Saturday, June 11, 2005

A Kairos Moment? G8 finance ministers meet


Today the finance ministers of the G8 countries continue their discussions about aid and debt reduction in preparation for the G8 summit at Gleneagles. Will today represent a real kairos moment, with an historic agreement on debt relief? As always with such things the devil is in the details and it is difficult to ascertain what’s really going on from the various accounts of discussions. Here's what I currently understand to be the situation :

Aid
Make Poverty History have been pushing for the G8 countries to double their aid and commit to honouring their promises to raise aid to 0.7% of GDP (which were made 35 years ago). It doesn't look like the US administration are going to buy into this, claiming they have already doubled aid in the last 4 years and trebled food aid. Brown was proposing an International Finance Facility which would frontload aid by issuing bonds. His mini-IFF may have to go ahead with a 'coalition of the willing'.
Here are the 2004 'Aid as a % of GDP' figures for the G7 :

France - 0.42%
United Kingdom - 0.36%
Germany - 0.28%
Canada - 0.26%
Japan - 0.19%
US - 0.16%
Italy - 0.15%

source - OECD web site


Meanwhile global spending on arms tops $1 trillion dollars!

I am convinced the US churches have a vital role to play in this arena and it was encouraging to see mega-church pastor and best-selling author Rick Warren getting on board with the One campaign.

Debt Relief
It looks like there is about to be a significant announcement on debt relief. This is a fantastic start. Their are 18 countries whose entire debt stands to be written off, with a further 11 who may qualify in the future. Jubilee Debt Campaign believe that there are at least 62 countries who should qualify for debt relief, but this is a significant first step (if it materialises) which must be applauded.


Trade Justice
There is a long way to go on this. The EU and the US are not going to give up their agricultural subsidies any time soon and it remains to be seen how much of the promised debt relief will be conditional upon the IMF/World Bank's demands for liberalisation.


As for climate change, it would not appear to be anywhere near the table, let alone on it. Although Blair is still optimistic. Perhaps it is unrealistic to fight a war on two fronts?

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