Leading development NGOs urge EU leaders to act on Pakistan, the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster right now

Published: 15th September 2010

International development organizations Oxfam, Plan, Eurodad and Concern Worldwide called today on EU leaders, meeting tomorrow for the first time to examine Europe’s role as a global power, to shift gear in their response to Pakistan - currently the world’s biggest humanitarian disaster. 21 million people have been affected and the number continues to rise, as a severe health crisis is looming.

Elise Ford, Head of Oxfam’s EU office, said: “Europe’s response to flood-hit Pakistan is a litmus test to see if the EU can really up its game in international affairs. EU leaders have all the right tools to respond and now they just need to act. 2010 should mark the start of Europe’s new approach to tackling global humanitarian emergencies.”

“Tomorrow, EU leaders must stand up and agree to do more for Pakistan by coming up with a generous package of trade concessions, humanitarian assistance and debt relief,” Ford added. 

Natalia Alonso, Head of Plan’s EU office, said: “The number of people affected by the floods continues to rise each day and rebuilding the country will take years and billions of Euros. Urgent measures are needed. EU leaders cannot afford to stand idle.”

Øygunn Sundsbø Brynildsen, Advocacy Officer at Eurodad, said: “While over 20 million people are suffering from the floods, one third of the country's revenues are spent on debt payments. A large part of Pakistan's debt has its origin in loans which never benefited its people. Western creditors granted large loans to undemocratic regimes in Pakistan and helped these stay in power. EU leaders must assume responsibility for their reckless lending by cancelling Pakistan's debt and making sure that ordinary people benefit from the money.”

What must Europe do to help Pakistan get back on its feet?

Scale up funds for short and long term needs

EU member states must drastically increase their contribution to the UN appeal, as soon as it gets revised this Friday, to meet the emergency and the longer term needs of the Pakistani people.

Since the initial UN appeal was launched, the number of people affected by the floods has increased from 14 million to 21 million, with millions displaced and more than 10 million in need of immediate assistance. The revised UN appeal is likely to be more than three times the amount of the initial appeal which was $460 million.

Chart showing the EU’s contribution compared to the current and the expected revised UN appeal (data compiled on 9 Sept.):

Show chart
Chart showing the EU’s contribution compared to the current and the expected revised UN appeal

Chart showing the response by each EU member state as a proportion of its GNI (data compiled on 9 Sept.):

Show chart
Chart showing the response by each EU member state as a proportion of its GNI

Grant trade concessions

Prior to the floods, poverty was already widespread and food insecurity was alarming. The case for the EU to make trade concessions before was compelling. Now it is vital. The inclusion of Pakistan in the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP+) scheme presents the best option for the EU to unilaterally increase Pakistan’s access to European markets.

Cancel bilateral debt

EU governments cannot expect Pakistan to service debt as it struggles to cope. Pakistan’s external debt amounts to €42 billion. A third of Pakistan’s budget revenues are actually spent on loan repayments. More than 50% go to EU member states. France has received €37 million in interest repayments from Pakistan so far this year – nearly 20 times the amount of its direct contribution to the flood response.

2010 should mark the start of Europe’s new approach to tackling global humanitarian emergencies.
Elise Ford
Head of Oxfam’s EU Office

Notes to editors

** Oxfam is an international confederation of 14 organizations working together in 99 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice. Following the floods in Pakistan, Oxfam has now reached more than 1,000,000 people with humanitarian aid, providing clean water, hygiene supplies and hot food.

** Plan is a child-centered community development organization working with more than 3.5 million families to bring about lasting change. Plan has been working in Pakistan since 1997, helping marginalized children to access their rights to health, education, livelihood and protection. Plan has assisted more than 223,000 people affected by the floods.

** Eurodad (the European Network on Debt and Development) is a network of 59 non-governmental organizations from 19 European countries who work together on issues related to debt, development finance and poverty reduction.

** Concern Worldwide is an international non-governmental humanitarian organisation dedicated to the reduction of suffering and working towards the ultimate elimination of extreme poverty in the world’s poorest countries. Concern has been working on the ground in Pakistan since 2001.

Contact information

Angela Corbalan, Oxfam, + 32 473 56 22 60 or angela.corbalan@oxfaminternational.org
Sabine Terlecki, Plan, + 32 474 717 131 or sabine.terlecki@plan-international.org
Øygunn Sundsbø Brynildsen, Eurodad, +32 2 894 46 51 or obrynildsen@eurodad.org
Derek McDowell, Concern Worldwide, + 35 3 1 417 7782 or derek.mcdowell@concern.net