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British Aid Agency Calls for G20 to Live Up to Promises for Poor

As leaders of the G20 group of major economies prepare to meet in the United States this week, a British aid agency is calling for them to live up to promises made for more financial aid to the world's poorest nations. The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development says poor countries have been hit hardest by the global recession and need help now.

The British aid agency says it wants to remind G20 leaders to live up to promises of aid.

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development policy chief George Gelber says G20 leaders will be discussing the 'green shoots of recovery' at their summit, but in many parts of the world the worst effects of the global crisis are still to come.

Gelber says in many of the poorest countries across the world the financial crisis is leading to devastating social decline.

In Zambia, he says, the downturn in global demand for copper - the country's main export - has led to unemployment across the country. Almost 20,000 miners have been laid off since the economic downturn began, and Gelber says many of their children will not be going back to school.

"Of course in our own country in Britain we are going through the downturn like the United States. But all children, virtually, have
returned to school in September. We cannot say the same in Zambia. In fact we made a calculation that up to 11 percent of their school children - that is 250,000 children - might not be returning to school," said Gelber.

Gelber says the G20 need to contribute more money toward the world's poorest through a new fund set up earlier this year. The Rapid Social Response Fund targets the most vulnerable families, often at a local, household level.

"Back in April, the G20 made no commitment as to a particular target for this fund, but they said it would depend on voluntary allocations and as we say in the report it is still less than half a percent of the total $50billion. And we would like to see more money pledged to that fund, and we would like to see that fund dispersing money rapidly to developing country governments and NGOs as well, so that they can use it to help the
poorest and most vulnerable families," he said.

Political analyst Tom Cargill from the London-based research organization Chatham House, says a failure by world leaders to provide money pledged to the developing world is an ongoing problem.

"It is the whole story that there has been in terms of the disconnect between pledges and actual delivery of monies, and this is very common
and has been the case for many years now. We see the world food program closing camps in Somalia because pledged money has not come through. I am afraid that in terms of the track record of rich countries in following up on pledges it is patchy to say the least," said Cargill.

More financial aid to the world's poorest is needed, he says, but aid alone is not enough.

"That is just one small part of what needs to happen in terms of promoting private sector investment into Africa. And really moving towards an economic growth agenda rather than a development agenda. These African states deserve and indeed, I believe, will play an increasingly prominent role in global economic affairs and they need to be supported in doing that," said Cargill.

G20 leaders are to meet Thursday and Friday of this week in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh. It will be the third summit in less than a year in which world leaders have come together to discuss their reactions to the global financial crisis.