At the Genoa 2001 G8 Summit, the leaders of the eight major industrialized democracies signaled a dramatic shift towards a continent that had been previously neglected, and in recent years, become increasingly marginalized. Through their endorsement of the New African Initiative, renamed the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) in October 2001, the G8 shifted its focus to Africa, committing to develop a concrete Action Plan for the 2002 Summit in Kananaskis.
Throughout the past year, the G8 Personal Representatives for Africa (APRs) met on several occasions to discuss the development and implementation of the G8 response to NEPAD. Given the enormity of the issue, the G8 decided to focus on the following priority areas: governance, peace and security, economic growth and investment, knowledge and health and agriculture and water.
These above efforts culminated in Kananaskis with the delivery of the G8 Africa Action Plan. The reaction to this plan has been mixed. Development organizations like Oxfam have labeled the plan a "wasted opportunity" that is "all talk, no action". The NEPAD Heads of State Implementation Committee have, in contrast, been quite supportive of this recent G8 initiative. Speaking on their behalf, South African President Thabo Mbeki said they were "very pleased with decisions that have been taken" by the G8. President Mbeki saw it more as a macro framework, in which micro-details of implementation would be developed by ongoing discussions between the G8 APRs and African Leaders. In looking at this latter perspective, along with the commitment to retain an African focus at the next G8 Summit, it is clear that the G8 Africa Action Plan has truly signaled a "new partnership." Indeed, if sufficient resources are allocated for its implementation, this plan has the potential to give unprecedented assistance to poverty reduction efforts in Africa.
Objective 1: Governance
In the area of governance, the G8, as anticipated, endorsed the NEPAD priority areas for political and economic governance. While the G8 stated their intentions to expand "capacity building" programs in this broad area, most of the detail in this area has been left for the implementation phase.
In terms of political governance, the G8 stated their support for improving civil and administrative services, promoting participatory decision-making, strengthening parliamentary oversight and judicial reform. Particular emphasis was placed on ensuring free and fair elections as well as implementing reforms in the judiciary and security sector.
In regards to economic governance, the G8 stated their support for strengthening public financial management and accountability, implementing sound macro-economic strategies, protecting the integrity of monetary and financial systems and strengthening accounting and auditing systems. The G8 agreed to support these efforts through financing African-led research on economic governance issues as well as supporting African and international organizations in expanding capacity building and regionally orientated technical assistance programs.
While African countries have stated their intentions to improve governance in the past, one of the unique aspects of the NEPAD initiative is the inclusion of a peer review mechanism. In the Action Plan, the G8 endorsed this important mechanism and agreed to support regional organizations in developing and facilitating the peer-review processes. The G8 also committed to ensuring cooperation between the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, in order to facilitate information sharing on modalities and experiences with peer review mechanisms.
Objective 2: Economic Growth and Investment
The G8 Africa Action Plan recognizes that economic growth and investment are essential components for poverty reduction. In this area, the G8 made significant strides to achieve the specified objectives envisaged prior to the Summit.
At Kananaskis, the G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the WTO Doha Development Agenda and to the Monterrey Consensus, as well as to the attainment of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). They agreed to resist domestic protectionism, to support further trade liberalization and facilitate South-North trade flows, to enhance market access (under the WTO) by adopting Quota and Duty-Free Access for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to foster greater inclusiveness/participation of the LDCs in trade negotiations via technical aid and trade capacity building (Supporting Entrepreneurship and Information Communications Technologies in Africa), and to facilitate private investment flows and growth-oriented investment through greater reliance on development finance institutions. The Africa Plan, however, is not built on "specific, time-bound deliverables." Apart from the commitment to the Doha negotiations on further trade liberalization no later than 1 Jan 2005, the G8 Africa Action Plan relies heavily on goodwill of individual member-states and their unilateral action. Nonetheless, national compliance with the stated commitment will greatly contribute, in and of itself, toward implementing both NEPAD and the G8 Plan.
Despite the eventual outcome, considering that i. Facilitation of private investment flows into Africa; ii. Increased market access for LCDs; iii. Further trade liberalization; iv. and Capacity-building were the identified pre-Summit objectives and considering that the Leaders never made fund allocation a promise to be delivered at Kananaskis, their record on this issue is solid. Indeed, the G8 went beyond their early objectives with the commitment for increased development assistance. In the G8 Africa Action Plan, it was agreed that "in aggregate half or more of our new development assistance commitments announced at Monterrey could be directed to African nations that govern justly, invest in their own people and promote economic freedom." In addition, the G8 also agreed to provide $1 billion to replenish the HIPC Trust Fund for continued debt relief for 22 African low-income countries demonstrating good governance and adhering to sound economic policies. While both ODA and debt relief could have been higher, these commitments still represent a significant increase in G8 monetary support for Africa.
Objective 3: Knowledge and Health
In looking at the results in Kananaskis on the areas of Universal Primary Education, Infectious Diseases and Food Security, it is evident that the outcome is heavier on the rhetoric than on concrete action. It is, however, important to realize that the commitments reached at Kananaskis are an initial response to the horrific problems faced by African nations. It will take time to build a solid partnership between the G8 and the developing world.
Prior to Kananaskis it did not appear that Universal Primary Education was to be a significant aspect of this year's Summit. The initial projection was that the G8 would simply reiterate their commitment to the Dakar Framework for Universal Primary Education by 2015. In reality, they did much more than expected, explicitly addressing the need for education in the Final Statement, the agreement reached on NEPAD and in the G8 Education Task Force Report, "A New Education Focus For All".
Although missing specific financial commitments, the G8 promised to increase funding for basic education to meet the goal of primary education for all children. They articulated different steps that G8 countries could implement to assist the developing world in reaching this goal. Mechanisms ranged from academic exchanges, Internet portals, training for teachers and developing efficient and effective schools and infrastructure. In addition, these commitments relating to education were specifically focused on equal access to schooling for girls. One of the disappointments is that the G8 did not agree to a multilateral financial framework for education. There can, however, be additional funds anticipated through the G8 pledge to "increase significantly [their] bilateral assistance for countries that have demonstrated a strong and credible policy and financial commitment to these goals."
Despite the lack of secure funding, the above steps taken to ensure every child has access to primary education went well above the projected outcomes for Kananaskis. It is clear from the emphasis placed on this issue in the statements created at the Summit that the G8 support the idea that education is an integral component of development and as such, should receive high priority in any plan or discussion relating to poverty reduction.
Global Health Fund and the Fight Against Infectious Diseases
At Genoa, the agreement reached on the Global Health Fund was considered to be the crowning achievement of the Summit. At Kananaskis, the G8 leaders attempted to recreate their previous success by reiterating their commitment to this issue.
In the Final Statement and G8 Africa Plan, the leaders articulated their awareness of "the devastating consequences for Africa's development of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS." As such, they promised to keep working on their previous commitments, but in addition committed themselves to providing sufficient resources to eradicate polio by 2005.
By recognizing that HIV/AIDS represents a huge obstacle to Africa's future development, the G8 agreed that minimizing the effects of this devastating disease "should therefore be a factor in all aspects of [their] support for Africa."
As such, the G8 member countries pledged to assist African leaders by:
In addition, G8 leaders promised to continue their support for the Global Health Fund and to learn from its experiences in order to develop the best possible strategy to combat infectious diseases in Africa. They also pledged to continue discussions with pharmaceutical industries so that African nations would have affordable access to life-saving medication.
Despite these efforts, it was disappointing that that the Leaders did not specifically pledge any new money for efforts to combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Polio. As with other areas, additional funds will be necessary in the implementation stage.
Combating Hunger and Increasing Food Security
Although issues relating to hunger and increasing food security were not mentioned in the Final Chair's Statement, these areas of concern were addressed as a component of the G8's Africa Action Plan.
In essence, the G8 countries pledged to "support the reform and financing of international institutions and research organizations that address Africa's agricultural development priority needs." In this regard, the G8 members agreed to work together to find research, policy and budget development mechanisms that address food security and agricultural reform from an African perspective.
In addition, the G8 countries committed themselves to "studying, sharing and facilitating" the responsible use of technology, including biotechnology, in an African context in order to maximize production and maintain a sustainable food supply.
Specifically relating to food security in Africa, the G8 pledged to integrate food security concerns into their poverty reduction strategies. Recognizing that the majority of Africans sustain themselves from the land, the G8 promised to "promote a policy and institutional environment that enables poor people to derive better livelihoods from agriculture and rural development."
Again, while the commitments relating to food security lacked specific targets, they are nevertheless more numerous than many scholars anticipated.
Objective 4: Peace and Security
In the past, one of the hindrances to development in many African countries has the presence of violent conflict. In light of this and the impact that violent discord can have on regional security, conflict resolution and prevention, particularly in Africa, has been an issue of growing concern of the G8.
As anticipated prior to the 2002 Summit, the G8 expressed the need to augment current conflict resolution efforts in the G8 Africa Action Plan. In the Plan, the G8 agreed to within the next year, provide increased support for the peace process in Angola and Sierra Leone as well as the efforts to bring peace to Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo. While the Action Plan was aggressive in there being additional support within the next year, it was not, however, specific on what kind of new support would be forthcoming. It is anticipated that the details will be better defined in the upcoming implementation phase.
In the area of conflict prevention, the G8 did commit to new initiatives like training African peace support forces and assisting in the development of regional centers of excellence for civilian and military aspects of conflict prevention. The G8 also reaffirmed its general support, this time with a particular focus on Africa, to eliminate stop the trade of illicit weapons. To this end, the G8 committed to develop "common guidelines to prevent the illegal supply of arms to Africa" as well as provide assistance to ensure their implementation.
In addition to addressing arms and military forces, the G8 also stated its support for the UN efforts aimed at curbing the illicit trade of natural resources, like petroleum and mineral resources, which have fueled conflict in the past. In this area, the G8 committed to ensuring "better accountability and transparency" with trade to areas of conflict in Africa.
Objective 5: Agriculture and Water
In light of the fact that the majority of the population in Africa is rural, agriculture is a central component in the economy of most African states. As a result, agricultural issues are closely linked with development efforts on this continent.
In this context, the G8 has put significant emphasis on agricultural research and needs, committing to supporting the financing and reform of research organizations and international institutions that deal with these issues in Africa. The G8 has also put emphasis on improving the competitiveness and productivity of African agriculture in a variety of means like increased use of biotechnology and improving access to relevant agricultural infrastructure.
One of the most significant commitments in this area was the agreement to revisit the agricultural subsidy issue, which has hindered the sales of African agricultural goods. In the G8 Africa Action Plan, the Leaders committed to "comprehensive negotiations on agriculture aimed at substantial improvements in market access, reductions of all forms of export subsidies with a view to their being phased out". This is an important commitment given the benefit that reducing agriculture subsidies would bring to Africa.
In regards to water, the G8 stated their support of African efforts to ensure environmentally sustainable use of water resources as well as improving the access to potable water. To this end, the G8 has agreed to provide technical assistance to increase this access through sanitation projects in both urban and rural areas. This is no doubt an area which will see more concrete commitments, particularly on improving infrastructure, once the G8 APRs begin their discussions on implementation.
While the G8 did not provide the assistance to Africa that many development organizations had envisioned, the G8 Africa Action Plan has definitely signaled a "new partnership with Africa". This is evident not only in the Action Plan itself but also the commitment for follow-up by the G8 APRs in the implementation phase as well as by the Leader's at the 2003 Summit in France.
As a framework, it is too early to call the G8 Africa Action Plan a failure. While there is indeed much to be done in the implementation phase, the current Action Plan has provided well-needed direction and support for renewed G8 involvement in Africa. As President Thabo Mbeki stated at the end of the Summit, the G8 Africa Action Plan "is not an arrival, but a departure". This is not simply rhetoric covering up disappointment, but rather, a true reflection of how the G8 originally envisioned this plan at Genoa 2001.
Prepared by: Bryn Gray, Melanie Martin and Maria Banda
University of Toronto G8 Research Group
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