Poor states demand aid pledges

September 23, 2008 12:00 am

, UNITED NATIONS, September 23 – A UN summit on Africa’s development wrapped up with a call on rich countries to honour their pledge to double their annual aid to the continent, which is struggling to meet poverty reduction goals by 2015.

Representatives of more than 160 countries adopted by consensus a political declaration on Africa’s development needs.

"We are concerned that, at the current rate, the commitment of doubling aid to Africa by 2010 as articulated at the G8 summit in Gleneagles (Scotland) will not be reached," Monday’s text said.

"We call for the fulfillment of all official development assistance-related commitments, including the commitments made by many developed countries to achieve the target of 0.7 percent of gross national income for official development assistance by 2015," it added.

The gathering, held on the eve of the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate, was attended by world leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy and several of his African counterparts, notably Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania.

Participants also welcomed the increased aid flows from "new development actors, including some developing countries, global funds, the private sector, civil society organizations, as well as from innovative sources of finance."

The declaration also called for an "integrated response" by African countries and the world community, including a partnership to back integrated and sustainable agriculture and rural development and stressed the importance of food security.

Kikwete, the current chairman of the African Union (AU), welcomed adoption of the declaration as well as the "frank discussions" that took place during the meeting, held three days before another summit here on implementation of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) worldwide.

In 2000, a world summit here agreed on eight MDGs to be implemented by all countries by 2015. They included halving the number of people living below the poverty line — now set at 1.25 dollar a day — between 1990 and 2015.

The declaration also stressed the importance of promoting "South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation, which have great potential to facilitate the exchange of successful strategies, practices and experiences."

"It has been a successful day for Africa," Kikwete said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon also appealed to rich countries to implement the 2005 Gleneagles summit pledge to more than double aid to Africa (to bring it to 50 billion dollars)."

At their 2005 summit in the Scottish town of Gleneagles, G8 countries — the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada and Russia — vowed to boost aid to Africa with an extra 25 billion dollars (17 billion euros) per year by 2010.

And the recent meltdown of the global financial industry that led to a proposed 700-billion-dollar US government bailout is likely to make donors even less willing to offer more help.

"It will cost about 72 billion dollars per year in external financing to achieve the MDGs (in Africa) by the 2015 deadline,"Ban said. "This price tag may look daunting. But it is affordable and falls within existing aid commitments."

Meanwhile Sarkozy warned new donors like China against fueling a new "debt crisis" on the continent.

The French leader, whose country currently chairs the European Union (EU), cautioned them against helping set "the stage for a new debt crisis" in Africa.

"Europeans and Africans have agreed on untying aid. Why then go back on this principle with donors from other continents," he said, referring to countries like China, without mentioning it by name.

Western analysts have warned that China’s offer of billions of dollars in unconditional aid and cheap loans to African governments risks pushing back into debt countries that have only just benefited from debt relief and hurts efforts to promote democratic rule and good governance.



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