Rich country donors still well off-track on their aid commitments: Oxfam

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Aid figures show that rich countries are failing to deliver on their promises to poorer countries says aid agency Oxfam. The figures, from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that although there has been a fraction of an increase in total aid, from $122 to $123 billion, the amount of aid has actually fallen by $3.5 billion when compared with last year’s prices.

This comes at a time when the World Bank forecasts that 50 000 more children in Sub-Saharan countries may have died this year because of the financial crisis. Max Lawson of Oxfam said this “lacklustre performance from donors is not close to meeting the needs of poor countries, who are suffering now from the impact of the economic crisis. It is a scandal that more than half of rich nations have cut their aid this year and are giving less of their income than last year – just 31 cents in every hundred dollars.
“Whilst some countries like the UK have made efforts to increase aid, others are really letting the side down. Italy’s aid spending has plunged by a massive 31%, Ireland’s by 18.9%, Germany’s by 12%, Japan by 10.7% and Canada by 9.5%.” The UK is actually on track to meet its aid commitments, reporting a jump from 0.43% of GDP in 2008 to 0.52% in 2009. Yesterday the Conservative Party joined the other main parties by pledging in their manifesto to introduce legislation to require UK governments to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid.

Lawson said: “Whoever wins the election must work to pass a Bill as soon as possible, to give legal force to the UK’s promises to the world’s poorest people and increase the budget to meet 0.70 per cent by 2013.”

Forty years ago rich countries pledged to spend 0.7% of their annual national incomes in development aid. And so far, just five nations – Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – have actually reached the target. Today’s figures show that some donors have increased aid, demonstrating that even in hard economic times this is possible where there is political will to meet international commitments.
“Its crunch time. More aid is vital now to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, and world leaders must rebuild their credibility on the global stage before its too late. All rich countries must commit to timetables to meet 0.7, backed by national binding legislation, when they meet at the UN summit in September to review their progress on MDGs,” said Lawson.

Delivered well, aid saves lives. In Nepal development aid has been pivotal in dramatically improving healthcare, with a series of reforms including abolishing health fees. Since 2006 the under-five mortality rate has reduced by 22%, neo-natal mortality by 38% and maternal mortality has fallen by 19%. “In fact maternal mortality has now fallen by 58% in the country since 1996 – a towering success.”

New research published on Monday revealed that maternal deaths have fallen worldwide, from over half a million a year in 1980 to less than 350 000 in 2008. “The heartening fall in global maternal mortality comes in large part because of well-targeted aid spending. It is unconscionable for rich countries to fail on aid promises when there are such rich rewards to be won in the fight against poverty.” said Lawson.