G-8 Leaders Urged to Keep Aid Promises, Avoid Self-Preservation

G-8 leaders meeting at the three-day economic summit in L'Aquila, Italy, look set to pull off an "Italian Job," according to one of the world's leading aid agencies.

"We had all hoped the new G-8 leaders would push the others to finally meet the key funding promises made in 2005 in Gleneagles," said Sue Mbaya, Africa Advocacy Director for World Vision.

"But it's looking like we'll be watching a re-run of the same old movie in which the G-8 fills its communiqué with reheated aid pledges with no clear timelines," she added, suggesting that the leaders are running away with the money they pledged to Africa.

According to this year's annual report by the ONE anti-poverty campaign, G-8 nations are collectively off course in delivering on their 2005 pact to more than double aid to Africa through 2010, with France and Italy falling far short of their commitments.

By the end of 2008, the G-8 nations only delivered one third of the additional assistance they promised to Africa by 2010, despite being two thirds of the way to the deadline. By the end of this year, they are expected to meet just half of their Gleneagles targets, ONE noted in its report.

The report also asserted that the failure by the G-8 powers to fully deliver on their aid pledges was particularly troubling given the new challenges Africa faces from the global economic crisis and climate change crisis that "are not of Africa's making."

"These crises ... threaten to further erode the important improvements that have been made on the continent," ONE stated in its report.

Noting that this year's July 8-10 summit is heavily focused on climate change and world trade, World Vision's Mbaya emphasized that aid, in particular money spent on improving the health of children and their mothers, "is one of the best investments the G-8 could make in this current financial crunch."

"Economist Jeffrey Sachs himself said way back in 2001: 'We believe that the additional investment in health...would be repaid many times over in millions of lives saved each year, enhanced economic development, and strengthened global security,'" the Africa advocate added.

"Not only is keeping its promises the right thing to do, it's the bright thing to do," she said.

Conversely, acting like a "self-preservation society is only going to damage G-8 countries and mean poor health and death for millions of children in the world's poorest countries."

"Our message to the G-8 – particularly Italy and France – is that now is not the time for smoke and mirrors, or for protecting national interests. It's time for meeting funding commitments and for pledging more," Mbaya said.

"Unless G-8 governments continue to invest in overseas aid, particularly in child health, they risk losing the moral, social and economic gains made to date," she added.

According to the ONE campaign's recently released report, the United States, Canada and Japan are on track to meet or beat the relatively modest targets they set in Gleneagles, while the United Kingdom and Germany are making "serious progress" against their own aid targets, which were among the most ambitious within the G-8.

Italy and France, however, are performing so poorly they are threatening to cause the G-8 as a whole to default, with the former delivering only three percent of what they promised and the latter seven percent.

To get back on course, the seven largest G-8 members – the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, Italy, France and Canada – will need to deliver on average an additional $7.2 billion each year in 2009 and 2010.

"[W]hat the world's poorest people need now is not a re-cooking of old promises or yet more plans," stated ONE spokesman Oliver Buston on Wednesday. "They need immediate action, especially from G-8 host Italy.

"The G-8 as a whole can show they are serious by announcing significant new money for African agriculture on Friday, and ensuring it is spent effectively," he added.

On Friday, the last working day for the 2009 Summit, G-8 leaders are expected to join representatives from eight African nations, the African Union Commission, the United Nations, and a number of international financial bodies to discuss the impact of the crisis on Africa.

The G-8 presidency will be holding the summit's final news conference at 1 p.m. (local time) Friday.