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Sunday, July 10, 2005

On Friday, the annual meeting of the leaders of the world's eight most powerful countries, the Group of Eight (G8), ended ahead of schedule with few resolutions to the disappointment of many. The G8 meeting ended early Friday to accommodate Tony Blair, who requested to return to London in response to Thursday's bombings in London. At the conclusion of the meeting, the leaders pledged to increase humanitarian aid to Africa by $50 billion, however $30 billion had already been pledged previously.

The group was unable to make significant progress regarding global warming, but made several key decisions relating to combating poverty in Africa. The eight leaders pledged to double the previously proposed aid of $25 billion to $50 billion a year by 2010. The group also confirmed an earlier announcement that they would cancel the debt of 18 countries, mostly in Africa, selected from among the 38 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs).

Additionally, $2 billion was earmarked for aid to the Palestine Nation. In addition to the increase in aid for Africa, the group announced universal access to AIDS treatment, committed to a peacekeeping force in Africa, and heard African leaders' promises to move toward democracies that follow the rule of law.

Disappointment from anti-poverty activists

Adriano Campolina Soares, head of ActionAid's Americas office, stated her disappointment with the resolutions. "The G8 have completely failed to deliver trade justice. President George W. Bush and the European Union have played a cynical game of bluff. The US has no intention of giving up or lowering the massive subsidies it gives its cotton farmers, that are forcing 10 million farmers in West Africa out of business. Poor countries should take this as a warning that they will have a hard fight in the upcoming trade talks at the World Trade Organization."

Jennifer Morgan, climate-change director for the World Wildlife Fund expressed frustration with the United States' effort. "There's been no movement from the Bush administration, even the very noble efforts of Prime Minister Blair to get President Bush to change his position have failed."

Armed Police keep a vigilant eye at the gates of the G8 summit in Gleneagles. Photo: Chris Young/Crown Copyright.

Others happy with resolution

U2 singer Bono sees it in a different perspective. "It's worth stopping for a second and looking back down the valley of where we've come from, we jumped up and down when Live 8 raised $200 million, and now, to stop for a second, we are talking about $25 billion in new money."

Live 8 organizer Bob Geldof described the summit as a "qualified triumph."

Gordon Brown, British Chancellor of the Exchequer: "It makes you angry because there's nothing in science or technology or medicine that should prevent us from tackling poverty. It's a lack of political will and if Gleneagles is about anything it's bringing together all the countries of the world - rich and poor - agreeing that we've got to take the action that's necessary. That's why I hope by the time Gleneagles is finished we can say that the timetable for action and poverty is one that will lead to great improvements by 2015."

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