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NGOs sceptical of G8’s promises to Egypt and Tunisia

The disbelieving groups say that the EU fell short on previous pledges

Reuters, Saturday 28 May 2011
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Charity groups criticised world leaders on Friday for failing to deliver on past promises and said they feared cash pledges at a Group of Eight summit to help new Arab democracies would rob other countries of aid.

The G8 agreed in the French resort of Deauville to ensure that development banks which they largely control will provide tens of billions of dollars in aid and development credits for Egypt and Tunisia, tied to political and economic reforms.

But lobby groups who track such promises say G8 countries are already $19 billion short on pledges made to a variety of international causes at previous summits over recent years.

"It seems unrealistic for the G8 countries to commit to such huge amounts when there is still a deficit of about $19 billion from previous summits," Egyptian activist Ragia Omran said.

Others said democracy might come at the expense of survival.

"We don't want the Arab Spring to be followed by an African winter," said Save the Children campaigner Adrian Lovett.

At last year's summit in Muskoka, Canada, the G8 committed to mobilising $5 billion by 2015 to fight child mortality.

The annual G8 meetings are the prime forum for leaders of the world's richest countries to show they care about the poor and every summit ends with the pledging of billions of dollars.

The most humanitarian of recent G8s was the 2005 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, where Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, backed by a bevy of rock stars, convinced fellow G8 countries and other donors to make pledges that the OECD estimated would increase development aid by $50 billion by 2010 compared to 2004.

But with mega promises came mega scrutiny and NGOs have hounded every G8 since then about the lack of follow-through.

Embarrassed by the NGOs criticism, the G8 has started tracking its members' pledges, culminating in a first G8 Accountability Report at the 2010 summit in Canada.

In the Deauville Accountability Report released this week, the G8 recognised that not all Gleneagles pledges were met and that a gap in financing for development remained. It blamed this partly on the economic crisis the world has faced since 2008.

"During this period, G8 countries have struggled to maintain their official development assistance commitments", it said.

It added that, in constant dollars, the OECD estimates that there is a shortfall of $19 billion from all donors, and that on that basis, donor countries are approximately three-fifths of the way to meeting the original OECD estimate.

CAMERON TOUGH ON COUNTERPARTS

British Prime Minister David Cameron defended his record, saying Britain would be the first G8 country to hit the target of spending 0.7 pct of its national income by 2013.

In 2010, G8 countries spent 0.28 percent of gross national income on aid. Britain was the most generous with 0.56 percent, Italy and Russia the most stingy with 0.15 and 0.05 percent respectively, according to the Deauville report.

"Britain will not balance its books on the backs of the poorest. Britain will keep its promises and I was tough in urging my counterparts to keep theirs," he told reporters.

John Ruthrauff, director of InterAction, an umbrella organisation for 200 U.S. non-governmental organisations said said the Deauville report gave sketchy details about what had been paid so far from $22 billion worth of food security aid agreed at a G8 summit in L'Aquila, Italy in 2009.

"The report estimated that since the L'Aquila summit, just 22 percent of the funds had actually been disbursed and 26 percent was in their words 'firmly on track to be disbursed', which means that it has not yet been paid out and is still in the promise column," Ruthrauff said.

AIDS campaigner Marie Yared said that in Gleneagles the G8 had promised to provide universal access to treatment for everyone infected with HIV by 2010. But a year after this deadline, two out of three people infected with HIV continued to die because of a lack of treatment.

"The G8 is the queen of promises," she said.

Cameron seemed aware of the G8's image issue.

"I think what people think back home about these summits is a bunch of people in suits get together make some promises, particularly to the world's poorest, and then they go in and have a big lunch and forget about the promises," he said. 

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