Australia isolated as rich countries commit to poverty campaign

Australians are among the top five nations in the world for private donations to assist the poor, but the historic commitment by G8 leaders to address global poverty with more aid and debt cancellateion has left Australia isolated, according to Caritas Australia director Jack de Groot.

Mr de Groot issued a statement yesterday in his capacity as chair of the Make Poverty History campaign.

Welcomed the commitment of world leaders in Gleneagles earlier this month, he said: "Australia stands out among the 22 OECD developed countries in deciding not to make a substantial new aid commitment to meet the Millennium Development Goals".

Aside from higher aid levels and debt cancellation, the G8 leaders have committed to universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa.

"Until last week, Japan and USA were the only other OECD countries (with Australia) to resist pressure to announce any substantial increase to match the generous commitments made already by European governments," said Mr de Groot.

He added that a further gathering of world leaders to address actions they can take, at the UN Poverty Summit in September, will present Australia with an important opportunity to join with its OECD partners in announcing a more substantive aid commitment than currently exists.

"Australia has been the OECD's leader over the last six years in economic growth rates and budget surpluses," he said. "We have enjoyed 14 years of continuous growth and 9 years of Commonwealth surpluses. We have the resources to make the necessary commitments."

Mr de Groot welcomed the incremental increase in Australia's aid program over recent years and said that Australia had good reason to be proud of its aid program to its local neighbourhood.

"At the UN Summit in 8 weeks time, Australia has the chance to demonstrate that it will rise to this global challenge. This would mean joining our OECD partners in announcing a timetable to reach 0.5% of Gross National Income, up from 0.28% now - as recommended by the OECD. With this increase, Australia could avoid sliding to 19 th ranking among the OECD donors as a proportion of its Gross National Income in 2010." Mr de Groot said.

"We commend Mr Howard for his unrelenting pressure on G8 governments to remove the trade-distorting agricultural subsidies of the USA, Japan and EU. At the same time, Australians look to their leaders to expand the focus of Australia's aid program beyond its local neighbourhood and become a global player against poverty.

Make Poverty History - Australia Isolated As Rich Countries Commit To Poverty Campaign (Caritas Australia 18/7/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Caritas Australia
Make Poverty History Australia | International
Make Poverty History: The Story So Far (CAFOD)
Jubilee Australia

Catholic agency disappointed with G8 pledges (CathNews 12/7/05)
Vatican paper sees G8 summit as race against time for Africa (CathNews 8/7/05)
Church joins rally to end poverty (CathNews 5/7/05)

Caritas Aiding Flood Victims in India and Pakistan (Zenit 17/7/05)

19 Jul 2005