Obama could make ‘amazing’ difference for poor: UN aid chief
DOHA (AFP) — US president-elect Barack Obama could make an “amazing” difference for the world’s poor if he fulfils his campaign pledges, the head of the UN’s Millennium Campaign said in an interview with AFP on Sunday.
Outgoing President George W. Bush kept his promises on international aid but did not make an effort towards the other Millennium targets for developing countries, campaign director Salil Shetty said in Doha on the sidelines of a UN conference on Financing for Development.
“During the election campaign, Obama said the ‘Millennium Development Goals are our goals’. If he keeps to that promise it will be amazing,” Shetty said, also welcoming Obama’s promise to double US foreign assistance.
The eight goals, adopted by world leaders in the Millennium Declaration in 2000, include eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal education and promoting gender equality.
The campaign says donor countries are 31.4 billion dollars behind schedule in moving towards a 2010 target of 130 billion dollars a year in official development assistance.
“This is small compared to the money being spent by governments on economic rescue packages,” Shetty said.
“A lot of money is going into rescuing banks but what about people who don’t have bank accounts. These people don’t have streets, never mind Wall Street.
“The five trillion (dollars) total of commitments made so far is nearly 50 times more than the increased aid required to meet the MDGs,” Shetty said.
“The economic plans show the problem is not finding the money for aid, it is about the political will.”
The Doha Conference aims to update the aid pledges made at the Monterrey conference in Mexico in 2002 and to decide how best to shield developing countries from the impact of the global economic crisis.
And the UN campaign is calling for a special bailout package of 300 billion dollars in additional financing for poor nations over the next two years to weather the financial storm, which comes on top of a food crisis, high fuel costs and the impact of climate change.
Even that extra money is dwarfed by the 900 billion dollars a year that the world’s governments spend on arms, Shetty said.
The first priority is for developing countries to help themselves, he said, noting that many are on target to meet their domestic development goals.
But aid can make a crucial difference and some donor countries are actually cutting aid while others are behind target on promised increases, Shetty said.
“Italy has cut back its aid and in France there is a gap between the talk and reality,” the campaign leader said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy told the conference on Saturday that EU aid to poorer countries — pledged at 61 billion dollars this year — will not be sacrificed.
But Shetty said: “German aid to Africa is now greater that French aid despite France’s strong historic links.”
To deal with the major crisis facing the world “we need effective multilateralism,” he said.
The outcome of the Group of 20 summit in Washington on November 15 was hopeful, “but what we really need is the G-192,” he said, referring to all member states of the United Nations.