Oxfam Scotland’s 2011

It’s great to keep an international perspective with this the latest of our Hopes & Visions series which runs through January. See also Justin Kenrick here on a breakthrough for ecology and social justice, Pat Kane on ‘envisioning real utopias’ here, or Peter Geoghegan on making Holyrood work better here).

In this post Oxfam Scotland’s Aideen McLaughlin outlines her hopes for 2011 – 8 positive steps to an ethical foreign policy

1. Build Haiti back better
2010 and was a year of unprecedented disasters and emergencies. Oxfam Scotland’s first hope for 2011 is that this year will not be the same. On January 12, it will be 1 year since the lives of millions of people in Haiti were devastated by an earthquake. Twelve months, a cholera epidemic and a hurricane later, and still 1 million people are living in tents.

The earthquake in Haiti was a disaster of a scale and complexity beyond almost any other we have seen in our 55 years of emergency work. But despite our humanitarian response teams being stretched to the maximum and the violence surrounding the recent elections, Oxfam is currently reaching nearly 700,000 people with lifesaving clean water, sanitation services and hygiene education, which will continue into the New Year and beyond. Oxfam has also started some long-term recovery programmes aimed at rebuilding communities.

But on the whole, long-term reconstruction has been slow in Haiti. What Haiti needs now is leadership from sovereign government, one that makes key decisions and puts in place policies about resettlement and land tenure reform that will lay the groundwork for real rebuilding.

And when we talk about reconstruction, we have to look at the whole country, not just Port-au-Prince. We have to support the government to be able to protect people this year and every year and ensure that Haitians are less vulnerable in the first place to these disasters, instead of responding to emergency after emergency. In 2011 we must build Haiti back better in a way that protects all Haitians. Haitians cannot wait any longer.

2. Protect vulnerable communities, like Pakistan, from natural disasters
At the end of January, it will be six months since heavy monsoon rains caused the worst floods in living memory in Pakistan. More than 1,700 people are thought to have died, with almost 21 million people affected. This is more than the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Haiti earthquake and the 2005 Kashmir earthquake put together. Oxfam has managed to reach over 1 million people with water, sanitation and shelter and is working on disaster risk reduction programmes to make people less vulnerable to events like this in the future.

But with what the climate scientists tell us about climate change, it is a sad fact that these floods weren’t a massive surprise and natural disasters like them are set to get worse. By 2015, Oxfam estimates that the number of people affected by climate-related disasters each year could increase by 50 per cent to 375 million, with droughts, cyclones, flooding and crop failures all set to increase due to changing weather patterns.

And that’s why, as we react to the immediate needs of people suffering today and this week, we must work throughout 2011 to help people respond in a way that will build-in future resilience to the more intense, more frequent climatic disasters that are expected in the future.

3. Get a global climate deal that delivers for poor people
The UN climate talks, which failed so miserably in Copenhagen in 2009, were resuscitated in Cancun in December 2010, where there were significant building blocks towards a fair, adequate and binding deal on climate change. As part of this, a Global Climate Fund has been established. This was a key issue for Oxfam. But much still needs to be done. In 2011, the UN Climate Change conference in South Africa offers a huge opportunity for the voices of poor countries to be heard and a global deal that has the needs of poor countries at its heart, delivered.

4. Scotland must step up to the plate in the global fight against poverty
Closer to home, Scotland has its part to play in 2011 the fight against global poverty and climate change. With Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May of this year, Oxfam Scotland hopes to see the Scottish political parties make manifesto commitments on the following:

5. Maintain or grow the Scottish International Development Fund’s current level of funding
Oxfam wants Scottish political parties to commit to maintain or grow Scotland’s International Development Fund, which at £9 million per annum, is just 0.027 per cent of current government spending. But with this modest fund, Scotland has achieved much, including responding to emergencies in Haiti and Pakistan and nurturing close ties with countries such as Malawi, which is bringing about positive change. Since 2009, Malawi has seen their economy grow by 0.7 per cent. Neo-natal deaths are coming down. The incidence of AIDS has fallen to 12 per cent. Sustainable livelihoods are being achieved.

But despite progress, as recently as 2007 nine million children under the age of five died across the world from largely preventable diseases. Each and every year, 350,000 women and girls in poor countries die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth, deaths which would be preventable with even the most basic of healthcare.

That’s why, in 2011, Oxfam wants to see the momentum of aid continue, both from the Scottish and the UK governments. We know that the recession is biting hard at home and that the Scottish and UK governments have had tough financial choices to make. But we are also acutely aware that the global financial crisis is hitting poor communities the worst, with 50 million more people forced to live on less than 75p a day. Aid budgets must be protected.

6. Implement the Scottish Climate Change Act in full
Scotland must also ensure the full and complete implementation of its world leading climate act. The act, which commits to the strongest emissions reductions targets in the world, is rightfully ambitious, but that ambition will mean nothing if not backed by real action.

7. Create a Scottish International Climate Adaptation Fund
The new Scottish Government should commit to creating an International Climate Adaptation Fund over the course of the next parliament that matches and is additional to the finance of the current International Development Fund. (£9m) The fund would be a response to the increasing deadly impact of climate change and would be used to help the world’s poorest communities adapt to the more severe and erratic weather conditions affecting their livelihoods. If introduced, it would signal Scotland’s continuing commitment to leading international efforts to tackle climate change. Adaptation projects supported by the fund could include helping communities invest in more weather resistant crops, raising homes higher above ground level, developing early warning systems for floods, hurricanes and other disasters and making information campaigns and communication equipment available to assist communities facing severe weather events.

8. Work towards the Millennium Development Goals
With only four years left to deliver the Millennium Development Goals – the eight goals agreed by the UN in 2000 to eradicate extreme poverty by 2015 – 2011 is a year of reckoning. We’re a long way off some of the goals and time is running out. Oxfam wants 2011 to be a year of action, not another one of broken promises Since 1970, rich countries have failed to deliver over $3 trillion in promised aid, enough to have ended extreme poverty (at 2005) levels 22 times over. The UK’s share is a staggering $214 billion, enough to have ended poverty single-handedly. To put this in perspective, in 2005 alone, the world spent $198 billion on shoes and $131 billion on sweets. Let’s not make 2011 the same.

Please donate to Oxfam’s work in Haiti GO HERE TO DONATE.

Comments (0)

Join the Discussion

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Sannymac says:

    Aideen: I think you need to get real! A great deal of money was poured into Haiti – Where’s it gone? Into the pockets of the so called government and its “supporters”? Look at all the rubble lying around and no attempt to clear it up.
    Money should be paid to Hatians for work done in clearing and rebuilding there country.
    Why don’t you turn to your own country and help to resolve its problems; in particular the domination by Westminster. Let us have Independence or at least full fiscal control of all our resources.
    Look at Scotlands history and see we have always been generous to those in need but we won’t be ripped off!

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      This seems like an uncharitable and narrow response. As Burdzeyeview puts it here: http://burdzeyeview.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/is-an-ethical-foreign-policy-an-impossible-dream/ we could and should expect more and better from a Scottish Government.

      We can’t credibly retain an uncritical stance on the SNP administration on all occasions. Nor should we always respond that ‘things willl be better when the nirvana of independence arrives’.

      Aideen has laid out practical and clear goals for how Scotland should act in the world NOW.


Help keep our journalism independent

We don’t take any advertising, we don’t hide behind a pay wall and we don’t keep harassing you for crowd-funding. We’re entirely dependent on our readers to support us.

Subscribe to regular bella in your inbox

Don’t miss a single article. Enter your email address on our subscribe page by clicking the button below. It is completely free and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.