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Pacific poverty levels rising – latest findings

Pacific poverty levels rising – latest findings

Major international reports, released on the eve of the United Nations Leaders’ Summit and launched in Wellington today, show that parts of the Pacific are sliding further into poverty.

The UN 2005 Human Development Report, which places New Zealand in the top 20 in the world in terms of human development, shows that some of our Pacific neighbours are not even in the top 100 and, even worse, are slipping further down the scale.

It says that parts of Melanesia are facing poverty levels approaching those of the world’s poorest countries, such as in sub-Saharan Africa.

The UN report ranks countries on the basis of life expectancy, education and income. It says that, while there has been overall global progress, many individual countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, are falling further behind.

In the Pacific, Papua New Guinea has dropped to 137th place (out of 177 countries) from 133rd last year while Fiji has dropped from 81st last year to 92nd this year.

Meanwhile a second report just released says that poverty levels also remain high in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.

The Commonwealth Foundation report looks at progress towards the Millennium Development Goals from the perspective of civil society organisations. It says that with just a decade to go, many countries in the Pacific are way off target to reach these goals – a set of internationally-agreed targets to significantly reduce global poverty by 2015. The targets include halving the number of people living on less than US$1 a day and giving every child a primary-level education.

Council for International Development Executive Director, Rae Julian, says it’s particularly concerning that parts of the Pacific are slipping backwards in terms of human development.

“New Zealand, as a Pacific nation, needs to do something about this.”

“It is extremely important that we don’t allow our region to slip further behind. These figures starkly point out why the next government needs to commit to the United Nations target of giving 0.7 percent of national income to aid.”

“Much of New Zealand’s aid goes to the Pacific but it’s clear we’re just not giving enough.” At present New Zealand gives only 0.27% of national income in aid, well short of the UN target. It is one of only six donor countries with no timetable for reaching the target.

“The needs in the Pacific are great. For instance, in the Solomon Islands, the government is often unable to pay wages to doctors and nurses. Access to clean water is also a major problem in the Pacific. Three quarters of people in Kiribati and more than half the urban population of Fiji don’t get access to fresh water.”

Globally, the UN report also argues that greatly increased aid is needed to eradicate extreme poverty. It calls on developed countries to give 0.7% of their income in aid by 2015 at the latest.

These reports come as heads of state gather at the 2005 United Nations Summit to assess progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Ms Julian says it is a pity that, since the summit coincides with the election, no New Zealand politicians will be attending the summit.


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