Thursday, 9 July 2009

Could food poisoning spark the Road to Damascus?

As the G8 leaders tucked in to their stately dinner and discussed action on Iran, Burma, piracy and other delights we in the media centre tucked into our cold pasta and stale bread to have a good old moan about Berlusconi and chums.

Given the chequered history of the G8, and the apparent reluctance of richer countries to stand in solidarity with poorer ones as the global recession hits, yesterday’s announcements generally came as no great surprise. Once again the G8 flattered to deceive, and failed to provide the sort of emergency response poorer countries need to get through an economic crisis not of their making. Nor, as you see from our press release in our previous blog, did they maintain their promise to deliver an "enhanced implementation plan" to drive progress in achieving water and sanitation for all. All they could do was give themselves another 6 months to think about it.

That is not to say a political commitment to work in partnership with African Governments is not important. It is. But this was essentially what happened last year – this year was supposed to be about action and about delivery for communities who need to drink clean water, not vague promises. 

A further statement – made jointly with African leaders – is due tomorrow, to outline their common desire for a partnership. We shall see if further tangible commitments are given in this statement, and plead for a sudden bout of sense.

What could cause that sudden flash of inspiration, what could be that Road to Damascus moment that convinces the 8 most powerful people in the world that it was time to act for the 2.5 billion people who have no access to a safe toilet  and the 900m people without clean water?

Popular support, media focus, peer pressure, and a suddent emergence of conscience would all surely help. Or a nasty bout of diahhroea perhaps, especially if coupled with having to use the not-so-sanitary portaloos on offer to media and NGOs. Though I imagine they have nicer ones. Oh, and the water was cut off yesterday too. Though I imagine they have nice bottles of Evian to see them through…

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