Monday, June 28, 2010

Comment on G-8/G-20 aid disappointment

The disappointment in the conclusions to the G-8 and G-20 meetings have been varied and widespread. Many were hoping that Canadian PM Stephen Harper calls to restore accountability would be heard. They hoped that the leaders world restore their commitments to paying up on the aid they promised before. Instead, other items took up the agenda in the meetings.

From The Vancouver Sun, this commentary from Mark and Craig Kielburger sums up the frustration quite well. Craig and Mark are the co-founders of Save The Children.

Canadians are rightfully angry to hear that $1.2 billion is going missing from public coffers to pay for the G8/G20 summits. Too bad we've heard little about the missing $19.5 billion.

Five years ago, the G8 leaders shook hands with superstars such as Bono and Bob Geldof as they pledged $50 billion in aid to developing countries. At the 2010 deadline, they came up $19.5 billion short. That's the real scandal of the G8.

Maybe the security price-tag and the disruption to daily lives in Toronto would be worthwhile if the G8 and G20 actually delivered on commitments.

(Then again, maybe if the leaders followed through, the protests and security bill would be smaller.)

Unfortunately, it's security that shows up on balance sheets -not broken promises. Lack of accountability means commitments are usually forgotten soon after the Summits close.

In 1970, world leaders agreed to a pledge tabled by former Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to give 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product to aid. Despite resuscitating that commitment twice in 1992 and 2002, Canada is less than halfway to reaching this goal and has no timeline to see it through.

On top of this, we started the century with the now off-track Millennium Development Goals. Among other issues, it addressed maternal health. Today, the 2005 Gleneagles commitments are also collecting dust.

Gleneagles was ambitious. It cancelled $40 billion in debt. The leaders seemed serious about keeping their promises to increase aid. Unfairly, they raised our hopes before falling back into the perpetual cycle of promise, pose and put aside.

Going into the G8 and G20 Summits, the wealthy nations had delivered only 61 cents on the dollar committed. Think about it. If it was your mortgage, you'd face foreclosure.

But, despite the financial crisis, something started by greed on Wall Street, pushing an estimated 100 million more people in developing nations into hunger, some wealthy nations are actually lobbying to do less. These countries are France and Italy, two nations that have gone drastically off-course on their commitments.

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