June 26, 2010 / 9:49 PM / in 7 years

G8 avoids bold aid promises amid budget strains

TORONTO/HUNTSVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) - G8 wealthy countries said on Saturday that the global economic crisis threatened to undermine 2015 global targets for reducing extreme poverty worldwide, but avoided bold new aid promises.

At the end of a two-day summit in a lakeside resort north of Toronto, the Group of Eight failed to acknowledge its unmet aid promises. The group fell $18 billion short of a $50 billion pledge to double aid to poor countries by 2010.

Instead, the G8 trumpeted a $5 billion initiative to reduce deaths among mothers and babies, which has become a growing concern in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

The meeting took place amid doubts about the strength of the economic recovery and the state of public finances, which has left leaders unable to offer bolder aid commitments.

“A decade of policy commitments and joint efforts with our partners has brought significant progress toward the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” the communique read.

“But both developed and developing countries must do more; meanwhile, the (economic) crisis has jeopardized advancement toward meeting some of the 2015 targets.”

It said meeting the 2015 poverty goals -- agreed by leaders of more than 150 nations in 2000 -- was a “shared responsibility” and urged greater efforts to ensure the targets were met in Africa.

The first day of the G8 summit included African leaders from Senegal, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt, also Haiti and Jamaica. They left without making statements.

The G8 called on developing countries to also help themselves by adopting policies that boost social and economic development and tackle corruption.

REMEMBER AID PROMISES

In an interview, World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said calls for Africa to also help itself were “fair enough” given budgetary pressures in rich countries. But the donors should not forget their aid promises.

“It is true that developing countries need to help themselves -- and they are prepared to help themselves -- but at the same time developed countries also need to remember the commitments they made,” she told Reuters Insider Television.

Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister who aggressively led a campaign against corruption, said less resources in poor countries meant more mothers and their infants could die.

“Everyone understand the difficulty these countries are in but remember we’re talking about lives here,” she said, “Each time we’re not able to come up with resources, these are mothers that are dying and there is a big inequity between developed and developing countries,” Okonjo-Iweala added.

Development groups estimate that 350,000 mothers and 8.8 million children under the age of five die each year from preventable diseases and limited or no healthcare.

BOOSTING FOOD PRODUCTION

The G8 said food security was an urgent global development challenge, which was being exacerbated by climate changes.

The U.S. has led efforts to boost agricultural production in poor countries and spearheaded a G8 initiative last year to reverse underinvestment in the sector.

The G8 said aid alone would not end hunger and urged donors and private groups to investment more in agriculture.

It pressed the World Bank and global food agencies to develop guidelines for foreigners wanting to invest in farmland overseas, following accusations that wealthier nations have been staging a land grab to feed their own people.

The G8 nations said tackling climate change “remains top of the mind” and renewed support for U.N.-led climate talks.

“We want a comprehensive, ambitious, fair, effective, binding, post-2012 agreement involving all countries, and including the respective responsibilities of all major economies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” the G8 said.

Talks to agree on a new climate treaty have been stymied by broad differences over emission targets and who should pay for poorer nations as they struggle with climate changes.

Additional reporting by Jan Strupczewski, John Irish and David Ljunggren; Editing by Janet Guttsman

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