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Investing in development – small cost huge benefit

Media Release
For immediate release: 18 January 2005

Investing in development – a small cost for huge benefits

This afternoon, the New Zealand government is expected to announce a substantial increase in aid to the tsunami-affected countries. Oxfam welcomes the increase in New Zealand’s aid commitment. This aid will assist in longer term reconstruction, long after the tsunami has gone from the media headlines.

Almost three weeks since the tsunami struck on 26 December 2005, more than one million people living in the Indian Ocean region remain displaced. The appalling death toll could still increase, unless the humanitarian response reaches all those in need with appropriate life-saving assistance.

Beyond the immediate threats to life, the Asia Development Bank has estimated that the tsunami disaster may reduce nearly 2 million people to poverty, unless the massive reconstruction effort specifically aims to reduce poverty. Oxfam is calling for reconstruction to do more than recreate the poverty that existed before the tsunami. It must aim for ‘reconstruction plus’, specifically aiming to reduce poverty, ensure environmental sustainability and reduce vulnerability to future disasters. The humanitarian crisis is not yet over. The ‘poverty crisis’ of the tsunami may have only just begun.

Oxfam has called on the government to use this relief package as a first step towards a commitment to increase its overseas aid and towards the UN agreed level of 0.7% of Gross National Income (GNI). New Zealand has fallen behind other OECD countries in its aid contribution towards poverty reduction targets – the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). A report of the UN Millennium Project, presented today to the Secretary General, calls for extra money and policy reforms.

“The Report of the Millennium Project lays down the gauntlet to the leaders of all OECD countries. 2005 must see substantial new investment to fund a war on poverty. This report highlights the inadequate aid levels from rich countries. The poorest are paying with their lives,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.

The report estimates that 500 million people can escape poverty by accelerated action to meet the MDGs. Of particular concern to New Zealand is the lack of progress in the Pacific. Oceania is on track with only two of the 20 measures of progress towards the MDGs. This is second lowest of the regions defined in the report, only above sub-Saharan Africa. The Oceania is falling behind in mortality, clean water supply, sanitation, youth unemployment and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“The global outpouring of generosity in response to the tsunami disaster shows the huge public support for humanitarian and aid work. It also shows what the international community can achieve when it unites behind a common purpose. The question posed by the Sachs report is 'can we now turn this energy to ending the scourge of extreme poverty and achieving the MDGs?' The cost is low. The benefits are huge. Oxfam believes we can,” said Coates.

Note to editors:

In 2000, governments agreed a set of objectives – the Millennium Development Goals – which set out targets to meet in these areas by 2015. But at current rates of progress, many of the goals will be missed, in many parts of the world. The new report emphasizes the need for governments to ensure that 0.7% of their GNI is spent on aid. Although some have met this goal, most governments still lag way behind. New Zealand, is one of the lowest among OECD countries, currently spending 0.24% and with the expected increase to be announced today this will possibly increase to 0.26%. The report also recommends a dramatic acceleration of debt relief for many heavily indebted countries.

Oxfam fears that if the world fails to meet the Millennium Development Goals and current trends are allowed to continue:

- 45 million more children will die between now and 2015

- 247 million more people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be living on less than $1 a day in 2015

- 97 million more children will still be out of school in 2015

- 53 million more people in the world will lack proper sanitation facilities.

ENDS

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