G-8 Aid Plan Falls Far Short of What Africa Wanted

Idea Is to Help the Continent Help Itself, Says Blair

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KANANASKIS, Alberta, JUNE 28, 2002 (Zenit.org).- The G-8 summit approved a kind of «Marshall Plan» for Africa, but one that falls far short of the expectations of African nations and the United Nations.

The most urgent priorities at the meeting of the leaders of the Group of Eight, the world’s most industrialized countries, was the struggle against poverty in Africa and the dismantling of the Russian nuclear arsenal.

At its two-day meeting that ended Thursday, the G-8 decided to allocate $6 billion annually, to halt the spread of poverty in Africa.

The figure was far below the $25 billion that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan considers necessary, and only a fraction of the $64 billion that the African states requested.

The G-8 meeting also approved an additional $500 million to $800 million to reinforce the International Monetary Fund’s mechanism for easing the liability of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC).

The Africa Action Plan will encourage foreign investments and give aid to countries that open their economies, eliminate corruption, hold democratic elections, and respect human rights.

The plan is in response to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an initiative of South African President Thabo Mbeki, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade and Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who attended the meeting in this Rocky Mountain resort, 100 kilometers (65 miles) west of Calgary.

Africans are far worse off today than they were 40 years ago. Forty percent of the sub-Saharan population live on less than $1 a day. There are 140 million illiterate youths. Africa is the only region of the world where the number of children who do not go to school is increasing. AIDS affects 25% of the population in several countries. More than 200 million Africans have no access to health care, and more than 250 million have no potable water. One out of every five Africans is affected by armed conflict.

Per-capita gross national product in Africa grows at an anemic rate of about 0.1% annually.

The three key points of the Africa Action Plan are: an agreement to create a peace force in Africa; a commitment to defeat polio by 2005, and a resolution to open the global market to African exports, eliminating barriers and removing agricultural subsidies in industrialized countries, before 2005.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the G-8’s idea is «to help Africa help itself.»

The G-8 is composed of the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Russia.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. Catholics’ humanitarian organization, has criticized the G-8 response to the African crisis, considering it far below the needs of the health crisis in that continent.

Henry Northover of CAFOD, the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development in England, said: «Hopes for a potential new aid relationship between the richest countries and Africa have been squandered.» CAFOD said the G-8 plan was empty and did not set a firm agenda.

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