The G8 have failed to Make Poverty History – now is their second chance

23 June, 2010 | Health and Education For All
Oxfam's G8 leaders Big Heads in Bonn, Germany. Credit: Oxfam
The Oxfam Big Heads at the recent UN Climate summit in Bonn, Germany. Credit: Oxfam

Five years ago Oxfam was part of the biggest ever anti-poverty movement that came together under the banner of Make Poverty History. The campaign had a list of ambitious – but realistic – demands to deliver ‘More and Better Aid’, ‘Trade Justice’, and to ‘Drop the Debt’. Make Poverty History campaigners challenged G8 leaders to make history themselves by taking the necessary steps to eradicate global poverty.

We called for donors to:

  • Deliver at least $50 billion more in aid,
  • Set a binding timetable for spending 0.7% of national income on aid, and
  • Make aid work more effectively for poor people.

Not all of the demands called for by anti-poverty campaigners were met, but we did get the G8 to make the historic promise to increase aid by $50 billion by 2010, with $25 billion of this going to Africa. They also pledged that they would cancel the debt of the poorest countries as a first step towards making poverty history. They did this in the face of an unprecedented global campaign which mobilised millions to demand action.

Aid works

Time is up on these promises this year and the verdict is in: the G8 have not delivered on their promises.

It is clear that while debt cancellation and some aid increases have produced real benefits for the world’s poor, around 40 per cent of the promised aid increase has not been delivered. This means there is a $20 billion hole in the promise the G8 made – enough to put every child in school or stop millions of children dying of malaria.

What’s even more scandalous is that only $11bn of the $25bn promised to Africa has reached the continent. This is the poorest continent on earth, yet the G8 have failed to do more here than for the rest of the world. As people face starvation once again in Niger, this shortfall is costing lives.

A $20 billion shortfall

France, Germany, Italy and Japan have all failed to find the money they promised to help the poor. Italy is the worst offender. Canada has also fallen short, but is close to hitting its target. The UK – which made a more ambitious commitment – is almost on track to meet its 2010 promise, and has promised to meet its target of giving 0.7% of its national economy in aid from 2013. The United States have met their promise – but only because they put so little money on the table in the first place: the US is nowhere near the UN target of giving 0.7% in aid.

2010 is a year of reckoning, and those millions of us who had such hope at Gleneagles, are still here to call on G8 leaders to meet your promises to the poorest. To ensure these promises are not broken forever, leaders meeting at the G8 in Muskoka must re-affirm the Gleneagles commitments in the G8 communiqué, and admit their disappointment at failing to meet their promises this year. What we don’t want to see is a G8 communiqué that massages the figures by revising down the $50 billion promise due to lower growth in rich countries.

The G8 must show the political will and leadership that at least equals that we saw at Gleneagles. Leaders must revitalize their own efforts to tackle global poverty by setting out an emergency plan to deliver the $20 billion shortfall on their promises by 2012.

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