G8 Summit Arrives: Disagreement on Syria, Agreement on Taxes | 

The G8 family gather for a picture in North Ireland.

The G8 summit is off and running. Leaders came to an agreement on tax avoidance and transparency, but Syria remains a sticking point with Russia as the stumbling point. Meanwhile, President Obama announced that the United States would provide an additional $300 million in humanitarian assistance to people affected by the civil war in Syria.

The money will be used for food aid, medical care, clean water and the the provision of shelter. The release also says that the US will increase its efforts to reach vulnerable people, such as the elderly, women and children, with more services and focus on preventing the spread of water-borne illness through sanitation and hygiene programs. Continue reading

Global leaders try to get serious about hunger | 

BigIF G8 rally and Hunger Summit
Young people participating at the BigIf rally in Hyde Park.

As the leaders of the world’s economic powers gather to discuss the state of the global economy and find common ground on pressing international issues, nutrition is featuring as a main topic.

New research from the Lancet says that malnutrition is responsible the death of 3.1 million children a year. A number that represents just less than half of all deaths for children under five years old.

Advocates pressed on the UK, host of the G8 summit, to commit to end hunger. Continue reading

Obama promises private aid — or punts? — on fighting hunger in Africa | 


Tanzanian farmer compares maize yields

Today, at the opening of the G8 (Group of Eight, richest nations) meeting likely to be focused mostly on the European financial crisis and NATO, President Barack Obama urged the international community to get serious about tackling hunger in Africa.

To show his Administration’s commitment to solving what the wonks call the “food security crisis” in sub-Saharan Africa, the President announced a $3 billion plan for the private sector to get more involved in assisting African farmers.

Calling this strategy the New Alliance for Food and Security, some 45 agri- or food corporations like Cargill, Monsanto and Unilever have pledged to invest in projects aimed at reducing poverty and hunger in Africa. Here are some of the other news reports on the announcement from the Washington Post, CNN, NPR and The Guardian.

As USA Today summarized:

The Obama administration announced Friday morning it has received support from the private sector to invest more than $3 billion to reduce global hunger and combat poverty by financing projects that make it easier for small farmers to grow their own food.

U-2′s Bono even joined in, celebrating the announcement as an end to “paternalism” in foreign aid and his anti-poverty advocacy organization ONE also claiming this was a big win for agriculture, quoting Obama:

“As President, I consider this a moral imperative. As the wealthiest nation on earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition—and to partner with others.”

But not everyone concerned about hunger and the plight of Africa’s farmers appeared so inspired.

Some saw this more as a punt than a partnership.

Here’s a photo of a bunch of protesters from Oxfam America (including Seattle’s Jon Scanlon, as Italy’s Mario Monti) outside the G8 meeting, who criticized the Obama Administration’s plan as a shell game diverting attention from failed promises.

Oxfam America

Can you identify the Seattle member of this Oxfam protest at the G8?

Oxfam’s Lamine Ndiaye notes the G8 promised $22 billion in food aid to Africa in 2009, little of which has been delivered. Ndiaye goes on to say:

The New Alliance is neither new nor a true alliance … It focuses too heavily on the role of the private sector to tackle the complex challenges of food insecurity in the developing world. The organization called instead for G8 leaders to keep the promises they have already made to help developing countries invest in sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty.

Though nearly all of those concerned about hunger in Africa support the need for some kind of agricultural reform, others share the concerns expressed most loudly and colorfully by Oxfam America.

Other aid organizations like Action Aid and World Vision say rich governments must follow through with their pledged assistance to poor countries — and remain strong partners in fighting hunger rather than merely shift responsibility to the private sector

G8 cover-up of aid failure a sign of progress? | 

The Financial Times recently published this report based on an alleged cover-up by the G8 — the U.S., France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia — regarding some rich nations’ failure to keep their promises on foreign aid.

Cover-ups always sound bad, but in one sense this is a good thing. The fact that the G8 is trying to hide this failure to deliver on foreign aid is at least an improvement over previous years, in which rich nations didn’t even care if anyone knew that they hadn’t kept their promises to poor nations.

Says the Financial Times:

The world’s leading economies are attempting to cover up their failure to meet past promises on aid to the poorest countries, a leaked Group of Eight document seen by the Financial Times reveals.

The Guardian also recently reported on the advocacy group ONE’s complaint that the Group of Eight, which will be meeting next week, has delivered only about 61 percent of the aid they had promised to Sub-Saharan Africa in 2005. Says the Guardian:

In its annual analysis of progress towards meeting the promises made by the G8 at the 2005 Gleneagles summit, the development charity One said that rich countries had delivered 61% of the extra financial assistance pledged to sub-Saharan Africa six years ago.

It wasn’t across the board. Britain did fairly well and the U.S., Canada and Japan delivered as promised — but, it should be noted, promised very little (as a proportion of GDP). Most of the scorn was reserved for France, Germany and Italy for failing to provide some $7 billion in promised aid to Africa.

Sounds bad