More history behind aid and environment efforts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 June, 2002, 12:00am

The agencies report from Jakarta 'Debt relief plea opens UN talks' (South China Morning Post, May 28) contains a number of erroneous statements. The 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro was decidedly not 'the first international attempt to tackle environmental issues'.

There are now dozens of international agreements on environmental issues, many signed before the 1972 Stockholm United Conference on the Human Environment, the first truly 'global' international environmental conference.

The assertion that there is 'ever-increasing international aid' is patently wrong. Overall development aid from rich to poor countries began falling in the early 1990s.

Official development assistance (ODA) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries peaked at 0.3 per cent of OECD gross national product in 1994.

Just between 1996 and 1997, ODA dropped 14 per cent, and by 1997 ODA had dropped to 0.22 per cent of donor GNPs, the lowest rate since the advent of the post-World War II foreign aid regime. According to the World Bank, 16 of the 21 countries in OECD's Development Assistance Committee reduced their share of GNP spent on development assistance in 1997-98 compared to 1988-1992.

To be sure, the Americans and the Europeans recently pledged to increase their aid to poor countries. I'll believe it when I see it.