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Not Enough Done To Help Africa, Says Oxfam


Sam Marsden, Press Association Newswire, Mar 10
Many reforms on trade and arms dealing promised in Prime Minister Tony Blair's Africa Commission Report last year have yet to materialise, Oxfam said today.
:: What is the Commission for Africa?
The Commission was set up by Mr Blair in early 2004 to tie in with Britain's presidency of the European Union and the G8 group of the world's leading industrialised democracies last year. It aimed to look at how to create a 'strong and prosperous'' continent through the co-operation of African nations and the international community. The Commission published its report in March last year.
:: What did this report say?
On the face of it, nothing very surprising: in essence, that African governments should tackle corruption and develop better education and infrastructure, and that Western governments should dramatically increase aid, cancel debt and dismantle trade barriers.
Aid agencies have been saying things like this for decades. But this report was different because it had the backing of one of the Western governments. This gave the Commission a certain authority when it called on rich countries to increase aid to Africa by 25 billion dollars (about 14.5 billion) a year by 2010 and by a further 25 billion dollars a year by 2015. It also put pressure on Mr Blair to put his money where his mouth is.
:: Just how bad are Africa's problems?
With a few exceptions, pretty awful. The statistics make depressing reading: of the world's 18 poorest countries, 14 are in Africa; 25 million people in the continent have Aids, and the spread of the disease means that in Zambia one child in three will be an orphan by 2010; 40 million African children do not go to school; the average income in Africa is just one dollar a day.
:: Didn't we hear a lot about this last July?
Yes. In the lead-up to the G8 summit in Gleneagles, near Edinburgh, we heard about little else FROM `en_the` Prime Minister. Tackling poverty in Africa was one of two issues - the other was climate change - that Mr Blair put on top of the agenda for the eight powerful world leaders to discuss.
Development charities such as Oxfam and Save the Children took this opportunity to launch the high-profile Make Poverty History campaign, which aimed to put pressure on Mr Blair and the other G8 leaders to ensure that these commendable words were turned into action. The issue was given further weight by the massive series of Live 8 concerts held across the world on July 2.
:: So what came out of the G8 summit?
It was overshadowed by the July 7 London bombings, but the eight leaders agreed to write off 40 billion dollars of debt and to meet the Commission's recommendation that aid for Africa should go up by 25 billion dollars by 2010. These were significant commitments.
But aid agencies were not very impressed, in particular criticising the lack of progress on making trade fairer. Christian Aid said G8 had been 'vastly disappointing'' and Oxfam accused the leaders of 'falling short of'' the hopes of the millions that backed the Make Poverty History campaign.
:: What are Oxfam's criticisms today?
One year after the publication of the Commission for Africa's report, the charity argues that not enough has been done on trade and arms dealing.
It claims the Department of Trade and Industry is allowing the EU to push through a deal that will harm poor countries' economic development by refusing to cut European farming subsidies while demanding that developing nations open up their industrial markets. Oxfam also accuses the Labour Government of not following up its 2005 election manifesto pledge to seek an international Arms Trade Treaty with tighter controls.
:: How has the Prime Minister responded to these charges?
Mr Blair has made helping Africa something of a personal mission - in October 2001 he told the Labour Party conference that the state of Africa was 'a scar on the conscience of the world'' but said it could be healed if 'the world as a community focused on it'.
He was bullish but guarded after Gleneagles, saying: 'It isn't the end of poverty in Africa, but it is the hope that it can be ended.'' His official spokesman echoed these sentiments today, admitting there was more to do but highlighting the progress that had already been made.

Expert opinion

Halter Marek


Halter Marek
Le College de France
Olivier Giscard dEstaing


Olivier Giscard dEstaing
COPAM, France
Mika Ohbayashi


Mika Ohbayashi
Institute for Sustainable Energy Poliy
Bill Pace


Bill Pace
World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy
Peter I. Hajnal


Peter I. Hajnal
Toronto University, G8 Research Group

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