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Pre-G8 talks go down to wire; Oxfam urges leaders to remember promises to Africa

With just days to go before the G8 summit in Heilingendamm, Germany, G8 leaders remain divided not just over commitments on climate change but also on whether to reiterate earlier promises made to Africa.

Tense negotiations over the last few weeks have exposed disagreement amongst governments, with some countries, including Italy and Canada, reluctant even to reiterate promises made two years ago in Gleneagles to increase aid to poor countries, and others, led by the US, blocking progress on climate change.

Negotiations on the Africa communiqué were not concluded last week as planned, and emergency discussions between G8 officials are being hastily scheduled for early next week.

Max Lawson, Senior Policy Advisor at Oxfam said: “Talks are going down to the wire and it is astounding that the G8 may not even be willing to reiterate the pledges they made in 2005 to increase aid for Africa. They are failing to live up to what they promised, and now they are trying to hide from their responsibility.”

In 2005 the G8 promised to increase overall annual aid levels by $50 billion by 2010, and said that half of this increase - $25 billion - would go to Africa. Oxfam has shown that on current trends, the G8 are likely to miss the target by $30 billion, with the main culprits being Italy, where aid is falling, France, where aid is stagnant, and Germany, whose aid increases are far from enough to meet the promises made in Gleneagles.

Specific financial commitments on HIV/AIDS and education are also being resisted in favour of noncommittal platitudes. Proposals for annual monitoring of aid increases linked to the regular meeting of G8 finance ministers have been quietly ditched. Reports suggest that the G8 chair, Germany, is not pushing this issue as much as it could, in contrast to the strong leadership being shown on the climate issue.

Lawson: “Climate change is a massive challenge, to which all rich-country governments must respond with more money for adaptation and measures to reduce emissions and limit warming to as far below 2 degrees as possible. However, the drive to get agreement on climate must not detract from vital debates on aid. G8 summits must not be simply about making promises, but also about keeping them.”

Oxfam said the failure of some G8 countries to increase aid stands in contrast to the welcome announcement yesterday from the US of an extra $30 billion over 5 years to fight HIV-AIDS.

Lawson: "There is still time for the G8 to get this right. Out of this meeting we need to see clear annual timetables for the promised aid increases, which will be publicly monitored by finance ministers. The money is desperately needed to help save lives and boost development in Africa and around the world. The G8’s credibility rests on their ability to follow through."

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