Tuesday, 8 July 2008

G8 leave 2.6 billion people with nowhere to go

1200 GMT

And here it is, the G8 statement on Africa and Development. The collective wisdom and energy of the 7 most powerful men - and the world’s most powerful woman - on the continent’s development.

And what does it say?

Not a lot. Certainly not enough to satisfy the hundreds of thousands of campaigners who demanded a global action plan to provide sanitation and water for all. And certainly not enough for the 2.6 billion people around the world who have no safe place to go to the toilet.

To be fair, there are some positives – sanitation and water have been discussed at the top table for the first time in 5 years. They recognised it as central to improving health and development, acknowledged the need to accelerate efforts to meet the millennium development goals and started a process which will be reviewed at next year’s G8.

But really, lets not get too excited. Imagine if you were one of the world’s most powerful people (maybe you are, if so call me). Imagine you were discussing ways to stop kids dying with your 7 extremely powerful pals. Imagine you knew that poor sanitation probably kills more children every year than any other cause. What would you do?

• Issue a statement that provides almost no concrete commitments – and no money - to deliver more taps and toilets to the world’s poor?

• Set up a working group to report in 1 year (by which time 2.4 million children will have died from poor sanitation), based on implementing a failed plan agreed 5 years ago?

• Actively veto suggestions made by your powerful friends that might actually improve the health of 40% of world’s population?

If last night you ate a meal with 18-24 dishes (depending on which paper you read) then you might well have done all of the above.

In many ways we’ve forward since the 2007 G8, when neither water nor sanitation got a look in. We have a platform to go forward to the UN meeting in September. But is this pace of change, this level of ambiguity, this lack of money really acceptable to someone living in a slum next an open sewer, sharing 1 insanitary toilet with hundreds of other people?

Messrs Brown, Burlosconi, Bush, Fukuda, Harper, Merkel, Medvedev and Sarkozy: what do you think?

And whilst we’re at it, leaders of Africa: is this what you were looking for?

For the official response, read the End Water Poverty press release

Read the G8 communique on Africa and development

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