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G8’s $50 Billion Aid Package Receives Lukewarm Response

The Government has been forced to staved off criticism that the US$50 billion aid package agreed at the G8 summit is too inadequate.
( [email protected] ) Jul 09, 2005 11:58 PM EDT

The Government has been forced to staved off criticism that the US$50 billion aid package agreed at the G8 summit is too inadequate.

Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the deal concluded last Friday, saying that "very substantial progress" has been made in raising developing countries out of poverty.

This stance was reiterated by International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, who also came out in support of the deal: "This is politics demonstrating its capacity to make a difference."

Mr Blair also stressed that the package would not end world poverty overnight: "We do not, simply by this communique, make poverty history."

He remained optimistic, however, emphasising the real "political will" to end world poverty and lower green house gas emissions that had been demonstrated at the G8 summit.

Mr Blair also highlighted that an agreement on environmental issues was from the outset unlikely, but seemed pleased with the US’ acceptance of global warming as an issue in need of a concerted international response.

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett also dismissed criticisms that the G8 offered nothing new on climate change as "absolute rubbish".

The defence of the G8 deal comes in light of the criticisms made by numerous aid agencies and environmentalists that the outcome is "vastly disappointing".

Kumi Naidoo, chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty, said, "The people have roared but the G8 has whispered."

One of the most outspoken campaigners for change, Bob Geldof, was also satisfied with the result, however, saying that it was a "great day" and claiming that at least 10 million lives would be saved as a result.

Mr Geldof said, "Never before have so many people forced a change of policy onto a global agenda. If anyone had said eight weeks ago will we get a doubling of aid, will we get a deal on debt, people would have said ‘no’."

He concluded by awarding the G8 summit "10 out of 10 on aid, eight out of 10 on debt."

Bono, Irish rock star and fellow anti-poverty campaigner, also added his voice to the round of support for Friday’s aid deal, particularly the agreement to make AIDS drugs universally accessible.

"600,000 Africans, mostly children, will remember this G8 summit at Gleneagles because they will be around to remember this summit, and they wouldn't have otherwise," said Bono.

The package, which obliges African leaders to commit to democracy and good governance, will see the debt of the world’s 18 poorest countries cancelled and anti-HIV drugs made universally accessible in Africa by 2010.

The deal also includes the training of 20,000 peacekeepers to be committed to African soil and has been welcomed by Nigeria’s President Olusegun Obasanjo, who described it as a "success".

Leaders also agreed to hold trade discussions in Hong Kong later this year to set an end date for agricultural subsidies, as well a meeting to be held in Britain on November 1 to assess the progress made with climate change.

The aid package also set aside US$3 bn for the Palestinian Authority to improve its infrastructure.

The emphasis was very much on this deal as being the start of a long process needed to raise Africa up.

Mr Blair said, "It isn’t all everyone wanted, but it is progress."

UN General Secretary Kofi Annan shared these sentiments, stating that, although the G8 summit was a "good day", it was nonetheless only "a beginning".

Mr Annan said, "The fight to end poverty is just starting."

The Prime Minister also called for the people of Africa themselves to contribute to this process, saying, "The only people who can change Africa ultimately are the Africans."

African leaders have called for the debt of all of Africa to be cancelled.

Mr Blair went on to stress the need for American co-operation if any serious progress was to be made in the development of the world’s poorest nations.

"If it is impossible to bring America into the consensus on tackling the issue... we will never ensure the huge emerging economies, who are going to consume more energy than any other part of the world... are part of the dialogue."

Mr Blair still maintained that positive steps had been achieved, saying there was now agreement that climate change was indeed a problem, that humans were part of the cause, and that its solution required urgent action.

He also remained defiant against Thursday’s terrorist attacks in London, calling the communiqué a "definitive expression of our collective will to act in the face of death."

"It has a pride and a hope and a humanity that can lift the shadow of terrorism," he added.

Despite this, some Non-Governmental Organisations have remained sceptical, Greenpeace’s Stephen Tindale saying, "The G8 has committed to nothing new but at least we haven’t moved backwards on the environment."

Others have called the communiqué a "lost opportunity."

The Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, a worldwide coalition of environmental and development campaigners, said: "Urgent action is now required to substantially reduce emissions, reduce fossil fuel dependence and to protect people around the world, especially the vulnerable, the poor and disappearing nations."