Broken Promises?

As Obama waves farewell to the UK after his fleeting visit and heads to the Normandy coast for the G8 world leader’s summit, many are speculating what promises will be made at this meeting of the top world powers.

The agenda is jam-packed with issues, notably the financial crisis and the response to the Arab spring, but also with reference to emerging technologies and the effects of climate change.

Yet at this meeting of world leaders they appear reluctant to comment on the aid effectiveness agenda, not least because many of them have failed to deliver on the pledges made back in 2005, and have even been accused of ‘cooking the books’ in a recent report.

It appears that the conflict in Libya will dominate the agenda, and a summit once famed for focusing on global poverty and the plight of millions in the developing world is unsurprisingly concentrated on US and EU political interests.

Many are looking to the G20 now as a summit of truly influential world powers, and the hope is that the aid agenda there will be given adequate attention. For despite recent scepticism over aid, the recent financial crisis and recurring disasters causing damage in the developing world require urgent action and a committed response from the international community.

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A Five Year Anniversary

Five years ago today I had just returned from an amazing weekend up in Edinburgh. I joined hundreds of thousands of others for the Make Poverty History rally, campaigning for a radical change in global politics to highlight key issues such as trade, aid, debt and HIV/AIDS affecting developing countries.

 Five years later, the white wristband I wore is gathering dust at the back of my cupboard, but the issues remain as pertinent as ever.

 Whilst the Make Poverty History Campaign disbanded in 2006, the coalition of organisations involved still remains committed to fighting global poverty.

 There have been many successes from the campaign; more and better quality aid has been given to developing countries allowing governments to tackle poverty more effectively. Education has been prioritised with 33 million more children worldwide now able to attend school, and antiretroviral drugs are more widely available, tackling the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Confronting the underlying injustices in trade and debt systems has seen debt burdens cancelled for 20 countries and the campaign for fair-trade has become more than just a fad.

 Yet challenges remain, targets are missed, and new crises arise. The financial downturn has impacted heavily upon developing countries, and climate change affects the poorest and most vulnerable.

 Make Poverty History inspired many and created a momentum for demanding radical change. The problems may seem insurmountable but change is possible. Poverty is not, and should not be seen as inevitable.

 “Above all, making poverty history is about supporting developing countries to make their own choices in the best interests of their people. It is about helping, not hindering.”

Jenny Ricks: ActionAid

Published in: on July 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Why isn’t aid getting through?

There have been endless reports documenting the plight of the Haitians and their desperate need for assistance, and most have focused on the fact that aid is not arriving, or not getting there fast enough. Some are even delaying their donations to the crisis until they can be sure aid is reaching those who need it most. There is a danger that this perspective puts the blame on humanitarian agencies who are working their hardest to deal with the crisis and portrays them as incompetent.

The earthquake destroyed presidential buildings, homes and vital infrastructure, leaving thousands without food, electricity or water. This has also made it almost impossible for the aid to get through. Roads are covered with debris, communications are down, and survivors have to dig through the rubble with their bare hands. Last week air traffic control systems were non-existent, with no electricity to power essential communication systems, vital to ensure the safe arrival of aid. The airport has been running on a limited service, with only four aircraft allowed to land at any one time, and most aid has been stranded at Santa Domingo in neighbouring Dominican Republic, awaiting authorisation to reach Haiti. Some have driven across the border to Haiti, but treacherous road conditions have presented their own problems. This has understandably led to great frustration, for aid workers and for the Haitians struggling to wait patiently for essential assistance.

Further logistical problems await in the capital, Port-Au-Prince, where surviving buildings are potentially unsafe and aid workers are struggling to find adequate shelter for the thousands of people who have been displaced. Prioritising immediate needs and deploying search and rescue teams has been further complicated by the lack of telecommunications, as mobile networks are down, and aid workers are having to rely on satellite phones. For the humanitarian agencies already on the ground, help cannot come soon enough; some have lost personnel in the earthquake and with their headquarters damaged, and finding enough staff and resources to provide for the scale of the disaster has presented huge logistical difficulties. Many have run out of their initial supplies, having distributed the emergency medical and survival kits within the first few hours of the disaster, but have not had enough to provide for the thousands of desperate survivors.

The humanitarian agencies and military forces are doing all they can to reach the Haitians and provide the vital assistance they need. Yet the chaos that ensues after a natural disaster on this scale is not easily resolved and it will take time for the aid to reach those who need it most. It is difficult to watch the situation unfold, and ask the Haitians to be patient when they so desperately need aid. Yet help is on its way, battling through rubble strewn across roads, tackling broken water pipes and struggling through airports with limited capacity. I don’t envy their task.

More: Why is it taking so long?

Published in: on January 18, 2010 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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