L’AQUILA, Italy — When I learned I was coming to the G8 Summit to promote global health, I sought advice from friends I thought might know about the arcane machinations of the annual summit. A British friend responded: “I’m rather disillusioned about the G8, to be honest. It seems like a PR event for world leaders to talk about the stuff they would do if only everyone else would get behind them!”
That pretty much reflected my own superficial views but I wanted to get beneath the surface and answer the question, “How is the G8 really doing in meeting the objectives it sets every year?” in an objective and unemotional way.
There is probably no better source of information than “The DATA Book,” published annually by the ONE Campaign: http://www.one.org/blog/category/data-report-2009/?aux=9 The 2009 report, just out, analyzes the G8’s progress on their commitments to Africa made at the 2005 Gleneagles Summit and since. They have good news and bad but, to my way of thinking, it is mostly bad.
At the end of 2008, the reports says, the G8 collectively had only delivered one-third of the Official Development Assistance increases it had promised by 2010. While the overall view is bleak, progress by specific countries in specific areas brings more cheer.
In 2005, for example, the G8 committed to help Africa by reducing the burden of HIV/AIDS, malaria, TB and polio and improving access to basic health care. In later summits, additional commitments were made to strengthen the disease-specific goals and support health system strengthening, the training and retention of health workers and the control or elimination of neglected tropical diseases.
Perhaps more than in any other sector, the report says, where concentrated investments have been made, measurable results have been delivered: HIV infections are declining and more people living with HIV are receiving care and treatment, rates of new cases of TB are declining, malaria mortality has been reduced in targeted countries and child mortality has declined.
However, Africa is seriously off the rails in terms of meeting the health MDGs especially in maternal and child health.
Similarly in water and sanitation, the G8 committed to a Water Action Plan at the 2003 Evian Summit and this plan was reaffirmed in the 2005 and 2008 summits. Despite this attention, the G8 has set no quantitative targets in the sector. And the report notes that “improvements in access to clean water and sanitation serve as a catalyst for progress in almost every other area of development, providing the foundation for good health, education and economic productivity.” Meanwhile, more than 4,000 children die daily from diarrheal diseases, which are spread through dirty water and poor sanitation and hygiene.
The ONE Campaign also analyzed the performance of each country and found that Italy and France “are performing so poorly that they are threatening to cause the G8 as a whole to default.” Indeed, in 2008, France fell behind Germany for the first time in terms of the quantity of aid it is delivering to Africa, where it was once a major colonial power.
They also found that the U.S., Canada and Japan were meeting or beating commitments (the U.S. is actually on track to exceed its 2010 target a year ahead of time) while the U.K. and Germany were pushing hard to meet more ambitious goals (the U.K. is on target to be the first G8 country to meet the UN goal of spending 0.7% of national income in ODA).