G8 leaders lunched and talked with African heads of state at a luxury hotel on Monday as activists accused the rich nations’ club of back-pedalling on pledges to double aid to the world’s poorest continent.
The issue of African poverty that tops the agenda at the start of a three-day summit in Japan is closely linked with rising food and fuel prices and the contentious topic of how to fight global warming, which the G8 will tackle later in the week.
The G8 has invited seven African leaders to join the opening day of its annual summit, taking place on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Max Lawson, a policy adviser to Oxfam, a British advocacy group, said the summit was arguably the most important G8 gathering in a decade.
“The world is clearly facing multiple crises — serious, serious economic problems, both rich and poor countries. But it is poor people who suffer the most, suffering hugely from food price increases,” Lawson said.
At its 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 agreed to double aid by 2010 to $50 billion, half of which would go to Africa. But a report last month by the Africa Progress Panel, which was set up to monitor implementation of the Gleneagles commitments, said that under current spending plans the G8 will fall $40 billion short of its target.
“There are good plans being developed. We also know when efforts are made, great results can be achieved. But the problem is these plans are not being backed by serious financing," said Oliver Buston, a spokesman for activist group ONE.
“It is as if the G8 has built a car but they have not put any fuel in it. It is time for that to change.”
Monday’s talks brought the G8 — the US, Japan, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, Italy and Russia — together with leaders of Algeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.