More Disappointing News From the G8

I have already posted about the disappointment about the G8 Communique's discussion of Climate Change. It turns out that there is also bad news for those who care about the world's poor: the G8 actually walked away from a commitment they made two years ago on AIDS. Larry Elliott of the Guardian has the details:

At the time it seemed like a pretty simple promise. Two years ago, the G8 met at Gleneagles and promised universal access to treatment for HIV/Aids by 2010. I don't know about you, but I've always thought that universal meant everybody that needed medical care would get it.

Certainly that was what the development charities thought. Indeed, the G8 promise on Aids was one of the reasons the Gleneagles declaration was welcomed by the NGO movement.

The estimate in 2005 was that 10 million people would require life-saving drugs, although the United Nations now thinks the figure could be 50% higher.

Since 2005, the G8 has had second thoughts. The Americans in particular were concerned about the open-ended commitment made at Gleneagles and insisted that this year's summit was more specific. Universal access - according to the new G8 definition - means that 5 million Africans will receive treatment from the G8 over the next few years.

As is all too typical of these gatherings, this blatant watering down of the Gleneagles commitment was dressed up as a stunning success. The G8 trumpeted the fact that it would be spending $60bn over the next five years on HIV/Aids (and malaria and TB) - half of it from the US and the other half from the rest of the G8. Washington calculates that its $30bn package is enough to treat 2.5 million people with HIV/Aids, and by doubling that figure you get to 5 million. Throw in some dosh from non-G8 donor countries and around 7 million people may get the help they need.

You don't need to be Isaac Newton to work out that 10 million minus 7 million equals 3 million. And you don't need to be Florence Nightingale to work out that the prospects for the unlucky 3 million are pretty grim. Let's not beat around the bush; it's probably a death sentence for most of them.

Sure, it could be argued that money is tight and that the G8 is doing the best it can in difficult circumstances. But that's just another smokescreen, since the total aid budget for the west is about one-tenth of what the world spends on military hardware. This is not about money; it is about priorities.

It's also about keeping your promises. If the G8 was a private company, there would be a strong case for suing it for breach of contract. As it is, the backsliding goes unpunished. But it does make you wonder whether yesterday's big new G8 initiative on climate change is actually worth the paper it is written on.

Read it all.

I think that Bono's reaction to the entire Communique--including its failure to make any serious commitment to Africa--is on the mark:

"This summit outcomes document isn’t readable in any language, it’s called a communiqué but it seems to have been deliberately designed not to communicate the real facts. Do they think we can’t read or count? We are looking for accountable language and accountable numbers: we didn’t get them today. The G8 do reiterate their commitment to the $25 billion for Africa in 2010, but the whole point of this year’s Africa piece of the G8 puzzle was to show a critical path for how these great nations would keep their great promise to Africa. Clear year-by-year steps were needed but this labyrinthine language offers no path - it’s a maze designed to lose an ever increasing movement of engaged global citizenry. But we are not lost; right now it’s the G8 that are lost.

"It's worth remembering that these aren’t statistics: these are hospitals without the electricity or clean water they’ve been promised, schools without roofs. Mothers without vaccinations for their children. The bureababble reveals a struggle within the G8. Some leaders have been stepping up but collectively they are slipping up. We’ve had plenty of fights with them this week – but they’ve had more with each other. Maybe the biggest achievement of 2007 is the emerging passion and commitment of the German people including the Chancellor herself – if only we could have turned her passion into more cash.

Read the entire DATA press release here.


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