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G8 summit

Mixed results

International aid organisations have been unanimous in their negative response to the G8’s Africa declaration at Heiligendamm. The agreements on climate protection, however, have met with some approval.

The “Growth and Responsibility in Africa” declaration, on which the G8 heads of state and government agreed at their summit in the Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, has repeated the promise made in Gleneagles in 2005 to raise official development aid (ODA) for Africa by $ 25 billion by 2010. “Significant progress” has been made in realising this goal, the paper stated, but “further action is needed to meet our previous commitments”. Shortly before the summit got underway, Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel had announced that Germany will increase its ODA by € 750 million a year for the next four years.

The G8 leaders also pledged a total of $ 60 billion to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa. Half of this sum was promised by the USA. Ahead of the Heiligendamm summit, President George W. Bush had said he would ask Congress to double the funding for the US emergency plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR) for the five years from 2008 to 2012 from the present $ 15 billion to $ 30 billion. That aside, the G8 declaration made no mention of any deadlines for the actual provision of the extra money, nor did it contain any indication of whether the money is “new”. The G8 countries also reaffirmed their intention to contribute to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria when its replenishment conference is held in Germany in September. Without mentioning China explicitly, the G8 countries appealed to “emerging donors to follow internationally shared principles” and improve transparency of their aid.

The Association of German Development NGOs (VENRO) dubbed the G8 meeting a “summit of non-commitment”. Uli Post, VENRO’s deputy chair, complained that the Africa declaration contained “neither visions nor tangible plans for implementing and financing programmes”. The British aid organisation Oxfam slammed the G8 for coming no closer in Heiligendamm to keeping the promises they made at Gleneagles. Like VENRO, Oxfam criticised the fact that the G8 leaders claim to be working to improve the supply of life-saving drugs for Africa yet at the same time in their final declaration on global economic policy they called for a stronger system of international patent protection.

Criticism from a very different perspective has been voiced by a Ugandan government official. Moses Byaruhanga, a special assistant on political affairs to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, wrote in the opinions section of the Ugandan daily The Monitor: “The problem of Africa is not aid.” What Africa needs, he declared, is investment and manufacturing industries. While Byaruhanga accused the G8 to overemphasise aid, his assessment is similar to the G8 Africa declaration in many respects. Actually, it’s mainly civil-society organisations that demand more aid.

The G8 agreements on climate protection were given better marks than the Africa declaration. Here, particular applause was forthcoming for the fact that the US is now also signed up to recognising the United Nations as “the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change”. The summit considered it “vital” that the major greenhouse gas emitters should agree on a follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. The former president of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, Ernst-Ulrich von Weizsäcker, is reported by Spiegel Online as describing this outcome as an unexpected breakthrough. US President Bush, he said, has accepted that the UN is responsible; he added that more could not be achieved.

Greenpeace similarly welcomed the G8 commitment to new UN climate talks. At the same time, it criticised the G8 leaders for failing to agree on concrete reduction targets. The summit document merely contained the pledge to “consider seriously” the proposal to halve global emissions by 2050. (ell)