Canada, G8 nations fail Africans, says Jesuit

  • June 13, 2007
{mosimage}TORONTO - Neither Canada nor the G8 nations are living up to their obligations to Africa when it comes to fighting AIDS or alleviating poverty, the Canadian director of the African Jesuit AIDS Network told The Catholic Register at the conclusion of the latest G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany.
“Aid should be increased. How far is Canada from the 0.7 per cent? Considering how much money the G8 make on Africa and the other poorest countries of the world, anything less than 0.7 per cent is scandalous and shameful,” Jesuit Father Michael Czerny wrote in an e-mail.

Czerny echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s appeal to G8 leaders before the summit, asking that the nations which produce 63 per cent of the world’s economic activity “not retreat from their promises to make a substantial increase in development aid.”

 {sidebar id=2}  In the final communiqué from Germany, June 8, the G8 leaders c o m m i t t e d themselves to $60 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria over “several years.” The amount is less than onethird of the $192 billion the United Nations estimates is needed to address the three killer pandemics between 2008 and 2012. Combined the three diseases kill 16,000 people a day, most of them poor and more than half in sub-Saharan Africa.

Anti-poverty and AIDS activists, including U2 front man Bono and Sir Bob Geldof, claimed Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked efforts to tie the G8 commitment down to a specific timetable and targets.

“Canada has become a laggard,” said Bono.

“A man called Stephen Harper came to Heiligendamm, but Canada stayed home,” Geldof told the international press.

Harper responded by saying Canada was the only G8 country on target to meet its commitments from the 2005 Glen Eagles G8 summit, and denying he blocked any initiative.

Former UN AIDS envoy Stephen Lewis slammed the whole G8 for backing away from a stronger commitment to Africa. “What has happened to the moral anchor of this world?” he asked at a Vancouver health conference.

Geneva-based E-Alliance, which campaigns on behalf of churches on AIDS, said the G8 decision on AIDS spending “will spell death to millions.”

It isn’t just a matter of bolstering the health systems in Africa to deal with AIDS and other pandemics, but of creating an economic system that works for the whole world and not just a handful of nations, said Czerny.

“Reducing the G8’s gluttonous appetite for oil, and dismantling their terribly skewed agricultural policies would probably do more, and better, in freeing Africa from poverty, war and AIDS with all their attendant miseries,” Czerny said. “But on these basic fronts there’s no progress, or worse.”

Canada’s overseas development assistance budget comes to 0.3 per cent of the country’s gross national income, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Canada is tied for 15th in development spending on the OECD’s list of the 22 richest countries on Earth. In 2001 Canada pushed for a United Nations General Assembly resolution setting a goal of 0.7 per cent for overseas development assistance by the world’s donor nations.

If Canada won’t live up to its aid commitments, at least it could work harder to allow African nations to build their own economies through trade in agriculture, said Czerny.

“Aid is good, but structural change allowing Africa to develop is better,” he said.

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