I reckon that I’m pretty much 0.7% committed and I want government’s around the world to be equally committed. Not much to ask?
Well, judging by last years aid figures, which were released yesterday by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), it‘s a lot to ask for many countries. With the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) review conference just a few months away these figures set the scene for how rich nations are doing in delivering their part of the MDGs.
So, the good news. It's been 40 years since rich countries made the promise to give 0.7% Gross Domestic Product (what they earn) as international aid. The UK is on track to meet this commitment by 2013. Currently, only Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg and the Netherlands have honoured this. Further good news comes as the main UK political parties have all pledged to introduce legislation in the next parliament to require the UK government to permanently keep this life-saving promise. That's fantastic and something that campaigners up and down the UK should be proud of. It goes without saying that I won't be satisfied until that becomes law!
We know that when aid is delivered properly it transforms lives. Like in Nepal, where targeted development aid has been pivotal in dramatically improving healthcare. According to Oxfam, "since 2006 the under-five mortality rate has reduced by 22 per cent, neo-natal mortality by 38 per cent and maternal mortality has fallen by 19 per cent. In fact maternal mortality has now fallen by 58 per cent in the country since 1996 - a towering success".
What else do the OECD figures show? There has been a fraction of an increase in total aid, from $122 to $123 billion. At first glance that seems great BUT (there's so often a BUT) the amount of aid has actually fallen by $3.5 billion when compared with last year’s prices. Clearly, not every country is doing as well as those above. Italy, Ireland, Canada, Germany and Japan all cut their aid budgets last year. This isn’t good enough and all rich countries must commit to timetables to meet 0.7 when they meet at the UN Summit in September.
Hopefully the UK government can play a leading role in getting the other countries to show that same level of 0.7% commitment. After all, it's not a lot to ask for but it can save millions of lives.