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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 08:35 GMT 09:35 UK
Has the G8 met its promises to Africa?
Child in a neighbourhood of Freetown, Sierra Leone

The BBC is investigating how Africa is faring one year on from the promises of increased aid made at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

BBC Developing World correspondent David Loyn asks if G8 countries are meeting their promises to boost aid and write off debts in Africa.

The Gleneagles G8 summit was unusual in requiring leaders to sign up to a series of specific measures.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair wanted to put the seal on his "year for Africa", not with vague offers of goodwill, but concrete measures.

When he launched his Commission for Africa report earlier that year he said that the radical and costly package of measures in it would now be British government policy.

A year on Britain remains committed, and even publishes a monthly account of "milestones" achieved, but much more remains to be done.


World leaders gather as the G8 summit in Gleneagles ends

Even before Gleneagles, the G8 countries had agreed to increase debt write-offs, and at the summit itself Mr Blair won the endorsement he wanted for major increases in aid, as well as a promise to make Aids treatment free and provide universal access to free primary education and health care.

But keeping the commitments - and the funding needed for them - has been harder than making them.

The coalition of support for the Gleneagles process fractured even before the ink was dry on the declaration.

At one end, Bob Geldof said: "On aid 10 out of 10, on debt eight out of 10."

At the other, Kumi Naidoo of the Global Campaign against Poverty, said: "The people have roared but the G8 has whispered."

The decision to phase in the aid increases by 2010 was "like waiting five years before responding to the tsunami", according to Mr Naidoo.

Since then, much of the attention from campaigners has been on whether the promised $50bn increase in aid for Africa was really new money, and whether it was right to count debt cancellation as part of the development budget - as has traditionally been done - or whether this is, in the words of Oxfam, "double counting".

Broken promises?

Now even those who were most enthusiastic about the progress made at Gleneagles are hardening their positions.

Kenyan children

Bob Geldof's close ally in this, Bono, said after the latest pre-summit G8 Finance Ministers' meeting in St Petersburg that "last year's promises to Africa are already in danger of being broken".

He was speaking after a decision was delayed on funding for new research into vaccines for diseases that affect the poor.

It is in details like this that the hopes of Gleneagles will be lost if the funding does not come.

Apart from Britain, the other European G8 members - Germany, France and Italy - have not yet committed themselves to the funding they promised. Germany in particular, under Angela Merkel, is proving to be lukewarm.

In the US, President Bush is battling with Congress over keeping his promises. He requested a $3bn rise in his aid budget, but Congress has cut that by two-thirds.

Funding boost

The debt picture, though, looks much clearer.

Free health care in Zambia, better roads and more secure food supplies are all now more possible because many countries have access to funds that they were previously remitting to service their debt.

It will be easier for campaigners to say that it is not enough, but harder to make the case stick than the case for higher aid.

On the other big element that aimed to make a big difference - fairer trade rules - there is little progress.

Although the current round of world trade talks was supposed to be "the round for the developing world", it has now broken through several deadlines without agreement.

There is increasing concern among the poorest countries in the world that they may suffer from imposed liberalisation, rather than being able to trade their way out of poverty on their own terms.

A new proposal is due to emerge from the World Trade Organization in Geneva before the end of this month.

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