Financial crisis shows G8 has the means to tackle poverty – if it has the will

“Faced with a financial crisis, global leaders spent one trillion dollars in six months to rescue their banks”
Jeremy Hobbs
Oxfam International Executive Director
Published: 3 July 2008

G8 leaders could relieve the suffering of the 290 million people hit hardest by today’s food crisis if they could give just two extra cents for every $1 they have spent bailing out the banking industry, said international agency Oxfam.

Speaking ahead of next week’s G8 Summit in Japan, Oxfam International’s executive director Jeremy Hobbs said: “Faced with a financial crisis, global leaders spent one trillion dollars in six months to rescue their banks. That shows they can act quickly and decisively to find cash when the political will is there.”

“Today we are faced with a global food crisis that has condemned tens of millions of people to hunger. A fraction of the money that rich country leaders poured into their financial sector would make a real difference in the fight against poverty. It would help keep people alive. The G8 must now show that same kind of urgency and commitment to tackle poverty.”

The G8 meets in Japan from 7-9 July for their annual summit, with the food crisis high on the agenda along with climate change, oil prices, inflation and the economy, and African development.

Oxfam is concerned by reports that G8 leaders are looking to water down previous financial commitments to tackle poverty, or even to renege on them altogether.

“Faced with growing economic, food, and climate crises, it would be scandalous if the G8 was to backtrack on the promises it made to those who are suffering most,” Hobbs said. “We are calling on leaders to recommit to their pledges on aid, and to take decisive action to help poor people cope with spiralling food prices and the growing impact of climate change, and to tackle the root causes of these problems.”

Oxfam was today joined by a cast of high-profile supporters, including actors Scarlett Johansson, Gael Garcia Bernal and Kristin Davis, who called for the summit to respond urgently to global challenges, starting with a boost in funds for climate change, the food crisis and development aid.

Along with singers Emmanuel Jal from Sudan and Annie Lennox from the UK, they said: “Many of us have witnessed at first hand that aid works but also that there is a great deal more that needs to be done. It is the world’s poor who are most vulnerable to increased food prices and it is these same people who are affected worst by the impacts of climate change. We look to the G8 to address the global economic uncertainty, but they must also look beyond their own borders and not turn their backs on the world’s poorest people. We expect nothing less of them.”

Notes to Editors

* The 290m people estimated to be at risk are the poorest people in the 53 most affected countries – the 49 Least Developed Countries, and Tajikistan, Zimbabwe, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Kenya. The figure of $14.5bn is based on these people requiring an average of $50 per capita in 2008.