Green summit produced recycled promises

 Its Canadian hosts did everything in their power to 'green' this year's G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alberta. From giving journalists therma-plastic coffee cups to save wasting thousands of paper beakers, to producing conference bags from recycled fabric, the emphasis was on re-using resources. Appropriate, then, that the G8's Africa Action Plan recycled several existing promises. African leaders and Kofi Annan, who arrived Wednesday and held talks with the G8 overnight, tried to put a brave face on the negotiations but ended up damning with feint praise. 'If the G8 really carry out the action plan they are announcing today, this summit might come to be seen as a turning point in the history of Africa,' said Annan. Christian Aid agreed with the UN Secretary General's analysis. 'There was an opportunity for G8 leaders to write a new chapter in Africa's history over the last two days but they've ended up pencilling a few notes in the margin,' said Paul Ladd of Christian Aid. Other agencies were more unequivocal in their damnation. Jack Panozzo of Canadian Catholic agency Development and Peace called the G8's document an 'inaction' plan. 'If words were dollars and support, the African nations could look upon the Kananaskis summit as one that marked a turning point in the relationship with Africa,' he said. 'But it's just new labels pasted onto old policies.' One area of the G8's plan, which did win praise from campaigners, was a section on conflict promising a more concerted effort to end some of Africa's long-standing wars. G8 leaders committed themselves to helping establish regional African peace-keeping forces and to introducing voluntary codes for companies exploiting natural resources in war-zones. At the heart of the demands of African leaders was a commitment to increasing aid to Africa. The G8's Action Plan earmarked for Africa half of the US$12 billion promised by wealthy countries at a recent summit in Mexico. But critics of the plan were quick to point out that a clause allowing G8 leaders to allocate the money according to their own priorities gave them further license to pursue political expediencies through aid. Many felt the spirit of partnership between the west and Africa, envisaged by the African leaders' New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) had been undermined by the G8. 'The whole point of NEPAD was to have a co-ordinated partnership where donor countries would come together to solve Africa's problems,' said Neville Gabriel from South African organisation Peace and Justice. 'The G8 have scuppered this. 'Cows in Europe receive US$2 dollars a day because of subsidies paid to European farmers. There are over 300 million people in Africa still living on less than US$1 and they've gained little from the summit in Canada,' said Gabriel.

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