Scottish church aid agency says G8 must do much more
A year on from the G8 summit at Gleneagles, leading Scottish aid agency SCIAF says the gap between campaignersí demands and G8 promises remains unacceptably wide ñ and that it is costing lives in poor countries.
The G8 has not yet delivered on many of its promises to help abolish poverty and restore justice, SCIAF claims ñ joining its voice to the growing chorus of constructive criticism from both church and secular development NGOs.
In a newly published report, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund calls on the G8 to ëmind the gapsí and to take decisive action.
It also urges anti-poverty campaigners to keep up the pressure on their governments and to build on the changes they have helped achieve over the past few years.
In 2005 a quarter of a million people gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland, to call for more and better aid, trade justice and debt cancellation. Among them were thousands of Christians from Catholic, Anglican and Free Church traditions.
The SCIAF report, One Year on from Gleneagles: Time to Close the Gaps, concludes that ordinary people and development groups played a crucial role in securing important victories on debt and aid, but the G8 has delayed implementation of its limited reforms.
SCIAF Chief Executive Paul Chitnis explained: ìIt is clear that G8 words and actions have fallen far short of what is needed. They promised much less than we demanded and, by and large, are not keeping their word.î
He continued: ìWhile important change has been achieved, especially in debt cancellation, promises to increase aid are much less than the extra 50 billion US dollars per annum that we requested. Of what was pledged last year only 20 billion dollars is new money, and delivery is delayed until 2010. This will cost 50 million children their lives.î
Declared Chitnis: ìWe asked for a binding timetable for countries to give 0.7% of their national income in aid. The EU agreed, but set the deadline for 2015, 45 years after the target was originally set. This is too little, too late.î
ìIn debt cancellation the G8 is implementing the promises made a year ago, and agreed 100% debt cancellation for some poor countries for the first time. Many poor people are seeing the benefit,î he added.
The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund and other agencies say that the G8 rich country promises fall short of the Make Poverty History coalitionís demands for cancellation of all poor countriesí debts.
Eighteen countries will see debt cancelled this year ñ but an estimated 60 countries need full debt cancellation if they are to meet the Millennium Development Goals and halve poverty by 2015.
ìZambia is one of the countries that has benefitedî, comments the SCIAF chief executive. ìA year ago they paid more in debt repayments to rich Western creditors than their budget for health and education. Now the government has pledged more spending on education, health, medicine and food supplements for people with HIV/AIDS, and has announced free healthcare for all.î
He notes that ìthe biggest gaps between campaigners and the G8 are in trade. Make Poverty History called for fairer trade rules, and the G8 agreed that developing countries should have the right to decide their own economic policies. Yet since the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, the EU and the US have been pressuring developing countries to open up their markets with potentially devastating effects, in areas as varied as agriculture, industry and services.î
ìSCIAFís report showsÖ that individuals can make a difference. [As] Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for International Development, told campaigners: ë2005 demonstrated that you can change things. If it wasnít for everyone lobbying, campaigning, writing, marching, willing that something should happen, then it wouldnít haveí.î
Concludes Chitnis ìSCIAFís findings encourage campaigners to keep up the pressure. The G8 has the power to help end poverty, and all those who marched in Edinburgh last year expect nothing less.î
The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund is the official overseas aid and development agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland. It resources programmes for change among poor people in Africa, Asia and Latin America, responds to emergency appeals, and campaigns for a more just world. SCIAF ìsupports poor people, regardless of race, religion or creedî.
[Also on Ekklesia: Grant trade justice, aid and church groups tell Peter Mandelson; UK global development minister meets with Scottish faith groups; Massive church response to world's worst disaster; Listen to the South Christians urged]