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G8 president Italy "breaking promises to Africa"
Thu Jun 11, 2009 2:56pm EDT
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By Peter Griffiths and Lesley Wroughton
LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Italy is trailing far behind other rich nations in meeting a promise to more than double aid to Africa by 2010 and risks losing credibility as G8 president, a campaign group said in a report on Thursday.
Anti-poverty body ONE said Italy had delivered only three percent of the aid increase to Africa pledged by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi at a G8 summit in Scotland in 2005.
While the United States, Britain, Japan and Germany are on course to meet their aid targets, the report said the poor performance by Italy, and to a lesser extent France, risked undermining the efforts of the G8 as a whole.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was sending a letter to the leaders of the G8 countries expressing his concerns about action on their pledge to raise development assistance by $50 billion by 2010, half of that for Africa.
"Today, only 10 percent of what was pledged to Africa has come through," Ban told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. "The economic crisis cannot become an excuse to abandon commitments. It is even more reason to make them concrete."
Italy will host G8 finance ministers in the southern city of Lecce this weekend before a G8 summit next month in L'Aquila, badly damaged in an earthquake in April.
"There is a credibility problem at the heart of this G8 presidency," Irish singer and ONE campaigner Bob Geldof told Reuters. "Why should any of the other leaders believe what they agree to in your (Berlusconi's) country under your presidency?"
FINANCIAL CRISIS SLOWS AID
The annual ONE report charts progress made by the G8 in meeting an aid promise made at the Gleneagles summit to more than double aid to Africa to $25 billion a year by 2010.
By the end of 2008 the G8 nations had met one-third of their commitments. They are due to reach the half-way mark by the end of this year, the report said. It blamed about 80 percent of the shortfall on falling aid from Italy and France.
Many G8 countries have spent billions of dollars on fiscal stimulus to spur global recovery, affecting their ability to increase foreign assistance for trade, health and schools.
African countries are being hit by the global economic slowdown that threatens to undo more than a decade of progress in reducing poverty and encouraging high economic growth.
The report said the G8's failure to deliver fully on their aid pledges was particularly troubling given that Africa was not to blame for the financial crisis.
Canada, the United States, Japan and Germany have met or exceeded their Gleneagles commitments, the report added.
To get back on course, the seven largest G8 members will need to deliver on average an additional $7.2 billion each year in 2009 and 2010, the report said. Continued...
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