Canada a laggard on African aid: groups
International aid groups have been stating their case as the G8 leaders began their summit in Japan, accusing Canada of being behind on development aid for Africa. They also said Stephen Harper's government was trying to water down a G8 statement on healthcare for the continent.
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As the G8 summit opened in Toyako, Japan on Monday, aid groups Oxfam and One said that Canada's own 2005 promise to double aid to Africa was small compared to other countries in the Group of Eight, placing them in a group of laggards with Italy, France and Japan.
They also said Canada is trying to water down a draft communiqué on supporting health measures, backed by U.S. President George W. Bush – so that instead of G8 leaders saying they will “commit” to the measures, they would only acknowledge that health experts recommend them.
“We must see strong language and commitments in that health communiqué, too. We know that a number of countries are trying to water down that language. We're very concerned about the Canadians, in particular,” said Oxfam spokesman Max Lawson.
The Canadian government - not surprisingly - doesn't agree with the claims.
The Canadian minister responsible for aid, International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, refused to confirm or deny the accusation that Canada is trying to water down the G8's statement on health measures for Africa.
But she said Canada is already spending sizable sums on health in Africa and suggested Canada doesn't want to make an easy commitment that might not be kept.
“Many, many developing countries have heard countries make big pledges and big commitments, and yet they're still waiting for those services, they're still waiting for the delivery of those dollars, and medications and vaccinations et cetera,” Ms. Oda said.
“What we're doing, what our government is doing, is making sure that when we commit dollars, that it's actually going to translate into a service for a people, for a community, for a family, when we say.”
The plight of the continent is firmly on the agenda at the summit, with eight African leaders joining the first day of discussions.
Three years ago at the Gleneagles summit, world powers famously pledged $25 billion to Africa by 2010. But Oxfam Asia and Europe director Oliver Buston claims that so far the continent has seen only $3 billion in aid.
"It's fair to say the progress so far has been desperately slow," he said.
While Germany was stepping up aid to Africa and Britain and the US were making some progress, France slashed its aid to Africa in 2007, he noted.
"At a time when Germany, the UK and the US are really making an effort to increase their aid, you can't have France free-riding on their efforts."
Oxfam urged Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda -- who pledged ahead of the G8 summit to double Japan's aid to Africa in five years -- to show stronger leadership as current G8 host.
"We hope that Japan will come up with more in the next couple of days," particularly in health and agriculture, Buston said.