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Aid Campaigners Concerned about Achieving UN Millennium Development Goals


In 2000 the United Nations adopted the Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015. One of these is halving the number of people living in extreme poverty. However, with only seven years left, campaigners are concerned that at the present rate of aid to poor countries, the goal may not be achieved. Tendai Maphosa has more in this report from London.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently confirmed that financial assistance to the world's poorest countries fell by 8.4 percent in real terms in 2007. This, the organization says, means aid has fallen for the second year in a row.

In 2005, G8 leaders pledged to double aid and provide an additional $50 billion a year by 2010. But going by the latest figures, aid campaigners say, the donors will be way off target. Max Lawson, a policy officer at Oxfam, describes the reneging of countries on promises they made to increase aid at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in 2005 as a scandal.

"The French and the Germans in particular are refusing to do that. We worry there is not enough domestic pressure on them," said Lawson. "They are worried about their economies, rich countries are facing the credit crunch but that's just an excuse; there can be no excuse for the richest nations in the world not delivering on these promises."

Figures however show that the decline in aid figures started in 2006 after rising every year for the past decade. Elvira Groll of Action Aid says the shortfall was revealed after the end of debt relief which she says donor countries used to highly inflate aid figures.

"Although we do consider debt relief to be very important to free resources in developing countries it's not genuine aid which helps the poorest in the countries themselves, it's not money that goes straight to the countries so Action aid has repeatedly called on donor countries to stop counting debt relief as aid and include that in their aid statistics," said Groll.

In addition, Groll says, student costs and refugee relief was also added to the aid figures.

Oxfam's Lawson says the $50 billion the G8 promised in aid could be missed by as much as $30 billion and this could cost lives.

"You can begin to count what that $30 billion could pay for," said Lawson. "The World Health Organization has made clear costings of what it would cost to cut the numbers of children dying; the number of mothers dying in child birth and to get people with HIV access to medicines to keep them alive. We calculate that the missing money could save at least five million lives so there is a direct human cost."

John Clancy, a spokesman for Louis Michel the European Commission's development and Commissioner agrees that the drop in Official Development Aid from the European Union and other donor countries is due to debt relief coming to an end. A lot of countries, he says, had been able to balance their development aid against debt relief. Clancy however says the announcement of the shortfall could be used positively.

"It offers us all a wake up call with regards to commitments," said Clancy. "These are issues that concern us all and it's very important which is why the European Commission made its call for at least its member states to stick to their commitments and to get back on track because it is reachable but there has to be of course political will."

But Oxfam's Lawson says the goal of halving the people living in extreme poverty globally may be met because of growth in China but there are big doubts in Africa where there are still millions of people living in desperate poverty.