The unprecedented humanitarian response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, which struck on 26 December 2004, leaving some 300,000 people dead or missing and wiping out whole communities, resulted in pledges of some $13.6 billion to the affected countries from governments and international organisations, as well as charities, companies and the general public. Some $5.3 billion was from OECD governments.
Two-thirds of the aid which the 22 member governments of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and the European Commission pledged to countries hit by the Indian Ocean tsunami has been spent or earmarked for specific projects, according to recent statistics. Donor governments and the European Commission have committed $1.7 billion to emergency aid and $1.9 billion to longer term reconstruction projects, to be spent by 2009.
More than 90% of the emergency aid–nearly $1.6 billion–was spent in the nine months immediately following the disaster. For reconstruction, $473 million has been spent, leaving $1.4 billion committed and in the pipeline for spending over the coming years. The rest of the money pledged will be committed once other specific projects and programmes have been identified. Together, Indonesia and Sri Lanka have received more than 60% of the funds committed so far.
2005 has been a year of extreme humanitarian challenges. The tsunami was by far the greatest in terms of lives lost and destruction, and exacted a particularly heavy toll on women and children. While impressive, the tsunami response revealed the need for major improvements in the systems for humanitarian aid, a point underlined by slower responses to other disasters during the year, such as the Kashmir earthquake, hurricanes in North and Central America, a food crisis in Niger, and on-going emergencies in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Getting aid to affected areas quickly; co-ordinating emergency responses to fit with long-term development policies; and being transparent and accountable with aid funds, all are areas that need improvement, OECD experts say.
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China has overtaken the US to become the world’s leading exporter of information and communications technology (ICT) goods, such as mobile phones, laptop computers and digital cameras, according to data for 2004. China exported $180 billion worth of such goods in 2004, compared with US exports in the same category valued at $149 billion. In 2003, the US led with exports of ICT goods worth $137 billion, followed by China with $123 billion. China’s share of total world trade in ICT goods, including both imports and exports, rose to $329 billion in 2004, up from $234 billion in 2003 and $35 billion in 1996. By comparison, the US share of total world trade stood at $375 billion in 2004, $301 billion in 2003 and $230 billion in 1996.
The data show a decline in ICT imports to Asia from the EU and the US. Moreover, China increasingly sources its electronic components, such as computer chips, from other Asian countries, including Japan (18% of China’s ICT imports), Chinese Taipei (16%), Korea (13%) and Malaysia (8%).
The OECD’s 30 member countries have announced the appointment of Angel Gurría, former foreign minister and finance minister of Mexico, as secretary-general of the OECD from 1 June 2006. Mr Gurría will succeed Donald J. Johnston, who is retiring after two terms at the top of the organisation. The announcement was made on 30 November. For more detail, please click here.
The fast growth in cross-border higher education in the last two decades has prompted UNESCO and the OECD to issue guidelines in a bid to safeguard quality and standards. The new Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-border Higher Education will encourage governments, higher education establishments, student bodies and other competent organisations to adopt three main principles: Mutual trust and respect among countries and recognition of the importance of international collaboration in higher education; recognition of the importance of national authority and the diversity of higher education systems; and recognition of the importance of higher education as a means for expressing a country’s linguistic and cultural diversity and also for nurturing its economic development and social cohesion.
The aim is to help students gain easy access to reliable information on higher education everywhere, which in turn will depend on making qualifications more transparent and internationally compatible. Higher education institutions and providers should ensure that the programmes they deliver across borders and in their home country are of comparable quality, and the guidelines also urge governments to establish comprehensive systems of quality assurance and accreditation for cross-border higher education, cultural and linguistic sensitivities notwithstanding. The guidelines also invite student bodies to become more active in the development, monitoring and maintenance of quality provision. It is the first time that the two Paris-based bodies have collaborated in developing guidelines in this way. The guidelines may not be binding, but their endorsement by these two international organisations gives them clout, if not teeth.
Easing energy prices helped annual inflation in the OECD area to slide back to 3% in October 2005 from 3.3% in September. Prices of energy rose by 18% year-on-year, compared with 21.1% in September. Excluding food and energy, consumer price inflation remained stable at 1.8% year-on-year in October. On a monthly basis, inflation in the OECD area was 0.2% in October.
In the euro area, the consumer price index increased by 2.4% over the twelve months ending in October 2005. Excluding food and energy, the year-on-year variation in CPI was unchanged at 1.4% in October 2005. In the US, the CPI increased by 4.3% over the same period. In Japan, consumer prices fell by 0.7% in October on a year earlier, compared with a decrease of 0.3% in September.
Detailed figures for “all items less food and energy” can be found at: here.
“It is important to remind ourselves that the ultimate goal of our policies is to promote not just economic growth but, above all, social well-being.”
Angel Gurría, writing as minister of finance and public credit of Mexico and chair of the 1999 OECD Ministerial Council, in OECD Observer No 217/218, Summer 1999.
©OECD Observer No 252/253, November 2005