A major summit on the
global economic crisis opens Saturday here in Washington. World leaders and
representatives of the G20 will attend. The G20 consists of the leading
developed and emerging economies, as well as the European Union. The summit
will look at reforms and policies that could ease the crisis.
On the eve
of the summit, the humanitarian agency OXFAM is calling on world leaders to
remember the poor, who it says are carrying most of the burden. Gawain Kripke,
policy director for OXFAM-America, told VOA English to Africa Service reporter
Joe De Capua that leaders must address three major challenges in the short
"First and most
urgently is the fact that tens of millions of people around the world are
facing urgent needs because of the economic downturn and also because of a year
of very high food prices and very high energy prices. As many as 100 million
people have been thrust into poverty just in the last year. And so there's a
need to respond, both with emergency assistance and long-term assistance for
development," he says.
He adds, "A second
challenge is to make sure that new institutions are put into place to regulate
financial flows and make sure that the investments and transactions are better
regulated overall.… And lastly, many of the institutions we have, including the
UN and IMF, aren't quite fit to the task. And so we need to think of
refurbishing our existing institutions so that we have a proper way to regulate
and manage problems like this."
In a statement
Kripke writes, "There is a risk that recessions in rich countries will lead
politicians to take the short-sighted approach of cutting aid."
He tells VOA
"any economic downturn usually means less revenues and more expenses for
governments. And that's true in both rich countries and poor countries.
There'll be pressure in the coming years to cut government budgets in developed
countries and also in developing countries. And we're very concerned that the
poorest countries, who get significant assistance from rich countries, will be
the first thing cut in budgets in countries like the United States and Europe.
And we're calling on governments to make a commitment that they won't make
budget cuts that affect the poorest people first. And that they'll try and hold
the line on support for poverty-oriented aid."
official says another challenge facing rich nations is keeping the promises
made at recent G8 meetings to do more to find poverty and spur development.
"Cutting aid to developing countries is one of the least efficient ways to cut
the budget since it's not very much money in the scheme of things, but it has
the biggest impact on poor people."
Kripke says it's natural for
political leaders to protect their own citizens in times of crisis. "We're
already seeing that around the world, both in the United States and Europe, but
also in developing countries. They're making new commitments to provide funding
assistance, economic stimulus to help the working class, the middle classes
ride out this economic storm…. That makes sense. But it also makes sense to
make sure that the poorest people don't suffer the consequences of decisions
they had no role in and problems they had no role in creating."