G8 pledges: old wine in a new bottle? The Gleneagles G8 Summit in July pledged a major increase in aid to Africa and the removal of trade-distorting tariffs against African exports. Is this a real change in policy or merely yet more rhetoric?

Author:Siddiqi, Moin

Five years ago the international community set ambitious global targets to liberate the citizens of poorer nations, by the year 2015, from "the abject and dehumanising conditions of absolute poverty".


The pledges were translated into the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aimed to halve the number of people surviving on below $1 daily, achieve universal primary education, halve the number of people without access to clean water, reduce child mortality rates by two-thirds, as well as combating and reversing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids and malaria.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the UN world summit in New York last September that "the struggle against global poverty will define our moral standing in the eyes of the future."

The same week, however, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its 2005 Human Development Report which concluded that most developing countries, if the present sluggish trends continue, will miss almost all the MDGs, and in some cases by "epic margins". Its bleak findings show that by 2015, 380m people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, will remain trapped in poverty, disease and ignorance.

The failure to cut infant mortality by two-thirds could mean 41m more children's deaths by 2045, whilst 47m children will not receive primary schooling. In fact, the only regions to have achieved their MDGs targets, thanks to sustained and robust economic growth, are South-East Asia and China.

African leaders, led by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo--who currently heads the African Union--were broadly pleased by the outcome of July's G8 summit.

Beside the $40bn debt cancellation deal for 18 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries, 14 of which are African countries, confirmed at the 2005 annual World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings in Washington, the world's leading rich nations have also pledged substantial long-term funding.


This funding included an extra $25bn a year of official development assistance (ODA) by 2010 and the addressing of the West's farm subsidies and trade tariffs.

Furthermore, a G8 commitment to finance a 75,000-strong African peacekeeping force as well as ensuring universal access to HIV/Aids drugs for Africa by 2010 were also pledged.

In return, recipient governments reiterated their commitments to good governance, democracy and tackling endemic corruption.

Hilary Benn, the UK's international development...

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