Global Policy Forum

West's Foot-Dragging Over Aid to Africa Called "Grotesque"


By Larry Elliott and Kate Connolly

April 25, 2007

The west's foot-dragging over aid pledges to Africa was described last night as "grotesque" and a threat to the lives of the world's poor by the body set up by Tony Blair to monitor the results of Britain's Gleneagles summit.Almost two years after the G8 group of leading industrial nations promised to boost development assistance by $50bn a year by 2010, the Africa Progress Panel headed by the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan said rich countries were only 10% of the way to their target.

"If the efforts to double aid by 2010 are not increased soon it will be too late," Mr Annan said as the APP presented its findings in Berlin to the prime minister and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who will host this year's G8 summit in early June. Mr Annan said the commitment to doubling aid had fallen year on year since Gleneagles. "In 2005 we did well, by 2006 we were sliding, and unless we now make about $5bn available a year we will not make that target," he said. Bob Geldof, the musician and lobbyist who also sits on the APP, said the promises of "economic justice" made at Gleneagles, on which Mr Blair had staked his legacy as prime minister, were in danger of collapsing. This amounted to a "grotesque abrogation of responsibility".

The former rock star added: "No one wants to see the compact of Gleneagles destroyed. Economic justice is the most sacred promise you can make, because if you break it you kill people. We cannot be the instruments of death - we need to be the instruments of life". Mr Geldof singled out Germany and Italy for criticism, but Mr Blair said he was confident the international community's will to act was still there. "If we do not take a responsible and long-term view of Africa, and its need to develop and make progress, we will end up ultimately with our own self-interest back in countries like Germany and the UK being damaged as a result of the poverty, the conflict, the mass migration, the spread of terrorism and so on," he said.

"So I think there is a strong moral cause but I think it's a cause closely allied to our own self-interest. We know that there is very much more that still needs to be done," Mr Blair told a press conference. He has successfully pressed Mrs Merkel to put Africa back at the top of the G8 agenda in Heiligendamm in June. Britain, one of the few leading western countries on track to meet its Gleneagles commitments, believes that action so far falls significantly short of the increases pledged and is urging its partners to step up their efforts. While hailing efforts to boost HIV/Aids treatment and the increased numbers of African children in school, Mr Blair said: "We know there's more that needs to be done in terms of aid, the world trade talks, building up Africa's capability, for example for conflict resolution and the peacekeeping force that it will require. "We also know there are still far too many Africans who die when their death is preventable with our help.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development reported earlier this month that once one-off debt relief packages for Iraq and Nigeria were taken into account, aid flows from the west fell for the first time in a decade in 2006. Britain called last night for action from the World Bank to prevent so-called "vulture funds" from preying on some of the world's poorest countries, which are struggling to provide basic healthcare and education. This followed an award of $15m yesterday in the high court against Zambia brought by a US fund that had bought the African country's debt cheaply and enforced it through the courts.


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