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New Zealand Government remains one of the least generous aid givers

In the run up to the government’s budget announcement, Oxfam is calling for an increase in foreign aid assistance following the release of new figures that show that New Zealand is still languishing near the bottom of OECD nations.

“Most kiwis think we are good global citizens. But compared to others, our government is a miserly aid donor,” said Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand. “Before the last election, the government promised to increase the aid budget to start the process of catching up on aid levels. It is time that the government honoured this promise in the forthcoming budget. This is a critical time for the international aid effort and we must not turn our backs on those who are in desperate need of our assistance.”

Figures released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show that New Zealand is the sixth lowest foreign aid giver, based on the percentage of gross national income (GNI) spent on overseas development assistance. The figures show that in the past year the New Zealand government has maintained its level of aid as a proportion of Gross National Income at 0.27 percent.

“To put it bluntly, we are not pulling our weight in the fight against poverty,” added Coates. “As well as remaining one of the lowest nations, we are one of only a few countries who have not set a plan in place to reach our promised target of 0.7 percent. The OECD estimates that, without commitments to increase aid in future, New Zealand is on track to fall to the third lowest in the OECD in terms of aid as a proportion of national income.”

“There have been excuses advanced in the past for New Zealand not giving more aid, including the fact that our aid effort is well targeted and effective. But far from being a reason to give less, this is the best reason we could have to be more generous as a nation. Our government aid works and we should give more of it.”

Successive New Zealand governments have repeatedly pledged to meet the United Nations target to give 0.7 percent of their GNI in development assistance by 2015. In September 2005, the Labour Party announced it would increase the ODA budget as a percentage of GNI to 0.35 percent by 2010; however since then there has been no increase.

“This disappointing report comes at a time when our Pacific neighbours are facing multiple pressures,” said Barry Coates. ”An increase in assistance is desperately needed to combat the interrelated problems of economic stagnation, high youth unemployment, destruction of natural resources, conflict and crime, poor health and pandemics, poor governance and natural disasters, including those related to climate change.”

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation estimated that more than half of Papua New Guinea’s 5.5 million people are infected with tuberculosis, and that one in five of their population will be infected with HIV in the next decade unless urgent action is taken. In the western Solomon Islands, over 5,000 people have been displaced by the tsunami on Monday and climate change is predicted to increase the frequency and intensity of cyclones.

The OECD’s statistics released today show a dismal response from the international community to the challenge of achieving the historic Millennium Development Goals, agreed in 2000. The total aid provided in 2006 was US$103.9 billion down from US$106.8 billion in 2005. This equates to just one tenth of world military spending. The 2006 figures are again hugely inflated by one-off debt cancellations to Iraq and Nigeria, debt deals that inflate the true picture of aid levels.

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