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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 17:47 GMT
Blair launches Africa commission
Tony Blair
Tony Blair has said Africa's state is a "scar on the world's conscience"
Tony Blair is to set up a commission for Africa which will look at ways to resolve the continent's major problems.

The prime minister said it would look at "economic issues, education, conflict resolution, health, the environment, HIV/Aids and governance".

It follows a suggestion from rock star and Live Aid organiser Bob Geldof.

The commission, including politicians and "opinion formers" from Africa and the developed world, will be chaired by Mr Blair and report in one year.

'Fresh look'

"Africa is the only continent to have grown poorer in the last 25 years," Mr Blair told his monthly press conference in London.

UK PM Tony Blair
Campaigner Bob Geldof
Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi
South African finance minister Trevor Manuel
UK Chancellor Gordon Brown
"Its share of world trade has halved in a generation and it receives less than 1% of direct foreign investment.

"Forty-four million children do not go to school, millions die through famine or disease or conflict and Africa risks being left even further behind."

The commission would "take a fresh look at Africa's past, present and future" which would be a "comprehensive assessment" of the situation in Africa, looking at what had worked and what had not in the past.

The British Overseas Aid Group (Boag), which draws together UK development agencies, ActionAid, Christian Aid, Cafod, Oxfam and Save the Children, welcomed Mr Blair's announcement.

Save the Children director general Mike Aaronson, speaking on behalf of Boag, said: "Africa is crippled by poverty and is a long way from reaching the UN's anti-poverty goals. Any initiative that provides real solutions is a welcome step.

Global agreements

"But this must be more than just another report on Africa with yet more targets, plans or strategies that fail to deliver.

"It must be judged on the concrete action it produces."

Justin Forsyth, Oxfam's policy director, said Tony Blair must use the opportunity of Britain's twin presidencies of the EU and G8 next year "to galvanise a breakthrough in action on poverty".

"That action must be the doubling of aid and global agreements to make trade fair," he said.

"If the G8 doesn't achieve a breakthrough on aid and trade next year, agreed goals for ending world poverty will be missed - and crucial momentum to end world poverty will be lost."

Cafod head of public policy George Gelber said the UK should be honouring the international agreement to give 0.7% of its gross domestic product in aid as well as tackling African poverty through trade and debt reform.

'Action needed'

Mr Blair had said finding solutions would be a priority for the G8 group of leading industrial nations under the US and UK presidencies over the next two years.

"It is necessary to do this now because we realise and appreciate that the Millennium Development goals that we have to meet by 2015 are going to be difficult to reach. However, I think it is essential that we try to do so," Mr Blair added.

Bob Geldof, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, South African finance minister Trevor Manuel and UK Chancellor Gordon Brown are among those who will be on the commission.



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