Oxfam International: Old Money and False Promises for Tsunami Countries?

Published: 1 November 2005

Rich countries urged to deliver full package of aid, trade and debt for tsunami countries.

As donors and politicians prepare to gather in Jakarta, Indonesia for the world summit for the tsunami disaster, international agency Oxfam warned them not to repeat the mistakes of the past and instead to commit to a comprehensive package of aid, debt relief and trade concessions for the countries affected by the tsunami disaster.
Barbara Stocking, Director of international agency Oxfam GB said:
"Rich countries must follow the public mood of generosity and compassion and deliver a radical set of proposals that will bring rapid relief and reconstruction to the millions of people whose lives have been ripped apart by this tragedy. We must ensure we don't repeat mistakes of previous humanitarian crises in Afghanistan, Liberia, and elsewhere where donors have either failed to deliver the aid quickly enough (or at all) or delivered aid at the expense of other disasters."
The agency, which is working to bring help to over 320,000 people, welcomed the initial pledges of US$2 billion in humanitarian aid but stressed that this is only the start of a long road of rehabilitation and reconstruction for the region.
In a letter sent to all the conference participants today, Oxfam is calling for the following actions in response to the tsunami crisis:
Aid: Fully fund the UN appeal with every single pledge turned into real aid. The UN Flash Appeal to fund relief and reconstruction following the earthquake in Bam only received US$17.7 million of the US$32.6 million. Aid should also be given in the form of grants not loans, not tied to the interests of the donor government and given over a five-year period. Finance for the tsunami crisis should be new money and not diverted at the expense of the millions of people suffering from other humanitarian crises such as Darfur or Congo. UN OCHA (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) should be bolstered with the authority and increased funds so that it can take a lead role coordinating all of the UN agencies during humanitarian emergencies.
Debt relief: The debt burden of the countries affected by the tsunami totals US$300 billion and last year Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand paid out US$20 billion on debt repayments. Oxfam is calling for an immediate debt moratorium for all the countries affected and a review of conditionalities of existing loans. A task force should also be set up to review how all existing debt could be cancelled. However, generous debt relief for the tsunami countries should not come at the expense of the poorest countries that are expected to receive 100 per cent debt relief later this year, nor should it be included as aid money.
Trade: The Sri Lankan and Maldives economies are very reliant on clothing exports (which provide 50 per cent of Sri Lanka's GDP). Given this, Oxfam is urging the EU and US to help the Sri Lankan and Maldives economies and reconstruction by opening up their markets to textile imports which have just been badly hit by the end of Multi Fibre Agreement trade deal on 1 January 2005.
Ambition: The tsunami crisis has been as terrible as it has because it has largely affected poor people, most vulnerable to natural disaster. Governments should commit to reconstruction which makes real strides towards eliminating the poverty and inequality that were widespread in the region before the tsunami hit.
Make Poverty History: The generosity shown to the victims of the tsunami should be the beginning of a real determination to end the avoidable suffering which natural disasters, conflicts and poverty inflict on so many men, women and children in all poor countries. World leaders should seize the opportunity in 2005 to Make Poverty History by taking action on aid, cancelling debt relief and delivering trade justice.
Stocking added:
"This crisis reinforces the need for the world to double aid spending, cut the poorest countries debts and enable the poorest to trade their way out of poverty and develop an action plan to end world poverty. This meeting is an opportunity for the G8 countries to show they have the ambition and drive to make this happen."


Contact Information

Banda Aceh, Indonesia: Mona Lazco on 62 815 305 9178 or 62 8131 68 27476 Jakarta, Indonesia: Carly Hammond will be attending the donors meeting in Jakarta and is available on 61 409 181 454 Sri Lanka: Malcolm Gilchrist Fleming on 94 11259 7522 or 94 773145399 London: Please call the Oxfam Media Unit on 44 1865 312498 (which has a 24 hour out of office mobile number)