U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland spoke true words when he was quoted in this NY Times article, UN Official Backs Down: Rich Nations Not ‘Stingy’:
Jan Egeland: spoke the truth & lived to regret it?? (credit: NRK.no)
Egeland, a Norwegian, pleaded at a Monday news conference for individuals and governments around the world to respond generously to the humanitarian disaster created by the tsunami that struck a broad swath of southern Asia on Sunday.
Asked about the response of rich nations to such crises, he said: “It is beyond me why are we so stingy, really.”
“If actually the foreign assistance of many countries now is 0.1 or 0.2 percent of their gross national income, I think that is stingy really. I don’t think that is very generous,” he said.
No sooner did he speak these stinging, but precisely accurate words than the U.S. UN-haters at Fox News and other right wing media outlets got themselves into high dudgeon and Egeland was forced to eat crow. But the damage was done and the Bush administration, reeling from crticism of its then $20-million commitment to tsunami relief upped the ante to a wonderfully generous $40 million (!) (Irate Over ‘Stingy’ Remark, U.S. Adds $20 Million to Disaster Aid). That’s probably half the cost of one of those F-16s flying over Iraqi skies! So pardon me if I’m still a bit underwhelmed.
We’ve just witnessed perhaps the greatest global natural disaster of this century and that’s all we can come up with? How meager and how pathetic. Imagine a tsunami engulfing Bush’s beloved Texas Gulf coast and how quickly and how generously our always charitably-minded president would respond.
Let’s resolve as private citizens to do what our government is too morally oblivious to do. Let’s see American citizens far outstrip the financial commitments of this niggardly government. Make your online contributions from this list provided by the Times.
Here’s some further background from the Times which puts the level of our global aid effort in further perspective:
The United Nations urged rich nations a quarter of a century ago to give away 0.7 percent of their gross domestic product every year in the form of development aid.
To date, however, just a handful of European nations, most of them in Scandinavia, actually meet that goal.
The United States, the world’s largest economy, earmarks 0.13 percent a year of its GDP to development aid. But that figure excludes aid to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as food aid, where the United States is the world’s largest donor.
So the U.S. donates one-sixth of the amount of aid that a 25 year-old UN guideline suggests. Now, that’s an ugly statistic!