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Concern comments on G8

The G8 meeting took place in the German resort town of Heiligendamm to discuss major global issues. It finished with the world leaders involved committing to growth and responsibility for developing countries. They claim to be conscious of their obligations on a range of issues, including the environment, and want to fulfil the promises they have made. Concern expresses disappointment that the final G8 communique imply returned to the rhetoric of Gleneagles in 2005.

Concern Worldwide is committed to a world without poverty and hunger. It believes there must be genuine increases in aid budgets in order to meet minimum targets on these issues by 2010 and the 0.7% target by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

Even though recommitting to the pledges made in 2005 is a positive step, follow-through and delivery is just as important. Concern believes that the problem is delivering on the promises – whether that is in terms of Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) or the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets on health, education and other social sector priorities.

This year is the half way mark to the 2015 deadline for delivering on the MDGs and halving world poverty.

At Gleneagles in 2005, world leaders promised to increase aid by $50 billion per year by 2010, of which half would go to Africa, the continent in greatest need. Some member states have not yet honoured their promises.

Concern urges them to get back on track and move from rhetoric to reality. They must go further than recommitting to old promises. In the end, they must deliver on them.

Moving forward

Concern believes the G8 must draw up clear timetables for reaching the 2010 and 2015 targets. Poor countries need steady and predictable increases in aid. Similarly, G8 members must provide a complete breakdown of their official aid each year and publish their data much more rapidly.

Investing in the poor

Concern welcomes the G8’s commitment to fund basic social protection schemes in the poorest countries, ensuring that they reach those most in need, especially the rural poor. Access to water and sanitation, education and other essential services, including health care, is critical in the fight against poverty.

Farming and agriculture

Agriculture continues to dominate the economies and societies of most African countries and is an important vehicle for economic growth. Millions of people living in poverty depend on farming. Concern is encouraged by the focus on supporting rural communities and agriculture within the communiqué. If the G8 is to truly support the poorest communities, then their support of initiatives from the African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development and Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme should reduce vulnerabilities of rural communities and marginal farmers and prioritise provision of food security. 

HIV and AIDS

The HIV and AIDS pandemic is affecting communities across the world – especially young women and children. Productive populations in many countries are being wiped out or left incapacitated due to the spread of HIV and AIDS. Access to treatment and essential medicines is the first step in battling this problem. The fight against stigma and discrimination is also a vital step in tackling the devastating consequences of HIV and AIDS.

Concern Worldwide welcomes the $60 billion commitment to fight AIDS, but what is lacking is a comprehensive funding plan. $30 billion has already been committed by US president George Bush. This will continue until 2013 and is already included in the $60 billion promised by the G8. The G8 seem to be diluting their commitment to universal access and are not on track to achieve MDG 6 Target 7 – to halt and reverse the spread of HIV and AIDS by 2015.

Climate change

The G8 communiqué statement on climate change, whilst recognising the urgency to tackle this issue, falls short of making firm commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This leaves plenty of room for political manoeuvring, and does not send clear signals for business investment and offers no certainty that the climate will be saved from irreversible damage.

The leading industrialised nations (G8) will aim to at least halve global CO2 emissions by 2050 and will work collectively towards this goal as part of a UN process. The big emerging economies are also to be incorporated in the process.

Further negotiations will commence at the UN climate conference in Bali in December 2007 and are due to end by 2009.

Collectively, the G8 nations, which represent just 13% of the world’s population, are responsible for around 43% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Yet the poorest countries of the world will bear the brunt of the effects and suffer most.

With this in mind, Concern urges industrialised nations to take immediate steps to significantly reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to move rapidly towards an internationally binding commitment that will lead to the halving of global CO2 emissions by 2050.

Finally, Concern Worldwide urges industrialised nations to provide much greater support to developing countries in adapting to the potentially devastating consequences of climate change.

Peace and security

Concern is pleased to see the G8 continue to support the issues of peace and security. The G8 leaders must ensure that humanitarian access for assistance in areas of conflict is maintained and solutions to the longer term conflicts are found.

Concern welcomes the G8 members and the African Union (AU) Commission’s renewed commitment to enhance bilateral relations on peace and security and holding a ministerial conference in Addis Ababa in October this year. The G8 should continue to strengthen the African Union and African regional institutions in peace-building and conflict prevention and the critical role therein of civil society.

Funding

There is a large shortfall in the global response to humanitarian need. Only one G8 member, the UK, has given its fair share. Italy, France, Japan, and the USA have given small amounts but not enough.

The G8 must now make genuine increases in high-quality, rapid, predictable, and long-term humanitarian assistance. Germany must lead by committing its full fair share to the Central Emergency Response Fund ($40 million) immediately.

Civil society

While Concern is pleased to see the G8 has committed to working with civil society, they must go further to ensure that civil society in African countries is strengthened. Democratic reform efforts have to be recognised as a development goal in its own right. Strengthening non-profit and independent actors is also of central importance in consolidating peace in conflict and post-conflict areas.

Concern calls on the G8 to make a concerted effort to ensure women’s participation in all stages of conflict prevention, resolution, and peace building as an essential element of increased civil society involvement.

Darfur and Chad

Given the continued insecurity and violence in Darfur, Concern urges the G8 to provide financial, logistic and other types of support. In its fourth year, the Darfur crisis continues and the number of people dependent on assistance has now doubled since 2004, to almost four million. The G8 must put their full strength behind the protection of civilians and peace in Darfur and other crises.

In neighbouring Chad, the numbers of displaced people has tripled since the St Petersburg summit in 2006, to over 120,000 (aside from the 230,000 refugees already there). This is partly due to the spill-over effects of Darfur. There is an enormous civilian-protection problem in Chad that must be addressed by the international community.