Wednesday, 30 June 2010

More muddy waters at G8 summit

Blink and you might have missed it, but the 2010 G8 summit took place this weekend in Muskosa, Canada. Five years on from the grand promises at the Gleneagles G8 summit, this was the year that the G8 were to be judged on their word. The result won’t surprise many people – the mooted extra $50bn in aid was short by a whole $20bn. Some countries performed well – the UK is on track, for example – while others went backwards. Italy so much so that campaign organisation ONE called for the Italian PM to be kicked out of the G8.

This year was, of course, dominated by trying to instigate a global economic recovery on the back of the financial crisis, but in the final communiqué some attention at least was given to the health crisis facing mothers and children worldwide. The G8 pledged to provide and extra $5bn to tackle the crisis in their signature ‘Muskosa Initiative’.

More focus and finance on maternal and child health is welcomed, but as always with the G8, the devil is in the detail. Without keeping promises on overall aid spending, which for many countries has flat lined, it remains very unclear (and in fact unlikely) that this money would genuinely be ‘new’, or would merely be moved from other pots. As Oxfam spokesperson Mark Fried put it, “unless aid increases, African children will be paying for their mothers’ healthcare by sacrificing their education.”

Dorothy Ngoma, Executive Director of the National Organization of Nurses and Midwives of Malawi, added: “As a mid-wife, I believe it is crucial to invest in the health of mothers, but I also know the importance of food on the table and clean water to drink. No one should be forced to choose between these. New promises won’t do much good if old ones are ignored.”

There was little focus on sanitation and water. While its importance to health was recognised in the plan for maternal and child health, there were no clear commitments for action. The G8 did release anaccountability report’ that showed G8 aid to water and sanitation increasing, but as we know from the launch of this year’s GLAAS report it is distorted by the fact it is too rarely targeted towards to the countries and people who need it most.

As always there was plenty of NGO activity focused on the Summit, and the nearly 100,000 people who supported the World’s Longest Toilet Queue formed part of a petition and message given to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper before the summit started. See what NGOs got up to here.

With the G8 delivering so little, and its importance waning, all eyes turn to New York this September when the world’s leaders convene to talk about development. Find out what you can do here.

No comments: