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13. Rich Countries Fail to Live up to Global Pledges

Sources: Oxfam Press Release, December 6, 2004, Title: “Poor Are Paying the Price of Rich Countries’ Failure,” Author: Caroline Green, http://www.oxfam.org/eng/pr041206_MDG.htm; InterPress Service, OneWorld U.S., December 6, 2004, Title: “45 Million Children to Die in Next Decade Due to Rich Countries’ Miserliness,” Author: Jim Lobe, http://us.oneworld.net/article/view/99063/1/

Faculty Evaluator: Maureen Buckley, Ph. D.
Student Researcher: Paige Dumont

Forty-five million children will needlessly die between now and the year 2015, reveals the report by Oxfam, “Poor Are Paying the Price of Rich Countries’ Failure.” According to this report, 97 million more children will be denied access to an education by the year 2015 and 53 million more people will lack proper sanitation facilities. Ending poverty will require assistance on many levels. For third world countries, economic growth is undermined by unfair trade rules. Without finance and support, these countries will not be able to take advantage of global trade, investment opportunities, or protect basic human rights.

Wealthy countries such as the U.S., Germany, Japan, and the UK have promised to provide a very small fraction of their wealth to third world countries. By offering .7 percent of their gross national income, they could reduce poverty and end the burden of debt that makes low income countries pay up to $100 million per day to creditors. In the years 1960-65, wealthy countries spent on average 0.48 percent of their combined national incomes on official development assistance but by the year 2003 the proportion had dropped to 0.24 percent. Vital poverty-reduction programs are failing for the lack of finance. Cambodia and Tanzania are among the poorest countries in the world, yet they will require at least double the level of external financing that they currently receive if they are to achieve their poverty-reduction targets.

Global initiatives to enable poor countries to develop provisional education and combat HIV/AIDS are starved of cash. Despite the fact that HIV infection rates are rising in sub-Saharan Africa, the global fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria is assured of only one quarter of the funds that it needs for 2005. Poor countries continue to spend more paying back their creditors than they do on essential public services. Low-income countries paid $39 billion in debt payments and interest in 2003, while they received only $27 billion in aid.

Wealthy countries can easily afford to deliver the necessary aid and debt relief. For wealthy countries such as the U.S. to spend merely 0.7 percent of gross national income on humanitarian aid is equal to one-fifth of its expenditure on defense and one half of what it spends on domestic farm subsidies. The U.S., at just 0.14 percent, is the least generous provider of aid in proportion to national income of any developed country. By comparison, Norway is the most generous provider at 0.92 percent. The U.S. is spending more than twice as much on the war in Iraq as it would cost to increase its aid budget to 0.7 percent, and six times more on its military program. Canceling the debts of the 32 poorest countries would be small change for the wealthy nations.

Millions of children are now in school in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and Zambia, thanks to money provided by foreign aid and debt relief. Because of these relief funds, Ugandans no longer have to pay for basic health care. A policy was implemented that resulted in an increase of 50 to 100 percent in attendance at Ugandan health clinics and doubled the rate on immunities. History also shows that aid has been necessary in eradicating global diseases as well as rebuilding countries devastated by war.

The wealthiest of nations have continuously signed international statements pledging to increase foreign aid to 0.7 percent of their gross national income in order to eliminate the crippling debts of third world countries. Repeatedly, they have broken their promises.

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