Hazel Southam - Journalist

1st day of summit. UN/World Bank

The leaders of the G8 nations must take decisive action to halt spiralling rises in food and oil prices and to increase aid to developing nations.

This is the message from the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President, Robert Zoellick.

The two men spoke at the end of the first full day of the G8 Summit in Japan that had focused on food and oil hikes as well as aid to Africa.

‘The world faces three simultaneous crises,’ said the UN Secretary General, ‘a food crisis, the fuel crisis and a development crisis.

‘The Millennium Development Goals can address development. The G8 must agree to deliver on its commitments. No new promises are needed.’

His comments came as debate among the G8 leaders continued on aid to the developing world. At the Gleneagles Summit in 2005 the G8 agreed to increase aid by $50 billion a year by 2010, half of which would go to Africa.

But, with just two years to go, the G8 countries are falling short of meeting their commitments. Some estimates claim that they are as much as $30 billion short of the aid target.

Today, it appears that France and Italy want to backtrack on the 2005 commitments. And, debate is still underway about what promises will be made by this year’s summit.

‘For rich countries, $50 billion is pennies, for Africa this is life and death,’ said Oxfam’s Max Lawson.

Mr Ban also obliquely criticised the G8 leaders for not going far enough on the current crises. ‘Our efforts so far have been too sporadic, divided and too little,’ he said. ‘The time has come to take a very different approach. The UN stands ready to help.’

Aid agencies also spent the first day of the summit calling on the G8 leaders to meet their promises. These include commitments on climate change that would see carbon emissions cut by 50% by 2050, and providing universal access to treatment for HIV by 2010.

Tearfund’s Peter Grant said, ‘The framework was set out in Gleneagles and now is the time to deliver on those promises.

‘The money pledged is even more urgently needed now because of the current food and fuel crises,’ he added.

His words were echoed by the Head of Caritas Internationalis Delegation at the UN in New York, Joseph Cornelius Donnelly. Speaking in Japan, he said, ‘The G8 will be guilty of all they didn’t do on poverty if they fail to live up to past commitments.

‘There are a billion people without access to basic needs such as clean water, health care, a daily meal or education. Ending the scandal of poverty in a world of such wealth must be the top priority for world leaders at Hokkaido.’

However, criticism has also been levied at African leaders meeting their G8 counterparts in Japan today.

In a meeting earlier today, it was reported that some African leaders criticised the idea of sanctions against Zimbabwe. The apparently told the G8 leaders that ‘Mr Mugabe would retire in a few years time,’ and that sanctions could cause ‘internal conflict’.

This move was condemned by aid agency Tearfund. ‘This is a missed opportunity,’ said Peter Grant. ‘It’s unacceptable that ordinary people in Zimbabwe should continue to suffer and die because the regional and global leaders are not willing to act.’

Originally published in Ekklesia


About Hazel

Hazel Southam is an award-winning journalist who reports on religious affairs, international development and the environment. She has covered four G8 Summits.

She wrote for The Sunday and Daily Telegraph for 10 years. Her work has also appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Daily Mail and The Evening Standard.

Reporting assignments have taken her to places including Bosnia, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Albania, Nagorno-Karabakh, Senegal and the Arctic Circle.

In the UK, she has also delivered media training to the MOD and leading businesses.

Contact Hazel