Aid For Africa Dominates G8 Summit

Aid for Africa — or rather the lack of it — is the focus of today's Group of Eight meetings in Rusutsu, Japan. There were also warnings to Zimbabwe's President Mugabe that he faced further sanctions if he does not allow free elections.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Leaders of the world's wealthiest nations are gathered in Japan today to address some of the world's weightiest issues. At the G8 summit, climate change, poverty, and security are on the agenda. This year's G8 summit is also complicated by crises caused by the prices of food and fuel. If critics had past doubts about whether the G8 meeting could produce solutions, they perhaps are even be more skeptical now.

NPR's Anthony Kuhn has our report from Japanese island of Hokkaido.

ANTHONY KUHN: The summit's first day was largely devoted to the issue of helping Africa's poor. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said here today that global warming and soaring food prices are making the job tougher.

BAN KI: The world faces three simultaneous crises - a food crisis, a climate crisis and the development crisis. The three crises are deeply interconnected and need to be addressed as such.

KUHN: World Bank president Robert Zoellick said that the G8 leaders are united in addressing these crises.

ROBERT ZOELLICK: How we respond to this double jeopardy of soaring fuel and food prices is a test of the global system's commitment to help the most vulnerable. And it's a test we cannot afford to fail.

KUHN: Some NGOs in African nations are worried that instead of pledging additional money to tackle these problems, the G8 will just redirect some of the $50 billion in development aid it pledged three years ago with the G8 Summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Charles Abani is Oxfam's regional director in Southern Africa.

CHARLES ABANI: If we continuously divert aid money already committed at Gleneagles to address an agenda that was not on the Gleneagles table at the time, then we are just digging one hole to fill another hole.

KUHN: Observers say the G8 is not on target to fulfill its $50 billion pledge, nor is it even close to meeting its decade's old goal of getting rich countries to commit seven-tenths of one percent of their national incomes to poverty relief. This is President Bush's eight and final G8 Summit.

Assistant to the President for International Economic Affairs Dan Price says the President is committed to building political consensus at this meeting.

DANIEL PRICE: The President is a firm believer in the power of collective political will to make a difference especially when that will is translated into concrete actions.

KUHN: Oxfam's Charles Abani counters the political will, not national resources, is exactly what's missing.

ABANI: If we look at the amount of money spent in Iraq, the amount of money - $1 trillion - used to bail out irresponsible bankers in the last one year, then clearly, the resources exists. A decision to make that commitment is what is lacking.

KUHN: G8 leaders worked late into the night on a draft statement of their prescriptions for poverty and global warming. They're also likely to make a statement on the political crisis in Zimbabwe. The U.S., Britain and Germany warned today of further sanctions against Robert Mugabe's government. But Italy sided with some African nations that think sanctions would do more harm than good.

Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Rusutsu, Japan.

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