£2.2bn pledged: but will the world deliver this time?

UN urges governments to keep promises on tsunami aid

The world's governments were urged yesterday to honour their financial pledges to countries hit by the tsunami, amid fears that the massive offers of aid will never materialise.

The United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, warned of a "race against time" to help victims of the disaster and criticised the international community for failing to deliver on promises of money in response to previous emergencies. Aid agencies and charities said that in some previous disasters only a third of the money pledged by foreign governments had been converted into hard cash.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, insisted that Britain would honour its pledges, and said the Government did not want to enter into a "bidding war" with other countries over who could promise the most headline-grabbing financial aid.

At the end of an emergency conference on the tsunami held in Indonesia yesterday, Mr Annan said: "For the United Nations, it is the largest natural disaster the organisation has had to respond to on behalf of the world community in the 60 years of our existence. It requires an unprecedented global response - it is a race against time." However, he warned: "Many of the pledges have come to us in cash and in kind. We need the rest of the pledges to be converted into cash quickly. We have often had gaps in the past and I hope it is not going to happen in this case."

International governments have so far pledged more than $4bn (£2.2bn) in aid to Sri Lanka, Indonesia and other countries hit by the disaster. Charitable donations are separate to that.

Aid agencies cited examples of previous disasters in which governments failed to meet their initial pledges.

Of the $32m pledged by the international community in the immediate aftermath of the Bam earthquake in Iran in 2003, only $17.7m had been received a year later.

Foreign governments also pledged more than $9bn to the victims of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 but, a year later, only a third of that appeared, despite the storm affecting hundreds of thousands in many countries.

More than $400m was promised by governments to help rebuild Mozambique after floods four years ago, but less than half of the pledges were actually honoured.

Mr Annan said that nearly $1bn was needed immediately to cover the basic humanitarian needs of an estimated five million people affected by the tsunami over the next six months alone.

More than 150,000 are now known to have died in the disaster, and a World Health Organisation assessment has predicted that survivors could begin to die from dysentery and cholera unless they received clean water and other basic services by the end of this week.

As donations from the British public passed the £100m mark, Tony Blair said the Government would eventually donate "hundreds of millions of pounds". Britain has pledged more than £50m, with a further £40m promised for the suspension of debt relief. The EU has promised £73m in short-term and £252m in long-term relief.

However, sources at non-governmental organisations said the EU was one of the worst offenders in promising aid that never appeared. Judith Melby, international editor at Christian Aid, said: "There have been too many occasions where governments have pledged aid and it has not come through. All countries have been culpable in this. "The most important part of the aid operation has to be long-term rehabilitation - creating sustainable housing, restoring people's livelihoods. But we often find that a year later survivors are still living in temporary camps and governments are reluctant to raise taxes to pay for the money they pledged."

Oxfam's policy director, James Ensor, said the public would be "outraged" if government pledges were not honoured. He added: "Money pledged must be new money, not diverted from existing programmes."

Max Lawson, the charity's senior policy adviser, added: "History has shown us that pledge-making is consistently undervalued by governments delivering about half of what they promised."

Recent disasters

HURRICANE, Central America 1998

Pledged: £4.8bn

Delivered: £1.6bn

FLOODS, Mozambique 2000

Pledged: £214m

Delivered: £107m

EARTHQUAKE, Bam, Iran 2003

Pledged: £17.1m

Delivered: £9.5m

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A recent rise in net migration has been considered bad news for the Government
voicesYet when we talk about it, the national media goes into a frenzy, says Nigel Farage
Life and Style
Miracle muffin: chemicals can keep a muffin looking good at least a month after it was bought
food + drinkThe alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans and Papiss Cisse come together
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

£32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers