The Government has been under a lot of pressure over the last couple of months over the pitiful level of overseas aid.
The select committee report on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that New Zealand’s ratio of official development assistance to gross national income is currently 0.24 percent, compared with the target of 0.7 percent set by the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
The 0.24 percent level has been present throughout the 5 years of the Labour Government.
Last March the aid organisations in New Zealand were so upset that they joined together and the Council for International Development in what they called a “PointSeven Campaign” to invest in a better world by getting our level of aid up to 0.7 percent of gross national income (GNI) by the year 2015.
This month the Government has had two further embarrassments – firstly, the Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Bondevik, visited New Zealand. As he spoke around the country he said that Norway had a level of 0.96 percent of GNI, which is exactly four times our 0.24 percent. He said that Norway would shortly go up to 1.0 percent of GNI. The Government had a further embarrassment about a week ago when Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, made a big speech on the Millennium Development Goals.
He said that nations had to get up to that 0.7 level very quickly if those development goals were to be met – such as halving the number of people in the world who live on less than $US1 a day. There are 1.2 billion such people in the world today. It is a disgraceful figure.
We have to do something towards getting to 0.7 percent. Kofi Annan said every country must have a timetable to get to that level by 2015. New Zealand does not have a timetable. A year ago the Government talked about getting to an interim target of 0.35 percent of GNI by the year 2006-07, but nothing was done on that. There is no timetable.
I would like the Minister to explain why there is no timetable. There is no reason.
New Zealanders support overseas aid. We saw that with money give to the tsunami victims. Virtually 100 percent of the New Zealand population said it was great when the Government came out with a special package of $52 million this year, plus $16 million over the next four years.
All the Government needs to do to get to that 0.7 target by 2015 is to give about that amount extra each year – roughly $60 million a year to 2015. The Government should have the courage to do that. People do buy into it.
One-third of the aid that Norway gives goes through non-government organisations. It has a huge number of people on the ground in overseas countries, and when those people return they help build a consensus in the country for a high level of overseas development assistance. The Norwegian Prime Minister said – and he is a Christian Democrat conservative Prime Minister — “there is a national consensus. We’re giving a high level of overseas aid, and we need to give it.”
Those Millennium Development Goals are very laudable. For instance, beyond reducing the number of people who live on US$1 a day or less, the Millennium Development Goals aim to halve the proportion of people in the world who do not have access to, say, drinking water – and there are 1 billion of those people – halve the number of people who do not have basic sanitation; there are 2.4 billion of such people, and to get universal primary education for all boys and girls in the world. There are 900 million people in the world today who are illiterate – two thirds of them are women. We need decent conditions for the 1 billion slum dwellers in the world; we need to reduce child mortality by two-thirds – and 10 million children a year die because of preventable disease.
We need to put the effort in to do our part in the world, but we are not. We are way down the bottom of the OECD table at the moment.
It is a disgrace.