Geldof hails G8 agreement 'victory'

Anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof today hailed the G8’s decision to write off $55bn in developing world debt as a “victory for millions of campaigners across the world”.

Anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof today hailed the G8’s decision to write off $55bn in developing world debt as a “victory for millions of campaigners across the world”.

He said the announcement, which will eventually assist 38 countries, must now be backed up with a doubling of aid and regulations to ensure trade justice.

The singer, who is leading the Live 8 concerts to put pressure on G8 ministers ahead of their summit next month, said: “Tomorrow 280 million Africans will wake up for the first time in their lives without owing you or me a penny from the burden of debt that has crippled them and their countries for so long.

“Money we didn’t even know we were owed and never wanted in the first place and money they could never pay.

“This is already a victory for the millions of people in the campaigns around the world.

“We must be clear that this is the beginning and the end will not be achieved until we have the complete package demanded by the Commission for Africa of debt cancellation, doubling of aid, and trade justice.”

The Make Poverty History (MPH) campaign, the UK arm of a global anti-poverty movement, also welcomed the deal – but claimed that more debt relief is still necessary.

Leaders of the lobby group have also attacked moves to link aid to water privatisation or economic liberalisation policies.

John Hilary, of MPH, said: “The G8 countries have pushed forward a damaging free trade agenda.

“If they really want to give developing countries the right to decide their trade policies, it’s now up to them to change their aggressive stance at the WTO.”

Colleague Stephen Rand said: “While this is only cancellation of some of the debts of some of the countries, it does mean that they will have real money that can help stop children dying unnecessarily as a result of extreme poverty.

“But more still needs to be done – more money, even more countries and other types of debt.”

The G8 deal means $1.5bn will be offered in debt relief per year to the initial 18 eligible nations, but MPH campaigners claim they need $10bn a year.

Campaigners said they also hope to secure an annual commitment of $50bn in aid from donor countries and a rapid move towards the target of offering 0.7% of national income in aid.

They also stressed that many countries, including Sri Lanka, will not benefit from the deal.

The MPH campaign expects around 100,000 people to march on Edinburgh on July 2 ahead of the Gleneagles G8 summit to demand action on those issues.

Anna Thomas, a senior policy adviser at Christian Aid, said she welcomed a commitment to provide “universal access” to HIV treatment by 2010, but called for resources to be put in place to achieve the aim.

“A target without resources is no target at all,” she said.

“For this plan to become reality it is essential that G8 leaders come up with the cash.”

Mr Geldof said: “Germany and Italy’s confirmation that they will meet the EU target of 0.51% national income in aid by 2010 throws down a fantastic challenge to Canada, Japan, and the USA. Who says Europe can’t work together?

“This deal comes in the context of an uneven world in which trade policies and adjustment conditionalities continue to hurt the poor, sometimes forcing open markets so we can dump our unfairly subsidised excess produce.

“It was critically important that the debt deal was done now to enable the great growing global campaigns to focus on these other issues over the next few weeks.”

Other experts have also called on ministers to address wider issues.

Tom Cargill, of the Chatham House think-tank, said in Africa specifically more work needs to be done to free resources held by the rich minority.

“The biggest obstacle to growth in Africa is one of resource distribution,” he said.

“Recent studies have shown there are 100,000 millionaires in Africa, which is quite of lot of wealthy people.

“The amount of money kept in foreign bank accounts by that elite is thought to be equal to the debts owed by African nations.”

He said emergent middle classes in some African countries need to be encouraged to invest at home and that attention must be focused on trade laws.

“We haven’t heard enough about reducing trade barriers, which could make a massive difference,” said Mr Cargill.

“Currently the US has an import tariff off 0.1% on unprocessed coffee, but that goes up to 10% for processed beans.

“If we want to help countries develop manufacturing industries, those issue need to be tackled.”

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