In 2005, millions of people in the UK and around the world spoke out against the scandal of poverty in a world of plenty, and demanded decisive political action from their leaders. The Make Poverty History campaign generated massive public pressure for action – on debt cancellation, trade justice and more and better aid – and pushed poverty to the top of the agenda when the world’s most powerful countries met at the G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland last July.
G8 leaders responded with a series of pledges – on debt, trade and aid, and on HIV and AIDS, which promised to help address the needs of more than one billion people living in extreme poverty. While these pledges fell short of campaigners’ demands,
ActionAid recognised that if they were implemented in full, 2005 would mark a turning point in the struggle to realise poor people’s most basic rights.
One year on, we ask whether the G8 is hitting its targets on debt, trade and aid. While 2005 was the start of a long process, and agreement on a genuinely propoor trade deal continues to elude, the extent to which the G8 is progressing on last year’s
pledges is an important indication of their commitment to the fight against poverty. The picture varies, by country and by target, but our overall verdict is ‘mission unaccomplished’ – a comment both on the extent of implementation and the staying
power of the G8 leaders. At present, a mix of backsliding, buckpassing and halfmeasures by rich countries risk undoing much of the progress of last year:
Drop the debt?
They promised to write off most of the multilateral debts in 18 of the world’s poorest countries.
One year on, they have delivered on this pledge, but have yet to cancel the debts of over 40 other countries.
More and better aid?
They promised to put the needs of poor people first, and cut harmful subsidies that put jobs at risk.
They have backtracked on this pledge, and continue to push for a trade deal against the interests of the poorest countries.
Universal aids treatment?
They promised to double aid to Africa as part of an extra $50 billion package by 2010, and take immediate action on better aid.
Currently they’re not on track to achieve this increase, with the countries that need to do most, currently doing least. On key aspects of better aid, donors are failing to reform.
If rich countries continue on this current path, the implications for poverty reduction are farreaching: inadequate progress on aid and HIV and AIDS, and absence of any significant progress on trade, would jeopardise the international development goals
of halving poverty, achieving universal education and cutting child deaths by 2015.
They promised to achieve universal access to treatment by 2010.
Donors are failing to back the pledge with sufficient money, leaving an annual funding gap of at least $10 billion a year.
Yet the G8 are not fated to fail. The world’s richest countries face a genuine and urgent choice: if they act now to implement the pledges they made at Gleneagles, their targets remain feasible and can lay the foundations for real inroads into poverty.
If in contrast they continue to allow the pledges made last year to slip, they will rapidly become unattainable, with grave consequences for people living in poverty. The coming months are a narrow window in which the G8 countries, either
deliberately or by default, will make their decision. Millions of campaigners around the world will be pressing them to take the steps needed to start making poverty history.