Over the weekend, leaders of the richest nations – including British Prime Minster David Cameron – met for the annual G8 summit near Toronto in Canada. The summit was immediately followed by a meeting of the G20.
Despite a focus on maternal and child health (see our other post for more detail on the Canadian-led initiative that was announced) the G8 has been accused of abandoning the world’s poor and missing the opportunity to build momentum ahead of the UN Millennium Development Goal summit which is being held later this year.
The loudest criticism has been that the final G8 communiqué failed to mention historic promises made by the G8 five years ago in Gleneagles, which included a $50bn (£33.4bn) increase in aid by 2010, of which half would go to Africa. Many G8 members – notably France, Germany and Japan – are off track to meet their share of this goal and will cause the G8 as a whole to miss the target. It is suspected that Gleneagles was not referred to because it would cause extreme embarrassment to those countries who have failed to deliver.
The UK is one of the few countries standing by its promises and we can be proud of the role that civil society groups such as RESULTS have played in building political will to maintain support for development even when people are feeling the pinch at home. David Cameron recently reiterated the UK’s commitment to delivering on the 2005 promises and expressed frustration with other leaders who “sign up to ideas and then do not deliver them”.
Although the UK is leading the way by reaffirming its pledges and also enshrining in law Britain’s commitment to spend 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid from 2013, it cannot tackle global poverty alone. In a recent speech, Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell said that the global recession is a time to “reaffirm our promises to the poor, not abandon them”. He called upon all countries to work towards a clear action plan to achieve the MDGs ahead of the UN summit in September and urged donors to fulfill their aid commitments. The role of governments in developing countries is particularly crucial and this is reflected in the final communiqué which states that attainment of the MDGs is a shared responsibility.
Having failed to live up to expectations and meet its own targets, many are asking whether the credibility of the G8 been irreversibly damaged. France, next year’s summit host, has what might be a final opportunity for the G8 to demonstrate accountability and genuine commitment to the world’s poor before it is completely replaced by the G20 as the top forum for international economic cooperation.
The G20 is taking on a growing role in international development. However, it missed the chance to adopt a Robin Hood Tax on banks which could have helped the millions of people forced into poverty by the global economic crisis.