Sunday, June 19, 2005

[Africa] Africa needs deeds not words from G8 - ActionAid

Yahoo! Asia News
LONDON (Reuters)

Leaders of the world's richest nations have a unique opportunity to start digging Africa out of poverty when they meet in Scotland next month, pressure group ActionAid said on Monday.

Citing a stream of broken promises from past summits of the Group of Eight industrialised nations, ActionAid called for fair trade, more and better aid, wholesale debt cuts, money to fight the AIDS epidemic and action to halt global warming.

"The G8 have made grand statements on Africa for 10 years now. In that time they have continued to frogmarch African countries into policies that have harmed them," said Steve Tibbett of ActionAid UK.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made helping Africa out of the pit of disease and debt a cornerstone of his year-long presidency of the G8.

Formed in 1972 as a British-based aid charity working in the world's poorest countries, ActionAid opened an international head office in Johannesburg two years ago and is now one of the world's largest development agencies.
In a report published on Monday and aimed at the G8 summit on July 6-8 at the prestige Gleneagles Hotel near Edinburgh, ActionAid drove home its message.

It said nearly nine African children died each minute from preventable diseases, 45 million were denied access to even basic education and hundreds of millions faced starvation.

Previous G8 summits had pledged to slash debts, tackle global warming, give more aid, fight disease, massively improve access to water and sanitation and make trade rules fairer.

But to date the pledges had proved to be little more than empty words. "G8 leaders have used previous summits to make grand speeches about waging war on poverty. But on past evidence, they are firing blanks," the report said.
"Now is the moment to act. Africa is at the top of the international agenda and the G8 is faced by a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help transform the region's prospects," it added.

Actual debt write offs were less than half the amount pledged which in turn was a fraction of the more than $300 billion owed by Africa as a whole. The report was written before G8 finance ministers agreed last weekend to write off $40 billion of debt owed by 18 Highly Indebted Poor Countries.

ActionAid urged the G8 to stop dumping subsidised goods on African markets and forcing local producers out of business, to open their own markets to African produce, slash the prices of vital drugs and to untie aid.
ActionAid also urged the G8 to meet their own long-standing pledges to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid -- a fraction that no G8 country had yet got even close to.

A telling bar chart compared G8 aid per African to European Union subsidies per cow -- the latter being nearly 30 times larger than the former. Africa was starting to help itself, but the economic recovery and advent of peace in several countries was fragile and needed urgent and selfless help from the G8, it said.

"Failure to rise to this challenge will be judged harshly, by the millions of people mobilising in 2005 for change, and by history," the report concluded.