami crisis has been as terrible as it has because it has largely affected poor people, most vulnerable to natural disaster. Governments should commit to reconstruction and make real strides towards eliminating the poverty and inequality that were widespread in the region before the tsunami hit.

The generosity shown to the victims of the tsunami should be the beginning of a real determination to end the avoidable suffering which natural disasters, conflicts and poverty inflict on so many men, women and children in all poor countries. World leaders should seize the opportunity in 2005 to Make Poverty History by taking action to achieve the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals. This means that OECD countries, including New Zealand, need to increase aid, cancel debt relief and agree to fundamental reforms in trade rules.

Coates added: “This crisis reinforces the need for a comprehensive response: to double aid spending, cut the poorest countries’ debts, enable the poorest people to trade their way out of poverty and develop an action plan to tackle poverty. This meeting is an opportunity for rich countries to show they have the ambition and drive to make this happen.”

To donate to Oxfam New Zealand’s EARTHQUAKE TSUNAMI EMERGENCY FUND call 800 400 666 or donate online www.oxfam.org.nz

Oxfam works with others to find lasting solutions to poverty and suffering. www.oxfam.org.nz

Notes

On Thursday 6 January, head of states and delegates from 23 countries, including the 10 member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), representatives from the European Union, the World Bank, the World Health Organization and other agencies will have a one day summit in Jakarta, Indonesia. Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 independent agencies operating around the world. Oxfam International has so far raised a combined total of NZ $56million. Oxfam New Zealand’s appeal has now raised $650,000.

ENDS

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