War on poverty just as urgent as war on terrorism

Green Party Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Keith Locke has called on the Government to announce a clear timetable for how it plans to meet the UN target for development aid of .7 percent of GNI by 2015.

“Whenever the Government supports laws to combat global terrorism, it routinely invokes UN guidelines on the subject as a rationale, even when that sometimes means restricting the civil liberties of New Zealanders. Yet when it comes to UN initiatives aimed at combating global poverty, the Government has been willing to drag its feet,” Mr Locke says.

“Like Oxfam, I am embarrassed that OECD figures show my country to be one of the least generous aid givers, languishing at sixth from the bottom of the OECD table. I agree with United Future leader Peter Dunne that this result is ‘truly pathetic’.

“Repeatedly, New Zealand has pledged support for the .7 percent aid target by 2015. It is one of the few countries that has no announced timetable for meeting this target. Currently, we donate only .27 percent of GNI to official development aid, and this is currently due to rise merely to .28 percent in the 2007/08 financial year.

“At its present rate of aid increase, New Zealand will take another 43 years to hit the .7 percent target, and will be ending up 35 years behind the deadline set by the UN.

“In years past,Prime Minister Helen Clark has acknowledged the links that exist between terrorism and its breeding grounds in poverty, inequality, disease and lack of opportunity. The Government should be treating global poverty with the same urgency it currently affords to global terrorism.

“In our own Pacific region, political instability, the spread of HIV-AIDS and the tempo of natural disasters exacerbated by climate change are all reasons for planning for an increased aid effort by New Zealand.

“The Government needs to quickly announce a timetable for boosting our aid levels to .7 percent of GNI, and needs to make substantial progress this year towards that goal,” Mr Locke says.