Posted by: davidjolson | 07/09/2009

G8 talks the talk but does not meet prior pledges

L’AQUILA, Italy — The G8 released its communiqué on health, water and sanitation commitments to Africa last night and, as I predicted in yesterday’s blog, the non-governmental organization (NGO) community here is not impressed. But neither are they surprised. The communique largely reaffirms previous promises, at which the G8 has become quite accomplished.
There are some things we at the Global Health Council like a lot, especially the G8’s pledge to “accelerate progress” on combating child mortality and on maternal health, “including sexual and reproductive health care and services and voluntary family planning.” We think those areas of health have been long neglected but regret that the G8 countries did not establish a more formal mechanism from making those laudable goals reality.
We also very much liked a reaffirmation of a $60 billion pledge to fight infectious diseases and strengthen health systems by 2012 — while we do understand that the G8 has done that for the last few years — and the establishment of a mechanism to monitor health commitments made at the last three summits, which may be the only significant new health commitment made here at L’Aquila.

What we don’t like, and this feeling is widespread among civil society representatives here, is the indisputable fact that the G8 has not come close to meeting past commitments. In fact, The DATA Report, the most credible source of information on this subject, says that the G8 had delivered only one-third of all assistance increases it had promised to deliver to Africa by the end of 2010 (in an earlier blog, I write about this in more detail). The Council calls on the G8 to get serious about living up to its previous commitments and doing it in a measurable and transparent way.

I must hasten to add, though, that the U.S. is one of the least guilty of the G8 members on this score. The DATA Report points out that the U.S. increased its assistance to Africa by 26% in 2008, a significant increase that outpaced the global average of 16%, and is now on track to meet or even exceed its 2010 target. It may surprise many that former President George W. Bush can take much credit for this astonishing turn of events.

However, the NGOs represented at the G8, largely European, were not pleased with the communique’s language on global health, water and sanitation, climate change, education, and the economy as laid out in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the other seven G8 leaders earlier this week.

“The communiqué is pretty disappointing with no real new initiatives or recognition of the dire state of the progress to meeting their previous commitments,” said Kel Currah, chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty G8 Working Group, which represents a broad cross-section of NGOs at the G8. “On the good side, they did produce an accountability annex but again, this was only for a few of their commitments and there are a lot of holes in the report.”

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