To mark the start of the G8 summit in Gleneagles, the Peruvian “La Pobreza ¡YA FUE!” campaign (the Peruvian GCAP/White Band campaign) carried out a mass lobby of the 8 embassies of the G8. Delegations from Peruvian civil society visited each embassy and delivered a letter – addressed to the leader of each respective country – outlining the needs and expectations from the G8 summit for the fight against poverty globally, and also, specifically, the Peruvian situation.
The delegations were accompanied by demonstrations at three of the eight embassies – the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States – involving members of diverse sectors of Peruvian civil society, performers, artists and celebrities. The centre of attention was on the UK embassy, where the British Ambassador, Richard Ralph, received the delegation in person. In the context of Britain presiding over the European Union (EU) for the next 6 months, pressure on the UK could have a far-reaching impact on all the EU countries.
The meeting between the ambassador and the delegation focused on the broad demands of the campaign, and from the Peruvian perspective, the treatment of debt relief for middle-income countries, and the focus of the development agenda on Africa. The delegation highlighted the fact that, although Latin American countries are classed as middle-income countries, inequality is the highest in the world and therefore large amounts of poverty and extreme poverty persist.
Particular attention was paid to the absence of Peru and other middle-income countries from the debt relief packages, and the closure of the DfID office in Peru. Also discussed was the importance of structural changes within Peru that are vital to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The ambassador was sympathetic to the demands made by the delegation, agreeing to send the letter on to Tony Blair, and expressed a desire to maintain this dialogue with Peruvian civil society. He also commented to the British members of the delegation on the importance of lobbying in the UK to promote all of these issues, citing visits to Peru by British MPs and their subsequent lobbying in parliament, and The Peru Support Group as key actors to push the needs of Peru and Latin America up the international development agenda.
Meanwhile in Scotland…Romulo Torres from the Jubilee Debt Campaign in Peru went to Edinburgh to participate in the Make Poverty History march attended by 225,000 people and to meet other debt campaigners from across the world.
Protesters were there to demand trade justice, debt cancellation and more and better aid for the world’s poorest countries ahead of the G8 summit, taking place nearby.
The verdict of many campaigners was that the discussions by the leaders of the G8 countries (UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Japan, Canada and the US) were not as fruitful as they had hoped:
The G8 confirmed the proposed deal by the G8 Finance Ministers, cancelling some of the debt owed by some countries, an inadequate response to the global debt crisis. The deal does not include Peru as it is a middle-income country and debt cancellation was only offered to countries with HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) status. Major issues on debt remain unresolved and debt campaigners worldwide continue to demand 100% cancellation with no conditionality.
The G8 discussed the issue of trade and recognised the need to let poor countries set their own trade policies. However, they did not suggest any changes to the current rules or institutions, such as the WTO (World Trade Organisation), that govern global trade and pressure developing countries to open up their markets to the global marketplace. By forcing free trade on poor countries, dumping agricultural products from rich countries on domestic markets of the poor and not regulating multinational companies they have chosen not to take the necessary decisions to end global poverty.
The G8 agreed to double aid for Africa by 2010. “Aid for all developing countries will increase, according to the OECD, by around $50bn per year by 2010, of which at least $25bn extra per year for Africa.” (Gleneagles 2005, Chairman’s summary).
Although the G8 also recognised that poor countries should be free to decide their economic policies, the aid increase is far from the historic deal that millions around the world had demanded. It will arrive five years too late and falls short of the scale of aid that is needed to end poverty in the world’s poorest countries.
The G8 pledged to get AIDS treatment to everyone who requires it by 2010 giving hope to the 40 million people currently living – and dying – with HIV. However, insufficient and tardy aid will undermine this bold statement, as more money will be required to achieve this goal.
The G8 missed the opportunity to make progress on climate change, the impacts of which are already affecting poor countries and will seriously undermine efforts to eliminate poverty in the long term.