Director 2005 Unit
UK Department for International Development (DFID)
2005 is a unique year for development: a chance to make tangible gains that will improve the lives of millions of poor people. As President of the G8 throughout the year, and President of the EU for the second half, the UK has a unique opportunity to make progress on international development through securing more and better aid, debt relief and fairer trade. Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that, at the G8 Summit at Gleneagles next month, our priorities will be Africa and Climate Change.
Why Africa? Africa currently stands as the only continent that will fail to meet the MDGs, halving the proportion of people who live in poverty by 2150 rather than by 2015. Africa makes up 13% of the world’s population but 28% of world poverty. 26 million people in sub-Saharan Africa have HIV and AIDS, and 13 million have already died of the disease. It is the only continent to have become poorer in the last generation.
The Commission for Africa - set up to take a fresh look at Africa’s development – reported in March of this year. It concludes that “African poverty and stagnation is the greatest tragedy of our time”. But the Report recognises that there are signs of hope. For this to take root, there needs to be a new partnership between the developed world and Africa – a partnership that puts primary responsibility on Africa itself to sort out its governance and conflict, but also requires us to support this change with more and better aid.
We welcome the Commission’s Report which is providing an important input to the comprehensive plan of action for Africa’s development that we are seeking to get agreed at Gleneagles, covering peace and stability, effective governance, investment in people and in growth and additional finance. But Africans themselves must determine the way forward. The African Union (AU), which replaced the OAU in 2001 and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), provides the impetus for renewed commitment to peace, democracy and good governance in Africa. And the African Peer Review Mechanism provides further evidence of the commitment of African leaders to better political and economic governance. African leaders have attended previous G8 Summits in Genoa, Kananaskis, Evian and Sea Island, and will be present at Gleneagles to present their perspective. It is vital that G8 leaders take this opportunity to strengthen their commitment to Africa.
In terms of a number of key policy areas, progress is already being made. Agreement reached by EU Member States in May on a new collective oda/GNI target of 0.56% by 2010, en route to 0.7% by 2015, represents a significant boost, especially as at least half of new EU money will be spent on Africa. We hope, too, to see agreement soon on 100% multilateral debt relief for the poorest countries. We are also seeking a commitment to a doubling of aid resources to Africa, to accelerate progress towards the MDGs, and agreement to an International Finance Facility which would ensure that more resources are available to poor countries now. We must use these resources to support African countries and the AU as they attempt to prevent, mediate and resolve conflicts and promote lasting peace and stability. We must assist countries as they take action against corruption and increase transparency and accountability. And we must invest in better education and health - both of which are key to the realisation of individual rights and achieving the MDGs. Greater economic growth is essential for poverty reduction and concluding the Doha Development Round so that trade works for Africa would ensure that the continent is better integrated into the global economy.
It is also important to use aid more effectively. That is why we welcome the ongoing work in the DAC on harmonisation, as agreed at the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness held in Paris in March.
The key to the achievement of our aims has to be the compact of mutual accountability. African leaders have committed to better governance and the MDGS, thereby supporting their ability to deliver basic services and encourage growth, while donors have agreed to increase the quality, quantity and coherence of aid. To monitor commitments made on Africa by the G8 and others, we support a strengthened Africa Partnership Forum to take on role.
When 2005 draws to a close, I hope that the UK will be able to say, with justification, that we seized all the opportunities offered by our G8 and EU Presidencies, and that the international development community has truly moved forward in creating a better future for the people of Africa and accelerating progress towards the MDGs.