G8 – Reneging On Committments

G8 fails to meet aid pledges to Africa
By Barry Mason
Jun 6, 2007, 13:43

British Prime Minister Tony Blair had hoped that the G8 summit to be held in Heiligendamm, Germany, in June would provide a booster shot to the campaign hailing his supposed “legacy” before leaving office. He is to stand down as British prime minister in June.

Blair created an Africa Commission, and at the G8 summit held in Scotland in 2005, he won commitments from the assembled heads of state to increase aid and debt relief to some of the world’s poorest nations, which includes most sub-Saharan African countries.

The 2005 G8 summit was to be the culmination of a campaign by Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and church groups to “Make Poverty History.” The campaign was fronted by the rock musicians Bob Geldof and Bono. Geldof’s assessment at the summit’s end was “10 out of 10” on aid relief and “8 out of 10” on debt relief. Blair declared that “great progress had been made.”

The communiqué issued by the G8 countries following the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, stated, “There are now just ten years…to meet the goals agreed at the Millennium Summit in 2000. We should continue the G8 focus on Africa which is the only continent not on track to meet any of the goals of the Millennium Declaration by 2015.”

Many of the commitments have been reneged on or only partly met. The Guardian ran a report of the recent meeting of the so-called sherpas in Berlin—G8 officials who meet to prepare the summit proper. According to the 16 May Guardian article, British delegates who raised the question of aid budgets were met with little sympathy. The report quotes a Russian sherpa saying, “We only made those promises because we felt sorry for Tony Blair after the terrorist attacks on 7/7.” This was a reference to the bombings of a bus and tube trains in London, which had happened the previous day.

Bono has called for an emergency session to be held at the G8 summit to address the failure to meet the aid pledges. Speaking to the Guardian, he said, “It’s not just the credibility of the G8 that’s at stake. It’s the credibility of the largest non-violent protest in 30 years. Nobody wants to go back to what we saw in Genoa, but I do sense a real sense of jeopardy.”

Several reports recently published show the extent of the shortfall. One report is from the organisation established by Bono and Geldof, Debt AIDS Trade Africa, or DATA. The report’s aim is to put pressure on the G8. It states, “We hope that its findings will be taken to heart by Chancellor Merkel (of Germany) when she chairs the crucial session on Africa at the forthcoming G8 Summit in Heiligendamm.”

The DATA report monitors how the G8 countries are falling short of the commitments it promised to deliver—$25 billion a year in development aid by 2010. It notes:

“Collectively, the G8 are badly off track with their development assistance promise to Africa. In total G8 assistance to sub-Saharan Africa has increased by only $2.3 billion since 2004, when it should have increased by $5.4 billion over that period…. Concern is heightened by the small increases in aid that are in the pipeline for many G8 countries for 2007 and 2008. If G8 does not react quickly to get back on track with the needed scale-ups in assistance, the early successes…will be squandered….”

Regarding trade it adds, “the lack of global agreement and failure to focus on Africa mean that we can report no genuine progress…we must hold all G8 members accountable for this collective failing.”

A report issued by CONCORD, an umbrella organisation representing development NGOs based in Europe, analyses the aid programmes of European Union nations. The report is entitled “Hold the Applause.”

It states that the amounts promised by European governments do not match the amounts actually paid: “If European governments do not improve on current performance, poor countries will have received 50 billion Euros less from Europe by 2010 than…promised.” It accuses European government aid programmes of having “security, geopolitical alliances and domestic interests” as the main objectives.

The analysis shows 30 percent of the figure for aid claimed by European governments was not genuine aid. Amongst the methods used to inflate the aid figures is the inclusion of debt relief as aid. Another is to count cancellation of export credit debts as aid relief. As the report points out, export credits are used to support domestic companies seeking to do business in developing countries offering insurance against often very lucrative, if somewhat risky, ventures.

Another means of inflating aid figures is to include monies spent on refugees within Europe and money spent on educating overseas students within Europe. The report cites Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures showing the percentage of European aid going to Africa is actually falling. For 2004 it was 41 percent, and in 2005 it was 37 percent.

Read the rest here.

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