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New Zealand development aid still lags far behind

Oxfam warns that New Zealand development aid still lags far behind

At the global level, Oxfam criticises broken promises as overall aid drops for the second year in a row

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oxfam New Zealand remains concerned over the low level of aid spending. New figures to be released in Tokyo today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that New Zealand's level of aid remains at 0.27 percent of Gross National Income (the OECD's measure of comparative aid giving). This is unchanged from 2005 and 2006 and places New Zealand as the sixth lowest aid donor in the 22 country OECD.

While the government committed in last years budget to increase aid over the next three years, this has not yet been reflected in spending levels.

"We're pleased that the government has agreed to increase New Zealand's spending on aid to developing countries," said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. "But these OECD figures show how far we have to go to catch up. Most Kiwis think that our government is acting responsibly on the international stage and that we contribute our fair share of responsibilities. But on government aid, this is not the case. We are one of the most miserly of the aid donors and we have failed to live up to our promises to support poverty reduction."

OECD figures show that New Zealand development assistance was NZ$401 million in 2007. Over the next three years, aid levels are projected to increase to 0.35 percent, only half of the target that has been agreed by New Zealand and other OECD countries.

"New Zealand's development aid still needs to be significantly increased to play our fair share in reducing poverty," said Coates. "Internationally, urgent action is needed if the targets for poverty reduction in the Millennium Development Goals are to be reached. The target date of 2015 to halve absolute poverty is only seven years away. It is time for aid donors to deliver on their side of the agreement."

"The government aid agency, NZAID has been criticized in an Audit Office report for poor procedures in contracting. But their overall approach is sound, and they have policies and people in place to make a difference. New Zealand government aid is focused where it is needed and on the right issues. But there is just not enough aid funding."

"A priority for New Zealand is to support conflict reduction and improved livelihoods for the people in the poorest countries of the Pacific and East Asia, where most government aid is concentrated. Social indicators in these countries rival those of sub-Saharan Africa. We must do more to support our neighbours" added Coates.

This region is also highly vulnerable to rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of cyclones and climate instability. "We should also help fund measures to defend countries against climate change, but this spending should be additional to the existing aid budget. Money should not be diverted from schools and hospitals to address a problem that the rich world has created. Climate change will be felt most severely by the weakest and most vulnerable people, especially the remote islands of the Pacific and East Asia."

In the run-up to the 2008 general election, Oxfam is joining with the Council for International Development in calling on all political parties to make clear their support for an increase in foreign aid assistance by committing to staged increases that enable New Zealand to meet the United Nations target of 0.7 percent of GNI by 2015. Oxfam is also promoting cross party commitment to strong action on climate change and a rethink of the government's approach to trade policy to focus on supporting better livelihoods for the poor.

Globally, the OECD figures show a drop in overall aid for the second year in a row. Oxfam is disappointed that rich nations have again broken their promises to provide more aid to fight poverty and meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The figures show that the total aid provided in 2007 was NZ$132 billion This represents a drop of 8.4 percent, shattering the promised increases made in the United Nations and at successive G8 meetings.

In 1970, rich countries promised to give 0.7 percent of their income as aid. This was re-affirmed at the UN Millennium Development Assembly in 2000, when the date of 2015 was set to meet this target. Only Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway have met this promise.

"These figures don't lie. They show a clear lack of international leadership on bringing much needed funding to poor countries. This failure to deliver on aid promises means millions of children denied a place in school, and men, women and children condemned to die from poverty related causes," said Barry Coates. /ENDS

Note to editors:

• Oxfam New Zealand (Oxfam) is a non-profit development organisation with programme activities concentrated in the Pacific (Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, and support to civil society-led regional initiatives) and East Asia (principally Indonesia, Timor-Leste, and West Papua). The government aid agency, NZAID, awarded NZ$2.6 million in grants for Oxfam programme work in 2006-7.

• Amongst the OECD nations, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway have again exceeded the UN target of 0.7 percent of Gross National Income.

• New Zealand's level of aid giving as a percent of Gross National Income is above only five OECD countries: USA, Japan, Greece, Portugal and Italy.

• In terms of aid giving per capita, New Zealanders give just over one quarter as much as the Irish and over one third less than Australians.

• New Zealanders spend more on sweets each year than the government spends on overseas aid.


ENDS

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