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Aid to Africa Tops Agenda for G-8 Leaders

The Group of Eight leaders met with seven African leaders Monday in Japan, three years after the world’s economic superpowers pledged in Gleneagles, Scotland, to increase foreign aid by $50 billion a year by 2010 — with half of that going directly to Africa — and to cancel the debt of the most heavily indebted poor nations.

But the G-8 has delivered just $3 billion of additional aid pledged to Africa in 2005, according to Debt, AIDS and Trade in Africa, a group founded by U2 singer Bono and music producer Bob
Geldof, both of whom are active in campaigns for Africa.

Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. are following through on commitments, while progress from Japan, France, Italy and Canada was either unclear or weak, DATA said, according to the Associated Press.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also has urged G-8 leaders to take a tough stance on Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe’s widely denounced election win. Mugabe was the only candidate in the presidential runoff after his opponent dropped out amid reports of state-sponsored violence.

President Bush, arriving Sunday for his eighth and final summit, called on wealthy nations to provide mosquito nets and other aid to Africa to prevent children from “needlessly dying from
mosquito bites.”

“Now is the time for the comfortable nations to step up and do something about it,” he said.

Japan said there has been no backtracking on the commitments made to Africa.

“I don’t understand the criticism,” Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kazuo Kodama. “The G-8 leaders are very aware of the commitments they have made to African leaders.”

The soaring cost of food was another key topic on the agenda, with some experts predicting that the leaders would announce a food aid package and possibly funds to invest in agricultural
development in poorer nations.

On Monday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso proposed allocating $1.6 billion that had been set aside for European farm subsidies to support agriculture in the developing
world over the next two years.

Talks were expected to shift Tuesday and Wednesday to climate change as leaders will try to move forward U.N.-led talks aimed at forging a new global warming accord by the end of next year. The
negotiations have stalled because of deep disagreements over what targets to set for greenhouse gas reductions, and how much developing countries such as China and India should be required to participate.

The rift over climate change widened as the head of the European Commission urged leaders of the world’s wealthy nations to act first in setting targets for reducing greenhouse gases — putting President Bush in an increasingly lonely position.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Robert Zoellick said rich nations need to strengthen their efforts to meet poverty reduction, education and other development goals because of instability in the world economy.

China and India say it is up to the developed world — the biggest polluters — to take the lead in the fight against climate change. Bush has said that developing nations must also sign on
to make any global deal work.

It was unclear whether nations would be able to agree to a goal of cutting their emissions by 50 percent by 2050. The Bush administration has not shown any enthusiasm for such a commitment
without cooperation from the Chinese and Indians.

A more ambitious goal of setting nearer-term targets for 2020 was considered well beyond reach.

Going into a G-8 summit — after a separate summit Tuesday with India, Brazil, South Africa and Mexico — China has said it is ready to discuss setting medium- and long-term goals for
reducing emissions of polluting gases and is open to negotiating targets.

Citing a final draft of the communique due to be issued on Tuesday, Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper said the G-8 leaders would highlight downside risks to the world economy and label rising food and oil prices a “serious threat,” according to Reuters

Higher oil and food costs are taking a particularly heavy toll on the world’s poor. A World Bank study issued last week said up to 105 million people could fall below the poverty line due to the leap in food prices, including 30 million in Africa.

“How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring food and oil prices is a test of the global system’s commitment to help the most vulnerable,” Zoellick said.

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