G8 Must Not Be Allowed to Get Away With ‘Italian Job’ at L’Aquila Summit, Warns Aid Agency

July 7, 2009

L’AQUILA, Italy, July 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Will G8 leaders this week pull off a getaway in which they take the money pledged to developing nations in Africa, and run with it? In a cruel mimicry of “The Italian Job” movie, it appears a heist is already being planned as Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, the group’s chairman, arranges a getaway under the cover of a new approach toward aid, Christian humanitarian agency World Vision warns.

So far, the Group of Eight countries have raised foreign assistance by just one third of the total they pledged in 2005, when leaders meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland, announced a doubling of aid to Africa by 2010 as part of a wider package of measures designed to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals on poverty, hunger, education and health. While other donors, responsible for a quarter of the total aid increase, are delivering on their side of the deal, aid from the G8 countries has actually fallen. France and Italy are the worst offenders, according to the aid group, which works in all G8 countries and in 100 nations in all.

“We had all hoped the new G8 leaders would push the others to finally meet the key funding promises made in 2005 at Gleneagles,” said Sue Mbaya, World Vision’s advocacy director for Africa. “But it’s looking like we’ll be watching a re-run of the same old movie in which the G8 fills its communique with reheated aid pledges with no clear timelines.”

While the U.S. compares favorably to most other G8 nations for its follow-through, if it stays on the current course, the Obama Administration’s funding to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria globally will fall substantially short of levels approved by an overwhelming majority of the U.S. Congress last year – at $35 billion over five years instead of the $48 billion promised by an overwhelming majority in both the House and Senate.

“With tough economic times and global poverty increasing, people want to see real coordination, consistency and follow-through to achieve solutions, regardless of whether presidents or prime ministers change,” said Robert Zachritz, director of advocacy for World Vision in the U.S. “People want promises to be kept. People don’t want to hear empty words with no meaning while their leaders have a nice dinner.”

Failing yet again to deliver on its promises to developing nations would further erode the G8′s already tarnished credibility. But more importantly, it threatens a huge social cost at a time when global recession is hitting low-income countries hardest. The World Bank estimates that as many as 2.8 million additional child deaths could result between now and 2015 unless urgent action is taken to mitigate the impact of the economic slowdown on household income and public spending.

Nevertheless, the host country, Italy, is actually slashing its aid spending and Berlusconi has proposed a “whole country approach” that would change the definition of what counts as international assistance in a way that might let his country off the hook for previous promises. This concept would bundle together not only what each government gives in aid, but also what charities, individuals, companies and trade contribute to development.

“This ‘whole country approach’ looks a lot like an opportunity for creative accounting that enables backsliding countries like Italy and France to appear to meet their aid commitment targets without actually doing so,” said Mbaya. “Now is not the time for smoke and mirrors, or for protecting national interests. It’s time for meeting funding commitments and pledging more. Unless G8 governments continue to invest in overseas aid, particularly in child health, they risk losing the moral, social and economic gains made to date.”

“The amount of aid under discussion equals only 2 percent of the total financial stimulus package announced at the G20 Summit in London earlier this year. Acting like a ‘Self-Preservation Society’ is only going to damage G8 countries and mean poor health and death for millions of children in the world’s poorest countries,” Mbaya continued.

“Aid spent improving the health of children and their mothers is one of the best investments the G8 can make in this current financial crunch,” said Mbaya. “Not only is keeping its promises the right thing to do, it’s the bright thing to do.”

Note to editors: See related 1-minute video spot at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AW4LKKL4suc

Visit www.worldvision.org/press

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender.

SOURCE World Vision

Source: newswire

comments powered by Disqus