G8 must not forget poor crippled by food crisis

“G8 action on poverty is needed now more than ever but instead they are cutting aid and burning food to fill their cars.”
Published: 6 July 2008

Poorest paying the ultimate price as food inflation wipes out years of progress

As G8 gather in Japan, the looming economic crisis threatens to derail planned discussion of Africa. International agency Oxfam highlights that in fact Africa and other poor countries are being hit hardest by economic woes and G8 action on poverty is needed more than ever. Instead the G8 are trying to water-down previous aid commitments and are failing to tackle biofuels, the main cause of the food crisis.

Takumo Yamada, Oxfam spokesman said: “Rapidly rising costs of oil and food might cause pain in rich countries – but it is shattering people’s lives and entire economies in developing countries. Having to choose between eating or taking lifesaving medicines has become the impossible choice for millions in Africa.”

"G8 action on poverty is needed now more than ever but instead they are cutting aid and burning food to fill their cars.”

Food inflation has wiped out 10% of the GDP of Senegal, Haiti and Sierra Leone, and around 5% of GDP in Vanuatu, Mozambique and Eritrea, according to latest World Bank analysis. The Bank estimates that increases in prices of wheat, rice and maize cost developing countries $324bn last year alone.

Oxfam says this represent the equivalent of three years global aid spending.

Yamada: “The G8 must acknowledge that their biofuel policies are largely responsible for recent food price increases. Scapegoating developing countries by calling to remove export bans in developing countries divert attention from the real villain behind the food crisis: the rush to burn food for fuel. Biofuels takes food off the table and promising aid then not delivering defrauds the hungry."

The rush to conclude world trade talks under the Doha Round is not what is needed to respond to the food crisis and violates the spirit of the “Development” round, Oxfam said. Existing proposals at the WTO would lock poor countries in liberalisation, remove flexibility and further expose them to market volatility.

Oxfam is also concerned on recent reports that G8 leaders are back-pedaling on previous promises to boost aid to Africa, with key figures omitted from the communiqué. Their 2005 commitment to provide $50 billion in new aid by 2010, half of it for Africa, will be missed by $30 billion on current trends. This commitment is missing from the current draft communiqué. Without this increase in overall aid levels then promised sums for the food crisis must be taken from other key areas such as health, the agency warned.

Yamada concluding: "Vital aid money should be going up, not down. We need to see a signal this week that our leaders won’t be back-pedaling on their previous commitments. 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."