DEAUVILLE, France — The Deauville G8 Declaration released today did not give us much new in global health, except reaffirmations of previous commitments for which, perhaps, we should be grateful, given that we had been hearing that we might not even get that.
But we did get something we had not expected and could not have dreamed of getting. Tucked away under Point 59, Page 11 of the G8 Declaration was a remarkable bit of candor. The G8 admitted that it had fudged the numbers in the Deauville Accountability Report it had released last week. Well, they did not say it quite that … candidly. But that is, in fact, what they implied.
To be precise, the final declaration says: “In 2005, the OECD estimated that official development assistance (ODA) from the G8 and other donors to developing countries would increase by around $50 billion by 2010 compared to 2004. There is a gap of $19 billion in constant dollars or $1.27 billion in current dollars, relative to OECD estimates for 2010.”
That was an amazing statement, for it is precisely that fact with which NGOs and the New York Times have been slamming the G8 since their accountability report came out last week.
And for that candor, we apparently have British Prime Minister David Cameron to thank. Today in an unusual press conference on the second day of the Deauville Summit that had some NGO representatives raving about Cameron’s impressive performance, he said he was the one who insisted on putting it in the declaration. Reportedly, he twice raised pointed out the inability of world leaders to match their promises. And he said Germany and Italy were the most guilty.
Cameron passionately defended his stance on foreign assistance after The Daily Mail newspaper criticized him for a report showing Britain spends more on aid than its G8 partners.
“I think what people back home think about these summits is that a bunch of people in suits get together, make some promises, particularly to the world’s poorest; then they go in and have a big lunch, and forget about the promises. I am not prepared to do that. These are things that matter.”
“If we are going to get across to the poorest people in the world that we care about their plight, and we want them to join one world with the rest of us, then we have got to make promises and keep promises. Of course it is difficult when we are having to make difficult decisions at home, but I don’t think 0.7 % of our gross national income is too high a price to pay for trying to save lives.”
But after the G8’s brief flirtation with total candor, they immediately reverted to the same obfuscation of the facts that had gotten them into trouble in the first place: “Despite the worldwide economic crisis, the G8’s ODA increased from USD 82.55 to 89.25 billion in current dollars between 2009 and 2010. This represents 70% of global ODA, which reached USD 128.73 billion in 2010, representing a 7.27% increase in current dollars compared to 2009.”
Oxfam, one of the G8’s biggest NGO critics, said this showed the G8 had not come to terms with the reality of the OECD verdict on their aid figures and used both their massaged figures and the OECD figures alongside each other.
David Cameron gained a lot of new respect today in Deauville.