/ 11 June 2009

G8’s promise to Africa is likely to be broken

The G8 group of leading industrial nations looks set to break its promise to eradicate poverty in Africa because of a poor performance by France and especially Italy, aid campaigners warned today.

The One campaign group, which fights poverty and disease in Africa, said that the G8 had only delivered one third of the additional assistance it had promised to Africa by the end of next year.

In its annual report, which tracks yearly progress against the G8’s 2005 Gleneagles commitment to double aid to Africa by the end of 2010, One projects that by December this year the G8 will have delivered only about half of that promise. Italy and France are responsible for 80% of the shortfall. “This leaves just one year, 2010, for the G8 to make up the rest,” according to the report.

Italy has so far only provided 3% of the £5,09-billion in additional funding it had promised, and the campaign said that consultations with the Italian government have revealed that it is planning to cut, not increase, aid in the future.

Sir Bob Geldof, who is an adviser to One, said: “Poor, sad Italy. That their economy is in such a disastrous meltdown condition that they must steal from the poor, rob the ill and snatch education from the minds of the young not only beggars the imagination, but must also surely beggar the soul of that most beautiful country. Shame on you. Your government disgraces you.”

Preliminary figures show that France cut aid to Africa last year and that budget plans for the next two years are not sufficient to remedy this year’s reductions, according to the report. In 2008, France fell behind Germany for the first time in quantity of aid delivered to Africa. 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “A promise to the poor is particularly sacred. It is an act of grace and great leadership when all efforts are made to keep these pacts, and that is why those G8 countries who are leading the charge for the poorest deserve such credit. But we who praise must be prepared to censure where it is clearly deserved.”

The report said that the G8 could get back on track in 2009 and 2010, but only if it seized every opportunity, starting today at the G8 development ministers’ meeting in Rome, and tomorrow at the G8 finance ministers’ meeting in Lecce.

Some G8 countries made progress last year to fulfilling their commitments. The One campaign said that the US, Canada and Japan are on track to meet or beat the relatively modest targets they set in Gleneagles, although it adds that recent cutbacks by Canada to specific African countries such as Malawi and Rwanda are a cause for concern, especially as Canada will hold the G8 presidency in 2010.

The UK and Germany are making good progress towards their own targets, which were among the most ambitious within the G8. The UK is the first G8 country to have set a transparent timeline to reach the target of spending 0,7% of national income on overseas assistance by 2013.

Investments delivered so far have produced strong returns in Africa, the report said, including 34-million more children in school, an estimated three million people on life-saving Aids treatment and death rates from malaria more than halved in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Zambia.

Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of software firm Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates charitable ­foundation, said: “The successes achieved so far in Africa against malaria and HIV/Aids are fantastic; our foundation is committed to ensure they will continue in the years to come.

“I hope all G8 nations maintain their commitments and build on these ­successes, as we’ve seen in the UK and Germany.” – guardian.co.uk