The tsunami of 26 December 2004 devastated the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the Maldives and many other nations on the Indian Ocean. This report is intended to outline the work that has been undertaken to restore and improve the livelihoods of tsunami-affected people. It recognises the poverty in which many people were living before the tsunami. It describes how the tsunami destroyed what meagre livelihoods these people had, and how it threatened to plunge millions more into poverty. The affected communities are determined to rebuild their lives, and the generosity of donors has meant that aid agencies have been able to help them. Many have resumed work, and local economies are beginning to recover. Sustained support over the coming years will give people the opportunity to get out of poverty for good.
The tiny island Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific is about to make history, by joining the WTO on what are arguably the worst terms ever offered to any country. The appalling terms of Tonga’s accession package show that nothing has changed in the way the world’s smallest and most vulnerable economies are treated as they seek to join the WTO. It is a further demonstration that the fine words of the Doha Development Agenda mean nothing when pitted against the commercial interests of the world’s richest countries.
On 26 December 2004, an earthquake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra triggered a tsunami that hit the coasts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, the Maldives, Malaysia, Burma, the Seychelles, and Somalia. Within the space of a few hours, the giant waves devastated thousands of kilometres of coastline and the communities that lived there. While the final death toll will never be known, official estimates indicate that at least 181,516 people perished and 49,936 remain missing. After 26 December, Oxfam International mounted the largest humanitarian effort in its 63-year history. In the 11 months since, we have helped some 1.8 million people,using the $278m given to us. This paper examines what has been achieved so far and what has yet to happen, and suggests what should be done better.
Four years on, the Doha Round looks increasingly unlikely to deliver on its promises to the world’s poor. Rich countries have sidelined development concerns and insisted on, among other conditions, the “blood on the floor” rule, i.e. obtaining economically painful concessions from all countries, including poor ones. In agriculture, trade rules look set to remain stacked against developing countries and poor farmers. Talks on industrial tariffs could jeopardise the industries of poor countries. If the rich countries fail to significantly improve their offer at the WTO ministerial meeting in Hong Kong in December 2005, developing countries should not be expected to sign on to a bad deal.
For aid organisations, the tsunami has proved to be a unique challenge. The magnitude of the disaster demands a response on a scale beyond any previous experience. It has also generated an unprecedented upsurge of generosity from people around the world. The result is that, for perhaps the first time ever, the international aid community has sufficient money to fund programmes for as long as they are needed. This has imposed a massive responsibility on organisations such as Oxfam to demonstrate to donors that we are spending their money transparently and wisely,in co-ordination with others, and addressing long-term as well as immediate needs. Accountability is central to human rights. It is not just about spending donations efficiently and transparently. It is also about honouring our commitments to the survivors and their families.
The WTO Hong Kong ministerial meeting was a lost opportunity to make trade fairer for poor people around the world. Rich countries put their commercial interests before those of developing countries. Most of the difficult decisions were put off to a further meeting in early 2006, but it is far from clear why rich countries that were unable to show the necessary leadership in Hong Kong will behave any differently in a few months’ time. This report looks at what happened and why.
The 8 October 2005 earthquake — Pakistan’s biggest ever natural disaster — generated sympathy and support from people around the world. The Government of Pakistan reacted swiftly and with remarkable energy. However, major and immediate challenges remain. This report looks into what needs to be done to prevent further deaths following the Pakistan earthquake and to enable survivors to rebuild their lives and livelihoods.
A decade after applying to join the WTO, after long and difficult negotiations, the Tongan government is facing the decision of whether to sign up to join the WTO. This paper looks at key issues in that decision, and concerns over the terms of the deal that Tonga has negotiated so far. An overall comment is that Tonga is being asked to make commitments that go well beyond those of existing WTO members at similar levels of development. It is even being asked to do more than the richest members in some areas.