Blair gets his Africa deal

The G-8 nations doubled their aid to Africa, but not everyone is happy.

Published July 9, 2005 12:03AM (EDT)

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the leaders of the other G-8 nations announced today that they will double aid to Africa to $50 billion by 2010. The nations met the prime minister's $50 billion target and added $3 billion for facilitating the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, though Blair was unable to convince some nations, the United States among them, to peg their African aid at .7 percent of gross domestic product.

As The Washington Post notes, the aid package serves the double purpose of combating terrorism by attacking its causes. Peace between Israel and Palestine, and a permanent Palestinian state, would soothe Muslims in the Middle East and take away one of al-Qaida's primary recruiting tools. Easing poverty in places like the Sudan would remove the incentive for hopeless Muslims to strap bombs to their bodies.

While most groups hailed the accord as a measure of progress, some criticized the G-8 for not going far enough and moving too slowly. Kumi Naidoo, chair of the Global Call to Action against Poverty, said promising to deliver $50 billion by 2010 is "like waiting 5 years before responding to the tsunami" that struck South Asia last winter. "The people have roared, but the G-8 has whispered," said Naidoo in a statement, adding that forgiving the debt forgiveness to the 18 poorest countries in Africa does not go far enough.

Jo Leadbeater, head of policy for Oxfam International, a group of 12 organizations working to ease poverty worldwide, said the G-8 decision is "the beginning, not the end, of their efforts to overcome poverty."

Leadbetter, who called on the G-8 nations to eliminate their farm subsidies so African nations could export their textile products, also said the G-8 wasn't moving quickly enough in delivering the money to Africa. "If the $50 billion increase had kicked in immediately," he said, "it could have lifted 300 million people out of poverty in the next five years."

In announcing the deal, Blair acknowledged that the G-8's decision "isn't the end of poverty in Africa."

"But it is the hope that it can be ended," Blair said. "It isn't all everyone wanted, but it is progress, real and achievable progress."

By Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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