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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 18:27 GMT 19:27 UK
Blair promises new Africa focus
Tony Blair and Bob Geldof
Tony Blair insists the panel will be independent

Kofi Annan, Bob Geldof and Nigeria's President Obasanjo are to sit on a panel set up to track aid promises made to Africa, Tony Blair has announced.

The UN secretary general will chair the panel, being set up a year after G8 pledges and a popular campaign pushed Africa up the international agenda.

Backed by Bill Gates, the body will monitor issues such as debt and trade.

The initiative would ensure promises made at the G8 summit at Gleneagles last year were kept, Mr Blair said.

'Good progress'

The British prime minister also warned against Africa slipping down the global priority list.

I am under no illusions that we set very ambitious goals for Gleneagles.
Tony Blair

"There is an enormous amount of work to do," he said in a speech in London. "I am under no illusions that we set very ambitious goals for Gleneagles.

"We have made good progress but it is going to take an enormous amount of work in years to come to alleviate poverty in Africa and tackle climate change."

Aiming to "maintain the international political profile of Africa achieved in 2005", the Africa Progress Panel will produce an annual report for the G8, UN and the Africa Partnership Forum - an existing body tasked with monitoring progress in the continent.

KEY G8 AFRICA PLEDGES
$50bn (28.8bn) increase in global aid by 2010
Increase aid to Africa by $25bn a year by 2010, doubling aid over six years
Full debt cancellation for world's poorest 18 countries
Universal access to anti-HIV drugs in Africa by 2010
Reform trade rules

The panel's members are still being finalised, but among them will be Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Peter Eigen, the founder of the global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates will help fund the panel.

Mr Eigen told the BBC it was important for the panel to have an independent voice and added that more joint efforts between African leaders and those in developed countries were needed.

He highlighted the importance of good governance in helping development.

Certain sectors, including petrol and mining firms, were increasingly concerned about the levels of transparency in their African investments, he said.

Priorities problem

Although Mr Blair is convening the panel, Downing Street is stressing its independence.

The new panel's focus will be tracking progress on promises made at last year's G8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

The meeting was lobbied by a high profile "Make Poverty History" drive, which included the Live8 concert run by campaigner and musician Mr Geldof.

Kenyan children
Despite some progress, poverty still blights many lives in Africa

"These issues were not high up the political agenda, in the UK, let alone internationally. Now they are," Mr Blair said.

Mr Blair said there was a huge leap in international aid last year but acknowledged that this had much to do with debt cancellation for Nigeria and Iraq - and accepted that maintaining aid remained a challenge.

Mr Blair also said his main disappointment at the last G8 was that there wasn't more progress on trade reform.

Oxfam director Barbara Stocking welcomed the new panel as a "serious and credible international task force".

HAVE YOUR SAY
The G8 has made a difference but has not done enough
Martin

"The key thing now is to ensure that the membership reflects the geographical spread and expertise needed to deliver on every one of G8's commitments," she said.

But not all non-governmental organisations have been so positive. "We are tired of world leaders heaping praise on Make Poverty History while simultaneously stabbing us in the back by breaking their promises," said Peter Hardstaff, head of policy at the World Development Movement.

"We have seen numerous panels and monitoring bodies in the past. None of them have made the G8 any more likely to keep their promises," he added.


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