A desperate and largely unknown humanitarian crisis is deteriorating in the Lake Chad Basin region of West Africa, forcing millions of people to flee their homes and leaving millions more in need of humanitarian assistance. Oxfam is providing life-saving support but help is urgently needed to prevent the crisis turning into a catastrophe.
As G8 leaders arrive in France ahead of the Summit, international agency Oxfam urged the eight leaders to show they are not just a talking shop, and to Google their previous commitments to the world’s poor before making new ones.
“Does global poverty need to be the top hash tag to keep the G8’s attention?” said Emma Seery, spokesperson for Oxfam. “The G8 can’t wait for the billion people who go hungry every day to tweet about it before they get their promises to fight hunger and poverty back on track.”
Six years ago, the G8 promised to increase aid by US$50 billion for needed investments in health, education and fighting hunger, but they missed their goal by $19 billion, and worse still they have cooked the books to claim they have delivered almost all of their commitment. If they leave this Summit with anything less than an action plan to get their promises back on track, it will signal a real shift from an active G8 to a think tank G8.
But this is unacceptable when the G8 has so much unfinished business to take care of. G8 leaders can reinvigorate ongoing climate change negotiations by underscoring the urgent need for a binding international framework for tackling climate change and the funds for communities to adapt to the climate change already happening.
“We need more than just a ‘status update’ on climate change, so the few minutes G8 leaders will spend on this will need to be very productive” said Seery.
They should also take seriously the innovative financing options already on the table to deliver new money for the fight against climate change and poverty, including a global financial transaction (or ‘Robin Hood’) tax on banks that could raise up to $400 billion a year.
The G8 also have an opportunity to take important action that won’t cost them a single penny by backing mandatory reporting laws for oil, gas and mining companies, such as the recently passed Dodd-Frank Act in the US.
“By supporting mandatory disclosure of payments, the G8 can help developing country citizens ensure their governments are spending the funds on priorities such as education, health and agriculture,” said Mamadou Biteye, Oxfam’s West Africa regional director. “This will also pave the way for developing countries to get a fair deal from companies.”
Citizens holding their governments accountable was precisely the theme of the Arab Spring, where young and old alike, tweeted, posted, walked and demonstrated in favor of democracy. As the G8 looks to the events of the last few months, they should remember that the level of poverty, unemployment and growing inequality in many countries in the Middle East have been factors underlying the wave of protests. Oxfam urges the G8 to recognize their instrumental role in influencing the direction of the transformation taking place and encourage the prioritization of human rights monitoring, poverty reduction and political freedoms in the emerging democracies.
“With the Arab Spring on the agenda, the G8 must stand up for political freedoms and human rights as well as offering support for a peaceful transition to democracy,” said Seery. “But unless they also deliver on their existing commitments, any new promises could prove to be just as empty.”
Notes to editors
Photos of Oxfam’s stunt in front of the Eiffel Tower are available on Flickr, as well as through the international news wires.
Oxfam is an international confederation of 15 organizations working together in 98 countries and with partners and allies around the world to find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.
Laura Rusu: + 00 1 202 459 3739 / LRusu@oxfamamerica.org
Magali Rubino: + 00 33 6 30 46 66 04 / MRubino@oxfamfrance.org