G8 Leaders Agree on Aid Package for Africa

Thursday's bombings in London came as the Group of Eight industrialized nations began its annual meeting. The G8 leaders agreed Friday to increase aid to Africa by $50 billion. That increase will take place by 2010, and is a doubling of foreign aid for some countries, including the United States.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

An intense investigation is under way in London following yesterday's rush-hour attacks on the city's public transport system. At least 50 people were killed and at least 700 injured. Reaction from around the world was swift. Heads of state, religious leaders and ordinary citizens were expressing outrage. In London, Mohammed Abdel Barri(ph) of the East London Mosque stood side-by-side with the bishop of Stepney, Stephen Oliver, in an expression of community solidarity.

Mr. MOHAMMED ABDEL BARRI (East London Mosque): This community has come a long way over many years and--to maintain the peace and harmony, and I hope we'd be able to cope with it. The way we work together for the last many years, we have to work together in this tragedy.

Bishop STEPHEN OLIVER (Stepney): Whoever caused this atrocity, we are determined that the reaction to that will not be one which divides our communities but what--which brings us actually closer together because we share a common life.

MONTAGNE: Stephen Oliver the bishop of Stepney and Mohammed Abdel Barri of the East London Mosque.

Yesterday's bombings came as the Group of Eight industrialized nations began its annual meeting. British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced today that the G8 leaders have agreed on an aid package for Africa.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Britain): It isn't the end of poverty in Africa, but it is the hope that it can be ended. It isn't all everyone wanted, but it is progress--real and achievable progress. It is the definitive expression of our collective wealth to act in the face of death and disease and conflict that is preventable.

MONTAGNE: Prime Minister Blair. NPR's Adam Davidson joins me now.

Good morning.

ADAM DAVIDSON reporting:

Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Adam, tell us more details on what this and what else the G8 leaders agreed to.

DAVIDSON: Well, they agreed to increase aid to Africa by about $50 billion by the year 2010. This will mean several of the G8 countries, including the US, will have promised to double their aid to Africa. Some are saying this is a the most significant help Africa has received in a very long time. Some are calling this the most successful G8 Summit in its 30-year history. But others are saying not so fast, that the aid is just not enough to really eliminate the worst forms of poverty in Africa, and the leaders should have done a lot more.

They also promised a $3 billion aid package for the Palestinian Authority to help them get on their feet. Overall, there's a long tradition of leaders promising a lot of money at summits like this and then not delivering, so we'll have to see what happens.

MONTAGNE: And Prime Minister Tony Blair has been fighting to get the G8 countries to stop agriculture subsidies. Why has this been so important to him and how much did he succeed?

DAVIDSON: Well, it looks like he did make a lot of progress. This is very important to him and to leaders of poor countries all over the world, especially in Africa but also in Latin America and Asia. The US and many European countries give large subsidies, billions a year, to their farmers, and there's a feeling that that distorts the act of global agricultural markets so badly that poor farmers and poor countries simply can't enter it. And so they stay poor. Their economies don't develop, etc. If, indeed, Tony Blair has gotten the G8 leaders to agree to eliminate at least certain forms of agriculture subsidies, this will be a huge step forward.

This issue has been the central stumbling block in the current world trade negotiations that are going on around the world--trade organization. And if he has cleared this, then a whole lot of other agreements can start coming together.

MONTAGNE: And another big issue at the summit has been global warming. President Bush has not seen eye-to-eye with the other G8 leaders on the issue of climate change. Has the summit changed anything?

DAVIDSON: It really seems to have changed--at least rhetorically it's made a big change. The announcement that they're releasing today is the first time President Bush or any senior administration official has used such strong language saying that global warming is an established fact, that it's a serious threat and that industrialized countries have to work together to stop it. The environmental advocates, though, say that it's a lot of words, not enough action.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Adam Davidson. Thanks very much.

DAVIDSON: Thank you.

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