The world's richest nations will fail to meet their landmark pledge made at the 2005 Gleneagles summit to double aid to the poorest countries.
Officials at the G8 summit in Italy said yesterday there was "little chance" the eight countries would keep the promises they made at the meeting four years ago to double their aid to $50bn (£30bn) a year by next year.
While Britain is on course to meet its target share, Italy and France are falling short. They resisted pressure at the G8 summit this week from leaders including US President Barack Obama and Gordon Brown to increase their contributions before next year's deadline. "We will keep our promises," one British source said, "but overall it's not going to happen".
The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, angered fellow leaders by failing to give a lead on aid at the summit, despite a warning from the World Bank that up to 400,000 more people may die in poor countries next year because of the global recession.
ActionAid calculates that the G8 is on course to miss the $50bn target by $15bn. Meredith Alexander, its head of G8 policy, said: "Although the G8 leaders reaffirmed their Gleneagles promises this week, their own accountability report does not even acknowledge how far off track they are. This suggests that the Gleneagles promises are increasingly unlikely to be met. It is another failure for the world's poor."
She accused the G8 of adopting a "pick-and-mix" approach to its new policy of being more open about its progress towards meeting its aid commitments. G8 leaders agreed to review next year the progress they had made towards meeting the UN Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline. But aid agencies say this is cover for "moving the goalposts" because the Gleneagles goals will not be achieved.
On the last day of the three-day summit in L'Aquila, leaders agreed a $20bn package to tackle world hunger, including a switch from emergency relief to long-term agricultural projects.
"We want Africa to become the bread basket of the world instead of a basket case," said one G8 official.
Although the figure was $5bn more than planned, some of it is "new" money. Mr Obama was the driving force behind the initiative, even though Mr Berlusconi claimed some of the credit.
After the G8 summit was extended to include African leaders, Mr Brown praised the $20bn, three-year package, to which Britain will contribute $1.8bn. He declined to criticise other countries for not meeting their Gleaneagles pledges but argued that it was in the world's interests to tackle hunger.
"We have a moral duty to Africa. If Africa remains a net importer of food ... [we will] not have food security for millions of people in Africa and across the world," he said. "It makes absolute sense for Britain and others to support agriculture in Africa."
The UN says the number of malnourished people in the world has risen over the past two years and is expected to top 1.02 billion this year, reversing a four-decade trend of declines.
Jeremy Hobbs, from Oxfam, said: "For Obama it was 'yes we can'. For Berlusconi's G8, it's 'no we won't'. This summit has been a shambles, it did nothing for Africa, and the world is still being cooked. Canada 2010 [the next G8 meeting] is the end of the road for the G8 – all the promises they have made are due. They have 12 short months to avoid being remembered as the ones who let the poor and the planet die."
Joanne Green, the head of policy at the Catholic Agency For Overseas Development, welcomed the increase in agriculture aid but said it should come on top of existing commitments and be directed to smaller stakeholders over agribusiness companies.
"Tonight one billion people will go to bed hungry because the food system that rich countries have created isn't working," she said. "Climate change will only increase the vulnerability of poor people as land and water are degraded. Supporting small-scale farmers is vital, so that they are less reliant on the peaks and troughs of the global food market and the multinational players who dominate."
Adrian Lovett, from Save the Children, said the food security initiative had saved the L'Aquila summit. "This summit has proved that progress on all these issues cannot be left to the G8 alone. The months ahead will need a dramatic increase in the pace of development efforts" he added.
The day that Gordon met Gaddafi
Gordon Brown hailed Colonel Muammar Gaddafi as an example to other world leaders yesterday because he had renounced nuclear weapons. The Prime Minister had his first meeting with the Libyan leader on the sidelines of the G8 summit which Colonel Gaddafi attended as chairman of the African Union. Afterwards, Mr Brown said: "I applaud the decision of Colonel Gaddafi." He said Iran and North Korea should follow the example of Libya and South Africa, which could have developed nuclear weapons but chose not to.
The 40-minute meeting was described by officials as "good and businesslike". They said the atmosphere improved as it progressed. The Prime Minister raised the police investigation into the death of WPC Yvonne Fletcher, who was gunned down while policing a protest outside the Libyan embassy in London in 1984, and five-year-old Nadia Fawzi, who was abducted to Libya in 2007 by her Libyan father.
The Libyans have accepted responsibility for WPC Fletcher's death and paid compensation but have been unco-operative in allowing access to witnesses in a Metropolitan Police investigation. Mr Brown said he wanted the Libyan government to help "facilitate" the police investigation. Colonel Gaddafi was said to have "taken the point".
The Libyan leader, who brought his trademark tent to L'Aquila, urged Mr Brown to allow the repatriation of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. A Downing Street spokesman said there was "a short exchange" on the issue. He added: "The Prime Minister set out the simple facts, that this was a matter for the Scottish Government."
Megrahi, 57, who has terminal prostate cancer, is appealing against his 27-year sentence. The appeal hearing is not due to conclude until next year, raising the prospect that he could die before the verdict. Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of Britain's worst terrorist atrocity. He continues to plead his innocence.