Oxfam Report Reveals Brutal Inequality of Aid

Oxfam GB News Releases
May 17, 2000

An Oxfam report, ‘An End to Forgotten Emergencies?', released today reveals stark disparities in the world's response to humanitarian crises. Around 135 million people are homeless and have lost their livelihoods because of drought, flood and earthquake, and another 30 million have fled their homes because of war.

Yet Oxfam shows that the proportion of the West's wealth spent on humanitarian aid has fallen by a third in the last decade. With more evidence than in any previous report, Oxfam shows how the response of rich countries to disaster is not determined by need and suffering, but by politics, geography and media coverage.

‘The aid lottery is one of the most brutal inequalities in the world,' said the report's author, Oxfam policy adviser Nicola Reindorp. ‘The West is bound by international laws which say that people in need – wherever they are – have equal status and rights to help. But in practice there is nothing equal about it. An accident of geography or dramatic pictures can decide whether you live or die.'

Oxfam's report reveals:

The world is getting richer, but it's also getting meaner. While the wealth of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) doubled between 1991 and 1997, the proportion they spent on humanitarian aid fell by a third. Today, OECD countries spend $5 per head of their population on emergency aid – the equivalent of 2 days' global military spending.

Humanitarian aid is a lottery.

Western governments' response to United Nations Consolidated Appeals show the skewed contrasts of humanitarian aid. Contributions to the 1999 UN Appeal for the Former Yugoslavia equalled $207 for each person in need. For Sierra Leoneans in need it equalled $16, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo it was $8. Last year, more than half the EU's humanitarian aid money went to Kosovo and the former Yugoslavia. This was four times the amount of humanitarian aid that the EU spent in Africa, the Pacific and the Caribbean combined.

Oxfam calls on rich countries to give more humanitarian aid, but not at the expense of long term development aid. However governments of countries in crisis bear the primary responsibility for helping their people. Donors must also share the burden of international appeals according to their wealth, not according to the nightly news bulletins.

Oxfam acknowledges that aid alone is not a solution to the world's ills, nor is it a substitute for political action. But the report points out that the converse is also true. ‘Diplomacy alone, though vital, will not alleviate human suffering. What the world needs are concerted efforts to prevent conflict, tackle poverty and uphold human rights. Humanitarian aid is vital to achieve this. People need to be alive to benefit from political solutions,' said Ms Reindorp.

More Information on Social and Economic Policy
More Information on Inequality of Wealth and Income Distribution
The Full Oxfam Report

FAIR USE NOTICE: This page contains copyrighted material the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Global Policy Forum distributes this material without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. We believe this constitutes a fair use of any such copyrighted material as provided for in 17 U.S.C íŸ 107. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.