The July summit of the Group of Eight (G-8) leaders fell short of achieving the goal of “making poverty history,” according to Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical organization dedicated to social justice, which is calling for the “immediate and unconditional cancellation” of debts owed by all poor countries to international financial institutions.
“Too little was done to write off illegitimate debts or remove the harsh conditions attached to debt relief or to reform the international trading system,” said Kairos in a written analysis of the implications of the summit held July 6-8 in Gleneagles, Scotland. “As a result more wealth will continue to be transferred from the impoverished to the affluent than will return in the form of aid.”
The summit of the world’s richest nations – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States – was supposed to discuss the problems of Africa and climate change, but was instead overshadowed by the London bombings on July 7.
In a prelude to the summit, G-8 finance ministers announced on June 11 a plan to cancel debts owed by some low-income countries to global financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
In the end, the summit ratified an agreement that wrote off $1 billion US in annual debt service payments of 18 of 62 countries needing a one hundred per cent debt cancellation, said Kairos. “At least 62 low-income countries need both immediate, unconditional debt cancellation and additional aid to meet the goals of halting the spread of HIV-AIDS and halving the incidence of extreme poverty, hunger and lack of safe drinking water.”
Kairos also noted that under the G-8 accord, eligibility for debt cancellation or new loans remains contingent on adherence to policies of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “The conditions attached to debt cancellation will exacerbate poverty rather than end it,” Kairos said, quoting Lidy Nacpil, international co-ordinator of Jubilee South, a network of debt campaigns, movements and people’s organizations from Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean.
Kairos also took media to task for focusing their reportage on “what politicians and rock stars said” about the summit and leaving out those who are directly affected by poverty and those working towards ending it.
“While reporting on Gleneagles has focused on the quantity of aid, little attention has been given to its quality. Too much aid is tied to procurement of food or medicines or paying consultants from within the donor countries,” said Kairos.