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African NGO's Call G8 Meeting A 'Lost Opportunity'

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African NGOs Call G8 Meeting a 'Lost Opportunity'

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Nilla Ahmed,Inter Press Service

EVIAN, France, Jun 3 (IPS) - Six African organizations, representing women, labor, researchers and development activists described the outcome of the G8 summit as a "stunning failure."

As the world's seven major industrial nations and Russia concluded their deliberations, the group said some "drops of aid out of Evian amount to a small patch for the hemorraging economies of Africa."

"Without a change in world trade rules the rhetoric of ensuring a fresh start for Africa will not translate into meaningful action or a new partnership for Africa. We urge African leaders and citizens to take forward the initiative and primary responsibility for resolving Africa's development crisis," they said.

The group includes AWEPON, the African Women's Empowerment Network, CEDESRIA, the Council for Development for Social Science Research in Africa based in Dakar Senegal, COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Union, FEMNET, the African Women's Communication and Development Network based in Kenya, MWENGO and the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition both based in Zimbabwe.

In a statement they said there is an urgent need for a common African position in the run-up to the inter-ministerial meetings of the World Trade Organization, scheduled for September in Cancun, Mexico.

The African civil society organizations recognize that some progress has been made in raising the $6 billion promised by the G8 in 2002. "However, we are still a long way off from meeting the $25 to $35 billion required by the United Nations to halve poverty in Africa by 2015," they said.

Most of the new pledges announced recently, including $15 billion by the United States for global AIDS programmes and money to fill the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) finance gap, they say, are not on the table yet.

"It should be noted that the G8 continues to spend less than 0.3 percent of their gross national product on aid," they said.

On issues of health, the African NGOs said in the light of the deadlock at the last Doha World Trade Organization meeting and the success of national treatment action campaigns in Uganda and South Africa, the G8 summit was "a lost opportunity" for progress on the right of African countries to import and distribute cheap, life-saving drugs such as anti-retroviral medicine for AIDS and other life-threatening diseases.

"This year the G8 has failed to indicate sufficient progress in raising the resources to eradicate polio, combat tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS. The amount allocated is still a far cry from the 10 billion dollars needed by the UN Global Fund to treat and prevent these diseases," the groups said.

On trade and agriculture the G8 "was ultimately a disaster" for African farmers, as it failed to adopt even limited proposals for a moratorium on reducing European and American tariff duties and subsidies for US and European agriculture.

"These policies are perverse. While the livelihoods of millions of African farmers are being ruined by these policies, European livestock are ensured major state subsidies. We note the commitment of the G8 to refocus on support to African agriculture, but the G8 has avoided translating this commitment into a tangible amount," the statement said.

The African NGOS further noted that despite the failure of Evian, the G8 continued to have outstanding obligations and commitments to Africa. "For this reason, Africa must remain on the agenda of the G8 until these obligations are fulfilled."

Meanwhile development campaigners said they felt let down by the failure of the G8 to deliver on Africa. The humanitarian organization Oxfam International declared the Evian meeting to be a "washout." It said the leaders failed to tackle Africa's pressing problems, such as U.S. and European Union dumping of subsidized farm produce, which is destroying the livelihoods of millions of people.

According to Oxfam, rich countries subsidize their own farmers with $1 billion a day and most of the money goes to large agribusinesses. In fact, Oxfam said, these countries spent over 25 times more on subsidizing agribusiness last year ($311 billion) than they did on aid to Sub-Saharan Africa ($12 billion).

"If this is the Summit, I'd hate to see the valley. When the history of the war on poverty is written in years to come, the Evian Summit won't even merit a footnote. But this failure should not be an excuse to knock Africa off the agenda of future summits," said Justin Forsyth of Oxfam.

At a press conference in Evian Sunday, African heads of state said Africa was committed to trying to solve its own issues and would not be running to industrial nations expecting them to solve the problems of the continent.

The conference was addressed by the presidents of Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal and Algeria. They described the Evian meeting as "nice" and thanked the French government for taking the initiative to invite Southern countries to attend.

The African leaders admitted that little progress had been made on debt issues, but said the G8 leaders had pledged to take a personal interest in resolving the issue.

They also announced the setting up of an African Agricultural Development Fund, which would work in conjunction with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to tackle the issue of food security on the continent.

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