World leaders failing global poor, says Christian Aid
In a hard-hitting response to the United Nations summit in New York , the UK-based international aid agency Christian Aid accuses world leaders of failing the world's poorest people by watering down key pledges on development.
NGOs and church organizations have reacted with dismay to the UN leaders' failure to make serious progress on the Millennium Development Goals first promulgated in 2000, debated by the G8 in Gleneagles, and aimed at halving global poverty by 2015.
Yesterday Live8 campaigner Bob Geldof gave the summit ëfour out of ten' in a packed press conference with British PM Tony Blair, who also conceded that 'there is a long way to go'.
Commented Charles Abugre, Christian Aid's head of policy: 'There are some glimmers of progress, but overall the tone of this summit has been bleak and depressing. Instead of achieving consensus, too many leaders have been posturing and defending their own interests.'
He continued: 'It is hard to believe that the cry for justice issued by anti-poverty campaigners across the world earlier this year has fallen on such deaf ears. Never was there such a chance to improve the lives of millions; never was there such a mean-spirited and self-interested response from the rich and powerful.'
Christian Aid commends UN progress on the Peace Building Commission, the Human Rights Council and the endorsement of universal access to HIV treatment by 2010.
'But apart from these, the main reason for any optimism was that 66 countries - including the UK - signed up to initiatives long championed by Christian Aid to ëplug the leak' of money leaving poor countries by tightening up on tax evasion,' declared Mr Abugre.
Christian Aid is a key member of the Make Poverty History campaign, which has recently been banned from advertising on British TV and radio , because government-appointed watchdog Ofcom has decided it is ëpolitical'.
Christian's Aid's assessment of the key UN Summit issues is as follows:
While Christian Aid supports the concept of a peace-building commission, we strongly feel that it needs to have more teeth. To be effective, it must be more than just an advisory body. People directly affected by war have most to offer in promoting a solution but they and the organisations representing them are not even at the table.
Human Rights Council
It's potentially a step forward, but we are concerned that it may be held to ransom and prevented from taking effective action by states who are themselves human rights abusers, as in the case of the present UN Human Rights Commission.
The commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which are widely accepted as international benchmarks, just crept in by the skin of its teeth. The rich country commitment to 0.7 per cent of GNP (Gross National Product) as aid first made in 1970 has failed to be renewed. An opt out allows countries - including the USA and Japan - who have not yet formally signed up to the 0.7 per cent target to avoid signing up to the pledge in future. This makes it less likely that the massive resource gap that exists for financing the MDGs will ever be closed.
On trade, the UN offers no hope to developing countries being forced to liberalise their economies. While the G8 leaders at Gleneagles acknowledged that developing countries needed to have control over their own economic policies, the text simply reaffirms a ëcommitment to trade liberalisation'. As usual, rich countries cannot take their own medicine. They have rolled back from an earlier version of the text which promised immediate duty free access into developed countries' markets to all products from the poorest countries. Now they are just going to ëwork towards' this - a promise made so often over the years that it is entirely meaningless. This is a tragic missed opportunity to send a signal to the World Trade Organisation's ministerial conference in December that the world is ready for trade justice.
The document fails to go as far as the G8 in giving developing countries the space to decide, plan and sequence their development policies. It notes that developing countries must take ëprimary responsibility' for their policies and development strategies, but then dictates what those policies must be.
It is therefore much more ambiguous than the G8 communiquÈ on conditions attached to aid and debt relief.
On debt, the UN's endorsement of the first steps taken at Gleneagles is positive but is a mere regurgitation of the G8 deal. While it pays lip service to the need for broader debt relief, it contains no new suggestions for the way forward and is a big missed opportunity to address the systemic question of the debt crisis for developing countries the vast majority of which do not benefit from current initiatives on debt cancellation.
Christian Aid welcomes the endorsement of the G8 pledge to provide universal access to treatment by 2010. However, we are extremely concerned by the absence of any mention of the need for prevention and sexual education or the role that sexual and reproductive health services play in fighting HIV/AIDS
The recent shortfall in funds pledged for the Global Fund to Fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria shows that governments need to match rhetoric with money.