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G8 Summit Ends with Increased Aid to Africa, Commitment to Dialogue on Environment

This week’s summit of G8 or industrialized nations ended Friday in Gleneagles, Scotland. On the final day, the delegates stood shoulder to shoulder with African presidents to signal solidarity in the war against terrorists. Voice of America’s Joe De Capua has been covering the summit. He says the London bombings changed the tone of the meeting. While its focus remained on Africa, the terrorist attacks could not be ignored by those meeting here.

Standing with African leaders on the steps of the Gleneagles Hotel, the summit host, British prime minister Tony Blair, again addressed the issue of terrorism, before outlining aid to Africa and the Middle East:

“We speak today in the shadow of terrorism. But it will not obscure what we came here to achieve. The purpose of terrorism is not only to kill and maim the innocent. It is to put despair and anger and hatred in people’s hearts. It is by its savagery designed to cover all conventional politics in darkness, to overwhelm the dignity of democracy and proper process with the impact of bloodshed and of terror. There is no hope in terrorism, nor any future in it worth living. And it is hope that is the alternative to this hatred.

“So, we offer today this contrast with the politics of terror. Yesterday evening, the G8 agreed to a substantial package of help for the Palestinian Authority amounting to up to three billion dollars in the years to come, so that two states, Israel and Palestine, two peoples and two religions, can live side by side in peace.

“We came here also to acknowledge our duty to be responsible stewards of the global environment. We do not hide the disagreements of the past, but we have agreed on a process with a plan of action that will initiate a new dialogue between the G8 countries and the emerging economies of the world to slow down and then in time to reverse the rise in harmful greenhouse gas emissions. And this dialogue will begin on the first of November with a meeting here in Britain.

“And above all today we say in the presence of African leaders, we come here in solidarity with the continent of Africa. We have come here to announce a plan of action in partnership with Africa. It isn’t the end of poverty in Africa, but it is the hope that it can be ended. It isn’t all everyone wanted, but it is progress, real and achievable progress. It is the definitive expression of our collective will to act in the face of death and disease and conflict that is preventable. The 50 billion dollar uplift in aid, the signal for a new deal on trade, the cancellation of the debts of the poorest nations, universal access to AIDS treatment, the commitment to a new peacekeeping force for Africa, the commitment in return by Africa’s leaders to democracy, good governance and the rule of law.

“All of this does not change the world tomorrow. It is a beginning, not an end. And none of it today will match the same ghastly impact as the cruelty of terror. But it has a pride and a hope and a humanity at its heart than can lift the shadow of terrorism and light the way to a better future. And that is why in the end, the politics that we represent -- not just us as leaders here at this G8, but the millions of people outside this summit who believe in progress through democracy and decent collaboration between civilized human beings --- That is why in the end we are convinced the politics that we represent will win and will triumph over terrorism.”

As British prime minister Tony Blair concluded his remarks, he was followed to the podium by Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, current president of the African Union:

“We, the African leaders attending the meeting between G8 and Africa taking place in Gleneagles on 8th July 2005 are deeply distressed by the terrorist attacks that occurred in London yesterday, 7th July 2005. We are particularly saddened by the loss of life and seize this opportunity to condemn in no uncertain terms such mindless acts of terrorism.”

President Obasanjo said, “Africa has looked forward to this particular meeting with great expectation.” He added that African leaders “fail to understand what terrorist acts on the eve of such a momentous meeting are meant to accomplish.”

“Africa needs the [undivided] attention and commitment of the G8. We are pleased that our interlocutors have affirmed their resolve not to be diverted by these terrorist acts. We join them in that resolve. We convey our heartfelt sympathy to the bereaved families and the government of the United Kingdom. And we affirm our solidarity in the fight against terrorism.”

President Obasanjo called the Gleneagles summit a great success.

VOA’s Joe De Capua provided some of the specifics of the final communiqué:

AID: An increase of official development assistance to Africa of 25 billion dollars a year by 2010, more than doubling aid to Africa compared to 2004. Overall aid from G8 and other donors to ALL developing countries will increase by around 50 billion dollars a year by 2010 compared to 2004.

SUBSIDIES: There’s a commitment to end farming subsidies, but no date has been set. Prime Minister Blair, however, believes a date for ending subsidies will be announced in December at the Hong Kong ministerial meeting.

MALARIA: Work with African countries to scale up action against malaria to reach 85 percent of the vulnerable populations with key interventions that will save 600,000 children’s lives by 2015. And reduce the drag on African economies by contributing extra money to ensure access to insecticide-treated mosquito nets, adequate supplies of the latest medicines and presumptive treatment for pregnant women and babies.

AIDS: With the aim of an AIDS-free generation in Africa: reducing HIV infections…and providing, as close as possible, universal access to treatment for all those who need it by 2010. Also, increasing direct investment in AIDS vaccine research and increased support for AIDS orphans.

PEACE & STABILITY: Making progress on a commitment made at last year’s G8 summit to train and equip some 75,000 troops by 2010 to take part in peace support operations.

AFRICAN UNION AND NEPAD: Strengthen those organizations through what the G8 calls “flexible funding” for the AU – and by supporting greater transparency in public financial management.

EDUCATION: Greater investment for education, extra teachers and new schools.

The final communiqué also stresses that it is up to developing countries themselves and their governments to take the lead on development.

VOA reporter Joe De Capua says some NGOs are commenting on the Gleneagles summit. Environmental groups at the conference have been among the harshest critics of the G8. In fact, they’re one of the few movements with any kind of organized and effective media campaign to get their message across. They’ve been calling for much tougher action on climate change than was agreed on by the delegates.

Stephen Tindale, director of Greenpeace UK, says President Bush remains out in the cold on climate change.

“We’re disappointed. We think that this is not in any way significant progress. The international community is effectively treading water on climate change. George Bush has not shifted in any substantive way despite the claims that are being made. He said what he is now saying in the same terms in 2001.

“But the other seven have also not shifted. They haven’t gotten down to Bush’s level. There’s been a reaffirmation of the commitment to the Kyoto process and the international framework. So that’s why we say they’re treading water. That there hasn’t been any progress, but it least it hasn’t gone backwards.”

The Greenpeace official says, “The failure to make progress is not only a missed opportunity, it’s a failure to step up to a clear moral responsibility.”

President Bush says the United States is spending 20 billion dollars a year to develop new ways to deal with climate change. He has placed great emphasis on developing new technologies, including hydrogen power and cleaner methods to burn coal. The president has opposed the Kyoto Protocol, saying it is not good for the American people.

Also among those reacting to the summit is Seth Amgott of the NGO “DATA,” which stands for “Debt-AIDS-Trade-Africa.” The group was co-founded by rock star Bono, who has been outspoken in his support for greater aid to Africa.

VOA’s Joe De Capua asked Mr. Amgott about the effects of yesterday’s terrorist attacks on the G8 summit:

“We’re an organization whose primary offices are in the United States and the UK. Of course we’re very upset for the loss of life and for our compatriots here. We all know what it’s like to be under attack. That said, there’s no reason the summit leaders can’t do what they said they would do, which is to press on, do what they need to help the poorest people, in the world.”

Reporter Joe De Capua began his coverage this week with the UNICEF-sponsored C8 children’s summit in Dunblane, Scotland. He says the delegates have released a statement on the Gleneagles Summit. It says in part: “Today is a pivotal moment in history that will never come again. The world has woken up to the reality of poverty…We need more than promises, we need actions. We know that poverty is manmade and therefore man can undo it…Terrorism, like poverty, is man-made and can be eliminated. We believe that peace is a powerful instrument that can be used by everyone to fight the world’s problems.”

That statement was released by the 17 delegates to the children’s summit, aged 11 to 18.