The G8 summit opens next week in Hokkaido, Japan. The meeting brings together the leaders from the United States, Japan, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, Britain and Canada, and comes amid concerns over soaring food prices and shortages and global warming.
One of the groups following the G8 developments is the humanitarian organization ActionAid. Shafqat Munir is a chief spokesman for the group. From Islamabad, Pakistan, he spoke to VOA's Joe De Capua about their main concerns for the summit.
"We are focusing on four areas. Our focus is on Africa, because already the communication leak says that they (G8 leaders) have backtracked from their commitment in 2005. But now they are backtracking on the committed amount to Africa. (The) second concern is climate change. The third one is the food crisis because it increases poverty…. The food stocks are there with some of the big countries, but they're not releasing it. Some of the countries have raised their export rates and there are certain export bans on it. So we want that all bans should be lifted and there should not be any restriction on food supply to the people. The fourth point is we are focusing on health and HIV/AIDS," he says.
Many promises of aid were made to Africa at the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. Munir says those promises have not been kept. He says these are "the promises regarding the $25 billion that they need to give by 2010." He says that now G8 leaders are neither mentioning the amount nor the 2010 deadline.
The ActionAid spokesman says the NGO would like to see some immediate action taken on the food crisis. "Japan should take the lead and Japan should announce that it is releasing its 1.5 million metric tons of rice, which are in the stocks in Japan. Japan should take the lead in releasing this, and other G8 leaders…should also come up with their support on the food thing," he says.
Regarding biofuels, he says, "They are depleting the food security of the poor people in the world." ActionAid says rich nations should ensure that their production of biofuels does not affect food security, because the corn used to make a tank of ethanol for a car could feed a family for many months.ActionAid also says G8 leaders are backtracking on their commitment to greatly increase funding for HIV/AIDS programs, as they promised at Gleneagles in 2005.