Have we made poverty history?

This is the year the world pledged to make a difference in Africa. But what have all the commissions, the concerts and the campaigning achieved?
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The Independent Online

DEBT

THE AIM

The Make Poverty History campaign wanted unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries to be cancelled in full, by fair and transparent means.

THE REALITY

Most of the debt relief up to 2008 will go to Iraq and Nigeria, who were not even servicing their debts through the hugely punitive interest rates that most of Africa still has to pay. The 18 countries promised debt relief at the G8 summit have not seen a penny on the ground. Six months after the Gleneagles G8 Summit, there are still no more details on how the debt cancellation plan is going to work and the International Monetary Fund has not given any details. Charities fear that even if debt relief has been cancelled, poorer nations may have to agree to remove trade barriers, which would mean competing with subsidised Western products, leaving farmers at the mercy of a world market.

AID

THE AIM

Make Poverty History urged donors to deliver $50bn (£29bn) more in aid per year and set a binding timetable for spending 0.7 per cent of national income on aid. Aid should also work more effectively for poor people.

THE REALITY

G8 leaders agreed in July to meet the pledge to double aid for Africa by 2010. But, within months, America said it was unsure if it would commit to the agreement. European finance ministers are also back-tracking, especially in France and Italy. The British Government stressed at the time that, for the pledge to be met, countries needed to increase their share of GDP given to aid to 0.7 per cent, and Britain said it would do that by 2007. Our share of donated GDP stands at 0.5 per cent; it is now accepted that we will not hit the target until 2013. In any event, this target would only bring Britain up to the level of spending of the Jim Callaghan era of the late Seventies.

TRADE

THE AIM

Make Poverty History called for action to ensure governments could choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment. It also sought an end to subsidies that damage the livelihoods of the poorest.

THE REALITY

As became clear at the World Trade Organisation talks in Hong Kong this month, the main trading blocs many are years away from agreeing a deal to cut subsidies and lower tariffs. The talks became deadlocked over demands for the US, Europe and Japan to end their $300bn-a-year (£170bn) subsidy regime. Though trade ministers agreed on a date to end agricultural export subsidies, these are less than 5 per cent of the total subsidy package which encourages EU and US farmers to flood the world market with cheap goods. A poll of African delegates found that two-thirds felt their economies would suffer if they accepted what was on offer.

HEALTH

THE AIM

Make Poverty History called for commitment to universal access to HIV and Aids treatment by 2010 and replenishment of the Global Fund for HIV, TB and malaria.

THE REALITY

Some of the aims have been put in place. The Global Fund for Aids, TB and malaria has received $3.7bn (£2.1bn), and a $4bn immunisation fund has been launched, which should, over 10 years, save 5 million lives. But some argue that the main stumbling block in the battle against HIV is President George Bush's policy not to give any US federal funding to groups that condone abortion. Marie Stopes International, which gives advice on contraception across the Third World, including Africa, has stopped receiving American funding and the US is now backing "abstinence campaigns" such as the ABC movement in Uganda, which promotes abstinence above the use of condoms.

CORRUPTION

THE AIM

Make Poverty History sought to reduce state corruption, and to ensure that money given to aid and debt relief was targeted to those who needed it, with conditions attached relating to withholding aid from corrupt governments.

THE REALITY

There is slow movement on this. The issue is ironically being used to hold up debt cancellation - ie countries that are corrupt will not get aid. It becomes a vicious circle: a government fudges its pledge on aid because of corruption in an African state, and that country becomes more corrupt. Campaigners argue that monetary help is desperately needed in these countries - such as Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe - to combat corruption within the system. Promises by several governments, including the UK, to ratify the UN convention on corruption, have been slow to materialise, although the UK is still promising to do so.

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