Millennium Goals in danger, Oxfam warns


OSAKA — In a report sharply critical of the Group of Eight major powers, Oxfam International has warned that the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which aim to halve global poverty by 2015, are in danger of not being met.

“The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has admitted rich countries could miss their 2010 promise of $50 billion in annual aid by as much as $30 billion,” said the report, which was released Friday just as G8 finance ministers were gathering in Osaka. “Oxfam estimates failure to come up with this money could place nearly 5 million people in danger.”

Oxfam, one of the world’s leading NGOs on development issues, has issued 16 specific recommendations for the G8 leaders this year. These include agreeing to freeze biofuel production targets, agreeing to debt cancellation for all countries that need it to reach the Millennium Development Goals, and reducing domestic carbon emissions by at least 25 to 40 percent by 2020.

To help alleviate the food-shortage crisis and save the forests, which absorb carbon dioxide, they need to encourage all countries to stop burning food and start supporting poorer farmers, Oxfam says.

The International Food Policy Research Institute has estimated that biofuel use accounts for 30 percent of the recent increase in food prices, while Oxfam estimates that one fully fueled sport utility vehicle contains enough corn-based ethanol to feed a poor person for one year.

Takumo Yamada, advocacy manager for Oxfam Japan, said Saturday that it appears the G8 rich nations are moving backward on the issue of biofuels.

“What the G8 leaders will say or not say about biofuel use this year depends on the United States, which has a huge and growing biofuel industry,” he said.

Later Saturday, Oxfam issued a statement criticizing the outcome of the G8 finance ministers’ meeting, saying they should have done more to address the food crisis.

“The finance ministers have left today with nothing of substance agreed for their leaders next month in Hokkaido. Will Japan be the summit of shame for the G8, cutting aid whilst the poor world starves?” the statement said.

“Unless fast and deep solutions to the food crisis are tabled at the G8 summit next month, the G8 will have failed to come through with any answers,” Oxfam said.

With additional reporting by Shihoko Nagayama