Aid, trade, debt: G8 leaders need to finish the job
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
I was looking out over the impressive gravelled driveway of the GleneagleHotel a year ago, as the G8 leaders were leaving, after the summit that wasupposed to make poverty histor
One by one, the cars were loaded with bags, and the entourages strolled oto the drive. Finally, the leaders themselves emerged, with very littlceremony - in contrast to their elaborately staged arrivals, with photopportunities on aeroplane steps, motorcades, and air-kissing wives. I had thimpression that, now the summit was over, the leaders just wanted to get owith the next thin
But, of course, they couldn't just ignore the promises they had made. Thleaders of the G8 had made commitments - which, unusually, they had signed in carefully staged ceremony - to increase aid, cancel debts, and makinternational trade fairer. Now, one year on, they are all meeting in SPetersburg this weekend.
For the agenda this year, it's safe tsay that the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the meeting, ia great deal less interested in the plight of poor countries than the UGovernment was. And he doesn't have thousands of campaigners on the streets tforce him to deal with the issue. There will, however, be a review of progres- and probably a great deal of self-congratulation, as G8 leaders tell eacother about what they've done in the year since Gleneagle
A few weeks ago, the British Government produced a booklet One Year On: Turning talk into action, listing all the progress thahad been made in this country since the summit last year. Increased aid, debwrite-offs, some progress on trade - the assessment was upbeat. Inevitably, threality is not quite so good: the aid figures were inflated by a one-ofcancellation of Nigeria's debt, and the trade deal is unfinished, and so hedgeby qualifications that it is probably not worth the paper it has not yet beewritten on.
There has undoubtedly, though, been some progressince last year - particularly on debt, as 19 countries have receivesignificant debt-cancellation since last July. In some countries, the effecthave already been seen in increased health and educatiospending.
Yet the promises have not all been fulfilled. It iimportant that campaigners keep up the pressure on the G8 leaders, and keemonitoring the progress they are making. More aid needs to come, and mordebt-relief, and better trade deals.
There are three areas iparticular where progress has been almost non-existent. One of the mossignificant - but most overlooked - parts of the G8 declaration was thparagraph that promised that G8 leaders would stop imposing economic policieon African countries. Unfortunately, this practice is still rife. Among thworst offenders are the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)both funded largely from G8 countries' aid budget
One of Christian Aid's partner organisations recently surveyed 20 countriegetting aid or loans from these institutions, and found that 90 per cent othem were required to privatise state-run enterprises or services as condition of getting the money. Christian Aid is asking the British Governmen- which declared in March 2005 that UK aid money would come withoueconomic-policy strings attached - to withdraw funds from these organisationuntil they stop imposing on poor countries economic conditions that are ofteharmful.
Trade reforms have also been slow. The current round otalks in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is proceeding at its usuaglacial pace in Geneva, is on the agenda for the G8 this week. But it is Gcountries (in particular, the United States) that are being most obstructive delaying progress, and trying to water down even the meagre concessions thawere made in 2005.
There are also a number of significant issuethat are not even on the agenda. During 2005, despite increases in aid andebt-relief, more money flowed out of Africa to the UK than went the other wa(News7 July). About 17 billion came to the UK as "capital flight" - monespirited out of the economies of African countries by individuals or companiethrough both legal and illegal channels.
The British Governmencould do something about this by making banks more responsible for the monethey accept, and by tackling companies that use subsidiaries in developincountries to get money out through transfer-pricinschemes.
Christian Aid will be in St Petersburg at the weekendmaking sure that development issues are still high up on the G8's agenda. Themade a start last year. The job now is to finish i