Rich countries barely increased international aid by 1.4 percent overall in 2019, while they cut humanitarian assistance by 2.9 percent, according to figures published overnight by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
In response to the news, Oxfam Australia’s Head of Political Engagement Emma Bull said that while many wealthy countries gave more aid in 2019, including New Zealand, up 3.4 percent, the United Kingdom, up 2.2 percent, and Canada, up 0.5 percent, Australia’s aid continued to decrease, with a 2.5 percent drop in 2019.
“Australia’s aid budget was on a downward trajectory, cut to a record low of 0.22 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. There is simply not enough money in such a drastically decreased budget to respond adequately to the global health, social and economic impacts of this crisis.
“Australia’s aid budget must be immediately boosted with additional, global funding. This money will not only save lives now, but is necessary to prevent millions more people falling into poverty over the coming years.
“The United Nations (UN) has called for US$2 billion to fund a global coordinated response to COVID-19. Oxfam has calculated Australia’s fair share of this response fund to be at least $84 million, and we urge the Government to release this funding in the coming months to allow countries and agencies around the world to plan and coordinate the response.
“We welcome the Government’s responses to date, which have addressed the dual health and economic challenges– including doubling the unemployment benefit, a six-month wage subsidy for workers and sole traders and free childcare. But now is the time to turn our minds to the rest of the world and to deliver similar levels of economic and social support to those in need.
“The COVID-19 crisis has caused widespread suffering in rich countries, overwhelming some of the best healthcare systems in the world. In many poor countries, which face high levels of poverty and inequality, the challenges are even greater.
“For example, most people in our neighbouring Papua New Guinea live outside of cities and towns and can’t access hospitals or well-equipped health centres. And, even if they could, PNG’s biggest hospitals have only a small number of intensive care beds.
“As Oxfam warned last week, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic could push half a billion more people – or 8 per cent of the global population – into poverty unless urgent action is taken to support developing countries.
“But we can beat this pandemic if we act in every country and for every person. Globally, governments need to increase their aid now to a level we’ve never seen in our lifetimes.
“Governments, including Australia, should now prioritise emergency support to the under-funded and ill-equipped public health systems in poor countries. They should also help countries improve social safety nets and provide direct support to people in need so they can not only deal with immediate illness but the subsequent income loss.
“This is particularly vital for women, who often have limited employment rights and are far more likely to be informal workers without any social protection. In 2018, less than one percent of aid was invested in social protection, while more than four billion people don’t have formal social protection.
“This crisis is the time for bold and visionary choices for our collective future. It’s time for governments to profoundly transform their aid to build a world that is free from poverty, that is more equal, feminist and sustainable. As the coronavirus crisis is threatening to set back the fight against poverty by decades, we must now act and build a better future.”
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Notes to editors:
- Oxfam Australia’s Head of Political Engagement Emma Bull is available for interviews.
- The 2019 aid figures are available on the OECD website.
- Slight increase in development aid: The new OECD data shows that overall aid spending from 30 OECD members totalled USD 152.8 billion in 2019. This was a 1.4 percent increase from 2018. Rich countries only committed 0.30 percent of their gross national income (GNI) to development aid, down from 0.31 percent in 2018, and well below the 0.7 percent they promised back in 1970. In 2019, just five countries – Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the United Kingdom – have lived up to this promise.
- Slight increase in aid to the poorest countries: The proportion of bilateral aid spent in low income countries was up by 0.4 percent. The coronavirus will most likely have a devastating impact in developing countries.
- With limited resources, high debt levels, massive capital outflows and weak, underfunded and unequal health systems, poor countries are ill-equipped to protect their populations and their economies. Without urgent action, the economic, social and health toll in these countries will be incomparably devastating. The Oxfam’s new report ‘Dignity not Destitution’, published last week, found that the economic fallout of the pandemic could force half a billion people into poverty unless dramatic action is taken. This could set back the fight against poverty by a decade, and as much as 30 years in some regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa.
- UN estimates developing countries need USD $500bn in aid to face the coronavirus
On 30 March 2020, the UN called for a USD 2.5 trillion coronavirus crisis package for developing countries. This includes: a USD 1 trillion liquidity injections to be made available through the expanded use of special drawing rights; the cancellation of USD 1 trillion of debts owed by developing countries this year; and USD 500 billion in overseas aid to fund a Marshall Plan for health recovery and dispersed as grants.
- Methodology for calculating rich countries’ fair share of the coronavirus aid response: Oxfam bases its calculation of fair share on donors’ gross national income (GNI). The members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) together account for 59% of total global GNI, so their collective fair share of any appeal or aid pledging target is 59%. The fair share of any individual DAC member is their GNI divided by the DAC collective GNI and multiplied by the DAC fair share.
- According to the Forbes magazine, the three richest men in the world are Jeff Bezos (USD 138 billion), Bill Gates (USD 104.4 billion) and Bernard Arnault (USD 93 billion). Their combined wealth is USD 335 billion.