Oxfam: Rich countries risk failing tsunami victims

Published: 1 November 2005

Rich countries must adopt several vital reforms or risk failing tsunami victims said international agency Oxfam in a new report released today. Although the initial response was generous, Oxfam warns that as international attention begins to wane, vital reforms on trade and debt issues are being avoided.

Rich countries must adopt several vital reforms or risk failing tsunami victims said international agency Oxfam in a new report released today. Although the initial response was generous, Oxfam warns that as international attention begins to wane, vital reforms on trade and debt issues are being avoided.

Oxfam's new briefing paper argues that three weeks after the tsunami, there is much more that needs to be done on aid, debt and trade before the spotlight shifts.

Bernice Romero, Oxfam International Advocacy Director said,

"In the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, the public and governments responded admirably. Pledges were made and the world focused on the disaster. Three weeks on, rich country governments sadly appear to be dragging their feet on vital trade and debt reforms to help relieve poverty in the long-term.

"The world mustn't let the spotlight shift away from the devastation caused by the tsunami until rich countries have done all that they can to help the victims for the long-term. So far they haven't made the tough choices that are needed to bring fundamental change."

On aid, despite the magnificent public response and generous pledges, the UN humanitarian appeal that governments fund, is still 26 per cent under funded. The UN has called for US$977 million but has only received US$723 million. Oxfam is calling on donor governments to fully fund the appeal and deliver money quickly, as in the past, funds have been pledged and not materialized.

On debt, rich countries from the Paris Club, rather than agreeing to cancel significant proportions of debt, have chosen the easy option of a temporary suspension of repayments, which will only be reapplied in a few months. This temporary rescheduling of payments means that it is likely that interest will continue to be charged and the debt repayments will have grown when the tsunami-hit countries have to start paying the debts back.

Oxfam is calling for governments to do an urgent assessment of what level of debt is now sustainable for each indebted tsunami-affected country, and cancel the remainder of the debt.

On trade, despite some early positive noises, US tariff barriers to textile and clothing exports from tsunami-affected countries remain in place. The EU is expected to make an announcement on tariffs next week which will be closely monitored. Increased exports could ensure tens of thousands of jobs, raise incomes, and generate the foreign exchange that affected countries need for essential imports and the enormous challenge of post-tsunami reconstruction. Oxfam is calling for the EU and US to remove tariff barriers to textile and clothing exports from tsunami-affected countries.

Oxfam International is calling on rich countries to address all of these areas and to mark the tsunami by fighting a war on poverty in the region and beyond.

"Instead of ensuring the tsunami becomes a turning point out of poverty for the region, rich countries may just rebuild the poverty of the past. We need more than a simple patch up job. The public will be rightly outraged that its generosity is being undermined if we simply rebuild the poverty there before. We urge people to tell their governments not to let them down, and to embrace these vital reforms," said Bernice Romero, Oxfam International Advocacy Director.

Contact Information

Contact Brendan Cox of Oxfam''s Media Unit: tel: 44 (0) 1865 312289; mobile: 44 (0) 7957 120 853.