G8 states are breaking their pledges to fight hunger

The rich G8 nations have failed to keep their pledges in the fight against world hunger.

Worse: while the world food crisis increases the suffering in poor countries, the major industrial states at their summit in Toyako, in northern Japan, look like falling way behind what they have already agreed to do, critics argue.

"The current draft communique is an outrage," warns Max Lawson, senior policy advisor at Oxfam.

"Whether it refers to aid to Africa, education or health, the text shows that leaders are attempting to water down their previous financial commitments, or even reneging on them altogether."

But at least, he said, "there is still time for the Japanese presidency to show some leadership and turn things around" at the summit starting Monday, during which the G8 leaders will meet with African representatives, World Bank president Robert Zoellick and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

"Not only are the G8 failing to meet their promises, they are now failing to acknowledge they ever made them," warns Lawson.

Three years ago, at their summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G8 agreed to boost aid to developing countries by 50 billion dollars annually by 2010. At least half of this extra money should go to Africa, they said.

But the body led by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan which keeps a check on the pledges being fulfilled reckons that 40 billion dollars in aid promised to Africa has failed to materialise.

"The only promises that matter are the ones you keep," Annan has warned in making an appeal for the upcoming summit to make good on what the G8 has failed to come up with.

Oxfam says that Germany, France and Japan are the worst for not keeping their word.

The German government counters that shortly before the summit it decided to increase its development aid spending for 2009 by 800 million euros.

However, the 0.37 per cent of gross domestic product quota set aside for such aid is little affected by this. And it remains unclear how Germany will reach the 0.51 per cent promised by 2010.

The DATA aid organisation has calculated that the G8 countries managed to increase their aid for sub-Sahara states since 2004 by just 3 billion dollars to 18.8 billion instead of the promised 25 billion.

"G8 leaders seem to have quickly forgotten what they pledged to do when it comes to helping the world's poorest," says Lawson.

"At a time when oil and food prices are skyrocketing through the developing world, it is not the time to shy away from important pledges."

Appearing at the summit to give the G8 leaders a sharp reminder of their past pledges will be celebrity campaigners from the world of pop music Bob Geldof and Bono.

"It is tragic and absurd that people are still going hungry in the 21st century," Geldof has said before the meeting. "I cannot stand the idea that a food crisis born out of high energy prices and increasing global prosperity is starving the super-poor in Africa.

"(Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo) Fukuda is the chair of the G8 group and Japan is the second largest economy on the planet. It is his and Japan's responsibility this year to care for the hungry and ill.

"Given the resource crises of the world at this moment, we are dismayed at the low level of expectation emanating from the table of leaders of the wealthiest economies on the planet. It's about time their actions lived up to their perhaps misplaced stature."

Bono, a founder member of DATA and the ONE campaign, said: "in order to combat the world hunger crisis, we must invest in efficiency and productivity in Africa's agriculture."

World Bank President Zoellick for his part has issued a stern warning over the dramatic consequences for the poorest countries of the growing energy and food crisis.

An immediate injection of 10 billion dollars was needed, he said, in order to counter the effects on the world's worst-hit.

And Oxfam spokesman Takumo Yamada gave a bleak warning: "Rapidly rising costs of oil and food might cause pain in rich countries - but it is shattering people's lives and entire economies in developing countries.

"Having to choose between eating or taking life-saving medicines has become the impossible choice for millions in Africa.

"G8 action on poverty is needed now more than ever - but instead they are cutting aid and burning food to fill their cars.", according to dpa.

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