DESPITE its relative affluence, the Isle of Man currently gives just 0.07 per cent of its income to overseas aid.
According to Rosemary Clarke, director of the One World Centre at St John’s, this still falls way short of a research-based target which was set more than 40 years ago by the United Nations?
‘In one sense this might seem fine,’ she said.
‘But in 1970, the UN looked at the income of rich countries and the poverty gap and found that if the rich countries donated just 0.7 per cent of their income they would not really see any difference but for the poor countries the difference would be huge.’
The original plan to do this by the mid-70s was achieved by some Scandinavian countries. The UK currently gives 0.56 per cent of its income to overseas aid and British prime minister David Cameron has pledged to strive for the 0.7 per cent target.
But by contrast the Isle of Man gives just 0.07 per cent, which equates to £2.4m.
‘To increase the amount 10-fold is a difficult ask. In 2004 Tynwald pledged to meet the 0.7 per cent target but we are campaigning for an interim target of 0.1 per cent,’ she said.
During the recent Mannifest music festival global poverty campaigners with ambassador Kristina Crawford collected signatures in support of the Point 1 campaign and by the end of the festival had amassed 1,000 supporters, identified by a face-painted symbol showing a zero with a .1 in the centre.
Bishop of Sodor and Man the Right Reverend Robert Paterson is also a staunch believer in overseas aid.
‘We live in a single world. Some of these places are just a few hours away by plane. To say we are doing all right, the rest of the world can rot and it’s up to others to help if they wish is an incredibly selfish philosophy,’ he said.
A prime concern of the Overseas Aid committee, he said, was to ensure money donated reached its correct target.
‘We don’t pour money into Zimbabwe while it is in the state that it’s in, for example,’ he said, but added sometimes a promise of aid could provide an incentive for a country to improve its governance.
To increase the aid to 0.7 per cent immediately he described as idealistic but unrealistic, but added: ‘I would like to see us move to 0.7 per cent. That would be healthy. If that target were dumped by Tynwald I would be disappointed and angry.’
President of the Isle of Man Mothers’ Union Helen Parry said the organisation was actively involved in helping those in other countries and had recently secured a grant of £28,000 from the Overseas Aid Committee to finance literacy and development projects in Malawi.
‘The overall project is for £42,000 so the Mothers’ Union is endeavouring to make up the shortfall now which will help to meet one of the millennium goals,’ she said.
Mrs Parry said the MU had historically been involved in many projects to provide education for those who had missed out on basic schooling and lacked literacy and numeracy skills. The current project is to assist 4,000 people but the indirect impact will extend to something nearer to 22,000 as the learning is then passed on.
‘It is important to note that all of the money goes to the development projects and not to administration. We are all part of a global community and we were all helped at some stage in our lives so it is our duty to help other people too,’ she said.
Writing in the Isle of Man Examiner recently, Overseas Aid Committee chairman Phil Gawne MHK said he was a passionate believer in the government’s overseas aid programme.
‘I believe that for a small nation founded on Christian principles , not to support the internationally accepted standards on overseas aid would present our nation in an incredibly negative light,’ he said.
According to Mr Gawne, no country gives less as a proportion of its GDP and he pointed out Greece and Ireland, both badly hit by the financial crisis, both give much more.
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