Poverty and trade sidelined in summit talks, says Christian Aid
Global poverty and the all important issues of trade were effectively relegated to secondary concerns in St Petersburg, as world leaders used the G8 summit to hold urgent talks on the unfolding crisis in the Middle East.
So says UK-based international development agency Christian Aid in its summary response to the latest gathering of leaders from the worldís wealthiest countries.
A glimmer of hope was offered at the start of the three-day meeting when British PM Tony Blair successfully persuaded fellow leaders to put out a paper on Africa detailing what the world had done so far for Africa, say Christian Aid observers.
But Mr Blairís persistent determination to keep Africa alive on the agenda proved short-lived in the face of ever more serious news reaching the G8 from Lebanon and Israel.
The agency declares: ìDespite the frantic activity by officials to kick start the trade talks, it was clear from the moment the Prime Minister strode out on the podium for a final end of day conference on Monday (17 July 2006) just how far away the concerns of last yearís Gleneagles summit had gone.î
It continues: ìAfrica and aid was a world away as most questions from the massive travelling press corps centred on the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah.î
ìRumours that trade talks were back on track proved wide of the mark and today, before lunch with his colleagues, the Prime Minister confessed that he was pessimistic that any progress would be made.î
ìBut, Mr Blair confided, when the Presidents of the US, the EU and Russia as well as the German Chancellor Angela Merkel all lined up during lunch to say how important they regarded flexibility on trade, he felt ëheartenedí.
ìIt seems clear, however, that far more than a few well-chosen palliatives is required to break the log jam that has stalled the Doha Development round of WTO talks for so long.
ìRepresentatives of poor countries were not present at this G8 and it is essential that they attend any further discussions that will affect them so greatly.
ìIt is also paramount that the flexibility talked of at the G8 lunch relates to an ability of the rich countries to remove their damaging subsidies ñ particularly from the agricultural sector.î
Concludes Christian Aid: ìIf this flexibility means that poor countries are obliged to make even more concessions on removing what is left of their trade defences, then there can be no grounds for any agreement and yet another opportunity to achieve an equitable and fair trade policy will have been lost.î
[Also on Ekklesia: Mixed aid agency reaction to Blair G8 poverty pledge panel; Scottish church aid agency says G8 must do much more; Churches call for decisive G8 action; UK Evangelicals urge Bush to act on world poverty; Poverty campaigners to form human wristband around Edinburgh; Scotland gears up for 200,000 poverty campaigners; Cardinal rallies Catholics to protest at G8 summit;Chancellor proposes five point plan to continue 'make poverty history'; Debt campaigners look to 'unfinished business' of G8; World leaders failing global poor, says Christian Aid]