The G8 — the circus begins
The G8 (Group of 8 richest countries) is holding its annual meeting meeting in Italy and campaigners and policy wonks are arriving to try to make sure that something good comes out of it instead of being a massive waste of money. The portents are not good. Italy had announced that it would slash its aid budget for developing countries for 2009 by 56%. Despite an outcry from activists, and despite many challenges from Italian NGOs including Save the Children, they have not budged. Our hopes that Silvio Berlusconi would be so embarrassed to be hosting the G8 that he would reverse it have come to nothing.
Even worse, today, at an alternative G8 summit organised by civil society, the representative of the Italian government, Snr Marcello Fondi, revealed that the 2010 aid budget will also be slashed, this time by 66%. This was news to the participants and even worse news for developing countries. Most galling, Italy has developed a line of explanation to claim that old ways of giving aid did not work and new ways have to be developed (which is code for not giving aid at all, it seems). This is a real distortion of reality. The “old way of giving aid” has not worked because it has never been tried. Italy, and most other rich countries, have never given anything like a fair share of money to international development. Instead they have given small amounts to countries, usually with unreasonable conditions and often funding projects that repeatedly undermine the governments in those countries.
Some people believe that some of this is ruse so that later this week, Snr Berlusconi can announce that they are restoring the Italian aid budget to its previous (inadequate) amount and somehow get appluaded. We will be watching. Italy is not alone in failure to pay up. No other G8 country gives the amount it should and others appear to be reversing fast. Save the Children in pointing out that, on current performance, the G8 collectively will miss the target they agreed when they met in Scotland in 2005. This raises questions about the validity of this group, who make promises but are never held to account. Save the Children is attending the summit and we will be keeping you informed of all developments and try to judge, at the end of this week, whether this was a step forward to development or a step backwards.