Oxfam: Rich countries failing to support UN appeal for South Asian earthquake victims

Published: 22 November 2005

Rich countries are failing to respond generously to the UN South Asian Earthquake appeal and must announce new donations at the donor conference starting today, said international agency Oxfam. Oxfam has compiled figures showing that many rich countries have so far given much less than their fair share according to the relative size of their economy as a proportion of the OECD total.

Rich countries are failing to respond generously to the UN South Asian Earthquake appeal and must announce new donations at the donor conference starting today, said international agency Oxfam. Oxfam has compiled figures showing that many rich countries have so far given much less than their fair share according to the relative size of their economy as a proportion of the OECD total.

As donor governments meet today (Wednesday) in Geneva to discuss the situation, Oxfam’s figures show that:

Despite Kofi Annan’s urgent call for more aid last week, the UN appeal remains only 19% funded and if pledges are included (which are often not delivered) this only brings the total to 30%. ($90 million has been pledged out of the $312 million the UN requested).
Only four countries (Sweden, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Denmark) have so far given more than their fair share to the appeal.
Governments that have given less than one fifth of their fair share include, Japan (17%), Germany (14%), the US (9%) and Italy (7%).
Seven rich country governments have so far given nothing at all to the UN appeal – Belgium, France, Austria, Finland, Greece, Portugal and Spain. By contrast much poorer countries such as Poland and Chile have given contributions to the appeal.
While some of these governments may have given resources outside of the UN appeal, Oxfam said that ensuring the UN appeal is met is vital to ensuring the aid effort is successful.

“Governments are once again failing to respond to an emergency appeal. The logistical nightmare in Pakistan is bad enough without having to worry about funding shortfalls as well. Governments meeting in Geneva today must put their hands in their pockets and pay their fair share. The public will be shocked that so many rich governments have given so little,” said Oxfam’s Advocacy Director Jo Leadbeater.

According to Oxfam’s research, while high profile emergencies are generously funded (i.e. the UN appeal for Iraq in 2003 was over 90% funded and the Tsunami appeal received 80% of funding within 10 days) the low amounts pledged for this emergency are not exceptional:

  • In 2004 donor governments provided less than two thirds of what the UN’s emergency appeals asked for - leaving a black hole in emergency programs of US$1.3 billion. A similar shortfall existed in 2003.
  • Most UN emergency appeals receive less than 30% of required funding in the first month.
  • Other current UN appeals such as the one for Malawi remain similarly under funded.

“The slow response to the UN South Asia appeal is depressingly familiar. These delays can cost thousands of people their lives. What will it take for rich countries to learn this obvious lesson?

The UN urgently needs a properly resourced global emergency fund that can plug these gaps and deliver aid immediately. Until a US$1bn fund exists, the chaotic passing of the begging bowl will go on and people who survived disasters will continue to die while they wait for aid,” said Leadbeater.

The UN has put forward proposals to establish such a global emergency fund – by revitalizing an existing fund formally called the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF). Yet donor pledges to the fund currently total only $187 million. This is less than 20 percent of the US$1 billion target of additional aid that Oxfam estimates donors should commit to the fund to ensure that the UN can respond immediately to future disasters.

Only seven governments – UK, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, Switzerland and Luxembourg – have pledged money to date. Rich donor governments including the US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada and Australia have so far failed to pledge a cent to the new emergency fund.

Contact Information

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