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G8: Freedom and democracy highlights but development promises still languish

The Leaders of the G8 countries met in Deauville, France on 26 and 27 May 2011 and reaffirmed their commitments to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality in the G8 Declaration on Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy, May 2011. G8 leaders envisaged financial aid of some $40 billion to Tunisia and Egypt, with other countries in the region set to benefit when democratic reforms take hold. The G8 also announced a ‘renewal’ of their partnership with Africa, welcoming the ‘spread of democracy’ and the ‘new dynamism’ of African nations. The group met with leaders of seven African states and, for the first time, adopted a joint declaration with them.

In the Declaration on “Accountability on Development”,  G8 leaders endorsed the “Deauville Accountability Report and the “G8 Commitments on Health and Food Security: State of Delivery and Results”. In addition, they reaffirmed their intent ”to meeting commitments and tracking their implementation in a fully transparent and consistent manner”, as well as their commitments to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

 

With less than 5 years remaining for the realisation of the MDGs, it will be difficult to achieve them without the support of the G8. Although there are no new financial commitments to the MDGs, it is reassuring to see the affirmations in the declaration and the joint statement with the African leaders:

“We welcome the outcome document on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) "Keeping the Promise" and we reaffirm the commitments that we have made during the High-level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs, stressing the importance of democratic governance as a central element for achieving these goals. While we recognise the magnitude of the challenges, the actions of both developing countries and donor partners have already contributed to positive results. We will continue to support developing countries to work towards achieving and sustaining the MDGs by 2015 and encourage all stakeholders to do the same, focusing on the protection and empowerment of individuals and communities to improve human security.”

In spite of these welcome written affirmations, Global March believes that with if the international continues its development programmes and intentions in a ‘business as usual’ approach, the goals, particularly those related to poverty and education, will be missed by a wide margin.

Global March Chair Kailash Satyarthi lamented that an entire school-going generation will miss its right to an education at the current pace. Compounded by the global economic crisis and the emerging food crisis, there is evidence that the rate of progress on education is slipping and more and more children are falling through the cracks and turning to the labour market to lessen household hunger. In the long-term, this situation will worsen  social inequalities, slow poverty reduction efforts and undermine economic growth.

Currently, it is estimated that there are 67 million primary school-age children and an even greater number of adolescents who are not in school. Millions more are sitting in classrooms receiving an education of such poor quality that it will do little to enhance their life chances. In addition, ILO’s estimates in 2010 indicate that there are 215 million child labourers in the world and some 115 million in hazardous occupations that harms their health, safety and moral wellbeing. These estimates were drawn from statistics available prior to the global economic crisis and the growing world food crisis and are therefore under-estimations. The situation by now is far worse and the international community needs to take heed of the call for urgent and accelerated action launched by the Roadmap to Achieve the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 unanimously acclaimed by the Global Conference on Child Labour in The Hague, the Netherlands, 10-11 May 2010.

In their declaration on official development assistance (ODA), G8 leaders stated that:

“In 2005, the OECD estimated that official development assistance (ODA) from the G8 and other donors to developing countries would increase by around USD 50 billion by 2010 compared to 2004. There is a gap of USD 19 billion in constant dollars or USD 1.27 billion in current dollars, relative to OECD estimates for 2010.”

Commenting on the declaration, Kailash Satyarthi remarked: “We welcome the intentions of the G8 and the inspired words on freedom and democracy. However, we must remind and refresh the commitments made by the G8 in the past, especially the commitments to Sub-Saharan Africa and development and humanitarian support. The ODA commitment is still behind by $19 billion. With the food crisis spiraling out of control, it is of great concern that less than $5 billion has been provided for agricultural investments. These declarations are important statements of intent, as was Roadmap 2016 issued last May, but they are meaningless without action and investment. We expect the G8 and G20 leaders  to keep their promises to the world, particularly vulnerable communities and children, and to step up efforts to realise the MDGs.”

The G20 is emerging as the dominant group in the world economy, while the G8 gives the majority share for global development assistance. The next G20 summit is scheduled for 3-4 November 2011, in Cannes, France.