War in Ukraine threatens Development Aid to Poor Nations | Daily News

War in Ukraine threatens Development Aid to Poor Nations

Ukrainian refugees in Poland
Ukrainian refugees in Poland

United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the current devastating war in Ukraine has an equally destructive impact on the outside world: an assault on the world’s most vulnerable people and countries.

The worst affected are the world’s poor as food, fuel and fertilizer prices are skyrocketing while one of the world’s major bread baskets, Ukraine, is being bombed incessantly — a country which alone provided more than half of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) wheat supply.

The conflict in Ukraine is also undermining development aid provided by Western nations to some of the world’s poorest nations in the Global South.

In a report released March 18, the London-based humanitarian organisation Oxfam said the global repercussions of the Ukraine crisis already being felt in fast-rising food, commodity and energy prices could undermine official aid efforts to help people in other humanitarian hot-spots.

Humanitarian assistance

World Food Programme’s assistance for the poor

Oxfam is concerned that some donor Governments are already shifting aid budgets to pay for Ukrainian assistance and the costs of hosting more than three million people who have fled the war-torn country to neighbouring nations recently.

Other Western donors are holding back funding approvals for many other crises, said Oxfam, while it urges donors to meet Ukraine’s needs with new funding, particularly Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Oxfam says it is aware that the European Union (EU) has more than halved its humanitarian funding to Asia’s Timor-Leste (where elections were held recently), and that some donors have indicated they will cut their ODA to Africa’s Burkina Faso by 70 per cent, with other West African countries being warned in advance.

Meanwhile, German donors have indicated they cannot decide on pending funding proposals until decisions on Ukraine have been taken, which risks humanitarian assistance in other parts of the world, said Oxfam.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines ODA as Government aid that promotes and specifically targets the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

The DAC adopted ODA as the “Gold Standard” of foreign aid 52 years ago in 1969 and it remains the main source of financing for development aid but it also remains in jeopardy primarily because of the crisis in Ukraine and its fallout.

A long-standing United Nations target is that developed countries should devote 0.7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) to ODA.

According to Oxfam, Nordic donors have pledged €300 million for Ukraine- most of it by Norway- but if Norway’s contribution is not an additional one and will claim almost 40 per cent of Norway’s combined humanitarian aid budget and force deep cuts elsewhere.

Sweden has allocated new funds but there are fears that its aid budget could be “adjusted” ahead rather than additional resources being actually found.

Oxfam also said that Denmark has confirmed that its support will come out of its existing aid budget with its Minister for Development warning of “some tough choices and re-prioritization” most likely delaying or cancelling programmes in other crisis responses.

Still, “amid the generous public outpouring of support in Europe and beyond”, Oxfam applauds Spain, the Netherlands and France for new funding to support refugees from Ukraine and is calling on them to publicly confirm that these funds will be additional to their other humanitarian budget lines.

Ukrainian refugees

Italy has said it will refund the €110 million allocated from its existing aid budget for refugees from Ukraine, but no official commitment has yet been made.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

The UK Government has matched a public appeal with £ 25m ?its largest ever donation? and opened a scheme to reimburse families who volunteer to house Ukrainian refugees with recurring payments of £ 350.

According to Oxfam, Europe has a spotted track record. In 2015- when half as many refugees made their way to Europe from Syria and beyond- donor countries responded by counting on average 11 per cent (US$ 15.4 billion) of their aid commitments to pay to support them.

“We must avoid a repeat where some rich countries end up effectively spending their aid budgets domestically,” said Head of Oxfam’s EU Office, Evelien Van Roemburg.

She said only 3 per cent of funds have so far been given to the UN’s US$ 6 billion appeal to relieve widespread hunger happening now in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and South Sudan.

“The people of Yemen and Syria, all those millions now facing desperate hunger across East and West Africa, those still in camps in Bangladesh and beyond, those hit hardest by COVID and Climate Change- they must not be penalized and left paying the price of our duty of care toward the people of Ukraine”.

“We get it that Governments’ aid budgets are finite and they need to make tough choices, but rather than cutting life-lines to other crises, we need to get creative. Every day now we hear of super-yachts and mansions owned by Russian oligarchs being seized. Every day, billionaires of all nationalities are growing obscenely from speculation, tax dodging and skyrocketing corporate profits and share prices”.

“After rightfully spending trillions to save their economies from the impacts of COVID-19, we reject any assertion that helping a refugee from Ukraine or a hungry Somalian farmer is a choice,” Van Roemburg said.

“Well done to those donors doing the right thing. Let us help and support all people in need by those who can afford it, as we redouble efforts to stop conflict and Climate Change and rebuild the global food supply system,” she said.

Asked about the shortfall in wheat supplies from Ukraine, UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on March 17 that the WFP gets about 50 per cent of its wheat supplies from Ukraine.

WFP, he pointed out, buys on the open market. “The problem is that the commodities prices are going up all over the place. And so, I think it is adding, if I am not mistaken, about US$ 71 million a month to their monthly purchase bill.”

Meanwhile, Guterres said last week that Russia and Ukraine represent more than half of the world’s supply of sunflower oil and about 30 per cent of the world’s wheat supplies.

He said grain prices have already exceeded those at the start of the Arab Spring and the food riots of 2007-2008. The FAO’s global food prices index is at its highest level ever.

Forty-five African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine [or] Russia – and 18 of those countries import at least 50 per cent.

This includes poor countries like Burkina Faso, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Schoolchildren in rural Nepal


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