US Foreign Aid Crashing: Failing Commitments

By Oxfam

Washington, DC – Despite a commitment to substantially increase foreign aid to fight extreme poverty, US funding has dropped for the second year in a row.  The US made the commitment to increase aid at the 2005 Gleneagles G8 summit.

US aid to the world's poorest countries fell to $21.7 billion in 2007 from $23.5 billion in 2006.  Although the US is still the world's largest donor in terms of total aid dollars, it ranks near the bottom of the list when comparing development aid against gross national income (GNI).  In 2007, the US gave just 0.16 percent of its GNI to development aid, down from 0.18 percent in 2006.

The figures come from new data to be released Friday in Tokyo, which show that the total overseas aid provided in 2007 was $104 billion, in real terms an 8.4 percent drop.  US aid decreased by 9.9 percent in 2007.

Oxfam called on the US to meet its commitments, but also to ensure the aid it is currently delivering is effectively helping people lift themselves out of poverty.

"With increased food prices wreaking havoc on poor communities globally, the US must ensure that aid is as effective as possible," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.

"The US must take steps to increase overseas assistance, but also to improve the quality of the aid.  The long-term needs of the poor—not politics—should come first," said Offenheiser.  "The next administration must refocus the foreign aid system so that it will help lift millions from poverty and re-establish US global standing."

Just this week, the BBC World Service released a poll showing that people around the world ranked the US below Russia when asked about a country's positive influence in the world.

"For every dollar the US spends on aid on poverty-focused aid, it spends almost $33 on defense," said Offenheiser. "When aid is effective, it builds a safer world for everyone."

Rich countries promised to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010.  They also committed to significantly improve the way it is given, directly allocating more resources to fighting poverty.  They have done very little to meet these promises since then.

Oxfam calculates that on recent trends, rich countries will fall short of the target by as much as $30 billion – a difference that could cost millions of lives.  Without this vital aid, there is no chance of meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goals, such as cutting maternal and child death and ensuring every child gets to go to school.

In 1970, rich countries promised to give 0.7 percent of their income as aid.  Only Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden and Norway have met this promise.

This year's figures will be released by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Japan, where this year's G8 Summit is set to take place in July.

For more information contact Helen DaSilva: [email protected] or +617-331-2984.

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