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G-8 summit and Africa. (News in Brief).

Kananaskis, Canada -- The G-8 summit of June 26-27, held in a Rocky Mountain resort, has left little hope for the people of Africa who continue to struggle under a burden of unpayable debt, while the HIV/AIDS pandemic is ferociously destroying populations.

The one-billion-dollar (U.S.) debt relief pledged by the G-8 leaders fell far short of expectations and earlier promises of $64 billion. The G-8 also pledged $6 billion in foreign aid, upon certain conditions.

One of these conditions is a greater commitment to democracy. Only four sub-Saharan countries held free elections two decades ago, but since 1990, forty-two have done so. Nonetheless, aid to Africa between 1990 and 2000, fell by 43% according to United Nation's estimates, although the need has risen.

Various international, national, and local organizations called upon the G-8 for full cancellation of debts. In the Jubilee year 2000, the Pope called upon the wealthy nations to release their impoverished counterparts from the heavy debt loads.

Just prior to the summit, Calgary's Bishop Fred Henry issued a pastoral statement on behalf of the Canadian bishops' permanent Council, demanding "fundamental changes to an economic system that maintains and furthers poverty. We challenge the leaders of the G-8 to commit to such change and adopt wealth distribution as an important and crucial goal of global economic policy." The bishops also recommended a greater solidarity with the churches and civil society of Africa, as well as seeking their guidance in developing policies that will affect their own people.

Africa is the only continent in which poverty and illiteracy are on the rise. Its life expectancy is the lowest in the world--age 54, with HIV/AlDS as the leading cause of death. For children under five, the mortality rate is one in seven.

According to Peter Worthington of the Sun (July 5/02), "to most politicians, Africa is a safe, fashionable, risk-free topic that entails mostly words, promises, declarations of intent." However, he noted that money given to the poorest nations has gone straight to their tyrannic rulers and not to the needy. He concluded that it is futile to give money which ends up being used for furthering corrupt, undemocratic dictatorships.

One of the main conditions outlined in the blueprint for Africa's economic recovery is the creation of an investment-friendly atmosphere. Prime Minister Jean Chretien stated that African nations which do not embrace adequate financial management, good governance, and rule of law will not be on a list of favoured nations.

Diane Francis of the Nat. Post (June 28/02) criticized the G-8 requirements of African nations, noting scandals and corruption at the government level in each of the G-8 countries themselves. For instance, Putin's Russia still lacks freedom of the press, a just rule of law, and fair enterprise. The American Wall Street scandals and their connection to the immoral funding of political campaigns by far exceed the number of dollars involved, in fraud and corruption in numerous African nations combined. One could conclude with maxim-writer La Rochefoucauld, "We give advice, but we do not inspire conduct."

Struggling with the burden of heavy debt, African nations are not in a position to modernize overnight. The African authors of NEPAD were very concerned at the fact that the G-8 countries did not commit themselves to forgive foreign debt or invest in basic infrastructure programs.

Canadian Catholic organizations such as the CCCB (bishops), CCODP (Development and Peace) and others, have voiced their disappointment with the G-8 action plan. They noted that six years ago debt relief was promised to impoverished nations, and today these still remain waiting. Instead of improvement in Africa, some foresee in its future the deepening of poverty and worsening of living conditions.

Not aid to Africa, but two other topics dominated the G-8 discussions--fighting terrorism and global economic growth (Zenit; New Freeman; Post; Sun).
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Sep 1, 2002
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