CAFOD appeals for more action on failed G8 promises

 CAFOD has welcomed Prime Minister Tony Blair's announcement to set up a high-level panel to track G8 aid promises. But the aid agency warns that much more needs to be done and faster to end extreme poverty. One year ago, thousands of CAFOD supporters joined 250,000 people at the Make Poverty History rally in Edinburgh. They demanded debt cancellation, more and better aid and trade justice. The world's most powerful leaders responded by promising some debt cancellation and increased aid. CAFOD's Head of Policy George Gelber said: "CAFOD welcomes the latest initiative to keep development at the top of political agendas but one year on from Gleneagles there is so much more to do. Progress is far too slow for millions of poor people in Africa. "There is some progress. We've seen how debt cancellation is making a real difference to people's lives. People in Benin and Burkina Faso now have access to health care and millions in Uganda and Niger have clean water. Thanks to debt relief Zambia recently announced it was scrapping heath-care fees and plans to take on 1,336 medical staff. "These countries still need additional assistance to make their initiatives work. Debt cancellation doesn't provide the volume of resources needed but it shows how well those resources can work in the right place. "Under enormous pressure from Make Poverty History, the G8 leaders made some progress on aid and debt. Debt relief and increased aid resources are starting to boost education and health in some of the world's poorest countries and lives have been saved. "But what the G8 gave with one hand, they risk taking away with the other. Developing countries must be allowed to trade their way out of poverty and protect vulnerable people from unfair competition. Instead of being given that chance, the world's richest countries have hijacked trade talks to protect their own interests, and condemned the world's poor to further impoverishment." CAFOD argues that the G8 have not kept all their promises and that they need to go further. Debt: The G8 have kept their promise to cancel the debts of 18 countries but at least another 40 countries are in need of debt relief. They also want to see an end to conditions that cause further pain to the poor. For example, in 2004 Zambia was unable to employ 9,000 qualified teachers because of a public sector wage freeze imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as a condition of receiving debt relief. Aid: The G8 promised to double aid to Africa by US$50 billion a year by 2010. CAFOD says it is too early to tell what impact the aid pledge is making to the lives of poor people but it is vital these promises are written into aid budgets now. If the G8 postpone aid budget increases there is a danger that the 2010 target will be unattainable. Trade: G8 leaders vowed to make trade work for development. CAFOD says trade has been the biggest failure of the G8 over the last year. Poorer countries have been squeezed out of talks and their demands dismissed. At trade talks taking place later this week in Geneva, CAFOD fears that the world's most powerful trading blocks will cement an unfair deal for the world's poor.

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